How Emergency Rooms Handle PTSD

“It’s like…a prison…in my mind…”

“Awww, try to breathe, that will help you, we are almost there, I’m so sorry you feel this way, no one deserves to feel that way.”

I recognize that my shallow breathing is audible, I can’t believe that I have this angel driving me to the emergency room, I am holding a bucket of my own vomit and I can’t stop my eyes from rolling back in my head.

This is why I called for help in the first place.

I’m an adult. It’s okay to throw up. The circumstances surrounding the sickness were shady though.

I had done everything I set out to do that day. I made it to my son’s preschool to cheer him on for the St. Jude trike-a-thon. I mailed out 7 pieces of my Ho’oponopono healing art. I picked my son up early that day and surprised him by taking him to the new Smurfs movie.

By the time I got my son to sleep, I was going to reward myself with some “me” time. For sure. I was totally going to do that. But I found myself doing some chores instead.

Kind of unlike me.

Only because I said that I was going to relax. I have been pushing really hard for a long time.

Kind of unlike me.

Only because I said I wasn’t going to accomplish goals by pushing too hard anymore. I set the intention to achieve my goals in the amount of time they take to achieve. I am not trying to control anything other than what is in my control.

These are important mantras for someone who set out to write, direct, produce, design, style, wardrobe, hair, make up, edit and star in a 30-day video series. I wore all these hats for 30 videos and I’m ready to celebrate right now. I achieved that which I set out to do.

It’s time to relax now. Right, Rae? Right now, right? Are you going to do that or…

Oh my god…

The tops of my shoulders are my first clue. The tops of my shoulders begin to tingle, like they are spinning and that spinning starts to ignite a spinning sensation in my stomach. Interesting…it’s like a message…

FEAR!

Fuck. What? What’s going on? I’m crying by the way.

I think you should stop picking up toys right now and just accept the fact that you are going to throw up.

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Why????????????

I don’t know.

I was going to watch my show…

No, you are going to throw up, get the garbage can.

Shit…you’re serious.

I’m going to meditate.

It’s too late.

I’m going to take that medicine they gave me last time at the hospital.

Good luck with that.

Thank you.

**throws that all up immediately**

Do you think I threw that medicine up?

I’m not a scientist, but yes. I totally do.

The spot at the top of my stomach, my sternum, it really hurts.

Touch it.

**throws up immediately**

You need help.

No, I think this is going to go away.

**throws up immediately**

My shoulders are spinning so fast. It’s like some sort of anti-gravity magic is pulsing through me. My eyes want to shut but they won’t. I am so tired. My body became freezing cold with sweat and then burning hot with sweat three separate times. It has to be rest time now. I know I wanted to close my eyes. But my eyelids wouldn’t shut. I couldn’t see anything though because my eyes were rolled back in my head.

I am floating away.

I see other things. Things I don’t want to see. Anymore.

Rachel, call for help. Just do it.

Yes. Let’s do this. No bra. Get your ID and insurance card. Grab that little garbage can and go get yourself some help.

I for one am going to kick this car ride off with throwing up. Painfully. It adds the right aroma for the rest of the drive. The angel driving me tells me she doesn’t mind. She is a nurse and vomit doesn’t scare her.

I get out of the car, determined to bring my vomit with me, so I don’t permanently leave my scent on her vehicle. I drop my driver’s license. I bend over to pick it up and drop my phone and my insurance card. I’ve got the vomit though. Don’t worry.

As the sweet angel takes my hand to guide me toward the entrance of the emergency room, I take her hand and feel compelled to warn her:

“I’ve done this a bunch of times…and…it’s not going to go well…probably…so…maybe it will…but…they don’t really know what PTSD is…so…”

My angel assures me that she understands, she is prepared and she is not going to let anything happen to me. As we walk through the entrance of the emergency room, I see a woman being wheeled out; she has balloons attached to her wheelchair that say: It’s a boy!

I discreetly throw away my bag of vomit in the garbage can in front of her and keep going, trying not to think about how that was me 5 years ago, leaving the same hospital with my boy. But the ocean of my thoughts is so deep and I’m stuck in the center, unable to stop answering the question of: what has your life become?

Get me a bag to throw up in, please.

I hold the paper bag to my mouth, certain I am going to explode at any minute. So close to getting help, yet so far away, I try to register at the front desk:

I am having a PTSD attack, I am stuck in a flashback, I cannot stop throwing up, the pain in my sternum is unbearable, I am dehydrating and I need help.

The nurse explains to me that she has PTSD, too. It’s going to be okay. I just need to go take a seat in the waiting room.

I notice a man in the waiting room and try to not sit by him. I notice there is a play area for children and I try not to sit too close to that. I sit down and feel too close to both the man and the play area. I throw up into my little paper bag. The pain is excruciating.

The nurse comes back to the waiting room. I hope she is taking me to my room now. She is not. She has come over to tell me that she takes Lexipro and that has helped her tremendously. I grunt in response.

Has anyone ever recommended an antidepressant to you while you are vomiting?

