One particular night, Kim announced that she wanted to go to an event the next day. I knew that I was in a desperate state of mind, and didn’t feel I’d be safe alone with myself. I asked Kim if I could go with her to the event the next day, but she hadn’t made any friends in DC and she wanted to go by herself. I was fearful what I might do while she was gone. But fair enough, and I wanted to encourage her to make friends. I cared a lot about her well-being. I knew that if she was happier, then our relationship would fare better. Yet I knew I was dancing on a precarious high-wire. What to do?
I’d been prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, and I decided to take just enough of those pills to make me sleep until Kim got home from her meeting that next day. At that point, I don’t think I’d articulated how bad I was feeling, or how how close to the edge, yet I’m sure she knew. But she was aware of my history. So as not to alarm her if she came home the next day and found me still asleep, I alerted her to the fact that I’d taken a couple extra of those little pills. But Kim became overly emotional to put it mildly, and assumed I’d done the worst. Can’t really blame her for that, though I can blame her for the rest, as she wouldn’t listen to me. Against my wishes and my vehement objection, Kim dialed 911….
And that is what pushed me over the edge. In no way was I prepared to have a go-round with mental health professionals. I instantaneously downed all the little pills in the bottle. Once again, I didn’t know exactly what would happen, given my prior failed attempts, but I sincerely hoped that they would kill me which was preferable to what I knew and imagined would happen once emergency personnel arrived.
Police came banging on our door. Humiliation for all the neighbors to see. Kim told them I had overdosed, which I hadn’t until she called 911 against my wishes. I leaned against a piece of furniture while the female police officer talked to me, and I told her I was fine, and that it was a misunderstanding, and i refused treatment. They were just about to leave when I collapsed unconscious….
Some days later, my eyelids fluttered open, and I was in Georgetown University Hospital with a psychiatrist (old man) hovering over my bed. Without lengthy explanation, you have to understand that I had already begun transitioning from female to male. I’d had “top” surgery, meaning my breasts had been surgically removed and I’d started testosterone “replacement” therapy. The testosterone was far, far from kicking in, and there was only a little peach fuzz on my face. Most people who saw me couldn’t tell if I was female or male. This is how I looked around that time:
So the psychiatrist asks me, “Do you want to be admitted to the psych ward?” Hell, no! I never wanted to be there to begin with, I just wanted to go home. I said, “No.” The psychiatrist says, “In that case, we are transferring you to St. Elizabeth’s.” Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I say, “Wait a minute, if those are my choices, I want to be admitted to the psych ward here.” He says, “Too late, you’ve made your decision. You’re going to St. Elizabeth’s.” All this while I was only barely conscious…
Here are a couple of pictures of St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, DC:
I fade back to blessed sleep. Later when I awaken, they are prepping me to be transferred by ambulance to St. Elizabeth’s. No, no, no, I object. Panic. The nurse hovers over me and tells me if I don’t calm down he is going to give me Haldol. With my BA in psychology, I grasped the fact that this was an anti-psychotic medication, and in no way was I delusional or hearing voices or out of touch with reality. I am now scared. I didn’t know that Haldol is sometimes given to calm people down, or I guess it is. Google it to see. Anyway, I told the nurse that I was aware of my right to refuse medication, and that I didn’t want the Haldol.
But he doesn’t listen to my objections, and I watch him pull out two large hypodermic needles. He plunges the two syringes into my exposed thigh. I can’t believe he has forced medication on me against my wishes and so I jumped from the bed and ran down the hospital corridor. I was in search of a pay telephone, which I found. Kim had not bothered to come to the hospital during those days I was unconscious, but still in the fog of the overdose, I somehow manage to put a quarter in the pay phone and called Kim. I begged her to come and get me, telling her that they were violating my Constitutional rights. I don’t know what she said, but the nurse was running down the corridor toward me, ready to tackle me. So I make a made a mad dash for the elevator in, I suppose, my hospital gown, punch the button, and grimace and wait interminable seconds, standing on wobbly feet.
As the nurse ran frantically down the hallway toward me, I realized I was dripping blood from the unwanted injections. Please let the elevator come! The male nurse was going to tackle me, and so I wiped a palm full of blood on my hand and screamed, “AIDS, AIDS, AIDS!” hoping that would deter him. Of course, I didn’t have AIDS and I didn’t want to hurt him. I just wanted to be left alone and to escape this nightmare. My efforts didn’t work. The elevator bleeped and the doors slid open, and I lunged inside.
But there were four burly uniformed security guards waiting for me in the elevator. They restrained me and hoisted me back to the bed in my room. Person or persons unknown strapped me to a bed or gurney with nothing but underwear on. The Haldol kicked in, and when I awakened, I was being loaded into an ambulance for transfer to St. Elizabeth’s.
