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What happened when I tried to kill myself

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  • What happened when I tried to kill myself

    Or, "why the psych ward is no place for a dry eye sufferer"

    I OD'd (tried to, apparently didn't take enough) and my husband found me 2 hours later. I went to the ER, and they admitted me to the hospital on a "72-hour hold."

    The ER staff faxed over a copy of my eye regimen (warm compresses, lid washes, steroid drops, restasis, serum, genteal gel, etc.) and I took a small cooler with my eye drops with me. It was 1am when I got to the psychiatric unit.

    During the initial questioning, I told the intake nurse about my dry eye problems stemming from PRK last year. She asked me if I was suing my surgeon. I said, "No," and she went on and on about how, if my eyes were damaged because of the surgery, I should file suit. How to explain to her that this wasn't the result of malpractice but "merely" a complication? I didn't understand her reaction, but it is par for the course whenever people hear about what happened to me. First they ask me, "Aren't there drops you can use?" Then they ask me if I'm going to sue the doctor. Then they say something to the effect of, "Surely this isn't as bad as you're making it out to be."

    They had to send all of my eye drops to the pharmacy for "approval," and I waited a long time for them. The nurse told me to go to sleep. I told her I needed to do my nightly routine first. When she finally brought me my drops, the serum drops were no longer cold. She told me she couldn't give me a warm compress. She was very patronizing.

    [Did I mention that I was in a freaking hospital? What part of "these prescription eye drops need to be refrigerated was so hard to understand?"]

    The next morning, it was a different nurse but the same story. She acted like she was humoring me when she brought me hot water and a wash cloth. She was very patronizing, and I was confused. They were all acting like they didn't believe anything I said about anything, and I couldn't understand why they weren't allowing me to have my *prescription* eye drops.

    Now I know. I recently received a copy of my records from that brief hospital stay. This is what the intake nurse wrote about me:

    "She was very focused on her 16 month old, alleged eye injury from Lasix surgery, claiming she has bilateral damage to lacrimal ducts, 'dry eyes'. She does not have a pending legal suit as she acknowledges she signed an informed consent which prevented any legal action. This may suggest she may not have sustained injury from the eye surgery but her perception is that she indeed has eye damage...She is very controlling as to what medication she can take due to her eye condition. She was observed to read successfully the consent forms...She states she has visual impairment, yet does not wear glasses..."

    She later refers to my nightly eye routine as a "ritual." The morning nurse noted that I was "preoccupied with eye care," when all I did was ask for a hot compress and my eye drops.

    They though it was all in my head, that I made up this elaborate, time-consumming routine. It was so enourmously upsetting to be treated that way.

    They described me as "anxious, guarded, and paranoid." Well, when I ask for my eye drops, which were prescribed by a real, live doctor for a real medical problem and the nurse sighs and says, "Why don't you try to sleep now," that's bound to make a person feel like they aren't to be trusted with her wellbeing.

    The whole thing was a horrible experience (I don't recommend it), and I'm having trouble getting past the "they didn't believe me" shock.

    I know from comments elsewhere that some of you don't understand how a person can get to this point, even given how relentless and awful the eye pain is and how numbing the sleep deprivation can make you. So please don't lecture me about how suicide isn't the answer. I know it was a stupid thing to do.

    I'm really hurting and I don't know how to get past this.

  • #2

    Please don't even begin to imagine someone could lecture you here under such circumstances. If they did, I'd censor the post and boot them off!

    I am horrified at the way you were treated. It's unacceptable in every way. Surely people working in psychiatric care must have SOME training in chronic pain, how to recognize it and what it does to people?

    I don't think it's just about them not understanding dry eye. I think you were dealing with people badly trained who should not be in such positions if they are capable of behaving in this way.

