Norah bravely shares about her recent stay in the pediatric psychiatric unit of a local hospital. We talk about what led her there, what her experience was like, how she's feeling now that she's home and back at school, and what we as a family learned as a result.
Trigger warning and listener advisory: This episode contains a discussion of self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues.
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Intro music written and performed by norah marie.
Dad: [00:00:00] This episode comes with a warning for topics such as self-harm suicide and general mental health issues.
Norah: Hi, dad,
Dad: What do you want to talk about this week?
Norah: we're going to talk about a nice little trip to the hospital.
Dad: I'm glad you're laughing.
welcome to the Norah and Dad Show , I am the aforementioned dad and with me as always, I have
Norah: dust me.
Dad: We were off last week for a good reason because we weren't, I think, prepared yet mentally to do this episode. Norah, can you share with everybody where you were for at least a good chunk of the first week [00:01:00] of January?
Norah: So I went on a little a vacation to the mental hospital.
Dad: Let's see here. I'm sorry. I think I said I'm so glad you're laughing about this. , I just want to make it clear to everybody, , nor this was a hundred percent your choice to do this.
Norah: Yes. I'm not being forced to do that.
Dad: If there's a question I ask you that you're not comfortable with, because this is above all else, , your story to tell and your story to share, and you share what you're comfortable with.
So if there's a question you don't want to answer, just say, I don't really want to talk about that and then we'll move on to something else. Okay.
Dad: are you comfortable talking about why you went to the hospital?
Norah: Sure. Probably not going to too much detail, but, I was feeling kind of out of it for three weeks and I had self-harmed the night before I went, , to the ER, and that was the day [00:02:00] before school started as well. , and then I went to school with the intent of talking to the counselor there because.
Formed, somewhat of a relationship with her. I've talked to her before and like, you know, we wave at each other when we see each other on campus. So I wasn't like nervous going to her or anything. And I knew that was what I wanted to do. Cause that was best for me. , cause therapists are really hard to get into and to she's very easily.
That's not a word. Is it very accessible, easily accessible at school? Um,
Dad: Easily as not a word.
Norah: I don't know where that came from. I haven't been at school in two days. I need to go back.
Dad: Is that like stablity?
Norah: you want me to talk about that?
Dad: We'll get there.
Norah: Okay. So I got through all my classes first. My parents think that's ridiculous that I wanted to get through the day before I told the counselor.
Dad: We appreciate your academic committee.
Norah: Well, I wanted to get all my classes done.
, and then I went and talked to the counselor and then it [00:03:00] all went down from there. And then I was like, I think I need to go to the hospital. So there'll be a arranged that, and then I stayed in the ER for five hours. It was not very fun. at first after all the doctors left and there's no more questions, I just got to read and watch family feud.
And then I was in the actual mental hospital for, I guess, three days.
Dad: Let's start with your room. What was your room like in the hospital?
Norah: The rooms are not very homey. The door had to be open 24 7. The windows were like, there was like a barrier of plastic before the windows and you could only, they can't, they couldn't have strings to adjust the.
Blind. So there was like a metal rod sticking out of the plastic that you had to twist to change the blinds. I got two lights. I was allowed to control. , one like above my bed and the one in the bathroom. I had a desk and a chair and a couple cubbies. And [00:04:00] then the bathroom, like the shower went on for five minutes.
It was very cold and there was like five like strains of water. There was a regular toilet. So that was nice. And then there was this really weird sink where you had to like push buttons for hot and cold, but they only lasted for 20 seconds. So when I have to wash my face, I'd be like, my eyes would be closed and I'd be trying to figure out where the buttons were so I could finish doing that.
Dad: No, television.
Norah: Nope. Well, and everything's slanted to so that you can't like. Do anything like the only things in my room when I got there, there is two pillows, two things, a sheets, my desk, and a cran. And I had to work my way up to pencil privileges.
Dad: What you got quickly, you got,
Norah: I know I got on the second day, cause I was like, can I please have a pencil to do my homework?
Dad: know, nor the overachiever graduated from crayons, pencils in a day. ,
Norah: then I got colored pencils. [00:05:00]
Dad: what were you, allowed to have with you and what were you allowed to have with you?
Norah: I'm very upset about this. I brought a novel, a book,
I brought the Institute Stephen King, which maybe wasn't the best. Maybe it wasn't the best choice, but it was what I was reading. I've been
Dad: but wait a
Norah: it since September.
Dad: wait a minute. So the Institute is about kids with like superpowers.
Norah: Telekinesis. And what's the other one? Telepathy.
