Losing Big and My First trip to the Psych Ward

Most all of my entries are written out of chronological order: they are simply reflections of my feelings, recollections, and thoughts during a given day or week in my life. Today, I was thinking about how I ended up showing my true borderline self for the first time, and the resulting ambulance trip to a psych ward.

I was finishing up my junior year in college, 2000-2001, and had enjoyed the year as Vice President of the Student Government Association. At some schools, student government is nothing more than party planning, but at mine, it was radically different. Students were allowed to sit in with faculty and college administrators at important meetings and act as voices for the student body at large. As a result, becoming part of the Student Government Association (SGA) was particularly important and quite an honor. I was thrilled the year before when I was able to win election to the Vice Presidential position.

Towards the end of March 2001, my classmates and I, especially those interested in student leadership positions such as House Fellow (equivalent to a RA) or Student Government, had to get geared up for campaigning or the RA interview process proctored by the college administration. Prior to my service as Vice President, I had also acted as a student adviser for two consecutive years, a position primarily meant to help acclimate freshmen to the campus during orientation. So, looking at my student government work and student advisory work, I was faced with the decision to either apply to be a House Fellow, (RA) or run for student government again. I felt it was important to make a meaningful mark during my upcoming Senior year at school, and believed that landing an important role on campus as RA or in student government leadership would not only give me some confidence, but also add some luster to my post college resume.

After talking things over with a couple friends and my parents, I decided I would go for student government. Some said I should just be a dormitory senator or committee chair, but to me, I felt the natural progression from Vice President was to President. I took my job as Vice President seriously and kept up appearances around campus. Most importantly, in spite of a number of disappointments socially and in terms of extra curricular activities in college, I felt running and winning the Presidency would some how pull things together for me; and give my college experience some greater meaning, since I would be in a position to not only affect the lives of my fellow students, but also future students to come at my school.

With that mindset I plunged into campaigning April 1, 2001 with the goal of being literally everywhere on campus by the time of the election, around April 14th 2001. I found myself spending many hours late at night wandering the dormitories of our 1600 student campus plastering posters up with my name, picture, and slogan “On Your Side”. Per SGA rules, we were only limited to spending $20, so that meant making your own posters on a computer and then reproducing them in bulk at the campus print shop. I also wrote a letter to the school paper, advocating for my candidacy and reminding readers of my past service to the school, hopefully indicating to them that I was both experienced and ready for the challenge of being President of SGA in the following school year.

Election day finally came. There were 8 of us in the race, so it was rumored to be very close. All the candidates were called to the student government conference room about 8:00 PM, while a springtime ball was being held in the assembly hall below. I was admittedly nervous about hearing the results, and had dropped in on the ball for a couple glasses of wine before being called upstairs. Finally, the moment of truth came: the student in charge of running the election gathered all 8 of us around, and announced the lone female candidate in the race as the winner. A few guys grimaced, some laughed, some did nothing. I simply said “Nice Job Ann, Congratulations Ann”. Everyone could tell I was nearly 3 sheets to the wind, but I left the conference room without showing my true emotions. After all the Presidential candidates left, the student running the election proceeded to announce results of all the other positions, and things seemed OK…. for a few minutes.

I walked away from everyone gathered around the election area and found myself alone in a hallway above the springtime ball going on downstairs. A couple random people came up to me and asked what happened, and I told them, since the results were now public. Then I was just left alone, staring off into space, with both a strong feeling of anger and sadness slowly coming to a boil.

I proceeded down the large stair case towards the spring ball, where a full stage band was playing big band music from the 40s and 50s. The women were decked out in ball gowns, and most of the guys all had come in suits and ties. Some faculty and professors were also attending with their spouses, dancing and enjoying themselves. I helped myself to another glass of wine and stared at the floor in sadness, anger, and disbelief. Then, I walked towards the front of the hall, where the band, dressed in tuxedos, was playing, to look at the scene before me.

All of sudden, it felt like everything, both good and bad, about my college experience up until then flashed before me. My rage and sadness that was reaching a tipping point after losing the election mixed in with other big emotional disappointments that happened during my years at college, and I just started to burst at the seams.

My eyes watered over and I clenched my fists, punching myself in the stomach. I thought about all the people that had rejected me throughout college, and now, that the whole campus had failed to recognize my sincerity and true desire to be President. I felt humiliated. The final straw that broke my back came just minutes later. The girl who won the election came into the ballroom, with the most amazing glow and sense of accomplishment on her face. As the big band struck up a slow song, she met her boyfriend about mid-way on the dance floor, fell into his arms, and they slowly embraced in the most romantic and euphoric way possible that one could do at a college ball.

