The White Room: An Emergency Encounter

The White Room: An Emergency Encounter
Without fully understanding what I was doing, I threatened suicide...
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I was in a state of panic. I had worked for several weeks with the intention of making as much money as I could before returning home to take care of bills that were months behind. I had saved up several grand. My mortgage company was threatening foreclosure. The natural gas to my property had been cut off months ago, and more recently the power had been disconnected as well.

Now that I was back at home, I was attempting to allocate funds to each company in order to restore all my services and, most importantly, to save my house from being foreclosed.

I called each of the three companies and tried to work something out. I explained to my mortgage company the situation with my disconnected power and gas and asked if they could accept half of what I owed them. They informed me that unless I paid the entire balance, my account would remain in the legal department and I would have to pay a few hundred dollars each month for the expense of the lawyer. I called my power and gas companies and explained to them that I was at risk of foreclosure with my mortgage and asked if they could accept a less than full payment in order to restore my services; they refused.

I felt my frustration building inside of me with each unsuccessful phone call. I had worked so hard for so long without a day off. I had managed to put together seven thousand dollars, and yet I couldn’t seem to figure out any solution that would remedy the situation I was in.

My body was tensing, enough so that all my muscles began to ache. Pressure was building inside of my head and I was starting to hear the familiar high pitched sound that accompanies an episode of dissociation. I felt so much fear in that moment.

I could feel my head swing back and forth as I looked across the room and my subconscious searched for a “way out”. I felt hopelessness approaching the surface of my mind, and as it did, the fight-or-flight response in me intensified.

A meltdown was approaching, and there was nothing that I could do to stop it now!

Determined to find a solution, I continued to make my phone calls and tried again to reach someone with the authority to take a partial payment for my overdue accounts. I was repeatedly denied, and then, without fully understanding what I was doing, I threatened suicide to two of the companies that I was speaking to on the phone.

Upon hanging up with these businesses, I tried to regain my composure. It occurred to me that I didn’t really want to die. All I wanted was for someone to work with me to create a solution with the funds that I had earned.

Suicidal thoughts were not new to me. I had experienced these frightening thoughts for my entire life. Over time, I had acquired many different coping skills to handle these thoughts, and one way was to contact someone for help.

I called the distress centre and started to tell them about my situation and explained that I was feeling very hopeless and needed help. They suggested that they could send a “Mobile Response Team” to see me. A couple of counselors would be able to come to my home and help talk me through this. They confirmed that they could help me problem solve and come up with alternative strategies to deal with my situation. I felt satisfied that this would be helpful to me and proceeded to give them my address and contact information so that they could send someone to see me.

While I was still on the phone, working out the details, there was a loud knock at my door.

It was the police!

Without hanging up with the distress centre, I greeted the constables. They told me that both bill companies to whom I had uttered suicidal threats to had called the police. They went on to say that they had a responsibility to the public to keep people safe and as such would have to take me into the hospital to ensure that I was going to be okay.

I carefully explained to them that I was on the phone with the distress centre and had everything under control. They insisted that I hang up and come with them. Wrought with fear, I mentioned that the Mobile Response Team was already on their way, and that I simply required some help solving my financial problems. Finally, after calling to confirm that what I said was true, the officers agreed to wait with me outside (as they were weary of my dogs), until the team arrived.

It didn’t take long for the two ladies to get there. It was extremely sunny that day and, in contrast to the stressful situation, the nice weather and bright blue sky offered comfort for me. Upon arrival, the ladies from the Mobile Response Team spoke with the constables and then one of the ladies asked me only a couple of questions. One of which was: Are you high right now?

That was a very difficult question for me to answer. I had consumed marijuana, but I didn’t think it would be wise to admit to that in front of the police officers. Unable to formulate a lie to tell this lady, I furrowed my brow and asked her why she would ask that in front of the officers. She quickly turned away from me and then spoke to the constables. They all approached me together and told me that my eyes were wildly dilated and I had a racing speech. They then told me that I would have to go with the officers and get checked into the emergency psych ward to be assessed by a doctor.

I frantically tried to convince them that the change in my eyes and speech was related to the anxiety I felt, but they were no longer listening to me. The two ladies departed and I was escorted to the police car.

The officers told me they would have to take my belongings and I asked them if I could return my purse back to my house. They said no. I had a marijuana pipe in there, and when the officer spotted it, he asked me if it was a crack pipe. I was appalled. Is that what he thought was the reason for my big eyes and pressured speech? The only substance I used was marijuana, and I had extensively researched it as well as studied its effects on myself before ever determining that it was helpful.

During the ride to the hospital, I recalled that I had an appointment with The Salvation Army, an agency that was likely going to pay my power bill for me. I told the officers this and asked if they thought I would be able to make it on time. They informed me that they had no knowledge of what was going to happen and that I needed to see a doctor before anything was decided.

They hauled me off to the hospital, while I sat on the hard plastic of the secured back seat. I was escorted into the hospital in handcuffs and placed in an extremely bright room. It was all white, with nothing inside the room aside from a small cot. The light reflected off the white of the walls, floors, and ceiling to intensify the effect. Once inside, I asked immediately if there was a phone that I could use to call the people at Salvation Army and let them know I might be late for my appointment. The officers told me that they would pass my request along.

I waited for awhile, sitting on the cot in the middle of the room, blankly staring at the wall. Eventually a nurse came in and checked my vitals. I asked her if there was a phone that I could use. She said that there was, and she would let someone know that I needed to use it.

A long span of time went by, and I became increasingly frustrated with being confined to a room. I had been calm up until this point, aside from the growing concern at missing an appointment that would help me out of the situation that had me so distressed to begin with. Worried that my future would be jeopardized if I continued to sit in this room without contacting the agency I was to meet with, I started to feign a freak-out. I was fully aware of what I was doing, and not actually out of control. I was attempting to get the attention of someone who could bring me a phone.

I started to yell and scream and wildly wave my arms toward the camera in the room. I walked in fast circles around the room and continued to stare at the camera. I jumped up and down and flapped my arms around. Finally, someone came into the room to ask what was wrong.

I told them that I needed to use the phone and explained my reasons. The nurse informed me that there was only one phone and several patients who needed to use it and that I would have to wait my turn.

I started to freak out for real at this point. I could feel that familiar feeling of pressure building up inside of me and the room got so bright that it all but disappeared. I persisted as I tried to demonstrate the necessity of getting in touch with Salvation Army to reschedule my appointment. She continued to tell me that I had to wait my turn and I got louder and more upset. She left the room.

Angry at being detained in this manner, I continued to overreact for the camera. If they wanted a crazy person, they would get a crazy person. After several attempts to act out in order to have my needs met, I decided to lie down on the cot and pout.

At last, the doctor arrived. He talked to me for a minute and then he confirmed that I was fine. He said that it appeared I was in distress at being detained against my will while missing an appointment that was critical to fixing my financial situation, and that I appeared fine, otherwise. He gave me an Ativan for my anxiety and told me it was not necessary to take it at that time, but in the event of heightened emotions or inability to sleep after this, he wanted me to have something to ease my mind. I never did take that pill.

I was discharged from the psych ward with no further delay. After five long hours of what felt like agony to me, the same police officers that brought me to the hospital returned my belongings and drove me home, where I would sit back and attempt to recover from the day.


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