Dad: . Yeah. And they're abducted by the government,
Norah: the government to make
Dad: right. To make, to turn into weapons,
Norah: I have only halfway through do not spoil it.
Dad: no, but it's very empowering about these kids, rescuing themselves
Norah: Well, what It's called
Dad: ultimately a super, super empowering book. I saw some of the reading choices you had there.
They were not
Norah: I had the catcher in the rye. I
Dad: talk. Let's, we'll talk, we'll talk about that in a second, but, , but you also had like some goofy comic books and other things in the library, but catcher in the rye, which is an amazing piece of [00:06:00] literature,
Norah: it. I read it in like less than a day. She's like glued to it.
Dad: such an odd choice to have in the psychiatric unit of a hostile.
Norah: character, I forget his name. He contemplates killing himself, like throughout the entire book. And then also there's like a side plot to where this character, he went to school with jumped out of a window and died. There's a lot of swearing.
Dad: and there's substance abuse and there's prostitutes. And
Norah: Well, we're not allowed to swear. So the swearing is a. big thing.
Get kicked out. If you sweat.
Dad: , and the piece of paper that we got explaining our rules. Cause we could, we could call you, , whenever we want to during certain hours of the day but we were limited to an hour a day to see you, but the rules were very clear that like everything's monitored and that, , we could have our visitation rights terminated for bad.
Norah: You, uh, use some bad language sometimes.
Dad: Yeah, well, sometimes you have to, and for me, [00:07:00] who's, one F short of being Roy Kent with how I speak a lot of times. It's hard to leave the F-bombs at the door,
Norah: It was easy for me.
Dad: especially under the circumstances when that's all I wanted to do was go up on the roof and scream that out really, really late.
Norah: I'm okay though. I made it out.
Dad: You did make it out. So,
Norah: when I wanted to. It was great.
Dad: so what kind of, what kind of stuff did they have you doing there on a day-to-day basis?
Norah: Well, I will give the daily rundown. So you get woken up at like eight or eight 30 with a nurse, like standing in front of your little, I don't want to call It a bed like rubber.
Dad: It w it w it was, it, it was like a prison.
Norah: Okay. Rubber prison caught. , and they'd be like, I need to take your vitals. So They put a thermometer under your tongue, one of those air pressure thingies around your arm.
And then they put one of the like pulse things on your finger. And you'd sit there for like 30 seconds [00:08:00] really awkwardly and not say anything. And then you'd have your food waiting for you. The first day I got pancakes. That was a very big mistake. Because they were cold in, they weren't soggy. They were just like bad.
I drenched them in so much syrup and that just tasted horrible. , So after that they'd have our first session of the day was, or we would make goals in. Normally it was like me and one other person who were there because everyone else would go back to sleep after getting their vitals. But I just could not fall asleep again.
We make our goals for the day, and then we go back to our rooms and then they'd call us for school, which is my favorite part of the day. ,We got access to the computers, but we couldn't do any, like, we got, had access to like Google classroom, most of the internet, we just couldn't email or comment or like have any.
Interaction with anybody outside of the hospital. , And then we'd have music therapy, which is very fun. We do little songs. I played tambourine every [00:09:00] day. It was very fun. Let me go back to our rooms and then we'd have lunch. And that was when my visiting hours were. So that was fun. What were your thoughts on visiting hours, father?
Dad: They weren't long enough or frequent enough, I would have liked to have stayed with you all day long because we missed you. And we were worried about you. And I didn't think an hour, a day to come spend with you was enough .
Dad: Oh, I know you were fine. It
Norah: And the doctors would come in And
they'd take up our time.
Dad: We did have to check in with the doctors to find out how you were doing and then find out when you are going to be able to get the heck out of there.
Norah: And after that we would have spirituality or art therapy. And those are really fun. And just like most of it was just like finding more interesting ways to talk about the things that we wanted to like coping skills and stressors and emotions and stuff like that. [00:10:00] Being lectured on it. Isn't really fun.
But if you could have something to interact with, it makes it a lot easier to sit there.
for an hour and do something
Dad: You had a fair amount of therapy
Norah: Oh yeah. It was like 24 hour therapy.
Dad: And was that all group or was it, was, it was there one-on-one.
Norah: that was like the, like when I was talking like just like Haya trusts and that one really nice doctor that I could never remember her name. That was like the one-on-one time that I had was that I guess it was really therapy, but at least got to talk to them about what was bugging me. , had my favorite nurse that would, I talked to, she was a night nurse.
She gave me ice cream and she let me have extra. We have extra clothes
Dad: you ate a lot of.
Norah: three times a day. It was so good. And then what was
Dad: He extra extra clothes. Cause you can only have certain types of clothes in
Norah: pairs of underwear, one long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, one sweater. [00:11:00] And then one pair of pants.