    I know this is a terribly inadequate response to your post, which I need to put more thought into to see if there's any other way to help, but I just wanted to give you some validation that this is not about you or anything you have done. This is about incompetent medical professionals - among other things.
    Rebecca Petris
    The Dry Eye Zone


    • #3
      Hi Teri,
      I am so sorry for what you went through. Please know that we are all thinking about you. Those remarks on your records were callous and unprofessional. If anything you should be filing suit against the hospital.

      I hope that the medical profession learns to train their providers better. A frined of mine is going to pharmacy school soon -- she said that they discussed lasik dryness in her basic anatomy class. That is at least a strart.

      Please be kind to yourself. We're all rallying behind you.



      • #4
        Hi Terri,
        I'm so sorry for what you had to go through. I cannot believe how patronizing those nurses were! Sometimes, the hardest part about dry eyes is that no one understands or sympathizes with the pain. Please do not blame yourself for lasik, and focus on getting better, both physically and mentally. Find an understanding therapist to help you get through this. We are here to listen and hopefully give you tips on whatever you need and do not hesitate to PM me if you need to rant.

        All the best,


        • #5
          glad you're ok

          Oh my gosh - I can understand the depth of your depression, but am relieved that you're alright. I know how callous some nurses can be, having spent time in the ER with my aging mother.

          People really don't understand how depressing this eye condition is. But please, whenever you're feeling that low, just come to this message board, or talk to someone in your family who understands.


          • #6
            Your experience in general is not that unusual. A family member required a 16 day stay on one of the "best psych wards in the NW" and we ended up getting our own private nurse to read his records and to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to. Once they knew she was holding them accountable they feared legal repurcussions. This was all put in place after he had to be Heimliched by a family member because they let him eat unattended (no medical person within shouting difference) when they knew he had a choking disorder. We could not sue because there were no damages!

            Anyway, I believe EVERY word of your experience. Sadly, people have no clue about DES and I have had friends roll their eyes as if I am a hypochondriac because I don't want to be outdoors in the wind or ask them to turn off an overhead ceiling fan. I have quit spending time with some people. If they only knew.

            I am SO sorry for your distress. I have had a few days where I kept repeating over and over to myself "How do you learn to live with this?" and feeling I could barely hold on and my ordeal is only 6 months long so far. I cannot imagine your situation and I will be praying for you that some sort of relief can be found. We need to get the word out there that this is a real problem and that the suffering is real and needs compassion. Maybe Newsweek and Reader's Digest need to do some articles.

            I cannot imagine that anyone reading this will feel anything but deep compassion.


            • #7
              Dear Teri,

              Their behavior was inexcusable Such an experience should NEVER have happened. I see the look of disbelief in people's eyes when I try to explain how I suffer with my eyes. People just have no clue.

              My heart goes out to you. Please try to be strong. You're worth it.



              • #8

                Your story is not unusual. I have a phd in clinical psychology and I've worked in many different psych wards over the last ten years. Some psych wards are great, and I've met amazing mental health nurses who are understanding and compassionate. But I have also, unfortunately, worked on some psych wards where the environment is toxic and has not evolved whatsoever since the 1960s. In these types of institutions (or wards), the staff are often unionized and bitterly waiting for their retirement. Your experience was horrific and you have every right to make a complaint (but you might want to first put your energy into feeling better).

                Your pain is real and there are professionals out there who can help (and who will understand, even if those around you do not). First, you need to deal with the depression and that would entail finding a good psychologist (and psychiatrist if medication is required). You should ask your family physician for a referral if you are not being followed by someone at the hospital.

                In terms of pain, there are lots of methods for chronic pain management above and beyond medication. There is a trend in psychology towards using meditation to help people cope with pain, and there is a large (very large) literature indicating that mindfulness meditation is highly effective. I would suggest picking up a book called, Full catastrophe living : Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He started the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, and there are lots of professionals who use his model to help people cope with pain. If anyone out there lives in Boston, I would certainly recommend checking out the centre. If there's a chronic pain clinic in your area, you should get your doctor to refer you to it.

