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Spencer Gets Locked Up…
OK… so I have your attention. I wanted to write in a serious manner on a serious and deadly subject.
I wanted to pen this post to give voice to what has been happening to me over the past several months and more specifically weekend before last. Since my diagnosis of AFib, I have been battling depression. Many of you know my arduous journey over the past 6-8 months or so. I thank all of you for your support on this board. It has helped, and it has helped keep me from the abyss. Depression can get to a point of critical mass where it grows by itself. The point where you are no longer “sad” over something, but that the depression becomes the cause and can grow like a cancer. There is no longer a reason for the depression it is just there like a broken leg or a broken heart in my case. My stressors and the original cause of this depression were mainly the AFib but others and those I wish to keep private but the resulting depression is something that I wanted to talk about.
I have been prescribed several drugs to help with a variety of conditions (rhythm, antiarrhythmia, sleep, anxiety, depression, nerve pain, high blood pressure). Each prescribed by a different doctor working in their silo with no interchange between them. One that I was taking for anxiety and to aid me to fall asleep as I would lie in bed for an hour sometimes two and ruminate on my life. This is not good as the path was always downward. The drug is called clonazepam and I was prescribed a heavy dosage of this for sleep. On Sat and Sun, I was in crises with my depression. I could not sleep and was scared of closing my eyes as my thinking lead me down towards that abyss. I stayed up for nearly three days and I was eating very little for two days before that. I simply could not sleep and had no desire to eat. I spent a lot of time a Vet Suicide Chat Line and they helped to give me an outlet that I could talk about what I was feeling and thinking without repercussions. On Sunday, I took one tablet (1 mg) of clonazepam thinking it would help me to take a nap, which I desperately needed. Before that, I was doing something to distract my mind (PlayStation) and a small amount of scotch. I typically get a drink (single drink), and it will take me probably two hours to finish a single shot as I am playing my game and I am savoring the taste - 18-year single malt scotch is not cheap. What my doctors that know I drink a little failed to tell me is that mixing a benzodiazepine and alcohol will magnify the effect of the drug many times. This would have been useful information… Well, went downstairs, and the wife said that I was slurring all of my speech and couldn't maintain my balance. I passed out shortly after that and bumped my head pretty hard (TBI). I awoke in a hospital room about 2 hours later, or I finally became lucid and able to remember what was going on. While in the ER, I supposedly said that I wanted to commit suicide and that I had a plan (interesting the wife who accompanied me everywhere was not in the room when this utterance was made). The hospital room I found myself in shortly thereafter was stripped of everything (just a bed and nothing else), and I had a nurse to stand watch over me continuously. Security was also placed right outside the door, and I was unable to get up from the bed at all (weight alarm). It was later the next day that a video conference was set up with a psychologist to decide if I should be kept against my will for at least three days and possibly longer. I was upset that in this meeting with a doctor that there were three other nurses in the room. I asked them to leave, and they finally did, and I guess this upset the doctor and the nurses. I can't believe that asking to speak in private with a doctor was so offensive. He hung up on me. I didn't even get to talk to him at all or explain what was going on. I never learned his name he just shouted out TDO (temporary detainment order) and hung up. He ignored the patient and made his decision with zero input from me. Never even got his name. I was then ordered to be detained in the hospital for 72 hours. I never acted rashly, nor threatened anyone, and complied with the nursing staff fully. I was annoyed at being in the hospital, but who isn’t. I was completely rational after the affect of the drug wore off. And interesting, the hospital gave me more of the same class of drugs that caused me to be there in the first place and was then confused on why I was so I so confused, dizzy and unable to stand.
