shared by guest author, Kevin Hines
An excerpt from CHAPTER 6 of Kevin Hines’ NEW book:
My first three psychiatric hospital stays were involuntary.
I was forced in against my will. However, the last seven stays up until 2019 were voluntary. I walked into the emergency rooms, head held high, turned to the intake nurse (with a loved one present) and said, “I need to be here, or I won’t be here. I am thinking of suicide.” Each stay was vastly different while simultaneously feeling the same. The difference festered in those citizens of hope (what most people and mental health clinicians call patients or consumers). Friends, we are not just shoppers at Target or Walmart! We are human beings trying to find our glimmer of hope so we can survive our pain. Those who entered the wards before and after me ran the gamut of mental health challenges and crises. The striking similarity in every psych stay I had was the dichotomy of its staff. A clear delineation was drawn in the sand, and the staff of every ward I’ve been in stood boldly on either side.
Like in any occupation, there were those on one side who loved what they did
They loved their job, journey, and responsibility to us citizens of hope, and they were all determined to make our lives better. Those individuals showed empathy and compassion and cared immensely. Then there were those who stood on the other side of that finite line in the sand. They were deadened to their jobs. They were burnt out. Each of them was going through the motions, hating every hour that passed in the wards they served. Those folks made my life and my recovery a living hell. The way I got through it all was to remind myself of what my mother, Debi, taught me. She taught me from a very young age the power of optimism, not to be confused with toxic positivity. No, my mom taught me the art of being optimistic in the face of struggle and strife, something I can never thank her enough for.
This life lesson gave me the perspective needed to both go into the wards and come out better for it. My first book covered psych ward stays up until 2010. Let’s dive into what happened before and during my fifth hospital stay in 2011 and up until 2019: five psych ward stays in eight years. Before I went into the fifth stay, I had become terribly manic, paranoid, and hallucinatory. The day I was admitted to the hospital, Margaret came home to find me pacing in our living room.
She said, “Kevin, what’s wrong?!”
Apparently, I told her, “I’m going back to the bridge, I’m gonna tie a weight to my legs and do it right this time.” My wellness had been in jeopardy for some time prior to this day.
She was exhausted and rightfully so. She reacted, “Okay, fine! But I’m coming with you! We will jump together!”
I snapped out of it and said, “No! I don’t want you to die; that’s not proper suicide prevention.”
Her reply: “F#*! proper suicide prevention! Come on!” She grabbed her car keys and walked out the door, got in the car, pushed the start button, and began pulling out of the driveway.
I was yelling, “Please don’t do this; I don’t want you to die!” She said, “Are you getting in the car?”
Reluctantly, I did. I begged her, “Please don’t go to the bridge!”
She finally told me of her true plan: “I was never going to the bridge; I am taking you straight to the hospital. You are unwell and need psychiatric care.”
To get me the right care, Margaret had reached out to her entire contact list to find a good psychiatrist for me. She was desperate to get me back on track. My previous doctor had used me as a guinea pig, putting me on two meds that counteracted each other and made me worse. No one in all her contacts had given her rave exceptional reviews of their doctors. Margaret then had a call with an acquaintance, Linda Kral. They had eaten lunch together sometime before, and during my struggles, Margaret reached out. Linda was an executive recruiter. She really liked Margaret and was inspired by my story. M (Margaret) called her on the phone while crying and said, “Do you know any good psychiatrists?”
Linda said, “I know the best psychopharmacologist, Dr. Karin Hastik.” Dr. Hastik was not even taking new patients but took me on anyway.
Dr. Hastik educated M early on and Margaret was so hurt to see me go through all of that. She was scared for me, worried, and she thought she might lose me. She finally realized how mentally unstable I truly was. Dr. Hastik contacted Dr. Descartes Li of Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital. Up until that point, I had worked so hard on my wellness; I was running nine miles a day. I was so well for so long. When all this s#!* hit the fan, Margaret hadn’t realized how scary this situation really was. It became her crash course in my mental health. She was there every day I was getting ECT. When I wasn’t receiving ECT, she’d come to the hospital, bring me food, and would just love on me.
My mom and her sisters, Barbara, and Moyra took me to ECT a few times when Margaret had to work. So did M’s mom and brother, Kip. For a long time, M was in shock; she didn’t know if I’d ever come back from this mentally. She dealt with all of this while trying to balance work and family, and Dr. Hastik made Margaret aware that I may be different afterward. ECT has been known to completely alter a person’s personality.