Dad: no strings in any of the clothing. No hoods on no
Norah: of my pants,
Dad: no hoods on the shirts.
Norah: but my nurse was very nice. She let me have extra pairs of underwear.
Dad: Never underestimate the importance of clean underwear.
Norah: I had to brand mesh underwear for two days. It was
Dad: That's Someone understand why they gave you mesh underwear.
Norah: don't know. And that's where the really bad grippy socks that didn't fit my feet. And then where was I? My schedule, I was at spirituality art therapy. Let me go back to our rooms for a little bit, and then we'd have like yoga or gym. Not my favorite activity.
I did not want to be doing like laying on the hospital floor, doing curl ups and stuff. So that was not fun. And then we would have dinner, which just boring because I was just in my room alone. Disgusting chicken nuggets. And I never ordered fries, but they gave fries every day and they were groves and I never ate them.
Dad: [00:12:00] You're never going to eat a chicken nugget again for the rest of your life.
Norah: No, I w okay. I will eat like McDonald's chicken nuggets and that's it. I think because those ones look different than the ones at the hospital.
If I would have been discharged on Saturday instead of Friday, I don't think I would've eaten dinner on Friday.
I would've eaten my fruit and that's it.
Dad: what were the options besides chicken nuggets? There had to be something else on the menu.
Norah: There was like pizza, which I did not want to eat hospital pizza. Um, cause I saw the cheese on my Turkey sandwich. I did not want to have the cheese pizza. Chicken Parmesan did not want to eat that.
Dad: We need to have a separate podcast where we have on like, , a director of food services from a hospital and asked them why hospital food sucks so badly.
Norah: I need to pull a grammar and just not eat for three days until they make it. The food. I want
Dad: Yeah. Grandma told us that story after you got discharged that last time she was in the hospital, she boycotted eating cause she hated the food and she got a visit from the chef who, insisted she had to eat and what [00:13:00] could he make her that she would eat? And so she got a custom made, I think chicken Caesar salad.
She said because he was so worried that F for three days in a row, she sent her trays back.
Norah: And they had, they had really good chocolate chip cookies. But besides that the dinner was, um, pretty lackluster.
Dad: So Sweetser okay. The rest of it sucked.
Norah: Yes, they had really good jello. I didn't try the pudding cause pudding kind of scares me and they had really good Graham crackers. They gave me those after I got my blood, take its own and pass out
Dad: This has now turned into the food review of the hospital podcast.
Norah: the little intermission.
Dad: You should go on Yelp and write that and rate the hospital food.
Norah: The Turkey sandwich has really good. Oh. In the blueberry muffin, they had that for breakfast. That was also really good. And then after dinner we'd have free time, which is when we got to play X-Box or cards. I normally used that time to call. Because I didn't really want to interact with anybody else.
Dad: Where the kids nice
Norah: my room now. They were
Dad: the kids. Nice. At least
Norah: I just [00:14:00] wanted that time to talk to you and mom and Donovan. And
Dad: we, we appreciate that.
Norah: I was very into my book, but what I like my books, So I kind of just wanted to stay in my room and read those, , or color and whatnot, make origami frogs. And then after free time, We would have reflection where we would reflect on our day and see if we met our goals and then maybe go to bed and we'd get our last snack of the day.
Always got ice cream. Oh, I forgot. Snack. There was a snack in between, spirituality and dinner and I had ice cream then as well.
Dad: So basically you talked a lot and ate a lot.
Norah: Yes, it was great. I ate three meals a day. I'm not used to doing that.
Dad: So you were there for three days total. They told us that. The average stay is usually somewhere between three and five days. You made it out in three days, but it's not to say they wouldn't have let you out if they didn't,[00:15:00] think you were ready to go home.
As you look back on it, do you have any regrets at all about the experience, how you handled it, how into the hospital, like any, any regrets at all, or are you team , this was what I needed and was the best thing for me.
And I'm glad.
Norah: I wish I would have gotten more schoolwork, , like planned a little bit ahead before I went, I wouldn't have been able to bring it in with me, but at least you could have brought it in and got it. Like reviewed to make sure I could have. 'cause, I was just really bored in the schoolwork they gave me to do so basically when you're in the hospital or at least in the mental hospital, , if you do at least an hour of schoolwork a day, you get counted as attending school.
So you don't have like a bunch of absences. They'd be excused absences if they were, but It just kind of helps your like record, especially for like kids who are in there who have difficulty going to school and stuff. So. They gave us like [00:16:00] second grade reading today, which I'm sure. Cause it was, mostly for the kids who didn't have the energy to do their like other schoolwork.
