I went to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) Emergency Room yesterday (bear with me if this is long, I need to get it all out). I had a slip the other night (self harmed) and scared myself pretty good (the post the provides details is password protected. If you would like the password I can email it). I decided that night I would go to the CAMH ER the next day and make sure my wounds were ok; that I was ok.
After hanging out with a friend (and doing some shopping!) I headed to the CAMH location that has the ER. A friend was going to come with me but I felt bad since it was cold, the wait was probably going to be long and they may not even accept what I was asking for (yes, friend, I know you would have come anyway). So, I went alone.
I walked in the door and was directed to the admission counter. I was scared but told the woman why I was there. I had to repeat it twice because she didn’t hear me the first time. It was horrible. She gave me a form to fill out with basic information and then I waited for a nurse to do the intake. It was a man and he led me into a small room with a table, two chairs, a box of kleenex (there is kleenex on every table I swear), a broken file holder hanging on the wall and a blood pressure machine). He asked the questions I expected (why are you here, what’s your mental health history, do you have plans to harm yourself etc). I began to answer his questions with a weak voice. I was terrified. I started to cry. I explained to him that I hadn’t been at a hospital for mental health issues since my suicide attempt in 2006 so I was very nervous. He asked if I wanted medical attention for my wounds because if I did I should have gone to the hospital. I didn’t have the time or the nerve to launch into my reason why going to a regular hospital was out of the question so I just told him that I didn’t know what I needed. I added that I did just want to make sure I was ok but that maybe I should just go home. He said that I might as well stay since I came all the way here in the cold. I agreed. He asked to see my wounds and I showed him the one I was concerned about. He said it looked like it was healing so I should be fine. Inside I wasn’t fine because he was the first person to see fresh wounds in years. He took my blood pressure and then he showed me into the ER.
The ER is locked. Only staff can let you in and out with a key or their ID badge. The sign on the door says “AWOL Risk” and tells staff to keep the door locked. My anxiety increased. If I wanted to leave I would have to knock on the staff office door and ask them to let me out. They can say no. I was so afraid of them telling me know that I never asked to leave. I never left my chair until my name was called. I sat in the corner of the waiting room and tried to read. It became impossible to read as time went on because more was happening in the ER waiting room.
One man was yelling, “Fuck you! I don’t want medication” and then tucked his shirt in by dropping his pants right in front of me.
A girl began crying recounting her pain to the friend who had come with her. She later jumped on a woman who was there with a very sad looking man. I overheard her say to a nurse that she tried to resist when the voices told her to jump on her.
Two men, not together, were pacing. There was so much pacing.
Another woman was brought in my police and was crying saying repeatedly, “I wanna go home” followed by wanting to go to the bathroom, food and a cigarette (CAMH takes all cigarettes away from clients and provides nicotine replacement therapies instead. You get your pack back if you get to leave).
I watched 3 people (the man who didn’t want medication, the woman who wanted to go home and another woman) be wheeled away on gurneys which is policy for when a client is being admitted to the inpatient program.
It’s a little scary and intimidating.
My mood went from neutral, to angry, to sad and just plan stressed out. I was hungry, alone, anxious and it was becoming very clear to me that I did not belong there. Everyone there seemed in need of something whereas I could have not went in and would have been ok. Still, what if they didn’t let me go home because I had so recently self harmed?
After 3 hours I was seen, first by a medical student, and relayed a similar story as I had during intake. Again, had some laughs (I always mange laughs but it’s also because I was uncomfortable). She also asked to see my wounds and said the same thing as the nurse. She told me that I should keep going with the polysporin like I have been. I explained that I felt a renewed desire to take care of myself after my slip and coming to the ER was part of ensuring that I was ok. She said that I seemed fine and applauded me for coming in and taking care of myself. She went to go get the doctor for the final chat and I asked if I had to go back in the waiting room. She asked if I wanted to stay in the room and I said yes, that waiting out there was too much for me. She said she understood and went to get the doctor.
The room we were in was essentially a cell. Yellow walls, dull tiled floor, a table, 3 chairs, a telephone, kleenex and I noticed a bit later, a camera high in the corner behind me. I’m being recorded. I understood why this was needed but knowing I was probably being watched was creepy. Even though I knew I was getting out, I had proven I wasn’t a threat, I felt trapped.
The doctor came in, gave me information on counselling services at my school and told me that if I ever needed to come back to do so because it’s always better that I come then not. She asked me if I was ok and I said yes, that I was just hungry and very stressed out about everything going on in the waiting room. She laughed, agreed and quickly walked me out to the door to let me out. I thanked both of them and told them to have a good night.
I was in a very mad rush to get home. I was so stressed, shaken up and realizing how wrong I was in thinking that I ever needed to be in a hospital. I, especially at this moment, do not belong there. I was grateful to get home and jump in the bath to calm down.
Some people didn’t go home that night. They went to the inpatient. I hope that they are ok and can be in a better place when they leave.
I don’t ever want to go back to the CAMH ER. I’m glad it’s there but I don’t want to go there again unless I’m in serious danger.
For some of you this experience may not be new to you but it was for me. It was very overwhelming and one I don’t think I’m going to forget any time soon.