During my fifth stay, I was drastically suicidal for sixty-plus days straight. For the first thirty days in the ward, my doctors tried various meds, therapies, treatments, and strategies. For the next thirty days, there was little to no improvement. My suicidal ideation just kept growing, expanding and had become insidious.
Sixty days into the stay, my doctors approached me and said, “We’d like to try ECT, electroconvulsive therapy. We think it will help.”
I replied in ignorance, “Hell no! You are not gonna lobotomize me.”
My main doc then said, “It’s not like that anymore; it’s been proven to be incredibly helpful to people with chronic thoughts of suicide.”
Before he said that last sentence, I didn’t know what to call what I had been going through. There it was. “Chronic thoughts of suicide.” Something I would learn about and educate myself on for the last decade and some change.
During my fifth stay in 2011 at Langley Porter Hospital, I would end up having twenty-six treatments of ECT
One every third day. Just to be clear, twelve is the normal number of treatments one has. They strap you down, shackle your arms and legs, sedate you, give you something to bite on so you don’t bite off your tongue, then shock your brain with electrodes attached to your head. My amazing wife, Margaret, insisted on being present during the first treatment; she recalls being horrified by what she saw. It was not easy to look at and it caused her a great deal of stress to witness. Imagine my whole body being shocked, zapped, and warped even. After the sixth treatment, I smiled, which I hadn’t done for so long. After the twelfth treatment, I showed signs of getting better and had a real reduction in ideations. Well, we got through all twenty-six treatments, and like a miracle cure, my suicidal ideations stopped for a time. They would eventually and quite often come back in full force, but ever since ECT, I’ve always been able to manage my ideations. and recognize that my suicidal thoughts do not have to become my actions. Since 2011, I have been self-aware of my disease.
M brought me home from the hospital
I had a plastic bag with all my things, I then took a shower. I was singing in the shower. Unbeknownst to me, M had been nauseous for a few days and while I sang in the shower, she was next to me in the bathroom taking a pregnancy test. When I got out of the shower, the pregnancy test came up positive. I was beyond thrilled. I was so happy, screaming, “I’M GONNA BE A DAD! I’M GONNA BE A DAD!” Tragically, after eight weeks of pregnancy, we lost our baby, Jack Ryan. He lived eight weeks in Margaret’s womb and no more. We were devastated beyond belief. Every year around what would have been his birthday, we honor his passing and think about the life he would have lived. We ponder what kind of parents we would have been. We’ve been unable to have a child since. Someday we will find a way to make it happen. It would be a dream come true.
During my sixth psych ward stay just a year later, one of my best friends, Chris Cunningham, came to see me
I was terribly manic, completely psychotic, and delusional. When he walked into the ward cafeteria, which I had grown so familiar with having been in that hospital three times by that point, I barricaded myself behind chairs and a table and yelled, “Chris, they are coming to take me! They are coming for us all! They’ll never let me be free again. I’ll be locked up for the rest of my life. Please take care of Margaret. If I never get out, you must marry Margaret.” The rest of the stay went a bit like that until I got back into my routine in the ward and began to slowly get better.
Right before entering yet another locked-down, old sock-smelling, psych ward stay I nearly attempted to take my life. My thoughts fell to considering walking in front of a gray, white, and black-rimmed municipal train in San Francisco. As these thoughts flooded my broken mind, I thought of what it would do to my wife, my family, and my dearest friends. I thought of all they’d been through with me thus far, and it stopped me in my tracks. I called Margaret and she told me to call my mother and brother-in-law. They picked me up outside of my mental health clinic, the OMI Family Clinic on Ocean Avenue in SF. Mom and Kip picked me up within minutes; they could not have gotten there soon enough on what was a bright, sunny day in the city. I was heavily considering throwing my body in front of one of those trains. I could not get the thought out of my head. The hard work I’d done to be self-aware of my suicidal ideations is what kept me from physically attempting that day. They drove me to where Margaret worked; she stopped everything she was doing and took me straight to psych ward number seven.
Fast-forward another year, I was back to the drawing board
I sat at my favorite SF café, Java on Ocean, on Ocean Avenue right across from my famed OMI clinic. I was writing in a new journal. To be specific, new for me, but my father’s old journal. He’d lent it to me for the day to write down my thoughts so I don’t “perseverate” on them, his idea is that if I write it down, I can let it go. It was a good idea in theory, but in my manic and delusional state of mind, I wrote down my chronic psychotic thoughts. Halfway into this psychotic writing sesh, I reread what I had put down on paper, and shocked even myself. Immediately, I called two of my greatest friends, Joe Hurlicy and Jonathan Davies. Both arrived within a few minutes of one another, and both read my writings and demanded that I enter the clinic at OMI and surrender myself to be taken to the hospital. I had to be taken away by a police car. I was thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed. At that moment, I discriminated against myself. The fact is, I asked for help, and I got it; this truly was a step forward.
