Sunday, January 21, 2007

Touching insanity

This is the post I was writing last Thursday. It's a real downer, just to warn you. But I needed to share it, because I don't talk about this at all with anyone except Husband. It's too painful and shameful to share with anyone but you all.

I've been reading a lot of birth stories in the blogosphere lately. I don't have a birth story of my own, but I do have a hospital story that I need to tell.

In my depressed state, I have been doing a lot of thinking about hospitalization. As all of my doctors know, I am 100% against being hospitalized. I am sure that somewhere out there, someone has had a good experience with hospitalization for depression or mania, but I am certainly NOT one of those people. I would rather be tied down to my couch and force fed Vegemite, than be hospitalized, again. One sure way to convince me to kill myself would be to put me in a hospital's mental health ward.

DISCLAIMER: As a bipolar blogger, I have a reader or two who also suffers from a mental illness. I don't want to deter anyone from choosing to be hospitalized, it is a wise choice. But, this is the story of MY experience, and is NOT the experience of all.

So here's the story of my hospitalization...

In April during my 1st year of the 1st marriage, I was in the depths of depression, completely incapacitated. I only left the house to go to my therapists office. I had not yet been properly diagnosed with bipolar, so the docs were still trying standard antidepressants on me. I was on my 5th med, and nothing was working. (Coincidentally, it's the same antidepressant I am using right now, hmmm.) By then, I had already made one weak attempt. My then husband caught me in the act though, and I cried for hours from the embarrassment. Still in grad school, I couldn't bare the thought of not finishing my degree just because I couldn't drag myself out of bed. I felt trapped and saw no way out, just like so many others before me.

On my big outing to the therapists I revealed that I just couldn't hack it any longer. I had a plan and I was going to put it into action while my husband was at school, an hour away. My therapist refused to let me go home while she made arrangements for hospitalization. Her experience told her that our local hospital was not a good place for mental health, so she put me in a hospital about a half hour away.

In the meantime, I felt some misguided peace at being taken care of. Thus, I walked to a really nice restaurant, a tapas style dining establishment, to have lunch while she made the arrangements. I kept thinking of it as my last meal, and now that I look back at it, that meal was the first thing I had enjoyed in months. Sitting in the restaurant, I kept thinking about how all of the other diners had no idea that I was certifiable and about to go to a hospital ward where they lock the door behind you. There was something very amusing about this scenario and it was all I could do not to laugh hysterically while I ate my lunch. (That definitely would have clued them in to my situation.)

By late afternoon, Therapist got my husband to come get me and drive me to the hospital. I quietly wept as he drove, otherwise we were silent. Admission is through the ER and that's where you get to justify why you should be put away. It was the only time I would get to see a kind medical professional during my stay. The good doc questioned me for about 30 minutes before an orderly showed up to escort me to the proper ward. I clung to my husband for dear life. I wanted out of this whole plan, and yet, that no longer seemed to be a choice. All of my decisions were being made for me at that point.

After they took away everything I but the clothes I was wearing, showed me around, and issued my bed, they told my husband he had to leave. And that's where I lost it. I was intensely attached to my husband back then. So I watched him walk away that day and heard the door click behind him. I am sure he could hear my sobs from the other side of the hospital and in the parking lot. I was alone.

Now, perhaps you are thinking, that there were plenty of medical professionals to facilitate my transition. Nope, not a single one. No nurses, therapists, doctors, friends, technicians, or orderlies. No one. Another common misconception is that mental patients wear pajamas and robes all day. Nope, not even close. At this hospital, they require all of their mental patients to wear their day clothes and to be active. The other weird part was the other mental patients on the ward. They stared at me like I had two heads, like I was the only crazy person there.

Perhaps I was, but I was still terrified of the other patients. Two adult middle-aged males were trying to manage schizophrenia and addiction. The other 4 patients were female and either teenage or much much older than me. They were dealing with addiction, depression, and anorexia. Quite a mixed bag.

Until lights out, I just paced up and down the hall, sobbing into a wad of tissue. During one of my marches past the nurses' station, I overheard a conversation between two of the nurses. They were talking about me...

"Did you see the new girl in here?"
"Oh yeah, I hear she's even a graduate student from *** Uni.vers.ity! Interesting, huh?"
"She must be really, really messed up then."

I was mortified that they were talking about me like I was a specimen. And what the hell does being a graduate student have to do with anything? What the fuck? I was already painfully ashamed of where and who I was, and this little conversation didn't help matters.

I will continue this story in another post, as this has become too long as it is...


Aurelia said...

