Notes from Riverwoods

This blog has begun to feel rather directionless, much like my life, so I’ve decided to start sharing bits of my personal story. It’s no Lifetime movie’s worth of drama and suspense, but maybe it will be cathartic.

I was recently diagnosed with a personality disorder, which, surprisingly, doesn’t mean much. It’s just another label. I have borderline personality disorder; people characterize those with BPD as manipulative, selfish, and unstable. That’s inaccurate. Someone on a BPD message board said, “BPD doesn’t make me a bitch; it just gives me a head start.” That’s accurate.

Mood, anxiety, and personality disorders are often co-morbid. I’ve mentioned here before that I’m bipolar, and most of my mental health treatment thus far has been for a mood disorder. I can’t tell you which parts of me are symptoms: of BPD, of bipolar, of agoraphobia, or of PTSD. I don’t even know this “me,” well enough to speculate. All I can see is a hot mess of overreactive emotions that constantly spiral out of control getting this girl into all sorts of trouble.

My last suicide attempt was late February of 2014. I was coming up on mid-terms, working 20 hours a week at the archaeology lab, 10 hours a week on my museum internship, starting an undergraduate research project, and spending 12 hours a week in class. I was cheating on my boyfriend with a co-worker, and had recently adopted a stray cat. Unmedicated, stressed to the extreme, and working harder than I ever had in my life when the last straw broke me.

I drank anti-freeze in the driveway my consort’s house after his ex had attacked me. I was violently ill for a few hours, but evidently hadn’t swallowed enough to do serious damage. In case y’all aren’t quite the forensic hobbiests that I am, I knew that all antifreeze contained an added emetic. I think it’s required by law, because the sweet taste of the florescent liquid was easily disguised, and thus it was used frequently as a murder weapon. I thought I could drink past that. I was wrong.

I didn’t sleep that night. I walked 3 miles from my apartment to my 9:00 am class at 5:30. I sat outside in the cold until class started.

Later that day, after walking 5 miles home from work, I collapsed on a sidewalk, and became violently ill again. I didn’t go to the hospital until the next day. When I checked into the ER I didn’t want my boyfriend, who had driven me, to hear what had happened so I told the nurse privately about the anti-freeze. After some blood work I was escorted to a clean white room with no handle on the inside and a camera in the corner. I saw the nurses whispering on my walk to this holding room.

8 hours later I was escorted via ambulance, because legally I wasn’t allowed to be out of sight of medical professionals, 2 hours to Riverwoods Psychiatric Hospital and Behavioral Health Center. This is what I wrote in in my dazed, hyper emotional state [these brackets are me trying to clarify my disjointed thoughts for this blog post]:

Day 1- Got here last night. Riverwoods. My roomate’s name is Melissa. Last night we talked about ghosts. She said that the dead won’t let you see their faces; she says if you see them they haven’t crossed over yet.

I have gotten very little sleep. They open the door every 10 minutes and turned on the lights at 6:20. This is not a place of healing; it’s a holding cell for the people society would otherwise not know what to do with. Everything has gotten worse.

Melissa has 3 teenagers under 17. She is a photo-tech at Wal-Mart. She hadn’t eaten in about a week when she went to the hospital and expressed suicidal thoughts. Her boyfriend of 8 years left her w/o a word. I would be sad too. She has worked at Wal-Mart for 8 years and wants to go to the Wal-Mart museum; apparently they taxidermied Sam Walton’s dog. They may have done the same with Sam Walton.

I feel really sick, but mostly just confused. Why on earth did [I] think this would help? Even that damned holding cell at St. Mary’s was better than this. Melissa’s right: this might as well be jail. I’m supposed to be in class this morning.

Melissa says she wants to go back to school. She said she’d like to be a nurse at a place like this. [I think she wanted to improve conditions] I think that school gives me more of a purpose, perhaps it would help her in the same way. She said that a lot of her friends and family have had experience here; she even visited here once. She said she never thought she’d be here like this… I’m not sure if I felt that way. It sounds like they all had troublesome experiences here.

It sounds like I got really lucky to be rooming with Melissa. She’s extremely kind. I hope she does become a nurse because I think she’d be a good one. They said I’m here “voluntarily,” but it doesn’t really feel that way.

Breakfast was pretty unappetizing…. Imagine that. Some people here are way worse off than others. I hope I can talk to someone [in a position of authority] soon; no one will tell me what’s going on.

I don’t belong here. No one belongs here. These people need more help than any of the overworked staffers can provide. Some of the staff are more tolerant than others. Debra ******** is sitting across from me right now. She is older, maybe late 60’s? She has 3 or 4 grandchildren that are “cute, cute, cute, cute, cute!” One of the orderlies really rubs her the wrong way; it’s pretty funny to watch her curse him out, but it’s also sad. She has suffered from at least 1 stroke and isn’t completely functional [she wore diapers and was mostly incoherent], but she is very dear. She LOVES Red Lobster. I told her if she wants to go to Red Lobster she should be nicer to the “butthole,” orderly. [her words, not mine.]

There is an extremely tall guy here named Mike. He always tries to walk out. I figure he’s just trying to pass the time. There’s certainly nothing else to do. He must be 7 feet tall and NONE of his pants fit; they’re all way too short. Every time he starts for the door he gets a huge grin on his face. I really think he knows what he’s doing. Anyway, he makes me laugh.

Lunch was also pretty gross. There’s a guy named Reg who has been here following me around. He’s nice enough. He’s from Trinidad. He has smiling eyes and dread locks[Reg turned out to be mad creepy].

The doctor here is a jerk. I’m sure he’s just tired and stressed, but it’s not as if I am not a capable individual. I brought myself here after all [not sure how that made me feel capable]. I am looking for help and compassion, not criticism and blame. I am not a mindless animal. They treat people here like animals [that much was very true].

Mom, Dad, and [my boyfriend] are trying to get me out of here. They even called the police, [their judge friend], and are driving here. I talked to a man in a blue hat who said, “that means nothing,” and in regards to my request to get [my usual psychiatrist] in touch with [the Riverwoods doctor] they said “we don’t put doctors in touch with doctors.” I have never been so angry, hurt, and scared in my life. This place cares about no one. Healthcare should be about mankind people better, not collecting insurance money. This is so wrong.

Day 2- [they had moved me from the adult unit to the transitional unit, which was slightly cleaner, and more independent patients]

Going home today [before my legal 3 day holding period was over I was released into my parents’ custody]. I overheard someone’s conversation in the cafeteria today; the man said “I wouldn’t recommend this place to a stray dog.” That’s how I feel. If this is half an idea of how they treat prisoners, then I pity even the most demented of murderers.

We had community session this morning. The lady who let it was just one of the desk monkeys [it was like living in the DMV; they even called people by patient # instead of names]. She said things like “it’s not my job to tell you what meds you’re taking,” and “if you don’t behave we will send you back to the adult unity and those of you who have been there know what it’s like.” How is it okay to threaten patients like that?



This is a drawing of the transitional unit and a fake ficus tree in the corner. They handed out this shitty poem at community meeting. We weren’t allowed anything to write with other than crayons and golf pencils, and my golf pencil was too worn down to use. No sharpeners for obvious reasons.

Positive experiences

I drew a picture of one man in the transitional unit knocked out in the common room from all the sedatives he was given, but if you could see the state of my apartment you’d understand why I can’t find it.

My “treatment plan,” and the first time I had ever been identified as “psychotic.” I ended up losing my job, dropping my classes, and going to a long term outpatient treatment facility a few months later.


I may have been psychotic, but 11 out of 14 google reviews echo my thoughts on Riverwoods Behavioral Health System.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s