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From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 2nd 2016, 11:23 PM

This thread has been labeled as triggering, particularly on the subject of suicide, by the original poster or by a Moderator. The contents of this thread therefore might not be suitable for certain sensitive users. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

This may be a bit long. I am a counselor and would love to share my story to help others. This was written in late June. I attempted June 6, 2016.

From Counselor to Patient: My Experience With a Major Depressive Episode and a Suicide Attempt

Intro-The Buildup
Where has my life gone during the past 3 weeks? Just a month ago I had graduated with a Master’s degree, ready to begin in the world of counseling. I was on top of the world.

Too many changes at once. A week later after graduating, I was completely done with school and internship. The internship was something I really enjoyed, and found my niche there. The other therapists were wonderful, true professionals. It was hard to leave that. There were so many fun and happy times. So much of my professional growth happened there. A week later, though it was a good thing, I left my part time job at Kmart. That was my job for two and a half years. A week after that, I started working full-time at my new job, as a substance abuse counselor. How lucky it was to have a job right after graduation. Other coworkers were friendly, and my supervisor was great. In between that, my sister and niece had visited and it was difficult to see them go. And there was the all too common conflict and verbal mistreatment from my mother.

This was just too much. There was not enough time to adjust from one change to the next. No time to process what was going on. 3 days into the job, I began experiencing overwhelming periods of anxiety and depression. Could I handle working full-time? Was this job going to work? Was I the right fit?

I have had major depressive disorder since the age of 15, and throughout the past few years, I have been learning how to manage it. Some days are harder than others. However, these feelings were strong and uncontrollable. The only thought going through my mind was that I did not want to go to work the next day. Worse, I didn’t want to live----but I didn’t want to die, either. Suicidal ideations began creeping up in my mind.

I did the only thing I could think of, and called one of my past instructors. She told me to go to the emergency room. This scared me, but I knew it was the best choice. One of my closest friends, Michelle, was also informed.

I went to the local emergency room, checked myself in, and explained everything that was going on. Michelle showed up later to support me. The recommendation was for me to go upstairs, to the 4th floor psychiatric inpatient unit. But wait---I couldn’t go there! I had been a student there for about a year, working as a counselor. My colleagues couldn’t see me this way!

The doctor recommended for me to go, and I went into complete shock as a tech transferred me up by a wheelchair. By this time, I was wearing blue paper scrubs. A nurse named Mary met with me and asked all kinds of questions. She gave me some much-needed reassurance. A physical search was completed. By 1:00 A.M. I was in bed but obviously did not sleep much.

The Hospital Stay, Part 1

The few days spent there were a blur. The guilt and shame of my colleagues seeing me in the patient role was overwhelming. They were all very friendly about it. Several incidents stuck out in particular.

Dan, one of the nurses, was very friendly. Him and I had an interesting history when I was there as a student. It seemed as if whenever we were both working on the same day, I would have a problem misplacing my key or leaving it in the therapy office, where I would have to ask him to let me in the back. Though it’s easy to laugh about now, at the time it was completely humiliating. He told me not to be embarrassed and took all of my concerns seriously.

The PRN therapist was called in to do my assessment. We always got along well, but this was now a different role. Right away, she helped me feel comfortable and opening up to her was easy. An attempt was made to do a phone conference with my mother; unfortunately, the conversation revolved around her and how what happened affected her self-image. The conversation did not help. Another day, we played Skip-Bo, which was a lot of fun.

Robin, one of the other therapists, ran most of the groups. One day on my way to a therapy group, she stopped me and asked, “Where is the Pictionary game? I know you like that one and it would be a lot of fun.” After telling her it was in Janna, my internship supervisor’s desk, she asked if Janna would be mad at her for going in her desk. “No, Robin,” I told her, while laughing. “And if she asks, blame the patient (me).”

The psychiatrist I met with excels at her job. She meets with the patients every day and there is never a rushed feeling when talking. She helped ease my anxiety right away and told me, while yes, it is shocking to see a colleague in the patient role, it is commendable that I sought help and was doing what it took for a recovery. She worked with me on medication changes. We worked as a team.