Oh sweet Jesus Nicole, this story already sounds sad, and it's only the beginning. I'm constantly stunned at how badly we treat patients with mental illness in our society and yet we expect them to "get better" and "just be happy."
I'm going to keep reading, don't worry, but please I beg of you, toss the shame somewhere else. If you were cared for without ever seeing a medical professional, then hell's bells honey, THEY should be ashamed. Someday maybe you can use your legal skills to sue these idiots.
Cancer patients get to see oncologists, and nurses. Why shouldn't depressed people see psychiatrists?
Interesting you mentioned SSRIs as the first thing you were treated with. Someone once told me that some SSRIs are bad for bipolar, and can make it worse, and that other drugs are better, like lithium, etc. I'd love to know what you think. Is that true?

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

WOW! What a drag. What a bummer. I like all my stories to have happy endings, but I ahve a feeling it will get worse before it gets better.

I have a story like this I may tell too.

How sad. WAHN! :-(

I want to give you a hug! ((((hug))))

Cibele said...

Oh Nicole. First of all you really know how to keep your readers coming back for more... It really amazes me the lack of respect that some medical professional have for their patients. I am very sorry for all that you have gone through already, for all the pain and tears and I truly hope that all of this will be left on your past. If you don’t mind I would like to pray for you. For peace in your heart and mind, for strength and for freedom so you can be who you really are!
Here is my bad experience with docs
When I got pregnant more than a year ago after one year trying, I called my doc because I was bleeding. She said : don’t worry , sounds like you are miscarrying, so there is nothing I can do for you in the hospital, just stay home… I was so terrified, and I went anyway, waited for 2 hours in the waiting room and lost my baby (7weeks) right there… than 2 days later I went to the docs office , my husband called ahead of time to tell them about what had happened. I get there, sobbing as I look for the very PG ladies the nurse calls me, looks at me and says: congratulations mommy, you due date is June 13th! It ok to cry, your hormones make you very sensitive during pregnancy. My husband took her out of the room and told her to shut up, that I was crying because I lost the baby… I had to keep going there for 2 weeks to see if my numbers were going down. And every time I would be asked by a different nurse… When is your due date? I know that is not even close to the experience you had, but just want to share!
Take care honey and if you ever think about ending it all again, remember that you have a life worth living and that you have lots to offer to this world as a scientist, a wife, a daughter, a friend and soon as a mom!

I am really glad I met you.

Sara said...

I find it very interesting indeed that the antidepressant you were on at the time of your hospitalization is the same one you are on now. I don't know anything about meds, but that just sticks out a bit, as you've noted, hmmmm. Does your current doctor see any connection there? Or is it truly a coincidence?

I love the details in this post about your joyfully deluded lunch at the tapas restaurant. I'll definitely be staying tuned for the next installment in this story. You are a great writer, Nicole. I think I've said this before, but I love how you introduce humor into every situation.

Emilija said...

I've had 13 hospitalizations, some voluntary, some under police escort. There are times when that was where I needed to be. In the hospital, they were able to make medication changes super fast, and although I would have every side effect in the book that way, at least I didn't have to function while my body was adjusting. However, I've been to some pretty bad places too. Once the police get involved, you don't have any choice over where you go. If you think that hospital is in your future, know where you want to go! There are some good places, if you live in a big city. Ask you psychiatrist where s/he would want to be hospitalized.

Dino aka Katy said...

Wow I am sure that wouldn't make you want to go back ever. However I am sure there are places that are better. As for nurses - sadly they gossip and often do not realize what they are saying is being overheard.

Barbara said...

An intriguing story so far. How odd that they just toss your husband out like that. Did you get visitors?

theoneliner said...

holy sad. i'm sorry that our society is so shallow as to not offer something better to people with mental illnesses.


I cannot believe you didn't see a medical professional. And the nurses talking about you like you weren't even there. Speaking of messed up....

Glad you're at least ok for now.

Still enjoying your blog.

Not so little sister said...

Thanks for having the courage to share this story with us. Hugs.

Reese said...

i agree with the above poster person, thank you for sharing your story. I so agree not out of experience but from visiting friends that these places just suck. I'm glad you are making people think and making people aware.

Anonymous said...

I use to have a psych ward chronicaled a week stay. My first of three over five years. Many comments were like "my stay/experience was so similar". Just like all of my "check-in's" were like yours (through the er, to the ward, only to have no psychiatrist available)

However, I am still a hardcore hospital advocate. I have two children to care for with no family close by.

My option is to stay safe or risk manic rages...hurt someone or myself....THIS is no longer an option.

Hospitilization takes courage. It is a place to stablize meds, and calm down....EVENTUALLY that happens every time after my initial day or two.

Just as recently as leaving my family half way through the Holidays through New Years...I made this my choice.