                I hope that helps. As many people on here have said before, you need to remind yourself that you're not going to feel this badly forever, but as others on here have also noted, it does take time. When you're depressed, everything feels hopeless, but that's a part of the depression (not reality). The very first thing you need to do is find a caring and understanding mental health professional (and they do exist) and a chronic pain clinic. Things will get better.


                • #9
                  Oh wow your story is so touching. I feel honoured you shared it with us and I'm so sure that people reading it are feeling so much empathy.

                  Surely people working in psychiatric care must have SOME training in chronic pain
                  Quite. It's so tragic how you were treated, you would hope people in such positions retain some belief in what people tell them rather than so much sceptism. Unfortunately with chronic pain it takes too many times for someone to experience it, to understand it.

                  I wish you so much strength and I'm so glad you've joined this forum, I hope it will help you. I'm sure one day you'll be helping others, from having been there...and I hope you can find some help per Dr W's tips.

                  just keep swimming...


                  • #10

                    I read your post this afternoon and whilst insensed by your experience, my utmost concern is for your well being.

                    I reread your post about your PRK experience and just wanted to say, please hang in there.

                    Whilst it is obviously a difficult time for you at the moment, I and many of us here empathise with your position.

                    I had my surgery nearly 3 years ago and while it has been an uphill struggle since then, it is not a road you have to walk alone.

                    From my experience, things today are a lot better than they have been. Sure it may not be perfect but I have found that relief seems to be gradual. Whilst not a WOW factor, I look back at where I was only a few months ago and thank god that things have improved.

                    I can only encourage you to believe that you will get to this point also.

                    Please use this community as much as you want. I thank you for sharing your story with us and if you need someone to "chat" to please email or send me a PM and I will be more than happy to help you as much as I possibly can.

                    Warmest regards

                    "Every day is a good day, some are just better than others"


                    • #11
                      Oh, Teri --

                      I have started and stopped at least five separate replies to you this afternoon. Perhaps when I stop being so furious about the ignorance and insensitivity of those people dealing with you in your time of crisis, I will write a more temperate reply.

                      Meanwhile, all I will do for now is to send electronic hugs (((Teri))).


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Teri View Post

                        She later refers to my nightly eye routine as a "ritual." The morning nurse noted that I was "preoccupied with eye care," when all I did was ask for a hot compress and my eye drops.

                        They though it was all in my head, that I made up this elaborate, time-consumming routine. It was so enourmously upsetting to be treated that way.

                        They described me as "anxious, guarded, and paranoid." Well, when I ask for my eye drops, which were prescribed by a real, live doctor for a real medical problem and the nurse sighs and says, "Why don't you try to sleep now," that's bound to make a person feel like they aren't to be trusted with her wellbeing.
                        You're not alone, Teri. Misunderstanding what dry-eye sufferers endure is difficult with family, friends, and healthcare providers. To be in this delicate state must make it much worse, but what you went through is just evidence of how ignorant many, some even in the health-care profession, are about what it feels like to have problems with the epithelium. The comment about getting "some sleep" would have upset me, because my problem happens when I sleep. To think of trying to get sleep without my drops and gel is scary. I am so sorry that you went through this. You deserve better!



                        • #13

                          I have been listening to Carrie Underwood lately and she has a song that contains this lyric: "Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand." This is MOST CERTAINLY not to trivialize what you are going through... but to say that we will work as a group to get the help and answers we need to get better. Let's hope that one day, we can all look back on our pain and depression and that it will seem like a blip on the radar screen (a "grain of sand"). My heart and prayers go out to you tonight. Please know how many of us really do understand how you feel. May you feel love and support in all of our responses.



                          • #14
                            Hi Teri,

                            I grew up in Dayton—West Carrollton.

                            First, I am sorry. I am really sorry that you have to go through this and I am sorry that you have to experience such ignorance on the part of the facility you went to. It is too bad when a place that has the potential to make some aspects of your life better only makes things worse.

