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Fallout

So now I’m dealing with the mental fallout of mu little episode–I’m sleeping and I can’t organize my thoughts to do anything  coherent.  Going to the grocery store sent me into another little anxiety fit, especially when I got there and realized I didn’t have any checks.  I knew if I went home to get them I wouldn’t go back, so I just charged it.   I hate doing that.  So I got the minimum and will need to go back Monday and get the rest of it.  So.

I’m really scared I’ve ruined a friendship with what I’ve been writing.  I was talking to an old friend about what I was up to, and he said he’d be willing to look over it and tell me what he thought.  And now I haven’t heard from him for almost a week.  I know he’s busy and all, but I’m scared something I wrote just went too far for him.   And he doesn’t know how to react to it. So there is that to bug me.

I;m so tired but sleeping doesn’t make me feel better.  It just keeps the anxiety at bay.

 

 

 

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Glad That is Over

I am much calmer today.  I talked to my counselor yesterday  and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I do this to myself. WE didn’t really come up with an answer, but we have some more appointments scheduled to work on it.  Then I went to church and .  heard a sermon on prayer that really calmed down my spirit.  I went and told the pastor that, and he said the nicest thing to me.  He said he knew my struggles (we had been in counseling with him once) and I was an inspiration to him in how I fought bipolar disorder,  the fact that I didn’t give up.  THat made me feel good inside.That’s all I want is to inspire somebody if I:m going to have this problem , for it to be used for good.

 

Frustration II

I do not know what to do with this frustration I am feeling.  I feel like a failure in every department of my life.  I cannot get past this. I do not know now if it is depression or mania. I don’t care which it is.  I just want it to go away.

 

Ending

I saw a psychiatrist every day for a few minutes.  He wasn’t my regular doctor, who was still out of town. But he seemed nice and competent enough. I told him my story about losing my mood stabilizer, Abilify, when we changed insurance companies in October and described the long slow slide I had been on ever since then.  I told him we had tried Geodon, Xanax, Lexapro, and an increased dose of Pristiq (my antidepressant) to replace it.  But here I was.

Bob had told me before I went in that if it came down to it, we’d just start paying the $1,000-a-month bill for the correct medicine.  That was reassuring and terrifying at the same time.  How long could we afford to do that? Was I that desperately sick without it?  It seemed that I was.

I stayed this time for five days.  All the doctor had to do was restart my Abilify.  By the time I left, I was thinking logically again and glad that I had had the courage to go to the hospital when I needed to—and that the doctor I saw on my hospitalization filed paperwork that convinced my insurance company to cover my Abilify through the year 2039.  So it was worth it to call and go in if for that reason alone.

Yes, if you go to the mental ward, you lose your physical freedom for a period of time.  Yes, you miss your family and the comforts of home.  Yes, you are deprived of many of your personal coping mechanisms.  But it’s not as scary a process as it could be, thanks to modern pharmacological treatment methods designed to take you down from your psychosis and give you clarity of mind.

Daily Routine

The biggest topic of discussion on the ward among patients was always some aspect of the illness.  One girl I’ll call Shaquita asked everyone about side effects of Effexor, the newest medication she was taking.  Almost everyone there was new to psychiatry except for one girl I’ll call Tricia and on older lady in her sixties I’ll call Myra.  Tricia had been in Whitfield—the state hospital for the mentally ill–at least once that I heard her brag about.  She was at St Dominic’s this time for issues related to her father’s recent death, and she was drawing Social Security Disability for depression.  Myra was in her early sixties having been treated for bipolar disorder for most of her life.  She was loud, laughing, and talking constantly about sex and her five ex-husbands.  I prayed that wasn’t seeing my future in her as I listened at a distance.

Craft therapy was intended for us to find new ways to spend our time.  We could paint, do bead jewelry, draw, or color t-shirts.  The crafts lady remembered me from previous visits, even remembered my name, almost.

This visit, as usual, I made bead bracelets from elastic string and small plastic beads.  Sorting through the beads to find the right colors took up all my concentration, allowing me to finally relax from the anxiety about my children, my husband, and what I was doing with my life.  I made a pink bead bracelet, alternating a series of round beads with square ones.  I made one for my oldest daughter, Terrie, because she had come home from college on her day off to take care of tasks around the house and catch Rachel coming off the bus after school so Bob wouldn’t have to take off.   I started another one but didn’t have time to finish it.

We also had the privilege of visitation on Saturday afternoons.  Bob came to see me this time right on time, wearing blue jeans and a nice shirt. We talked about the kids, keeping the visit light and cheerful for both our sakes.  I made sure I sent my purse and its contents home with him instead of keeping it in the safe at the hospital.

Bob and I were also able to talk to each other every night on the phone for outgoing calls on the ward.  Calls were limited to ten minutes, so we couldn’t talk long.  But I looked forward to those calls as a lifeline back to my family and to my normal life. I would call him around 6 p.m. and we would talk about the kids, and I would brief him on my progress and how soon I might get to come home.

