Being inpatient…again and again…and again.

I recently spent close to 3 weeks inpatient psych after 2 suicide attempts. 20 days away from my 4 kids. On one hand it sucked terribly, on the other, I suddenly was forced into discovering ME, and figuring out who Tricia was when she wasn’t being a mommy or a wife. Not that this was my first venture into a psych ward, I had severe postpartum depression after my last child was born and spent 2 weeks inpatient then. I also spent many weeks in the psych ward after a mental breakdown in my early twenties. Not to mention the in and out stays during my teen years. So, back to my most recent visits…

I actually had two forays into inpatient stay, one lasted 8 days, and the other lasting 11. The worst stay was those first 8 days I was gone…I had a terrible doctor who refused to put me on the right medication, instead she opted to put me on Haldol (an older antipsychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia and acute psychotic states and delirium)which did me no good at all. She refused to prescribe my Concerta, yet continued my Suboxone, and refused and anti-anxiety medication at all, choosing to let Haldol replace any benzodiazepines.  It did such little good because it caused such extreme sedation that I was practically a zombie. I gained no valuable experience from that stay, being unable to attend therapy or groups and whatnot. So after 8 days of no good at all, I was released because I was considered to “no longer be a threat to myself”. This clearly wasn’t true because not even a week later I had a much more serious suicide attempt, thus landing me in a different hospital further away from home and family.

As much as I resented it at first, this actually proved to be a godsend. I had a doctor who actually ‘got’ me, because he understood bipolar disorder. He immediately put me back on the medicinal regimen I had been on  6 months prior to my inpatient stays. He listened to me, he didn’t hide things from me, he was honest with me, and I felt I could be honest with him as well. He respected the fact that I knew my body best and was educated enough about my disorder to know what was effective and what wasn’t. I was back on my Welbutrin, Abilify, Xanex, Concerta and Ambien that day. (After my experience at the previous hospital, I quit the Suboxone and swore off all narcotics for good.) Now that I was in a controlled environment, I discovered that Xanex wasn’t the best anti-anxiety med for me, given it’s short half life, and my extreme anxiety.  My doctor and I made the decision to try Klonopin instead, even though I had not had good results with it in the past, because I was willing to trust him and try it again. Miraculously enough it worked wonders for my anxiety this time, and it lasted much longer than the Xanex.

So with my meds fixed, I should have been good to go home after a few days right? Wrong! This hospital had several different psychiatric units, and I was on a unit exclusively for women who had suffered trauma or abuse at some point in their life. We had a very rigid schedule from 7 AM until around 4 PM, which is when we could finally have some downtime. We spent at least 6 hours a day either in therapy or in classes; learning valuable new skills and learning new coping skills and gaining new insights and perspectives on our lives. The therapy groups were very DBT based, and I’ll never forget some of the practices that were taught. We were given schema diaries, and had to discover our ‘life traps’, which are  negative beliefs about the world that affected how we behave.  I had done the schema diaries before, but never took it seriously until now. This time I was given a starter kit, if you will, on how to proceed with life going forward once I left the hospital.

I’ll never forget the staff there, ever. I’ve never been inpatient anywhere where there was so much true compassion and genuine caring for the patients in the staff’s care. From the head nurse to the therapists, to even the cafeteria staff, these people cared about us and we could feel it. It gave me the courage to actually reach out and allow myself to be vulnerable, and to open up about issues that had never seen the light of day. I actually did the homework assignments, I actually did the workbook assignments, and I actually discovered who I used to be, and who I could be again. It was liberating, and yet terrifying at the same time. I’d spent so many years suppressing my emotions, I had no idea how to handle them now that I was allowing them to surface out. I was in a great place to learn how to cope with them in a safe manner. I also finally had a clear game plan for therapy out in the real world. I knew what direction I wanted to take, and what I needed to work through. I went into that hospital as a broken woman, and left with a sense of purpose and hope that I’d never felt before upon any other discharge. My husband swears that if I ever relapse again, I’ll go back to this hospital because they did me the most good that he’d ever seen.

So how did I end up spending all this time in the hospital anyway? I mean, after going so long on the outside without needing to be admitted? You see, I had quit taking all my meds a few months prior, for a multitude of reasons… which did me no good at all, but for some reason seemed like an excellent idea at the time. I lasted about 5 months without any meds; five miserable months in which I had a few days of functioning, and then many days where I simply couldn’t even get out of bed to properly care for my family. It was a rough time and I feel horrid about how it affected everyone around me, especially my kids. I know they suffered the most by not having mommy totally there. Thanks be to God that I have a wonderful husband who was able to be there too and pick up all the pieces of the mess I was making.