                            I was probably at my very worst with my post Lasik dry eye about 3-6 months out. After seeing a Dr. friend of mine I went to Ohio State Grand rounds. I was holding my breath for this. It was a grand rounds for the “odd eye cases”—the eye cases no one could figure out. After spending a full 8 hours at the place with a zillion doctors looking at me, their final verdict was that “I should see a Psychologist.”

                            I am 8 years out now. And things are much different for me now than they were at 6 months out and even 2 years out.

                            I’m trying to figure out what I can say that can possibly help and in some ways there is nothing I can say. This hurts and no matter what I say, it will still hurt.

                            I tend to be very analytical and very practical so here is my analytical and practical advice. And you probably know all this but maybe it helps to read it again.

                            There are two things that need attention: your eye situation and your psychological health. The people that will help you with your eye situation are not equipped to help you with your psychological health. If they do help, it is accidental. The people who are equipped to help you with your psychological health will not help you with your eye situation. If they do it is accidental. It is two different sets of expertise requiring two different sets of doctors. I say set because just like one person cannot meet all of your emotional needs, one doctor may not meet all of your eye or psychological needs. From what I read in your other posts, you have a handle on you eye situation. In fact you gave me the name of a Dr. I intend to make an appt with next week--thank you!

                            I am an accomplished professional. Usually I am a confident and happy person. There was a time when I (who can usually successfully manage a million things) could not get out of bed! Unloading the dishwasher was monumental! My husband took the kids to the sitter because I could not do it. I was on a sabbatical from work but I could not work. My very young kids (at the time 2 and 3) would come to me crying with a hurt knee and I did not care. I did not feel a thing. I was not a crazy person Teri, but I was a person who was seriously depressed and needed some assistance.

                            In time (and it took time) I got the assistance I needed. I saw a therapist, I went on medication, I read every book I could find (on tape) on managing pain and on depression. Like a previous poster, I am a big fan of Jon Kabat-Zinn and read all of his books. I also really like Rachel Naomi Remen, Darleen Cohen (I worked with her for years on managing chronic pain), and Andrew Wiel (sp?). I did workbooks on depression and managing chronic pain. And I got better at it. After 8 years, I still manage my eye situation every single day. Some days, I am STILL scared to death and some days I am not good at managing the situation. But mostly, I’m OK.

                            I guess my message is there are lots of people on this board who “get it.” The pain you feel and your concern about medications impact on dry eyes and about your nightly ritual is appropriate! The message the hospital gave you is inappropriate! You are not crazy but your psychogical health does need attention. I strongly urge you to ask your husband or whoever else you rely on to help you get that attention.

                            This is so trite but it is still so appropriate some time. Hang in there. Sometimes the best we can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And that is sometimes GOOD ENOUGH!



                            • #15
                              Anguish may not be a disease; but it is treatable

                              Thank you, Teri, for enabling us to grow and learn through the courage you have shown in relating what has happened. Here, you can feel entirely safe in the knowledge that we recognize the suffering generated by your eyes as real and all too real.

                              I second any guidance that leads you to mental health professionals able and willing to provide effective help. At the same time, though, I would caution against any approach that is SO mind/body-oriented that it essentially negates your ocular suffering by positing that if only you were healthier mentally, your eye pain would not bother you so much. . .

                              Therapy and medication for depression and anxiety can be tremendously helpful in our struggle to reclaim life after the onset of ocular disease. But this does not mean that someone benefiting from such care is endogenously depressive. Situational depression is just as responsive to therapies as is endogenous depression. . .

                              For that matter, I personally believe that there is a third phenomenon not yet recognized in most circles. . .I would call that anguish. . .something close to anxiety, but something that also includes the unique kind of suffering that sets in when one faces the loss or alteration of an important physical capacity. . .I am happy to report, from personal experience, that anguish is treatable. . .It is even curable, once one surmounts the physical challenge. . .but it is, at the very least, highly treatable, even if the health challenge goes on for some time. . .
                              Last edited by Rojzen; 07-Jun-2008, 00:18. Reason: typos