I was admitted to my local inpatient mental health facility on the 29th of July and was released on the 1st of August. I returned that Friday and was released yet again the following Monday. Its Tuesday now and I’m at home trying to recover. Not just from the numerous psychotic episodes I’ve experienced in the last 2 weeks, but from the experience of being in an inpatient facility itself. To read my first post about my recovery were I explore the reasons I was admitted, be sure to check out “The First Steps Forward – a Post About Mental Health” before continuing.
Upon each arrival, I was left waiting alone in a wheelchair in a sparse and unwelcoming day room as people looked upon me through a tented window. I was completely erratic and out of my mind. There were times where I wasn’t sure where I was, and I was unresponsive to others trying to communicate with me. All I remember was wanting a shower. Showers are my only tried and true coping method and its the only thing I could think of to calm down. I was ready to strip down right there but they insisted there were no showers on their floor, and I would have to wait until I was assigned a room. So I waited and slipped in and out of reality for what seemed like a couple excruciating hours… twice.
I was then forced to answer hard questions while in a manic state, photographed looking like an absolute psycho, and shuffled off to my room for the next 72 hours. Both times I had to be heavily sedated in order to calm down and I would eventually fall sleep, only to wake to a hell I haven’t experienced since I was a child.
Each time I had a roommate, and luckily, despite their own psychosis, both women were very sweet and easy to get along with. I have no patience when it comes to people but I tried to remember we were all there because we all have our own problems and we are all trying to get help. But the place began to wear on me instantly.
My first visit was more exhausting and scary than anything. I was in a new place and had none of my vices, and none of my creature comforts. You cant have cellphones, which in all fairness makes sense, because you are there to recover and those can be a big distraction to most of us. But for me that meant I couldn’t have music, which can often be therapeutic to me. I also recently started listening to the sounds of waterfalls (the soundtrack to my happy place) to sooth my mind and I had no way of doing so there without my phone. We couldn’t keep writing utensils so I couldn’t put my feelings down on paper as I do from time to time to vent. We weren’t allowed outside, which doesn’t make much sense to me as depression is frequently eased by simply getting some sunshine. I still felt physically ill and was very weak from spending a week in a psychotic state at home mostly on my own. It was hard to get enough to eat as they kept messing up my meal requests and giving me food too difficult to digest in my current state. The staff was friendly and helpful but it still felt like jail (and yes, I know exactly how that feels, I was a rebellious child and did my time long, long ago). I was simply fed pills on a schedule and offered more when I felt overwhelmed. Lets just say, I stayed pretty well medicated the entire time simply to manage a stable state.
It was a strange place with strangers, but I made the choice to be there so I tried to do what I needed to. I tried to attend the groups, which were very small and poorly organized. It was mostly people rambling endlessly off topic and arguing. The only time I felt comfortable was during art therapy where we were able to color and took turns talking about our feelings, those sessions always went smoothly. It also helped that no one really attended them and the few people who did were the few I had become friendly with. But after each group, I was left feeling as though I got nothing out of it. I learned no coping skills. I didn’t really gain the tools I needed to move forward in my mind. I just felt more and more frustrated with the situation and felt like I just wasn’t getting help. My Dr was very responsive and easy to communicate with, he modified my medication and checked up on me daily. After 72 hours, he allowed me to go home.
The next day I showed up to my outpatient treatment and was told I would need to come back the next day. I was already really anxious, but they told me I would have to give up all of my unhealthy vices in order to attend the program and I was completely thrown off. I wasn’t ready for this change, I do a lot to ‘self medicate’ if you will and I simply wasn’t ready to show up in 24 hours on a 360. But I knew I had to, so I made a commitment in my head to try again the next day.
I showed up at the clinic Friday frantically after having severe panic attacks all morning. I tried everything I could think of to maintain, I took a shower, I tried positive affirmations, listened to my waterfalls, I tried my hardest to soldier through. I made it all the way to the clinic, looked in the group room and saw all the chairs, and completely lost it. Memories of being taunted and harshly judged in large group situations flooded my mind. I became physically ill and started having panic attacks. At some point they contacted my Dr from the hospital and he suggested that I return to the hospital for further observation. This sent me spiraling down in to a circle only heavy sedation would break me from. I suffer from PTSD and one of my few triggers is being in the hospital as I spent an inordinate amount of time in and out of the VA hospital dealing with various issues. I was truly traumatized by tons of hospital stays. Again, I just couldn’t. I began to vomit on the back of the bench I was curled upon. I went to the dark place. I went to the bad place.