It all really started spiraling downward when my cousin hung herself and left her family behind. I’d been having suicidal thoughts for awhile but couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it because I had my family to think of, right? Yet suddenly here was someone who was able to overcome that and leave it all behind, and if she could do it, why couldn’t I? Not very rational thinking I’ll admit, but what bipolar person thinks rationally when they’ve been off their meds for awhile? No justification there, just an observation. I got more and more depressed, I started fighting with my husband more and more, and there were more and more days that I couldn’t get out of bed and function.

The one who bore the brunt of this, to my shame, was my youngest, who I felt was to blame for all my woes. She suffered the most because she was the most helpless of my kids, the least independent and the one who needed her parents the most. She could sense my disinterest and clung to her dad all the more tightly, distancing our relationship even further, even to the point where I felt giving her up for adoption would be in her best interests because I felt I was doing irreparable damage to her, simply by being her mother. Fortunately, small children are quick to forgive, and also quick to give their love to those willing to receive it and much of the damage I had done has been repaired since I was released this last time. I’m so grateful to have been given a second chance with her and that she has responded so well to my new attitude and sudden interest in her. My other children don’t seem to have suffered as much, they were very happy to have mommy back home, and wanted a lot of snuggles at first, and I made sure they got them. I still make sure they get their snuggles now, in fact.

What was the point of this rambling post? I’m not sure really. Maybe someone will come across it and find some hope in that there is quality treatment out there, that there are good hospitals out there, or maybe someone will feel like trying therapy again, or maybe going to their doctor to try yet another medication again, or whatever positiveness that can be found here. I hope someone can find some positiveness in my little ramblings here because I found hope through what I went through, and I want to share that with the world.

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What if I’m wrong?

That’s the question my therapist challenged me with yesterday. What if all the assumptions and perceptions I have about myself are wrong? What if everything I see in a negative light is actually a positive and I’ve been to dense to see it? Just the thought of it fills me with this sick sense of dread and feelings of panic. It’s almost as if some part of me deep, deep down knows she’s right, which would mean everything I’ve dealt with and felt over the last 6 years has been a lie.

Just thinking about it that way makes me want to keel over and wail with grief at all the things I missed out on over the last few years. I’m not doing that, but part of me wants to. So how do I start challenging these thoughts I have about myself? Of course the first step is asking myself ‘What if I’m wrong?”, but then what? Will it eventually turn to, “I’m not thinking this through rationally, I’m probably seeing things the wrong way?”. All I know is right now I’m terrified to over analyze my beliefs about the world. .

I feel so unprotected and weak at the moment, I don’t want one more thing to come out and knock me down and back into a depression. And I don’t know why, but I feel like this could be the hardest challenge I’ve ever attempted, and it has the power to be so. Why this? Why not talking about all the abuse I went through as a child? Maybe THAT will be worse, my therapist says I haven’t really dealt with any of that at all.

All I know right now is that all this psychoanalysis of Tricia is wearing me down. I leave therapy feeling exhausted from trying to think, and frustrated because I feel like I’m not making any progress. I get nervous before therapy because I’m unsure about what emotions are going to be dredged up. I worry about being pushed too far and ending back up in the hospital, and then I worry that maybe that would be best because there at least I’d be able to work on these issues even harder and maybe get more accomplished. I feel guilty even admitting that because no normal person wants to be in the hospital, right? I guess that makes me certifiably crazy then.

I learned another question that was good to ask in situations is “Will this hold up in a court of law?” The problem with that is I have a nagging in the back of my head screaming “Reasonable doubt! Reasonable doubt!”, so it’s hard to use that one with my life and wondering if I’m seeing things as they actually are.

So, the question of the day today (and probably for many tomorrows) is, “What if I’m wrong?” How would you feel if presented with this question. Please, leave your response in the comments below.

The friends you make…

So, when you spend time inpatient, you can get really close to the people you’re in there with. The area I was in specifically encouraged us to be there for each other while on the unit. We were each other’s most valuable support system while inpatient. I made some awesome sauce amazing friends this last time I was inpatient, and even though it’s only been a few weeks since I last saw them, I miss them a lot tonight. We all made promises that we’d keep in touch, and that we’d be there for each other, but I wonder if we all secretly knew that it wouldn’t happen.

Of course we all facebook friended each other the minute we got out, but that’s about as much as has happened. I miss these girls a lot, but there are others that I miss too, and they are the ones I’m really thinking about tonight. They were people that I specifically knew I would never be seeing again. How do people handle that? How can you knowingly get close to someone you will only know for a short while, and start to care for them, only to never see them again?