The guilt and shame lasted while I was there. There was too much difficulty when seeing Janna, my previous supervisor. I could not look her in the eye. I also made the mistake of attending Jenny’s (recreation therapist) groups. She was the therapist I looked up to the most, as she has a very sensitive and nurturing personality. And we liked talking about shopping too, of course. However, that line was blurred. Embarrassment and shame went through me all over again.

I will be forever grateful to the staff for accommodating to my needs. I realize it was hard on most of the staff there, and many of them could not have contact with me or treat me due to conflict of interest. It is never easy to see someone you worked so closely with, experience a major crisis.

My stay there was about 4 days. There were no side effects or bad reactions to the medication increase, so I was released on Sunday. The psychiatrist met with me one more time, and my parents picked me up at 11:00. But there was still something wrong: I still did not feel right, but figured I could deal with it.

The Attempt

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and doing laundry. Plans were made to meet with a friend the next day. That would help, right?


I did go and meet up with a friend. The time with her was enjoyable. However, there was already a plan formed in my mind. Earlier in the day, I had called some of the people closest to me and had a conversation with them. Those were supposed to be my final conversations. During the time with my friend, she noticed that I appeared very flat but I assured her that I was fine. After spending a couple hours with her, my mind was made up.

Earlier that morning, I had a brief conversation with my mother. She had a breakdown about something she was going through, and then asked me how I was feeling. How was I supposed to tell her, when she wasn’t feeling well? I could not do it.

People who die by suicide don’t want to end their lives; they want to end their pain. Everything that had just happened over the past few weeks was too much to cope with. There was no desire to return home, no desire to go back and receive more verbal abuse. My mind felt cloudy, and it was as if every good feeling and every happy memory had been sucked out of me.

I drove to a nearby lake that was by a local college. The lake itself was beautiful. It was during this time, my final decision was made. I called my internship class supervisor, and let her know how I was feeling and what was going on--then drove into the lake.

Water started gushing into the car, and the car slowly began to sink. Sadly enough, I felt calmness and was peaceful about what was to come. My internship supervisor was still talking with me on the phone, and had me describe what was going on. My feet were wet and the car shut off by itself.

After looking out the window to my left, I noticed someone calling 911. By this time, it was obvious that my plan had failed, but I stayed in the car. After about 5 minutes, emergency services arrived on the scene. A police officer came up to the car, broke the backseat window, unlocked the front door, and got me out. I was taken away from the car and medical personnel asked what was going on.

Ambulance rides are obviously never fun. I tried to be as cooperative as possible to the people who were helping me. No sense in making the situation more difficult. I needed help and was ready for what was to come.

Who better assess me than Dan, the nurse who I had the interesting relationship with? As soon as he came in the room, my stomach turned inside out. Words started pouring out. I pleaded with him to let me go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was not home. “It’s too much. My mom is impossible to live with. I can’t take her put downs, the condescending words, the constant criticism, “ I told him. He told me very firmly but in a caring way, that I could not throw my life away, and to find a way out of the house as soon as possible. He mentioned my age, my level of education, and stated I could do it---and be successful. It was the conversation I needed to hear.

My parents did visit, though for a while staff would only let one back at a time. They noticed my parents had poured out so much anger, guilt, and disgust, any visiting had to be kept to a minimum---for my protection. Care coordination was finding a facility to transfer me to. My parents did bring me clothing, which I was very thankful for.

Total time spent in the emergency room was about seventeen hours. By the next morning, a facility was found, which was about four hours from home. Anxiety levels were elevated and not much sleep was done during the night. The transfer was being done by ambulance. My parents were there to see me leave, and they told me to get better.

There were so many thoughts racing through my mind. I hated myself for what I did. For being so messed up, and having so many mental health related problems. The car was gone. It would never be back, never be driven again, and it was entirely my fault. My dad made it clear that I had destroyed the family icon and would have to live with that guilt for the rest of my life. The ambulance ride was long, which gave plenty of time to reflect.

Hospital Stay, Part 2

My expectation was to receive group counseling, individual counseling, and meet with a psychiatrist. Those expectations were too high. Of course, all of the initial paperwork was completed and there were meetings at first with several different people. Then it just stopped.