Mealtime and snack time are a big part of the day, too—smoke breaks used to be until so many hospitals went smoke-free.  We used to go to the ward cafeteria for meals; now meals as well as snacks such as ice cream, cake, or pudding were brought to us on the ward.  Jackie, who ate more than everyone else because he was six-six, would hide snacks in the pocket of his jean jacket to eat later in his room.  Shaquita hoarded sugar packets like they were cocaine.   Smokers who used to have the option of smoke breaks at St. Dominic’s now get nicotine patches once admitted to the ward—which didn’t stop Johnny from chewing smuggled nicotine gum as well.

Weirdness

The tech liked to smile a lot and would sit and listen to anyone talk for as long as it took for them to have their say.  He was also the one who took vital signs at night–blood pressure readings, temperature, etc.—and did the suicide watch checks.

So when he knocked on my door one evening, I wasn’t too surprised to see him standing in the hall when I opened the door.  He was smiling as usual.  “Come on out here,” he said.

I stepped out of the room and waited for him to state his business.   He said, “Come on out here with me and help me load the truck.”

“What?” I said.

“Go get you some good shoes on and come out here and help me load this truck.”

I looked down at my navy sandals.  “These the only shoes I got,” I said, dropping into his vernacular.  “I don’t think I’m supposed to do that.”

“Come on,” he said.

I stared at him.  “I don’t think I’m supposed to leave the hospital,” I said.

“It’s okay.  You’ll be with me.  That makes it okay,” he said, still grinning.

“I don’t think that’s my job,” I said.  I was trying to say no every way I could think of without using the word.  “I’m sure you can find someone else to help you better than me.”

“I’ve got a dolly—you’ll be okay.  Come on and help me load this truck,” he said.

Then I had a thought.  “Okay.  You’re testing me, right?   This is a test to see if I’m really crazy enough to leave the hospital with you.  This is some kind of test, right?”

That response startled him.  He rolled his eyes up toward the top of his bald head.  “No, I don’t think so. Are you going to help me load the truck or not?”

I just stared at him for a long minute. I could not figure out why he was asking me to go do something one of the other techs could help him do.  I had never had a conversation like this one in all my times on the ward.  “No!” I finally said.  “I’m not!”

“IT’s okay.  I’ll just get somebody else.  I just wanted to know if you’d help me.”

I stared at him, then turned and went back into my room.

A few seconds later, I heard another knock.  “Hello?’ I said,

He opened the door.  “Don’t worry,” he said.  “I was just messin’ with you.”

I stared at him again until he shut the door.  I spent a few minutes pacing the room trying to figure out what that had all been about.  Then I decided I would need to warn people he was up to something in case they weren’t as laid-back as I was and took him at his word, so I went out and related the story to Carson and had a good laugh out of it.

The Ward

In the mental ward, you find an assortment of people like you might find anywhere else—what we had in common was how unmanageable our lives had become.  This last hospitalization was no different.  I remember one I’ll call Katy, with the dreamy look in her eyes and short blond hair, had substance abuse issues.  Some were suffering from schizophrenia, borderline personality, or unipolar depression like Jackie, who was grieving the loss of his fiancee to suicide.   And there was Carson, an older, tall, dirtyblond-haired lady in the grip of paranoid delusions about her children, her ex-husband, and the co-workers she had over the years.

A few caveats.  I have never been in facilities that housed violent individuals.  I have never undergone shock treatment.  I have never been through drug and alcohol rehab, that not being among my problems. And I have been committed against my will only once.  So I can’t speak to some things that others may have experienced in those situations.  But I do know my own experience.

The first day is always suicide watch if you come in with suicidal thoughts as your complaint.  That involves checks every 15 minutes for 24 hours.  If you stay out in the patient areas where the nurses can see you, it’s not too intrusive.  But I wanted to sleep.  That was one of my most aggravating symptoms—the sleepiness that no amount of sleep could fix.  But I kept trying.  So I would walk down the hall to my room to sleep, only to be checked on within five minutes or so.  Usually it was just a tap on the door and my responding “I’m okay,” would do.  But at night, they’d open the door and let the hallway light into the room, at times waking me up.  And I’d just get back to sleep when the inevitable tap came again.

We interacted with each other, the nurses, the psychiatric techs, and social workers during my stay.  During one session of expressive therapy, the jovial heavyset crafts lady asked us to draw our problems as mountains and draw our schemes for overcoming them.  I drew angry black, brown, and red mountains topped with jagged snowcaps.  I labeled them “depression”, “anger” and “anxiety”.  “Anger” was the largest as it was my anger at myself that had driven me to the hospital this time. I colored in green grass at the bottom of the mountains and myself on the right side of the paper, having climbed my way there, in my favorite red dress and red high heels.  Other people drew butterflies and flowers at the tops of their mountains.  Katy drew herself in full camping gear halfway across her mountains.    We then showed our pictures to the class and explained what the images symbolized.

I remember finally being able to go outside into the restricted park area after two days because the rain had finally stopped and the air had warmed up just a little.  I heard Katy breathe, ”This is heaven.  Thank you, Jesus,” as we walked outside to the fresh air.

This visit I wound up in several domino games, both with experts and novices.  A young guy I’ll call Johnny schooled me on “jailhouse rules” while we played the regular way, with him scoring fifteen points for every ten I scored before him.  I learned how to tell a novice from an expert—a novice stacked up their dominoes on the table with the dots facing inward, while an expert held four in one hand and three in the other against their knuckles facing outward.