Now, since I was active duty military, they had to transfer me to a military adult mental health ward. So I was transported via ambulance, in locked restraints also, and soon found myself in the locked ward of the hospital. Everything was taken from me. I had no id, no wallet, no watch, no ring and given only the most basic toiletries. Your clothes are removed and you are strip searched for contraband. After you use any toiletries you must give them back in your “safe” box that is lockup behind the counter. Nothing was allowed in my room just a bed, and a chair bolted to the ground. The wall was only glass so they can watch you sleep. And you are dressed in these flimsy hospital gowns. No underwear or bras (men and women were in the ward together) was allowed at all. I had to be observed when I shaved and was not allowed a comb to even comb my hair. They had multiple tracks for treatment (suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc.) for the patients and I didn't fit anywhere, and the staff thought that the hospital overreacted but since I was there, I needed to be observed for 36 hours before I could be released. I also had to go through three separate "interviews" by four psychiatrists to see if I was a danger to myself. These were rather scary events as you are placed in a small chair like from middle school, and they sit like judges above you at the other end of the room.
I talked about how I wanted help and had been receiving help for several months but that the doctors were all failing me because they all worked in their little worlds and no one was looking after ME. I am more than a collection of biological systems to be worked on and what one doctor does, affects many other things. The depression became so much that I could, and still can't, control it. It is now a disease that is eating away at me each day. Each day a little bit of Spencer destroyed each day by this disease. I can't even think of anything joyful nor can I see a future that is something that I want to be in.
The ward controlled all activities, and I can tell you that coloring did not help my depression nor does reading from inspirational quotes. Yes, me a 50 year old was ordered to color in a coloring book. See if you don’t follow the rules there can be severe repercussion and everyone is watching you and evaluating you every single second of the day. You are observed how you walk, how you interact, what you do with your free time. The daily one-on-one counseling was from a nurse trainee that had no experience with massive depression, anxiety or PTSD (I do have this trifecta), and I probably read more psychology books than he did. I have uniforms older than him. He was zero help like just about everything else in that ward. The experience of those three days vastly exacerbated my depression and has made it into this thing in me that just grows. I find it very difficult to function in day-to-day activities. But I gave them what they wanted to see and hear. And the best part… you must be picked by someone from your Command that is senior to you and a letter goes to you Commanding Officer that states why you were there, your diagnosis, all follow up appts, a list of all your prescriptions, and a summary of why you were admitted in the first place.
One good thing... 8 pounds lost in 3 days.
So, AFib Family, why am I posting this and exposing myself like this? First, I wanted to say that AFib can cause depression and that other factors can magnify that depression or be something genetic in you that gets triggered with the AFib. I think this true in my case as depression runs strong in my genes. If there is anyone that wishes to talk to me about depression and what you are feeling, please use the Emotional Well Being forum on this website or there are good resources out there on the web. But do not suffer alone. Men especially as we often will not seek help and the problem grows until it can become deadly (men commit suicide at 3 times the rate of women, and veterans commit suicide at over twice the national rate). For veterans there is a huge stigma of seeking help. I will frequent this forum to see if there are others dealing with the same issues. I will probably not have any answers, but we can talk and help each other. It is those in this hole of depression that can support more than those outside the hole looking down at you. They know nothing of what you are going through unless they have been in that hole before. My healing will only come from me. It will not be found at the bottom of a pill bottle nor at the end of a therapist session. This is the hardest post that I have ever made and I hope that my story will help others. If one person can be helped from this then it was well worth it.
Waiting for my Sunrise
AHAASAKatie, May 15, 2018 7:58pm EST
Spencer, thank you so much for this brave and honest post. Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are very real and very powerful emotions that have devastating effects on the people who experience them and the people who love them. We are honored that you chose MyAfibExperience and the Support Network as the communities you trusted enough to share this powerful and raw story. You have opened the door for me to share with the community these life-saving suicide prevention resources should any of our members need help and not be comfortable researching this topic or not know who can help.
Please know that we are here for you, there are many of us who understand where you are coming from and have dealt with suicide in one form or another.
Best and Peace Katie
MellanieSAF, May 15, 2018 8:06pm EST
Thank you for the courage to share this message. Many probably experience this, but it takes a lot of guts to verbalize it to others.
