This is part six in Ashley’s eight-part health journey series. To read part five, click here.
After my prayer that night, I felt a mix of peace and discomfort. I was so incredibly uncomfortable that I decided to try to sleep. At this point, I had been awake since 7 a.m. the day before and was almost 24 hours without sleep. I tried to lay down on a really unfortunate bed with one blanket and one pillow. I looked over and saw the girl to my right and wondered what her experience had been. Suddenly, I was sleeping in a room with a stranger. I laid there, eyes wide open, terrified for what felt like an eternity. I guess it was only 15 minutes because a tech stuck their head in to check on us. I soon came to learn that these techs check on us every 10-15 minutes.
After three more visits, the tech came to wake us up. I quickly got out of my bed and walked around until I found a place where there were other people. A woman walked up and asked me if I wanted any coffee. I replied that I don’t drink coffee, but thanked her. Soon 14 other women were in the room who looked to be in varying degrees of crisis. Their eyes looked sad and hard. I started to worry for them. I was still confused about what was happening. Soon a new tech named Gabriel came and replaced the first one, and I asked him a lot of questions.
Gabriel became another angel to me in this story. He apologized for how I had been admitted with no information. He gave me a schedule. He explained what we would be doing every day. He told me what to expect. That calmed my nerves and fear a great deal. I was able to shower, change my clothes, and make a call to my brother.
Talking to him was sheer luck. His phone number had been in my hospital room on the white board in front of me for five days. When I was bored, I would memorize the number to distract myself. In that moment, I saw God’s hand. If I hadn’t known the number, I couldn’t have told my family where I was or what was happening.
My brother was very surprised to hear where I was and even more surprised that I hadn’t reached out to him for help. My brother had recently gotten engaged and was extremely busy with fiancé and wedding stuff. He also had his 5-year-old son in town visiting. I felt like his hands were pretty full and didn’t want to be a burden to him. I explained all of this to him, but I could tell he still felt hurt. Apparently, my bishop had called him the night before and given him a talking to and asked if he cared or not. I’m sure that was hard.
A few minutes after my phone call, everyone left to go down to the cafeteria. Because I was a new admit who hadn’t seen a doctor yet, I was kept “on unit” and ended up watching the news while I waited for someone to bring me food. I ate while everyone else was coming back from breakfast, then wondered what would happen next. It seemed sort of anti-climactic because everyone sat in a room coloring for the next hour.
Because everyone else was coloring, I figured I was supposed to do it as well. During coloring time, a therapist came and met with me. A doctor pulled me aside and spoke to me and took a medical history. Finally, a psychiatrist met with me and asked me what my goals were. I told them I wanted to get off of as much medication as possible since I had felt better before taking them.
The psychiatrist seemed pleased and surprised since I guess most people go there to get on medication. It was a new challenge. They immediately took me off of all of my medications and replaced them with only three. I fainted only a few times that day. However, when you faint, you can’t leave the floor either. So I stayed in and colored and watched the history channel while everyone else was away at meal times.
We began having group therapy sessions. To be honest, at first I thought that it was a waste of time. Everyone else in this place had attempted to kill themselves. I heard the most insane stories. All I had done was faint. I hadn’t felt so confidently sane in weeks! I thought, “How on earth is listening to these extreme versions of stories possibly going to help me?” I had a bad attitude. (Probably because I was now on hour 36 without sleep!)
We had more group therapy. Gym time. Snack time. Coloring — so much coloring. Chatting with people about their problems. My brain was getting very weary, but I couldn’t go to bed until at least 8 p.m. when meds were given out. Finally, I slept some. It felt good to get that relief, but still kind of weird to be sharing a room. The girl I was sharing a room with talked in her sleep, which was entertaining. My bed was near the door and I woke up often to the person checking on us every 10 minutes. Sleep wasn’t extremely restful.
The next day, I started by fainting and slamming my head against the cement floor beneath me. I could hear the doctor and his assistants laughing at me while it happened. (Note to doctors: Don’t laugh at psych patients. It isn’t helpful.) I tried to get up to go to my room to cry alone, but I kept falling. Gabriel noticed the struggle and came to assist me to my bed. I laid there and for the first time since being admitted, I wept deeply because of my circumstances.
I felt like there was no hope left. The doctors once again were telling me I was crazy, and this time they even laughed. It made me feel small and unimportant. I don’t know if Gabriel told the psychiatrist or if he just happened to walk by while I was letting out my emotions, but either way, a new man came in. We talked some more. He apologized for the doctors and asked me what I wanted. He changed my medication again. He also gave me a wheelchair so that I could leave that room with the others. This made a big difference.
That day I got to go to gym time, mealtime, and outside breaks. I wheeled around the gym in circles. It felt awesome to get some energy out, and also frustrating because I wanted to run or something. However, I had to count my blessings to be out of the same four walls. Feeling the sun and wind on my face while others took a smoke break was amazing! I appreciated the quiet moments to feel the warmth of the outdoors. Eating with others made mealtime go much more quickly, and I even got to choose for myself what I could eat. I had no idea that there were options. I thought for sure I would start to get better soon.
That night, I slept very well and was feeling very good. I started contributing in groups and trying to make the best of the awkward situation. I started to listen other people who were having extremely hard trials. Their trials made mine seem so minimal. I began to feel an insane love for the people around me. I found myself praying for them during the day and at night. I wanted them to get better and be able to leave too.
My family was able to come for a visit and my bishopric member called. I got to see my mom and my brother for a little while. It was nice to feel their love and their kindness. They were good at respecting the rules of the establishment and coming when they were able. It was still awkward for me to admit how I was doing, considering where I was at. The phone call, while unexpected, was helpful. It made me feel like I wasn’t forgotten.
After two days on the new medication, it seemed like I was doing well enough to get rid of the wheels. I didn’t faint any more in that place. Maybe we had figured it out! I was so hopeful. They wanted to keep me longer, but I just really wanted to get out and get back to life as soon as possible. It took some convincing, but on the fourth day, I was released.
If you have never been in a lockdown, keep-watch situation before, you can’t understand the depth of release and freedom that I experienced upon leaving that place. It felt like even though I got to go through the very depths of hell, God had loosed my bands and set me free. Being able to walk out of there and into the sunshine with my family around me was a glimpse of heaven.
That moment of freedom reminded me of how many things the Savior has done for me to set me free. This wasn’t the first time He had interceded on my behalf. It wasn’t the first miracle I had seen, and yet I would forget them as I went through the experience. The longer the trials lasted, the more my focus was on the hard and the bad. I learned the importance of cherishing moments of freedom and light. I hope you will stop today and think of what good you have seen, and what miracles you have experienced — it really can make you feel free.
Ashley Dewey is extremely talented at being single. Hobbies include awkward conversations with members of the opposite sex, repelling third dates, talking to boys about their girl problems and to girls about their boy problems. In her spare time she also has a very fulfilling school life, work life, and social life. Besides being a professional single, Ashley is also a BYU graduate with a degree in linguistics (Aka word nerd). She enjoys studying other languages, particularly American Sign Language, and finds most all of them fascinating. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Ashley works most of the time and has often been accused of being a workaholic. Currently she works full time as a merchandiser and supervisor in a retail store, and part time doing social media work. On her day off she works (really it doesn't feel like work) in the Provo LDS temple. The only kind of work she finds difficulty focusing on is house work. Her favorite activities in her free time are reading, writing, creating social experiments, and spending time with great friends and family. Specific activities with those family and friends include: going to concerts, plays, dance recitals, BYU basketball and football games, and watching sports on television.