The staff tried to calm me down as I’m told for about 3 hours, I don’t remember much of that at all though. Eventually my Dr from the hospital arrived and they transferred me to a near by medical facility, I assume to provide me the medication they did not have on hand. I vaguely remember a security guard sitting next to me and a nurse screaming at me while another stroked my hair. I don’t remember the ambulance ride to the mental hospital. I do remember sitting in the same day room as I sat in just days prior, alone and scared. I don’t remember being escorted to my room this time, and apparently at some point I was moved because I was completely unmanageable and somehow ended up back in the unit I was at during my previous visit. They heavily sedated me again. At this point I only remember waking up on a rubber bed in an otherwise empty white brick room with cameras and a tiny window on the metal door. It was so bright it hurt my eyes for several minutes. There were loops for restraints on the bed, I do not know if they were used on me. I realized after a while that I wasn’t locked in, so I let myself out and ate breakfast.
That morning there was a rather obnoxious gentleman at the breakfast table. He was shouting about something but I didn’t care enough to pay attention to his words. I was too busy picking through the liquid eggs and ‘sausage’ patties I had been presented with and bartering my french toast for some extra juice. The next thing I knew he called the woman next to me a bitch, and she flung her tray at him, dumping his own in his lap in the process. Liquid egg and syrup went everywhere. She was gently restrained, while he was escorted out. She sat back down and made jokes, and everyone seemed to accept her actions. I at first commended her for standing up to the asshole, but I would later learn violence and overreaction was quite typical for her.
A lady in a wheelchair took a liking to me the first time I was admitted. I’m typically pretty cordial and people find me easy to talk to. Even though I personally can not people… I hide it well. She was comfortable to tell me about her family and what got her there. She was hearing voices and had no idea why. I had no idea how long she had actually been there but the typical stay was less than 7 days in our unit. She met with me in the day room and we caught up, waiting for our first group session of the day. I found group to be more of the same, more disorganization and disorientation and zero substance. I was asked how I felt. We all took turns, some rambled on nonsensical, some simply stated the fact and we moved to the next. We never went past that. Its not that there wasn’t time to, its that the ‘social workers’, as they called them, didn’t seem to want to. We weren’t asked anything deep, we weren’t provided answers. It seemed like an activity to pass the time, and that’s exactly what it was. I was led to believe these people were therapists, but they seemed to be babysitters at best.
The women who defended her name would have several outbursts throughout the her stay. She would instigate with people and was constantly threatening my buddy in the wheelchair, pulling her fist back as if to punch her and saying vile things. She would say things like “I’ve beat a bitch for free, I’ve killed a bitch for free, you don’t know bout [her name here]”. She was extremely intimidating. I’m confident in my ability to defend myself physically under normal circumstances. But I was fatigued and had spent a week and a half dehydrated and unable to hold down anything of substance. I genuinely felt as though, at that moment, she could take me. So I watched my back as she exploded between violent physical outbursts and intense crying fits. She was unstable, and couldn’t be trusted.
Then a new voice started screaming. This shrill, ear piercing voice, it cut me to the bone. She was angry, and I couldn’t tell why. She eventually came and sat next to me as I played a game of rummy with my friend in the wheelchair. She was very tiny and looked very tired, I couldn’t tell her age. She held her hand and had the largest blister I’ve ever seen on her index finger. She spoke but I had no idea what she was saying, she just rambled so I tried to be polite while brushing her off to focus on my game. She eventually took the hint, or got distracted, and walked away. My gaming buddy and I were both visibly relieved, until she began screaming at the top of her lungs in the middle of the hallway. Something about having a broken bone and demanding to go to the hospital. She threatened she’d “break more bones”. I was ready to go to my room and lay down but she stood between me and my destination. She screamed and screamed and eventually smashed her arm in to the door jam of the ‘quiet room’ (the white brick room I had woken up in prior). She leaped from leg to leg and screeched in pain as they tried to restrain her. It took 2 men and a woman to take this girl down. They some how calmed her down, and about 30 minutes later she was carried out on a stretcher on her way to get medical treatment for her injuries. I watched as this woman broke her arm in 4 places. I still don’t know what to think of this. She returned a few hours later, calm as a clam, joking with the staff and holding up her heavy cast. She would have several more of these physical outbursts while I was there and was eventually placed on a monitoring system where a medical worker had to be within 3 feet of her at all times. She was unpredictable and swung on the staff while she wasn’t joking with them. I just didn’t want to be around when she began swinging again.
One day a very quiet woman in a shower cap would sit next to me at lunch. She spoke barely audibly, and seemed to be on the verge of tears constantly. She would be prone to strange fits where she would throw something, start crying, and then run away, completely unprovoked. She threw a cup of ice at a staff member, her hand of cards at me during a game of spades, and just about anything else she could get her hands on. She too would be placed on monitoring. I learned to avoid her simply to avoid drama.
