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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
Jeanamo815, May 18, 2018 9:50pm EST
Mellanie...I read this article and I definitely believe it is true...that depression can beget a-fib and a-fib can beget depression. There is such a mind/body connection in many illnesses. Thanks for posting that article!
MellanieSAF, May 18, 2018 8:28pm EST
Goodness, Spencer. You have the Trifecta, and then some.
Spencer, May 18, 2018 7:42pm EST
Mellanie - a contributing factor. In my mind the factors were:
1. Lack of good sleep for years
2. Massive Depressive Disorder (MDD)
3. Genetics. All males on my mother's side died of sudden cardiac arrest or AFib... and all between ages 52-55
4. Endurance Sports
5. Combat related PTSD
Thor might also be related in there someplace...
So are there any other major factors that I am missing? I pretty much have every single one.
MellanieSAF, May 18, 2018 7:37pm EST
Thanks for sharing that. It is possible then that your afib might have resulted from your depression.
Spencer, May 18, 2018 7:23pm EST
I'd say about 16 months before my AFib was diagnosed. I was on and off again depressed for about six months and then became consistently depressed after that. My running endurance started to drop about a year before my diagnoses. So there is probably some correlation.
My depression reached dangerous levels in Oct of last year.
MellanieSAF, May 18, 2018 5:46pm EST
Which came first in your case, the depression or the afib?
According to this recap of a research poster that is on the AHA News site, depression can bring on the afib. That is the opposite of what we often hear from doctors, that having afib is what makes people depressed.
Depression linked to common heart rhythm disorder (https://newsroom.heart.org/news/depression-linked-to-common-heart-rhythm-disorder)
Jeanamo815, May 16, 2018 1:50pm EST
Linda and Beth....I find that having you share your experiences and knowledge to be a very helpful step for those of us who have struggled with anxiety and/or depression. I can relate because I have 'been there" too. When the darkness of life seems overwhelming, it does help tremendously to know we are not alone...and that there is hope for a better future ahead. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in our forum. They are appreciated. If even one person has benefited from this open discussion, which Spencer has started with his own experiences, then it will make all that is posted here on this issue worthwhile. Thank you for your comments and insight into a problem that is often not discussed so openly.
Wishing the best of mental and physical health for all the kind and understanding folks in our community,
(My A-Fib Experience Community Leader)
lmaj, May 16, 2018 9:26am EST
Really getting frustrated with the new web site---just wrote a long post and lost the entire thing . . .so trying agian. hope it posts.
Hello Spencer . .
All I can say is Wow—very powerful post. A number of years ago I was completing my BS degree and had to take a science requirement. One of the classes that fit the description was a weather course. In that course, I learned about homeostasis. That the world strives for homeostasis. To that end, when too much pressure builds in our atmosphere, we have hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, etc. and then the world achieves that calm. I believe humans operate similarly and what just happened to you was you trying to achieve homeostasis. So much pressure and then bam . . . your body, your mind was like enough is enough---I’m getting some balance here and created your own type of hurricane so that your medical team HAD to take notice and understand and accept that afib affects the whole person, not just the heart. It was your way of trying to find some balance in this crazy afib journey. I think you are a trailblazer, blazing the way for others that will surely come after you. Certainly though, it is difficult to be the one in the front of the line.
In the throes of my afib journey---I experienced some very dark dark days. I was divorced a number of years ago after a 32 year marriage---I think the darkness, that anxieity I experienced from afib was worse---so that says a lot. And it wasn’t about the afib---it was always about the quality of life. I posted about my anxiety and depression to the forum a few times and realized that we are not alone in this journey---so many others feel similarly. Afib is very isolating. When I went for my ablation and the dr. explained right before the procedure all the things that could possibly go wrong---I looked at my daughter and saw her eyes getting bigger and bigger and I turned to her and quietly said “I know the risks . . . I accept all the risks completely as it doesn’t change anything because this is not living”.
When I was going through said divorce and so many things were just up in the air and unknown, my therapist told that that the hardest thing to live with is ambiguity---and afib is all about the ambiguity. I think Melanie is right when she said that hopefully the implanted loop recorder will help you and your medical team find some actual answers and start successfully treating what the readings begin to uncover . . .
Thinking about you---hang in there . . . always hang in there and in those dark moments, get out your computer and write a post or two, call the hot line, reach out . . always reach out because people who care will be at the other end.
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.
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.