Dad: It was like, this is Abe Lincoln. Abe Lincoln was the blank president of the United States colored this picture of Abe Lincoln. Like that's what they gave you to do.
Norah: Well, cause
Dad: and maybe it's.
Norah: same schoolwork.
Dad: And maybe it's okay, because your mental stimulation comes from other avenues through the therapy. So maybe you don't need to be mentally stimulated and worn out from thinking too hard about academic stuff. I know, I know. Aside from the school part of it, any, any other regrets are you, you feel pretty good about the experience?
Norah: I feel pretty good. I mean, it was not a pleasant experience?
not going to like sugarcoat it and say like, I loved it. It was great. It was not like
Dad: You're not. You're not rushing to get, you're not rushing to go back.
Norah: Yeah. Like when I got home, the first thing I did is take a shower. And that felt really nice because the showers, there were not, they should not be classified a shower then like [00:17:00] sprinklers.
And I got to like wear whatever clothes I wanted instead of wearing the same clothes for three days. And I got to sleep in the bed with however many pillows, however many covers I wanted. I'd have my phone and talk to people and see my dogs, But like, I, I think I needed it. Like, it's not like you and mom forced me to go.
Like I said, I wanted to get.
Dad: No, we didn't force you to go. I mean, I wasn't with you at the ER, your mom and I were texting back and forth and. Her question was, if they ask, should we bring her home or should she stay? And my response was, , what did the doctors think is I'm not a mental health professional number one, but number two, like what does Nora think?
Does she want to stay or does she want to go home? And so the fact that you were on board and like, this is what I need and I want to be here. And I think I need to be here for more than, just more than just any, ER, stay as difficult as it was to leave you there, it seemed like you were in a good place, it seemed like you really were in a good place.
Cause you kind of knew, it felt [00:18:00] like you knew what.
Norah: You said yesterday at therapy that I was very calm for a person going to the hospital.
Dad: You were, we laughed. We picked you up at school and the, in the car ride to the ER, you were, we were laughing. You were like, this will make a really good podcast episode. I mean, we were joking around and yeah, you were very calm and maybe that's because, you knew you were going somewhere that would get you help.
Norah: Yeah. Yeah.
Dad: how are you? So, how are you doing now?
Norah: Tired. It's really difficult transitioning from hospital to school hours. Like I've, wasn't hammered with work. Luckily I've had like zero work to do, which was surprising. And nice. It was a nice surprise.
Dad: But mentally you're feeling, you feel like you're in a
Norah: top of the world.
Dad: That's good to hear. I like, I like hearing that we like, we like smiling, laughing, silly Nora, as [00:19:00] opposed to depressed sullen, unhappy, Nora.
Norah: I like her too.
Dad: I have a couple of questions I want to wrap up with and one of them is. And I think it's for both of us, but I'm going to start with you and then I'll answer it. But it's what did you learn from the experience other than the fact that hospitals have lousy food?
Norah: well, oh, I learned how to ask for help a lot. I think that was probably the most helpful thing. So on coping mechanisms, I learned stressors and it kind of already had an idea of those, but like, It was very difficult to go up to the desk and ask for things the first day and to like, or to like, cause I wasn't allowed to have a comb.
I don't know why, like I could've broken it with my fingers. It was like plastic. I'm not sure What I could have done with it, but I had to go to the front desk and ask to get my comb out of my locker. So I had to do that before I showered and after I showered and then I did it before I went to bed as well.
So I could, um, [00:20:00] like braid my. And that was very nerve wracking at first, but then I got better at doing it. Same with asking for water or like asking if I could call and stuff like that. So I got a lot better at like being assertive. I think that was very helpful.
Dad: What did you, learn about yourself in the process?
Norah: A lot of my stress comes from relationships with. Not like bad ones, but I put too much pressure on myself to make them happy that I ended up making myself unhappy in the process.
Dad: Got to take care of yourself first. Always. I know it is. I know it is.
Norah: I'm a fixer by nature. And so are You. in, sorry,
Dad: I, I know I am too. And so was your mom, and so that's genetic. So you're kind of screwed in that regard. But if you can learn some mechanisms to not internalize when you can't fix things, it'll serve you.
Norah: what did you learn?
Dad: I learned that you can't spell the word stability.
Norah: Okay. In fairness. We were doing [00:21:00] an activity. I had two minutes left and I needed to glue all of those pieces on the paper. And I had another I I'm like 95% sure because I double-checked my spelling. And then it just did not have enough space in my paper. And I guess I forgot about it
Dad: And then it got hung up on your wall and it said "STABLITY".