There WERE groups, when the staff got around to doing them. There was a shortage of providers, and not enough people to care for all of the patients. That left the ten of us there to mostly fend for ourselves. Most of our time was spent in the activity room, where we colored with dried out markers or watched movies. Meals were mostly cold. Few were served warm. On one occasion, my meal came with moldy bread. My appetite was lost after that meal.

The groups themselves were not particularly helpful. One thing that is important for counselors to do, is to assess the population of clients they have, then see what a common problem is among group members, and choose a topic or activity based on that. This was not done for any of the groups. The topics were nothing I could relate to, and some of the material presented was too simplistic.

An attempt was made to have a family conference with my mom, by phone. This one conversation was enough for the therapist to see that there was a big problem. My mother was more concerned about her self-image and her perception of events than the well being of her own daughter. It was damning.

“Your mother shows many traits and signs of narcissistic behavior,” the therapist told me. Instead of reacting with shock, relief poured over me. Someone had finally confirmed what I thought was true. Not everything was my fault. This, unfortunately, presented a new problem.

The next morning, when meeting with the psychiatrist, he told me he would not, could not, release me back to my parents. “The risk is too high. If you go back, the abuse is likely to continue, and you may attempt again. It is time for you to break free from this and live your life on your own, away from the turmoil.”

So there it was. These people understood what was going on. The relationship with my parents was codependent. Though my age said twenty-five, there was no being able to live my own life. My life was being completely controlled and manipulated. The only feelings allowed were decided by them. My mother wielded the power and control. I could not even have a relationship with my father, without her being in the middle of it. My earliest memories of this starting were at ten years old. The baggage was too much to cope with.

The news was told to my dad first, and surprisingly, he understood. He tried to be as supportive as possible, which was probably very difficult for him. Plans started to come through for my discharge date. My best friend, Caitlin, who I had known since 5th grade, was going to pick me up. Little contact was made with my mom.

The rest of the time during my hospitalization was spent doing the few groups there were, and talking to the other patients. The facility itself was small and run down. There was only one other female on the unit, and one shower for all the patients. I shared this shower room with nine other men. Many times, I heard a few of the men jacking off in the rooms. This was a very uncomfortable feeling.

There was much relief on my discharge date. I spent six long days at this hospital. Caitlin drove me to her apartment, which was four hours away. She let me talk at my own pace during the drive. The feeling that I had such a good friend to be there for me was amazing. Let the growth and recovery begin.


The weeks that followed were long. I stayed with Caitlin for several days, resting at her apartment. Unfortunately, there was no delaying the inevitable. There was nowhere else to go—I had to go home. My job was closer to home. I wanted to get back to work and into a routine as soon as possible.

Two days after returning home, my mom had a narcissistic rage at me. When she was raging, my body felt so weak. My mind was foggy. Here I was, sick, and she was still thinking about herself. I made sure to get support right away. My closest friends were contacted.

The following Monday, I went back to work. My supervisor was highly supportive. Work hours were reduced to part-time. The organization sees the importance of the professionals working there being emotionally healthy themselves, so my schedule was made so I could attend therapy appointments. I even had a new car. My parents were kind enough to help me.


It is now October, and the recovery has been amazing. I see a therapist as needed (I was seeing her for some time prior to the attempt), and have had success with my job. The most important thing I learned is to never, ever give up. It may be stormy now, but the rain won't last forever.
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Re: From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 3rd 2016, 12:29 AM

You tell your story so well here!

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Re: From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 3rd 2016, 01:22 AM

Thank you for sharing this. You tell the story very well
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Re: From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 3rd 2016, 04:09 PM

I have moved this to Depression and Suicide because I feel this fits better here.

That said, I am glad your recovery is going well and it's awesome of you to want to share this to help others.

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Re: From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 3rd 2016, 05:17 PM

As I have mentioned before, I'm so very proud of you for making it this far! I know how hard it is and unfortunately, not everyone gets to the point where you are now, so you keep doing you and feel free to ask for help whenever you need it

Hakuna matata - it means no worries for the rest of your days.
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Re: From Counselor To Patient: My Hospital Experience - October 4th 2016, 02:16 AM

Thank you so much. There was so much to be learned from the experience. It is sad to see the way some hospitals are run....for patients to fend for themselves. It made me appreciate the counselors I worked with even more. I am also learning to love life again. Find beauty in the small things.
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