Thank you, JESUS. The paramedic in charge of the ambulance said to me, “You don’t look like you belong at St. E’s.” She advised, “Just be calm and act like you are okay and they will let you go in a few days.” No — when I later found myself at St. E’s, I wasn’t anything like the others who were held against their will. Most of them were there because they’d been arrested for using crack or had committed other crimes. I’d never dealt with the police, committed a crime of any kind, nor used street drugs like crack. My “crime” was not wanting to live. I could not have survived the ordeal without the kindness of this EMT.
St. Elizabeth’s was the worse hell I’ve ever been in. To begin with, I had been suffering from a rather severe upper respiratory infection when all this happened, and had been taking antibiotics — which they refused to allow me to continue. My anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications were stopped “cold turkey.” My breasts had been removed and I was on testosterone, but my non-driver’s ID still listed me as female although my name had been changed — so I was given a bed with the females “inmates.”
Shortly after I was transferred from Georgetown University Hospital to St. E’s, I had to go through the “admission procedure,” which for some unknown reason required an EKG. So I was wheeled to a cavernous room in the bowels of the building and had to take off my shirt. The technician took one glance at my chest and giggled. She excitedly exited the room and returned with a colleague, pointing and whispering, “Look!” I wished those damn pills had worked!
There was no therapy, nor even a kind soul to be found. I was afraid to shower and so the whole time I was in St. E’s, I didn’t bathe. Going to the restroom was an ordeal. Since they has classed me as “female,” I had to use the women’s restroom. For a couple of days, I managed to skitter in and out of the women’s room undetected. But one day, I was washing my hands at the sink and a group of “inmates” were in the restroom. A woman who looked like she was still high on crack eyeballed me. (Everyone there was menacing. They were the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid even in broad daylight.) She said something like, “You ain’t no woman, what are you doing in here?” and she and her compatriots began shouting, “Penis! Penis! Penis!” They thronged around me menacingly, screaming so loud it could not have gone unheard on the entire ward. I was afraid I was going to be assaulted or murdered on the spot, but no one on the staff even noticed.
A couple of the “minor” but big problems… With no therapy of any kind, there was nothing to do all day. We were not allowed to retreat into our rooms, but were required to remain in the “lounge.” There was a TV in the lounge which sat silent all during the day, but which blared at night. So sleep was impossible.
The other little / big problem was the lack of seating in the “lounge.” Not enough chairs for the number of “inmates.” A strange situation, and quite cruel. One quickly learned to be at the front end of the line when returning from a meal so as to get a chair, or one would spend the rest of the day on one’s feet. And yes, I received threats to give up my seat, and did so to spare bodily harm. Endless hours spent standing of the concrete tiled floors with nothing to occupy one’s mind but the fear and despair was a misery that can’t be articulated.
I had been in St. E’s for a couple of days when I was to be “presented” to the team meeting. I was led into the room behind the big desk where the clerks and nurses and day personnel kept watch. Maybe 7 or 8 men sat around a table, with me led to a chair. They started to ask me questions, but I was so very traumatized and anxious that my tongue felt like a twisted watermelon in my mouth, large, knotted, and immovable. I literally could not answer them. I tried to speak, but only grunts came out of my mouth. So they saw my anxiety and injected me with something they said was benadryl to sedate me, put me in a padded and locked room to “sleep it off.” Back with the “team” later, I tried to explain how I came to be at St. E’s, remembering what the paramedic had told me — that i didn’t “belong” there. Thank you, JESUS, remained calm and coherent.
I guess I had been there for 5 days when Kim finally came to visit me the last evening. I was due to be released the next day. No reason to hold me and nothing “wrong” with me. I could sense that things weren’t right with Kim. I’d known that our relationship was going to ashes, which was what put me there in the first place. I said to her, “Please, if you have something to tell me, please, please, wait until I’m released. I’ve been through too much…” She had arrived at 7:30pm and visiting hours were over at 8:00pm. At 7:55pm, Kim said, “I will pick you up when you are released tomorrow, but I have to tell you that I won’t be going home. I have moved out and I have taken the dogs with me.” I remained serene on the exterior, but in my heart, I felt that this was the last and ultimate decimation. Why had I survived through all this?? I had not asked for my daddy to die, I had not asked for my mother to treat me the way she had, I had not asked to be visually impaired, I had not asked to be a lesbian who was transgendered. I had done my very best with what I’d been given, had gotten myself through high school and college, and had made a good career. I was just me, in a lonely cosmos, doing the best I could…