I worry that so many of the drugs cause more problems than they solve, and that seems to be especially the case with drugs prescribed for stress/anxiety/depression. In this case, you were very, very lucky as that class of drug when mixed with alcohol can potentially be deadly. (I cannot believe that no doctor or pharmacist cautioned you.)
So, that is probably a reminder to all of us to look up all food and drug interactions for all of our meds. Here are some of the sites I like to use for that purpose:
It is my hope that the implanted monitor will figure out what is happening with your heart, especially the syncope, so they can find a fix for it. And that that will help lessen your frustration and depression over your heart and ease some of your burden.
I'm here to support you and help.
patrickg, May 15, 2018 9:28pm EST
Spencer my brother,
Yes, Katie and Mellanie used the right words: brave, courage, and honest to describe your heartfelt post. Wow. Just wow. Maybe because I’m a relative newbie to this forum and aFib, I had no idea what was churning under your upbeat and humorous posts. You mask it well my friend, which makes this post more of a shocker.
To be honest, I have no idea what to say other than I feel the pain rising from your words. As you suggest, now is not the time for psychobabble, nor am I trained or have expertise in crisis counseling, but I can tell you in some of my own darkest moments I have availed myself of experienced counselors who were able to help me gain a new perspective and find my way out of the hole you reference in your post. Yes, find my own way out with a bit of guidance from those that have been there and done that. And you will too.
Although a newbie here, I already have learned that aFib is no place for the weak. And although I have only known you through this forum for a short while, I know you are not weak. You hang with SEALS. You serve with the mightiest Navy on earth. You have met the challenges our common condition has thrown your way and carry on admirably. And you will continue to.
This too shall pass.
You have a wonderful, strong wife that has stood by your side all these years, a constant devoted companion in Thor, and a bright future to look forward to. You have earned a secure financial future and from where I sit, love the work that you do. Perhaps a change in scenery will help with a new perspective? Maybe some time away from the stressors that have brought you to this critical point in your life?
All of us here know that aFib is not a death sentence. Does it present challenges that others know nothing about and are unable to understand the feelings and frustrations we afibbers experience? Of course. But you are no stranger to challenges and you will continue to meet this one.
Find someone who will listen to you without judgment and let them help you dig out of this hole.
Thor needs his bacon.
Carry on, sir.
Jeanamo815, May 15, 2018 9:45pm EST
I am so proud of you for having the courage to address some things that many of us with a-fib face and live with.....anxiety and depression. You put your experience and emotions into words that we can all understand and to which we can relate. Sharing your experiences was a powerful statement...and very well said.
I feel certain that what you have shared will strike a chord and be very meaningful to lots of members of our community. Having the dark moments like the ones you describe takes tremendous endurance, determination, and effort to overcome them. It is not an easy thing to do....it is a very hard thing to do. But it is possible.
It is such a shame that you have not been getting a better understanding from all your doctors involved and WORKING TOGETHER so that YOU...the whole person were being treated for both the heart issues and the depression and other issues as well. If that had been the case, you probably could have avoided some of the problems you've experienced with so many medicines tried and not working....and perhaps exascerbating the problems even more. I am glad you have reached out for help when you knew you needed it. It takes self awareness to recognize the problem, to admit to the problem, and to have the courage to seek help for it....and that is what you are doing. That is an inspiration.
So in that respect...you are our hero for opening our eyes to some very real issues that many of us are facing. I think you know how the people in this forum care about you and have been keeping you in our thoughts and prayers while you have been going through this struggle.
My hope for you now is that you are getting the help you deserve....that you will be in the care of doctors who are listening to you.... that your heart problems will be solved, that the dark thoughts will go away, and you will return to the quality of life that makes you happy and at peace within yourself.
Thank you for your honesty in sharing your experience. I believe it will have a tremendous impact on a lot of people in our group.
I am happy to consider you a friend and send you all good wishes to see your sunrise very soon. (Additional gratitude goes to Thor who has been your best friend and companion through it all).
Thanks also to Mellanie and Kaie for their helpful responses to your post.