On the other end of the room was me, all alone. No one to dance with, and certainly no girlfriend to hug and congratulate me on what I thought was going to be a win in the Presidential race. All the loss, emptiness, and sadness I held inside me, topped off by seeing the winner of the election in what seemed to be one of the happiest – and most loving moments of her life – completely shattered me.

I was alone…and oh so alone…in a room filled with partying students and the happiness that came every year with the spring.

What happened next is blury. I wandered in to the campus bar, and ordered a beer. I sat down in the crowded bar by myself at a table, tears streaming from my face. I began to weep and cry, so profoundly in fact, that people started to notice and make comments. It wasn’t the tears of a bratty high school kid who had just been grounded for a month, it was the tears of someone whose guts were ripped out of him, thrown on the floor, and then run over by a truck; and most disturbingly left to rot all by themselves and forgotten by everyone around.

Eventually, a student government colleague who was in her senior year sat down and began to console me. For a couple moments she assuaged my emotions, reassuring me that things would be OK, but the fact is things were not OK.

Then, what I would later come to know as my “BPD anger”, completely exploded. I pushed myself away from the table and girl who had sat down, clenching my fist and a glass of beer in the other hand. I began cursing at random people, at the air, even at things that weren’t even physically present. As I stormed out of the bar, the current SGA president, Scott, was coming down the stairs, and nearly bumped into me as things were starting to get ugly. He gave me an angry look and told me to stop, but I was beyond control at that point. I got in his face and yelled at the top of my lungs, “What do YOU know about losing?” Then he shrank away.

I stumbled down the corridor towards the exit of the student center, now being followed by campus security. I punched a large dent in some wallboard that was backed by a metal stud, which made my hand throb. Then, I made my way outside, cursing, screaming, completely inconsolable. I started screaming at random students, calling them “assholes”, “fucks”, “ungrateful pricks”, and any other invective I could summon. By then, another campus security guard was on the scene, beckoning me to put my beer glass down, which I was swinging around like a weapon.

A brief second of clarity came to me and I tossed the glass in the bushes, but then the sadness and anger returned. I started kicking the glass doors to the assembly hall, while all the students and professors were dancing inside. I punched the walls, and started threatening people. Then, I started making suicidal threats, demanding to be given drugs, anything to numb the pain. I started screaming that I wanted to die, that everything around me was “hell” and “plain shit”.

In the end, two muscled up guards pinned me to the ground, while another restrained my legs. Another guard had called the ambulance, which arrived on scene minutes later. They strapped me onto the gurney, restraining my wrists with handcuffs. They slammed the doors and the ambulance left with me in it, while the paramedic stuck a small I.V. in me and started a drip of some sedative to calm me down.

And that was it…there is more to the story because I was confronted at the hospital by the Dean of Student Life, C Woodbrooks, and my parents, who were in a state of panic and shock. The next day, I was sent to the Pyschiatric ward, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I know what you’re thinking: “What a little baby, crying over a student election”. “What a wimp”. “Why throw such a huge tantrum over nothing?”.

Well, you’re partly right, I certainly did overreact. The fact is, the loss in the election, and subsequent experience of watching the female winner fall into the arms of her boyfriend amongst a crowd of dapper students and faculty well-wishers suddenly became representative of all the pain and hurt I felt about college. It was all neatly packaged up in the form of losing; and being left by myself, no one to talk to, because in reality, no one really cared. But people seemed to care about the girl who won, and they didn’t care about me standing by myself, who lost – who had lost mostly all the time at college in love, at sports, on stage, or in the classroom. Any sense of self that I had evaporated like a drop of water in a vast desert. More importantly, any sense of self WORTH that I had dislodged itself from my heart, leaving pain, humiliation, hurt, anger, and utter sadness in its place. There comes a time when you’ve been so hurt, so pained, so deprived, so utterly empty, that even a seemingly insignificant event suddenly turns into an emotional supernova. THAT is what BPD is about.

I’ll talk about my experience in the first Psych Ward another time. For now, if you’re a BPD, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not BPD, just imagine the sum total of your life’s experience of dejection, pain, sadness, and self hatred compacted into a ten minute explosion, and you’ll be one step close to understanding me and my personality disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder with Depression.