Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Friday, October 26, 2012

3 years

Three years ago I was laying in a hospital bed, trying to stop the tears that had begun upon entering the psychiatric unit for the first time.  I was there to begin MAOI treatment and had been weaned nearly off my antidepressant over the previous 6 weeks or so.  I'd had a long trip up to the hospital because I was so anxious that I kept either getting lost or needing to stop to pee.  Checking myself in had been so hard.  I knew I needed to be there but signing voluntary committment papers, which have a special green border to make them stand out, made it too real.My most clear memory of that day was art therapy.  A kind nurse stayed with me for hours while I cried every time I realized where I was and then it was art therapy time.  I had dreaded this, thinking it would not be helpful.  Instead art therapy has consistently helped me cope better than almost anything else.  That day we did a project that involved decorating concentric circles.  When someone else was asked what mine looked like she said it looked like I was trying to hold tight to control.  She was right.  I cried because I had worked so hard to be ok until that date when I had really struggled with the antidepressant taper for several weeks which had also involved the death of a childhood friend, the first time that had happened.

Over the next week and half or so they weaned me totally off the old antidepressant and started the new one.  In some ways that was my hardest hospitalization in that not only was I uncomfortable being there because I had avoided it for so long, I was the only one with bipolar (typical except my last stay), and in general my history of mental illness was vastly different than the other patients'.  It was more scheduled than it is now and some of the scheduling was not helpful.  Some was done by students, resulting in an angry discussion with one in a group when she insisted that if I thought that my new med didn't have a great chance of working it wouldn't.  I knew the stats.  I'd been on so many antidepressants that I just wasn't as likely to respond.  I think I had about a 30-40% chance of this working.  It did and gave me my good years.  I had a lot of anxious, upset moments.  Once I overheard someone on the phone talking about how much better he felt.  This led to 3 hours of crying with huge, gasping sobs and no help.  I tried to get help but couldn't find a nurse.  That time I had to be sedated.  Another day I checked my email and had an acceptance of my resignation from my job, a job I had no intention of quitting.  That panic attack took 2 nurses, a doctor, and several more hours in my room calming down and probably letting another extra dose of anxiety meds work.

For some reason I also had a rough time following the routine.  I clashed with one nurse several times and the social worker once. I didn't mean to, I just never understood the issues that came up.  Mostly the care was very good and I left with some new coping skills along with the medication.  But when I left I assumed I'd never be back.

Since then I've spent about 18 days in that unit.  It's finally been 10 months but I will be back there someday.  It's nearly inevitable, especially with the current lack of new meds to treat me with.  Going back though is never as hard as that first day.  I hate the green form.  I hate the time period when I've signed it but haven't yet been taken upstairs, time I always want to run away.  However, I know now that I will know the unit.  I know where the good snacks are and how to best get a decent shower out of the safety thing that doesn't spray the water out much.  I know that I will color, which I don't really enjoy, because it keeps me busy.  I know weekends are boring and to try to make an art project those days.  I know that all the nurses but one will go far out of their way to help and will take time to bond a little.  I know that the gruff, tough group leader who is incredibly talented and straightforward and insists on accepting personal responsibility will go out of his way to tell me that he is sorry that I am losing my career when he is one of the first or even the first to hear it said as a statement instead of something my mind was working toward.  I know that the nurses are able to listen to the patient side of phone calls.  I know that the hospital psychiatrist not only lets Dr. Brain help treat me but also he believes that Dr. Mind is very helpful and writes orders for me to be allowed to call Dr. Mind on the phone and to have privacy.  I'm sure they still check in on that but mostly I'll be left alone.  Knowing that Dr. Mind is part of my stay is incredibly helpful to me even just as a generalization.  I have been there enough now that I also know some things that help me.  A private room is ideal and if not I hope to be away from the end.  The second bed not only has more privacy it is blocked from the light in the hall.  Doors that don't want to stay shut without the noisy latch engaging with each night check can be propped on a towel.  Showering requires 3 towels minimum, 4 is better in case the water splashes.  I even became the expert on how to block the floor from a too-short shower curtain that allowed water to go everywhere last year.  I know to bring 3 outfits and wash them there; I also know the washer has made holes in a few of my clothes.  I know that slippers are great but eventually everyone who doesn't wear shoes seems to wind up wearing grippy socks.  I know it is also cold there and to bring layers.

Funny to think that back then things were rough with the med change but still easy enough I thought that was a one time thing.  And now, I've made it out 10 months but that has a great deal with do with Dr. Mind as well as lack of access to anything remotely dangerous.

A lot has changed since that day.


Michal Ann said...

Just processing what you've shared, Jen.


Jean Grey said...

I think it does take time to process being in the hospital, and that it is a trauma, even when it is a good place. You have to give up so much control while you are in there. I have just made 6 and a half weeks out. What has helped me was a 6-week DBT-based IOP program. I am now a DBT convert.

Anonymous said...

Jean Grey-
I'm surprised about the DBT. I've heard both wonderful and not great things about it. It was on the table for me until we realized where the IOP was located (far end of 2 cities away from home, in the winter) but everyone agreed I needed the regular one. Not an option for me because of lack of places to go (the only one won't let me see my own dr. or therapist, is mainly there as a stop-gap to prevent hospitalization and babysit the suicidal, the psychiatrist is someone I've had a bad experience with and don't trust) and it is't the educational program I'd hoped for. I still wish I'd had IOP last year; I think that it might have made it easier when I got even worse as I adjusted to my new life.

Out of curiousity, have you tried Latuda? My NAMI group has several people who LOVE it. I was on it last year when it was fairly newly out and it did nothing. Just curious what you've thought.

I'm sorry you've had to come back to the hospital/IOP/etc. world and I hope you leave it very soon. You are my source of hope. Not for OT, my personality makes OT something I cannot do and take care of myself and my license is going to go into the first stage of lapsing in June, but I do think I can do something someday and partly that's because you did.

Just Me