Citation: Moriah. "Lead to Looney Bin: experience with Sleep Deprivation (ID 42413)". Erowid.org. May 9, 2006. erowid.org/exp/42413
I had a lot of stress and a lot of drama going on in my life at the time, and wasn't sleeping well -- I have issues with insomnia. Due to events and my own insomnia, I stayed up about 60 hours with maybe 4 hours of sleep in that time. I worked 3 days out of my four that week without too many problems, but I did notice myself losing concentration as things went by. If I had been smart, I would have called in sick that fourth day and made myself sleep, but I had some attendance issues at that job and my boss was not happy with me.
I went to work on the fourth day -- promising myself that if I could make it through I would have three days to sleep, and fighting to get through the day. By that evening, I was shaky, emotionally labile, and told a coworker that I 'felt like I was having a nervous breakdown'. When I looked in a mirror that evening, I noticed my pupils were hugely dilated -- as though I had indulged in speed. I hadn't.
At this point I was very irrational, and when I had a message on my machine saying a friend needed me to go write his resume for him, I went -- even though I had promised myself sleep. I couldn't sleep over there either -- the next day there was some drama and I ended up being very paranoid and distrustful of people.
This is where things start getting really kooky. While I was driving them somewhere, one of them talked about paranormal powers and said he was able to communicate with the dead. My grandfather died when I was 11 and I loved him dearly -- and so I asked my friend if he could try to talk to him. He said he had contact, and that there was a nickname he always called me... he said 'pumpkin'. Yes, that's a very standard nickname for a granddaughter. However, *my* grandfather called me 'pumpkin-head' due to my red hair. It was enough to convince me that my grandfather was able to talk to us from beyond. At that point, I heard a voice that I interpreted as my grandfather's, saying 'Your grandmother is having a stroke.'
Without telling my friends what I had heard and why I was doing this, I found the nearest payphone, called 911, and had an ambulance sent to my grandmother's house, where my mom also lived. Then I called to the house, told them that an ambulance was on the way, and that I would be there shortly because Granny was having a stroke. Mom said I was crazy. I told her that if she believed that, to keep the ambulance there and I was going to be there shortly. (Thinking back, we see this as a 'cry for help'.)
I got back to my grandmother's house, and she appeared fine. They had sent the ambulance on their way. However, I was convinced that she was going to die that day -- and so I was determined to stay up until my mom went to work that morning. I also went over and talked to a neighbor who was a friend -- who tried to get me to drink some Jack Daniels and take some Benadryl to get some sleep.
I slept about 4 hours -- and felt somewhat more clear, but I was still delusional. I went to her house, and she was fine. However, I obviously wasn't. Somehow my brain had decided that one of the friends with me when I heard the voice was the Antichrist -- because his initials were CJ (get it? JC? CJ? Punny.. very punny). Granny had me lay down -- and I heard the marching band from the school nearby playing but to me it sounded like troops marching in. I couldn't sleep. When my mom came home, I went to talk to her, and they were watching the news (weather segment) on TV. When I saw the TV, it seemed like it was talking about what I thought was going on outside. (In psychiatric terms, this is referred to as a 'delusion of reference' -- thinking things that have nothing to do with you are directed at you). I went back to my apartment.
Some of my friends were very concerned about me and came to see me -- one even offered to sleep next to me and hold me if I would just go to sleep. I tried, but I really couldn't. My mind was racing -- seeing connections and correlations in events that weren't really there. Things get very fuzzy around this time. I remember seeing my neighbor in my apartment telling me I had to get my act together -- but he says he never came over and said that. That day, my mom came to my apartment, and I apparently had sat in a bathtub full of cold water for over three hours when she got there. I was babbling, making no sense, and she called 911.
When I realized she was calling the ambulance, I knew I needed to give her my folder of papers -- I had a durable power of attorney for health care naming her as the 'healthcare proxy'. However, I couldn't quite get the words out to say it, or make any sense, and I ended up just pointing at the folder like it was significant. She told me later that she had no idea why I was doing so until she opened the folder and saw the paper. The ambulance came, and asked me what hospital I wanted to go to. At this point I was very paranoid, and didn't want to talk. I named the hospital my mom used to work at.
When I got into the ER, I decied I did not want to talk at all. I did not cooperate as they tried to draw blood, but did not fight them either. After the blood was drawn, an evaluation was made, and they were ready to move me from the room, I used passive resistance -- went limp. In a way, it helped my family for me to do so -- they hadn't been in the exam room, and assumed that the doctors had popped me with a shot to put me out.
Eventually they did pop me with a shot -- Haldol and Ativan. I slept for about 14 hours, woke up when they said I had to eat breakfast (I hadn't eaten in all this time). I remember looking at my medical bracelet and seeing 'Young, Karen H.' as my doctor's name. My brain interpreted it to mean she was a good doctor (Young Caring Heart? Yes, very very punny)... I then heard something over the intercom that sounded like my last name telling me to 'Go Smoke'. The intercom had went off, but it said 'Front Unit Patients, It's time to Smoke'. Since I thought it was talking about me (delusion of reference again), and all I wanted was to get out of there, I thought that maybe I could step outside with the smokers. I don't smoke. But their smoking area was inside.
Since I showed up, someone noticed I didn't have a cigarette. They handed me one, and the nurse lit it. I inhaled, coughed, and puked all over the floor. Then went back to my room. They gave me a Phenergan shot -- an antinausea medicine that makes a person very sleepy. I was better after having slept, but the next day it still felt like the TV in the dining room (put on a religious channel) was talking about me.
However, the doctors were giving me Haldol as well -- and the next day I started experiencing extrapyramidal symptoms indicative of too much of a neuroleptic. They gave me a shot to stop the symptoms, and decided to just treat me with Restoril -- a sleeping pill -- for three days. That did the trick -- I was back to normal. They kept me a few more days for observation.
In the end, I left the hospital with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder -- because they assumed I had to have been in a manic episode. However, none of the preventative medicines they had me on did what they were supposed to do -- in a bipolar person, those meds even them out. They made me profoundly depressed, caused severe weight gain, and I turned out to be allergic to two of them. I stopped taking meds, and haven't had anything like that happen again -- nor have I had any depression.
I've spoken to several psychiatrists who say that the bipolar diagnosis was likely wrong, and that what I experienced was simply sleep deprivation psychosis.
After that experience, I refuse to stay up more than 24 hours without at least 6 hours of sleep. It's not a fun experience. I am still paying off the hospital bill. While I do think I gained insight into the psychotic process, it was paid at way too high of a price.
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