For the ninth stay, I was in bad shape
Manic, paranoid, delusional, psychotic, and hallucinating. That day my mind was shattered, I was running all around San Francisco and ended up in front of my friend, Joe Hurlicy’s psych hospital. He worked there as a security guard for years. I could not even reconcile the things that poured from my mouth when I saw him. He immediately acted.
Joe said, “Kevin, I am gonna call Margaret, and you are going to come with me. Come on, there’s someone I want to introduce you to who is inside.” Joe guided me to intake, and said, “Would you agree that you need to be here?”
I said, “Yes.”
Sadly, when I was released the next day, the hospital neglected to contact Margaret; I was still manic and wandering like a nomad throughout the city. All the while M was searching for me outside the hospital, I was nowhere to be found. She traced my steps to her old office buildings at the Lucasfilm campus. When she finally found me, she burst into tears; she’d feared I had ended my life. It was heartbreaking to see her in such pain. It became abundantly clear to me that my lovely wife was living with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This would later be verified by her doctor.
It would be a whole seven years of mostly better brain health after my 2013 hospitalization before I entered my tenth psych ward stay. We had moved from San Francisco to Atlanta, Georgia. Margaret’s mom passed away in 2014 from lung cancer. Her God-loving mother was an incredible woman. She was absolutely the most devout Catholic I’d ever known. Jeanne even worked with St. Mother Theresa on missionary work in the past. Jeanne went into the hospital one day for back pain and learned that same day she had terminal stage four lung cancer. From diagnosis to her passing, she had seven months. Those seven months were the most harrowing part of our journey. Margaret’s mom passed away, taking her last breath in Margaret’s arms. It would change us forever. I was right next to her, holding Jeanne’s hands as she slipped away. We prayed the whole time.
After Jeanne’s death, I started traveling this beautiful, vibrant globe speaking again. I was in the great state of Texas for a military keynote. I’d done a few speeches that day and then headed back to my hotel. I called M.
She said, “Kevin, I’m having a really hard time. My mom was my best friend. I need to do something to make myself feel better.”
I replied, “I totally understand, whatever you need.” She was herself broken by what happened.
In the a.m., she said to me, “Are you sure, anything I need?”
I said, “Yes, love, anything.” Her response: “Okay, love, I’ll call you at 8 tonight; make sure you answer the phone.” I said, “I promise I will.” Well 8 p.m. rolled around, and I was in for a doozy. Margaret called me and said, “Are you sitting down?” I sat down, and she proceeded to lead into something she was obviously worried about telling me. She said, “You said I could do anything to feel better.”
I replied, “Of course, I meant it, anything.”
Her response: “Okay, well, I sold the house, handled the movers, rented an apartment, we are moving.” I wasn’t fazed.
I said, “Well okay, where are we moving?”
She said, “That’s the thing, we are moving to Georgia.”
I thought she meant a street in San Francisco. I said, “Oh, like near Hilary and Shawn’s house.” I could tell she was smirking on the other end of the line, then she said, “No, honey, Atlanta, Georgia.” I responded with, “I need to call you back.”
Then, we hung up and I sat at the foot of my hotel bed thinking about my family in SF, all my friends, my colleagues, and the home I’d known for the first thirty-four years of my life. After pondering for a bit, I said to myself, “I go where she goes. She’s, my heart. Home is where the heart is. Home is with Margaret.”
I often think about my father Patrick when I struggle with brain pain. In my award-winning documentary film SUICIDE THE RIPPLE EFFECT, during filming, I asked my father on camera if he still feared my death by suicide. His reply was, “Kevin, every time the phone rings.” He didn’t say when I call him, he meant whenever the phone goes off in his pocket or at his home, his first and every thought… “Is Kevin alive?”
My actions did that, and today I take full responsibility for my actions. I still live with suicidal ideation; it’s gone from chronic to intermittent. When it occurs, I have the tools and techniques to defeat it every time without fail. I will never die by my hands because every moment I live with those intrusive thoughts, I turn to those around me and say four simple but effective words, “I need help now.” Then I look in a mirror, any mirror and repeat aloud, “My thoughts do not have to become my actions, they can simply be my thoughts.” I am no longer waiting around for anyone to save me. I will always save myself. I will always #BeHereTomorrow and every single day after that! You can too.