I can not risk the alternatives.

I wish it could be a better experience for all...but it is not the Betty Ford Clinic. We can thank our Goverment for some of that.

Molecular Turtle said...

That's really rough. I just wanted to let you know my thoughts are with you.

Andrew said...

Hi Nicole,
This is my first visit to your site. I'm intrigued by your summary at the top of your page -- what a brave thing to do, going off the meds to become pregnant like that. I wish you the best of luck.

Your story about the mental health ward really strikes home to me too, but for a different reason. I spent my fourth year of university working as a psychiatric attendant in a ward like that. I found it a difficult environment and chose to walk away. Like the other readers, I find even the beginning of your story sad.

Andrew (To Love, Honor, and Dismay)

Ol' Lady said...

dam...sounds like you were in one hell of a place...mentally and physically.
from my understanding someone who has bipolar and takes only an antidepressant then it will likely cause the person to stay depressed and maybe go deeper. people who have bipolar need to take a mood stabizer then add antidepressants if needed. that happened to me a while ago, I 'forgot' to tell my family doctor that I had bipolar and I only went to him when I was depressed so he put me on anitdepressants and I got worse, when I found out about the effects on someone who has bipolar I stopped taking them on my own, it took a bit but I did feel somewhat better without them. I'm now medicated better...most days I think it's better...

Graham said...

Stumbled across your Blog through a Google Alert I have set up.

Have to say you have a wonderful gift for 'verbalising'. Not sure that is a proper word, but I use it anyway. Like Bipolarite, like that!

I can sort of relate to your feelings, except im a guy, but specifically about the hospital. I assume that you are talking about a regular hospital and not a private one? I was fortunate to have a private health plan through work when I had my breakdown then subsequant diagnosos of bipolar. So i think my experinces of a hospital stay are somewhat different.

I will not say 'great' blog as that is so 'yesterday', but it is. :0)

Have added you to my links.

BTW. Notice you talk to Veronica, she has been quite a paricipant in my Blog and has given me much moral support.

It is a awful sadness what she gone through this year.

All the best

Graham said...

PS: Just a small sugegstion for your site. It's a personal thing.

Although I do use Bloglines, i prefer email subscriptions, and find it more personal when i receive a email update rather than having to check my RSS feeder.

I use the Feedburner service and the emails it sends out look clean and stylish.

I have RSS'd you but thought you might want to consider this is another option as I do know that alot of people also like this method of being notified of a Blog Update.


Graham said...

PSS: I know you try to deter spammers etc, so i thought i would just check with you about having your blog as my 'blog of the now'. It's a rather old hat thing this 'best blog', my blog of the week' yada yada yada. But it serves a useful purpose.

Hope you don't mind, if you do then please let me know and I shall remove it forethwith.

My girlfriend will love your site... :0)


Graham SMith said...

PSSS: Just purchased the GodFather triology. For my sins I have not seen any of them yet... WOuld you recommend sitting down to see all 3 together? Or is that too much?

BTW: As a 'extra' for my Blog of the now, I am offering to create a little Chicklet foe each of the sites. If you want one and could use it, what kind of style would you like?

I will then use it on my right hand colum section and also in the Blog.

three minute palaver said...

Hey Nicole, I am SO happy you are opening up here and purging a bitter tale which will make you feel better for letting it out. I am a firm believer in the strength gained from a rethinking and writing about old woes to work through some of that shit. Yes, I find this story sad, but I also know you survived to tell the tale, so there is a silver lining in there somewhere.

[and don't knock the Vegemite. That's some damn fine stuff]

Jenny F. Scientist said...

That sounds pretty dreadful; I'm dismayed, but not surprised, based on what I've seen at (especially) public hospitals.

Those nurses? Tactless. Really.

And half of all graduate students report clinical depression. I think it's cause and effect, myself.

Lots more hugs; I hope the nice doctor and you can work out some better medication options soon. Depression is just... no fun at all.

Sarah said...

I'm sorry I was away for a few days and didn't see that you were having such a hard time. I'm very glad to hear that you are doing better than last week. (I don't me better in the ... she's all better now and we don't have to acknowledge mental illness... sort of way).

I've seen a tiny glimpse of something similar to how you were feeling last week, and i am sorry that you had to be in that place.

And your experience in the hospital is heart breaking. I'm glad you feel like you can talk about it here.

Cibele said...

I am so glad the released you and you were not forced to find another escape. Hang in there sister... you can do it!

TInk said...

I'm shocked! And you have every right to not want to step foot in another facility! I wouldn't either!

People in that profession should have more class than that... as with any profession, there is some level of confidentiality and what our mothers teach us: "if it's not nice, don't say it at all."