I became more and more anxious and agitated during this time. I had no control over the situation around me, there were varying degrees of disruptive people and no one seemed to be truly managing or helping the big offenders. I felt as though, if they wanted us to feel like we were in jail, they should follow up and confine these people to their rooms. That’s just my opinion, it may not be popular, but if you have rules, you should really have consequences. I became so angry with the people around me and I couldn’t seem to get away from the madness. The sound echoed throughout the entire unit and I couldn’t even find solace in my room. And my Dr found my shower taking to be excessive and restricted me to 3x a day for 20 minutes. I didn’t appreciate this, but I complied. I also had no real choice as my shower this time automatically cut off every 30 seconds, forcing me to repetitively press a button to activate the water, making showers more of a hassle than necessary. I just couldn’t find comfort anywhere and my aggravation grew.
A thin pale blond woman with wild blue eyes would arrive one morning. She came in to the meal area, which was also the group area, and began complaining about breakfast. I didn’t like the food either, but her complaints were about the packaging mainly. She mentioned Styrofoam polluting the earth. She spoke in a righteous voice as though she was preaching to us. I understood her complaints, but felt it wasn’t the time or place and instantly took issue with her existence. I don’t understand why. Maybe I was having ‘withdraws’ from my vices, maybe it was the new medication, maybe she just had one of those faces. She seemed to gravitate towards me. She asked me frequently to “come with her” and mentioned the end of days and being judged. I told her several times to back away from me and leave me alone. She then began calling me evil. I informed her I’d show her evil if she kept bothering me. Every meal was an ordeal with her. She would ultimately not touch her food, claim they were trying to poison us and we were all going to hell, and storm out of the room in a huff. She was also placed on motioning as she was quite mischievous, doing silly things such as hanging up peoples phones in the middle of their call and activating emergency alert buttons. I eventually snapped at her while waiting in line for breakfast one morning, in not so many words telling her to shut up and go away, and that she wasn’t going to ruin my breakfast again. She never bothered me again.
I just couldn’t anymore. My skin was crawling, I was having visions of hurting people, and I was feeling anger I hadn’t experienced in years. That’s not me. I don’t want to harm other people. I may lack patience and joke about wanting to smack people every now and then, but at this moment I genuinely had a growing list of people I was ready to fight. I needed to leave. This was no longer a safe place. I should have been let go after I was stabilized. I understand they wanted to monitor me on my new meds but this was not conducive to healing. No matter how much I reminded myself that we were all there with our own problems trying to get help, the madness seeped in to my pores and turned me in to a monster. I kept the staff abreast of my feelings in the event that I finally went off so they may stop me before I did something I would regret. We’ve all got that something inside us, it just takes being pushed far enough for it to come out. I did all I could to keep it in. I found out I could use the quiet room at my leisure, as long as no one was currently strapped to the bed. I was able to get some relative peace and quiet and did some reading. Eventually a social worker would come to talk to me, it was mostly just a bitch sesh, but he was nice enough and supportive. I spent the rest of the evening dodging drama and eventually fell asleep.
Monday morning came, I survived the weekend somehow. My Dr came in at about 7 am, earlier than usual. In a panicked voice I said “I need to go home”. I cant imagine the crazed look on my face. He said he would draft up the paperwork. He asked if I would be attending his outpatient program and we agreed that it was too much for me at this time, and he said he would refer me to a therapist for one on one treatment. Another social worker came to see me after breakfast. He spoke to me about my social anxiety and apprehension towards group therapy, and he somehow talked me in to the group outpatient program anyways. I’m not sure how, but he made it sound like I had no other option.
I arrived home a few hours later, and decided that I really needed to work up to group therapy. I called around to find out if I could get a reference, but ultimately ended up calling my current practice and scheduling an appointment with a new psychologist. I currently have one but they are focusing more on marriage counseling lately and I figured I needed someone to focus just on me and I’ll allow my current therapist to focus on my relationship with my husband without bias. I’ve decided to see this person at least twice a week for the foreseeable future. My goal is to identify the root of my social anxiety and work up to group therapy. I’d also like to address my negative coping methods, I have some vices I’d like to address to live a healthier lifestyle. These are my goals. And my treatment starts tomorrow. With medication, my therapist, and my support system I am positive I can recover from this mental illness and live a happy and productive life.
If you have PTSD and anxiety or any other serious mental illness, I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from getting help. I just wanted to share my personal experience in the hopes that others dont feel as alone and validate their frustrations. Getting help is hard, sometimes harder for some than others, and the system isn’t really setup to cure us. You have to fight to get where you want to be and jump through a bunch of hoops. I can only assure you, you are worth the trouble. Be sure you have an advocate or someone in your side looking out for your rights because the mentally ill are neglected and taken advantage of. But recovery is worth it and attainable. Good luck to you. Please feel free to share your treatment experience in the comments.