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Mental Health: I Voluntarily Admitted Myself to the ER

Last week a woman at my farmer’s market said I looked so happy. She had no idea I was in the midst of a mental health crisis.

By: Rivka Pruss

Many college students go through mental health challenges or know someone who does. Some days are better than others.

Friday evening, my anxiety boiled over and I needed help. I checked into the ER and spent several hours talking to nurses and doctors.

They took me to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in the back of the police car, with no seat cushions, metal bars on the window. Like a criminal. Not like someone with a mind that needs mending.

The Onset

I sat on the floor of my room, hunched over letting out giant screams, deep from my gut, tears streaming down my face.

I shouted at the world, at God, at my brain. My face was red hot, mascara I neatly applied that morning leaving black marks.

A panic attack set in. I couldn’t breathe. As I tried to calm myself, my chest felt like it would explode.

The Phone Sessions

I called my mom. Between shallow breaths, my shaking body, and anguish in my voice, I pleaded to her. “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do.”

She told me to take deep breaths, but each breath felt foreign, like someone took control of my body.

I dialed 911. The dispatcher asked what was wrong.

I explained I’ve had thoughts of suicide for the last month. She told me, “Hold on, walk outside your home. We sent officers.”

Help Arrives

When the officers came, I shared my feelings of not wanting to exist.

They questioned, “Are you thinking of harming anyone or yourself?” I said no and explained that I suffer from anxiety and ADHD.

I stood shivering in mismatched green and blue socks, defeated. One officer felt he needed to ask, “Why did you call us? Why didn’t you just take yourself over there (to the hospital) ?”

As If I had any f***ing idea what to do.

They took me to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in the back of the police car, with no seat cushions, metal bars on the window. Like a criminal. Not like someone with a mind that needs mending.

I’m sure that’s policy, so I guess I understand.

Inside the ER

When I arrived at the ER, I was placed in room 28. The nurse, Vincent, directed me to hand them my bag and put on a hospital gown, my outfit for the evening.

I joked I was sporting a new fashion trend and my nurse laughed. It felt dehumanizing, my things taken away, but it was protocol.

However, I appreciated Vincent’s kindness through the whole process — he made me feel heard and saw me for who I am.

I sat in the ugly, stark room with a sheet keeping me warm for over an hour, waiting for the doctor. My dad came after driving almost two hours in Friday rush-hour traffic. I felt embarrassed and exposed for him to see me.

But I realized I was seeking help, and what’s more powerful?

Receiving Validation

When I saw the doctor, he explained anxiety can cause pain or make it worse.

On Thursday evening, I was in agony, fatigue weighing on every muscle. Even so, I tried to study, telling myself, the pain will go away.

I am thankful the doctor validated my pain and I feel lucky because not everyone has that experience, especially young people.

After seeing the doctor, my dad hugged and comforted me, letting me vent my thoughts. I am thankful for my family’s support, but I felt like a burden. However, nurses reminded me it was right for family to come.

A while later, I saw the psych nurse, who said I am type A, and I laughed, because I’m not.

We agreed I had too much on my plate from six classes and work. She asked if I took medication and I said no, but that every day I meditate, pray and I work out a few times a week.

She advised me to see a therapist. I said I wanted to, but previous negative experiences made me reluctant.

Next Steps for Self-Love

The psych nurse reminded me to not give up because sometimes it takes several therapists to find the right fit.

I want to spread her message to never give up. We are deep in finals season and classes can feel taxing.

Tusk reminds you to utilize resources on campus, and to take care of your mental health.

Getting help is not a sign of failure. Mental illness does not define you and you are not alone! National Alliance of Mental Health reports that one in five Americans suffers from mental illness each year.

We’ve linked below to places where you can learn more about taking care of your mental health.

Sending self-care your way.

– R.P.

One Comment

  • Mindie says:

    Rivka, what a gift you’ve given to others by being so open and descriptive about your experience and your struggles. I’m glad you sought and received help, and I believe this article will encourage others to do the same. Sending you love and prayers as you continue with your life journey.

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