Hugs and wishing you the best,
(My A-fib Experience Community Leader)
Rbrandt, May 15, 2018 11:29pm EST
Oh Spencer! What a great post and I applaud you for posting it. It certainly hits a chord with me. I also have the trifecta you spoke of. Mine stemed from the hands of a relative as a pre-schooler and thats all I’ll say on that but in my case my love of single malt scotches lead to self medicating which took me to the brink. You made a comment about doctors (shrinks) not being to helpful unless they “know” what its like. I agree with you and have had some very bad ones that did more harm than good, incompetent ones and a couple that were ok, I always felt that they really didn’t do much good but you know reading your post made me realize that if I hadn’t seen them the good and bad I probably wont be alive today. Mental health is a strange beast and I certainly dont have a magic wand or even insight as to how to solve or fix the issues. I do know that it is critical to never give up no matter how dark it gets. There was a time in the past where I had thought about suicide but I never got the “special treatment” for it that you got (thank goodness) but I do know it can and will with work and determination get better. My dad suffered with depression my mother with anxiety they made it and I intend to also. I find it interesting that Mellanie also posted about a study showing PTSD seems to increase the likelihood of Afib. Guess I was destin to have it. High Blood Pressure , Sleep Apnea, Smoking, stress PTSD family history of heart issues. Oh well - I’m still standing (as Elton John says) maybe a little shaky at times but standing nevertheless. Hang in there Spencer its worth it.
May we all have NSR & Mental Health,
(MyAfibExperience Community Leader)
mamazipp, May 16, 2018 2:44am EST
I don't post much but have read all of your posts over the last many months. Your post above tore at my heart over your situation. I am a psychiatric nurse with many years of experience in many settings (except military). What you have described with such accuracy is so sadly and tragically true. Your initial experience with the poly-pharmacy by doctors who look only at the symptom and not the whole person led you to take a dangerous combination of medications (and alcohol is a medication as well), an all too common event. The failure of physicians to properly inform you of the interactions of medications is nothing short of shoddy practice. The cascade of events that followed was sadly familiar to me, as everything you described about your lock-up in the psych ward is the dirty little secret of psychiatric care today. You, as an individual, were neither consulted nor considered, and I cringed at the treatment you described, all of which I have witnessed at various times. Perhaps I've even participated in some of those routines and practices, much to my chagrin.
The system is designed around the most troubled of individuals, with an attitude of "the patient doesn't know what is best for him/her" and the medical staff, doctors and nurses both, maintain a patronizing attitude, although they would never acknowledge it. The system contains the most troubled; it has difficulty individualizing people who are more articulate and aware. There are, of course, many excellent doctors and nurses, but systems tend not to allow flexibility and individuation, nor does it reward the caring staff and those that speak up and question rules and standard treatment tend to be characterized as troublemakers. They are chastised when advocating for a particular change in approach, to maintain the status quo. Depression = certain rituals and protocols to make sure that the "patient" stays alive. While that is a good thing, of course, there needs to be so much more humanity in the process. I feel so very sad that you were treated like a "case" with no allowance for who you are, what your experience over the past many months has been, and what might be what you, Spencer, person, needed. Today's psychiatry is a failed system and very little in the way of treatment, is available. The drug industry has influenced treatment to such an extent that there is little room for any other real help. When I first started working in psychiatry, psychoanalytic treatment was the treatment, and very little in the way of medications. The pharmaceutical industry then exploded and gradually the field became one of "Throw meds at 'em and send them home." If one doesn't work. try another.
I had a serious depression a long time ago, and I was so lucky to find a psychiatrist who believed in psychotherapy and was there to help me to understand what was happening and why. It was a long process and I paid out of pocket for it. Today you would have to look long and hard to find that. If therapy is available it is usually limited to a set number of sessions. A few years ago, I was feeling depressed again and I went to my family doctor and told her (I now live in Canada and that is the process). Without so much as looking at me she opened her desk drawer, whipped out a printed form with a list of mental status questions with yes/no answers, and then wrote a script for an antidepressant. She never made eye contact nor asked me any questions.