Norah: was an accident.
Dad: So whoever Lity is, he got the short end of that arts and crafts assignment. Cause
Norah: And then mom in an I or was it you that drew in an I?
Dad: No, my mom drew in the I.
Norah: You should hang it up at your office,
Dad: I should, I will hang it up in my
Norah: family and stablity.
Dad: Liddy. , but in all seriousness, I'm speaking on behalf of your mom now as well, we learn to recognize your symptoms of when you might be in crisis, , and not doing well mentally. And that tends to, I think, manifests itself more in. Some physical symptoms that we assumed was just you not feeling well, like you said, your belly hurts [00:22:00] and we think that's because maybe you ate fructose and, and it could be because you eat fructose, but it's also just as likely, or probably more likely because, , your , not feeling well mentally and that's manifesting itself in some physical symptoms.
Um, I think we learned, you said your mom and I are fixers and we all, we're also trying to learn, , with you and your mental health, , to fix a less, which goes against every parental instinct I have, because as your parent, it's my job to take care of you and fix things that are broken, but to fix less and just to focus. Less on what we can do for you and more on how your doing and only step into fix when it's absolutely necessary. Like when you're in a crisis and you can't fix things yourself. The last thing I want to talk about is I think.
Let me put it this way. I think it's incredibly brave and courageous that [00:23:00] you are willing to share this with the world. And I hope lots of people hear this because I think this has the potential to do a lot of good for people in. De-stigmatizing mental health issues. There is a lot of stigma and unwillingness to talk about mental health issues.
They get kind of brushed under the rug and I read a stat that since, at least since COVID started, , suicide attempts among teen girls are up 50%. It's insane. That's a bad choice of words, but it's, um, Yeah, it's, , it's not good. The mental health situation, particularly for kids right now.
And it wasn't great before COVID and COVID has only made it that much worse. So I think you talking about this, as a 15 year old girl who just went through a mental health crisis, has the real ability to do some good, because maybe people will hear this and realize that it's not. Embarrassing to talk about these things and people shouldn't be judged.
Norah: [00:24:00] Have a couple of things to add. I think your generation and the one before it has, what has kind of stigmatized mental health, at least through social media and stuff. Gen Z. Been pretty open about talking about mental health, at least in the people that I follow., I know a lot of people like friends and family who don't feel great mentally, all the time, and maybe don't want to ask for help because their parents won't take it the right way because they don't have as understanding parents as I do, or just other reasons like that. So I think talking about it maybe helps.
I don't know. I mean, it is not a great experience to go to the hospital, but you feel a lot better when you get out if you put the work in. You know, obviously if you go there and you lay around all day and don't talk to anybody. I mean, they're not gonna let you out, but, that doesn't [00:25:00] benefit anybody. But if you put a conscious effort in to get better and are willing to work with people and work with your issues, then I think it can really benefit you and the people around you.
Dad: Anything else you want to add?
Norah: Yes. is that your last question?
Dad: That's it.
Norah: If you or a loved one is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255. They also have like a chat ability, if you want to text instead of call, but that is a very helpful resource for someone, if you need to talk to them. I've used it before. They're very nice. They don't judge. So do what you need to do to make yourself happy. Everyone around you will be there to support you. Everyone just wants you to be happy as much as you want to be happy. So take care of yourself.
Dad: You can't tell, but I'm tearing up. I'm so damn proud of you right now. I'm
Norah: You're making meats here. [00:26:00]
Dad: I'm so proud of you. I'm going to, I'm going to add some resources for folks in the show notes as well. , .
Usually. , I, and these shows by asking people to match those stars and give us good reviews and all that, and feel free to do that. But I'm going to have a different call to action for folks this week. What I'm going to ask is that you share this episode with as many people as you can, , put it on your Facebook, put it on your Twitter, put it in your Instagram story on your LinkedIn.
, text it to people, mentioned it to people. , we would like to do what we can to spread the word about this issue, because our kids are in crisis right now and they need help. And if this episode, , reaches one person and convinces them, um, The help they need to start making them well, then I think we've done a really, really good thing.
So we would appreciate it if you would, , share this, , on as many networks and with as many people as you can. , and with that, [00:27:00] I'm going to thank everybody for listening again, nor thank you so much for sharing your story. You want to say.
Norah: Check up on your loved ones, do that. It's important. People are struggling and you might not know. So just making sure everyone's okay. It can do a lot more than you think it does. I will add that as my goal for the day.
Dad: You doing okay, Norah?
Norah: I'm doing great.
Dad: I am too. I love you kiddo.
Norah: Love you too, dad.