It feels weird.

I looked at the man sitting six feet away from me in the waiting room and thought, do I know him? Is HIPPA still a law? What about confidentiality?

As I ponder the benefits of medical privacy, the second nurse at the registration desk calls my name. I shuffle over to the front desk, doubled over at the waist because of the pain in my sternum, holding onto my angel companion, who is holding onto my bag of vomit.

“Insurance card and ID.”

As I hand over my documents, the nurse asks me: “why are you here?”

“I am in tremendous pain, specifically located in my sternum, I have PTSD, I am having a flashback episode and I can’t stop throwing up, I need help—”

“–YOU CAN CALM DOWN FOR 5 MINUTES AND ANSWER MY QUESTIONS!”

I wish I had my face on film when that happened, so you could see my reaction. That was a wind out of the sails moment. I deflated. I was so confused. I was answering her questions. Why was she implying otherwise…

“DO YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF?”

“No”

“YOU DON’T WANT TO KILL YOURSELF?!”

“Nope. I sure don’t. I want to live.”

My angel starts yelling: “SHE ALREADY ANSWERED YOU, SHE SAID NO!”

Exasperated, nurse one turns to nurse two and says: “she claims she’s not SI.”

Nurse two sighs like she is tired of being lied to and shrugs her shoulders like, who cares?

My face is burning as I survey the room, ascertaining who heard that exchange and what they thought of it. My mind starts to prickle with questions like, why do they think I want to die? Why aren’t they glad I said I want to live?

Before I can draw any conclusions, the first nurse, the one who has PTSD and is doing great with lexipro, takes her last shot at me:

Where did your PTSD come from?

My eyes roll back far in my head and I feel myself leaving the room. Trying to answer the question is causing me to float away. I need to stay present. I tell her:

“No.”

“Yes! Why do you say you have PTSD, what caused you to have PTSD?”

“Um…nooooooooo…no…no…nooooo…”

“YES! YES! YES! YES!”

So the nurse is screaming yes at me and she sounds exactly like Jillian Michaels. I’m holding a paper vomit bag up to my face, my eyes are rolled back in my head and I am whispering no as she is screaming yes. Again, we are in the waiting room in front of everyone.

If I had come in experiencing pain and vomiting related to diabetes, would the nurse need to know where the diabetes came from? If my pain and vomiting was related to cancer, would she need to know how I got the cancer?

PTSD is a disorder hallmarked by adrenaline dump. A massive amount of adrenaline was pumping through my body. Adrenaline will dehydrate you. Vomiting will dehydrate you. I needed an IV so that I could rehydrate. I needed an anti-nausea medication so that I could stop cyclical vomiting. That I couldn’t make it past the waiting room without explaining the juicy details of my story, the very thing that is triggering the episode itself, is criminal.

I began to understand intimately why 22 American veterans commit suicide every day.

The nurse made clear that she was taking “this man” to his room and that I was to follow behind them. In the middle of our walk she said, stay here and left me standing in the hallway. Several nurses asked me why I was standing there in the middle of the hallway. I explained that the admitting nurse brought me back there and told me to stand there. All of them seemed shocked at my answer and went about finding me a room.

I throw up a bunch of times to christen my new hospital room as I wait for the doctor. In between the awful vomiting sound, is the unbelievable sound of my hiccups, which are so painful, that I moan in despair after each one. Nurses poke their heads in periodically just to ask: “was that you?”

Yeah that awful sound was me.

The doctor finally walks into my room, holding my medical file. He says:

“I remember you from 2013. I’m not convinced about what’s going on here. I’m going to touch your stomach. Hmmmm, you aren’t too tender.”

I remind him that the pain is in my sternum, nowhere else. He pushes on my sternum. I hiccup super loud. He walks away. I throw up violently. I look over at my angel and ask her: “do you think that doctor knows that he pushed on my sternum and caused me to hiccup and throw up or do you think he just walked away and didn’t notice?”

She looked sad as she admitted: “he just walked away, he doesn’t know you threw up.”

I get hooked up to an IV and begin to rehydrate. Yay! I get some Atavan and Zofram for the pain and nausea. At some point, I fell asleep because I am woken up to the sound of: you are being discharged.

I’m better? Okay.

As I shuffle home from yet another PTSD emergency room experience, I can’t help but feel defeated. Why was it like that? Why did I know it was going to be like that? What did I do wrong?

How could I have done that better?

I don’t know. It’s been like almost 2 weeks since then and I still don’t know why that happened. I’m afraid it will happen again. I’m afraid for people who go into emergency rooms without companions. I’m grateful I had an angel. I want to live. If I have to scream that truth over and over and get in a fight about it, so be it. I want to live.

I want to cure my complex PTSD. I want to say that I don’t have that anymore, that’s something I used to have. I am doing the work. I will get there. It takes time. In the interim, I will love myself and focus on gratitude. I will go slow and take excellent care of me.

Thank you for listening.

XO,
Rachel

You are loved

Emergency Rooms drain self love, don’t forget to fill back up when you get home.