You are very courageous to put your experience into this wonderful forum, warts and all. I know it will help others who are also battling depression, which can be a deadly disease. I hope this will start a dialog about this still stigmatized illness and help to bring light to people on our forum who are struggling with depression Having AFib is a terrifying diagnosis (and you have had so much more) and adding depression to the mix is just so debilitating. I am sorry you had to go through that hospital snake pit, and I hope you can find a person with whom to work on your issues and feelings and help you get your life back. You are very right about the difficulty men, in particular, have difficulty admitting feelings and opening up tp others. You are correct in your suicide statistics about men, as well.
Hoping you will be able to find the right support and thank you for bringing a painful but important issue to us.
Spencer, May 16, 2018 6:25am EST
Everyone - Thank you for the replies. I do not feel courageous nor brave. I know that I am still in this hole trying to find a way out. The military is slowly changing how it views mental health, and because I am with the Special Forces, they have embedded mental health providers, and everyone has to go to get a checkup "from the neck up" so periodicialy going is less of a stigma, as everyone goes. I have been given the opportunity to see the Psy and Therapist on a weekly basis. If I were not within this community, and I support not a shooter, I would not have access like I have now. But for every shooter, about 200 support folks are backing them up and giving them what they need. And everyone is seen as being in the brotherhood. The single shooter is utterly ineffective even if they are always in the movies. I am still trying to get to the bottom of everything in this trifecta of issues, and I still am not there so until I get to the bottom, I can not get better.
For any vets that need help. Let me tell you that the national suicide chat line is terrible. You are timed when you chat, and they have a rote script that the pretty much use. And It seemed that they had little personal expercience with what you are I know from personal experience. If you are a vet the two best resources are:
USMC Distress: http://www.usmc-mccs.org/services/support/dstress-line/
Veterans Crises Line: https://www.vetselfcheck.org/welcome.cfm
Both will talk to you or chat with you until you are better. I have chatted on here for hours when I had the implements in front me. They are only other vets on that line and for the most part have been in that hole that you might find yourself in. Vets die by their own hands more than they do in combat.
Bottom line is that I made this post in hopes of others seeking help also because they know that there is help out there and that others are doing so. I know that the person that will be helped the most will probably not respond nor ever post but they might use the resources we cite.
Thank you all to everyone that posts to this thread and also please use the Emotional Well Being side of the forum. We can talk there, and I will respond to any posts there that bring this subject up.
Waiting for my sunrise also has a double meaning of I am waiting to get out of the hole too.
Waiting for my Sunrise.
Spencer, May 16, 2018 6:35am EST
Tsiporah (mamazipp) - Thank you. You post means a lot to me. The Inquisition Docs said they would assign me, someone, to look at all my medication and coordinate my care. Interesting that I have not heard a word from them yet - and I am not holding my breath. So I fully understand what you are saying. If you do not fit into their treatment box, they are frustrated with you, and you end up either leaving their care because you don't get better or they get frustrated and tell you to see someone else.
I'm at the latter right now.
Waiting for my Sunrise.
BethClark, May 16, 2018 6:55am EST
Spencer, I echo the words the others have used about how brave you are to post this message. It struck a chord for me for a couple of reasons. First, twice I've gone through a very long horrible illness, over a year each time, with horrible side effects from the three antibiotics I had to take for 1 1/2 years. I ended up extremely depressed also. I couldn't imagine that I'd ever feel better. I was ready to end it all. I was on a ton of meds, had to take ativan to be able to sleep (addictive). I was almost hospitalized for depression and ended up in intensive outpatient therapy for months. The therapy groups were helpful and supportive, luckily, although there were few in the group whose depression and anxiety were caused by physical problems. I never found a support group of people with my physical illness and that would have been helpful. Here I was, a normally strong person, falling apart, which made me feel even worse. I was sure that everyone else would be handling the situation better than me so that was hard on my self image. I was better prepared when I had a relapse and started on anti-depressants and went to some support groups earlier. Then, there I was 4 months from the end of my 18 month course of horrible antibiotics and I had my first aFib episode...
Yesterday I sat in the ER with my autistic son who struggles with anxiety and depression all the time. His anxiety got the best of him and he ended up in the ER. He was transferred to a psychiatric hospital last night. Even with me in the room with him there was a security guard outside his room for the 8 hours he was there to make sure that he didn't harm himself. No fork or knife with the meal. It must be protocol and I suppose saves lives. I don't think he noticed. He was taken to the psychiatric hospital via ambulance, about 30 miles away. I decided not to follow him there last night because I figured he'd be in good hands when he arrived and driving around in Oakland, CA at nighttime is not a wise thing. After your description of your experience I'm now regretting that decision. I inquired about whether the folks at the hospital will communicate with his regular team and was assured that would happen. Based on your experience, I now think that I need to be the fierce mama bear to make sure that happens. Your goal of helping at least one person with your post has been met. Thank you.
It is no wonder that you're struggling with depression and anxiety, it's been a very difficult road for you, with problem after problem physically--not to mention less than stellar help from the medical community. All the while you're mourning the loss of what has been your normal life trying to keep up with your job. From my experience I have learned that the goal is to get through these blips in the road however you can. Seeking out help is a sign of strength, not weakness. I'm hopeful that this latest ablation will actually work so that you can get back to your normal life soon. Even after that happens it can take a long time to get back to feeling normal emotionally. For a very long time I continued to expect "the other shoe to drop". I liken it to PTSD. I hope that somewhere within that health system you can find the support that you need. Meanwhile keep posting. People on this forum are rooting for you.
Spencer, May 16, 2018 7:35am EST
Beth - Thank you. You made me feel good that at least this sad story has helped one person.
First... be the mama bear! You need to watch and protect your son as much as you can. My care has been haphazard at best and that Psych Ward is not a good place to be in. They are there to triage people and bascially just watch them as suicide is generally temporary. You may have thoughts all the time, but the truly dangerous time is short lived and being in one of those wards can stop someone and give them more time to consider their life. Be the mama bear!
On the dinnerware... when I was in, you get your tray, and it has no dinnerware on it all. So for the first two meals, I just ate with my fingers. And at the end, you have to show your tray to them or tell them the % of the food you ate. The food was horrid, so I always said 20%. They would write this down, and I think if I were there long term, I eventually would have been forced feed or feed via IV. But back to the fork and spoons... no knives of course. I am a senior officer, and it was apparent that I did not fit there with the kids that I was like twice or three times their age. One of the little junior enlisted finally said, after two meals, that you have to ask for a spoon or fork. So they finally told me the process! You go up to the nurse counter, always standing behind the no-cross line painted on the ground and ask for a spoon or fork. You must then sign out the said item, and sign it back in when you are done, and the nurse/watcher/warden or whatever must watch you throw away in their particular trash bin the item you used.
"My Team" did communicate but they really just read the charts, and that was about it. I really felt that they abandoned me to that facility and I felt very alone. There was nothing to occupy my mind at all. I wanted to reread Hamlet or some Plato really, but there was nothing like that. I was so excited to see the title Moby Dick on the shelf of the book amongst trash romance, spy novels, and such. I got that was so happy to have something to do while... it was filled with nothing but pictures and 3rd-grade writing of the novel. I was heartbroken. I ended up staring at a column in the "day room" for the next hours. Doing nothing.
Beth - Be the mama bear for your son. My wife was mine when I could not care for myself... when I was on the ground convulsing or passed out... or when a doc was making his 4th attempt at a spinal tap and causing me extreme pain. Make sure you know what they are giving him and what care he is receving. I found out that they are just doing their job and you are the only one really responsible for your care or his care. Finding a group with a simular problem is key to getter help and getting to someone that understands you. For me, it is here.
Thank you again for the post.
Waiting for my Sunrise.