I don’t understand how I was able to make friends so easily in the hospital, because I certainly can’t do that out here in the real world. Maybe when you’re in the hospital, you are the ‘real’ you, and others are the ‘real’ them because there, well, there’s no one to impress, no social appearances needing to be kept up, no facades to hide behind. Your dirtiest secrets are laid out in therapy (if you’re open enough to share them) and for some reason, it bonds you all closer.

But there were other things that bonded us too, the dumb jokes we had, our escape route plans, our teasing of the other units; all these were times that were actually pretty fun between all the intensive therapy we were doing. I mean, not to get all super teary eyed nostalgic, but we had some enjoyable times. Times I never want to forget, for sure.

I mean, there was the time we went to gym and practiced our dance moves, and I swore I wouldn’t dance because we had a black tech and I was entirely too white to be embarrassing myself in front of her. Which we all ultimately ended up doing of course, and had a blast doing it. Then there were the techs who would joke around with us, and the time one did my hair because ‘I obviously had never done hair before’…which is true, I’m definitely not girly!

And then there was the night that one of the boys from another unit started mentioning how he would love some chocolate chip cookies. And he got louder and louder until the whole cafeteria could hear. So, me being me, I spoke up and said, “Man, some chocolate chip cookies would be delicious.” And he took off with it, and we bantered back and forth for a few minutes about how delicious chocolate chip cookies would be. It culminated in him going and standing by the cooks while we were talking and discussing how delicious those cookies sounded. He actually won out, because the next day he talked to the cafeteria staff and asked if they’d make some for dessert one day. And they did! Our unit lost out because by the time we got down to lunch, those boys had nearly eaten them all gone! He got the nickname Chocolate Chip from that first night on, and we were friends from the next day on when he came over to our table to introduce himself.

I made friends with a few of the boys on his unit, and they made my day so much brighter because of their presence. I knew once I left I’d never be seeing them again, but we made memorable moments. There was one boy who was listening to me talk about how rough therapy was going that day who gave me some invaluable advice…when shit gets rough and you can’t handle it anymore…think of a T-rex, trying to make his bed. And it helped turn my day around. One of the other boys, he would do ballerina moves to make us laugh and one of the girls on my unit got a huge crush on him. I told him after she discharged, and he always inquired after his stalker when I would see him.

And those were just casual friendships made. I made especially good friends with a girl in there, who I’ll call Sandra, and we were like peas and carrots. We’re both bipolar, and we just fit together. We both were admitted the same day, which was a Thursday, so we called ourselves Thursday’s child, and always joked that we ‘had far to go’. There’s an old poem that talks about children born on days of the week, and that’s where it came from. We would go out in the prison yard (as I called it), which was a tiny cinder blocked area for you to get some fresh air, and we’d joke about how we could make it over the fence and be on our way to freedom. We also had some good talks, and we learned to call each other out if we felt we weren’t being honest. I probably miss her the most, and talk to her the least 😦

Then there was a girl who had a bright pink jacket, and an episode where the tech with us opened the door to let us to our unit, and someone else opened the door to freedom at the same time, and I joked we should make a run for it…but if we did, I was tripping her for her shoes because she’d be the first one down anyway due to her noticeable jacket. She was so much fun, the stories she’d tell, and the expressions she’d make were priceless. I also befriended another girl in there, who I’ll call Sue…she was so super extreme that it just kept us in constant laughter. We were given journals to use while inpatient, and were encouraged to decorate them as expressions of ourselves. Well, Sue turned hers into a porn star advertisement and claimed it was going to be her newest ‘little black book’…which she did purely for the shock value that it would put on our therapist. We got a lot of laughs out of her book, and we got a lot of sweetness from her too. She was the one who would lend out her make-up to help us feel prettier while in there. She’s also the only one who successfully lied through her teeth to get discharged a mere 2 days after arriving. I know she had a little remorse for not dealing with her shit when she had the chance, but she’s doing what she needs to make it on the outside now. I wish I knew how well my other friends were doing too.

I also wonder about the other girls I wasn’t as close to. There were a couple of older women in there who I cared about, and I wonder how reality is treating them. There was a girl my age who had been there nearly a month by the time I left, and I wonder about her too.

I reread The 5 People You Meet in Heaven  while in there, and part of it really stayed with me, and relates to this whole post. Everyone’s stories are connected…some stories interchange with another’s, some lay on top of another’s, and some stories are side by side to each others. Every person that I met there was part of my story in someway, somehow, and they all changed and shaped me, from the dear friends I made, to the staff, and to the patients on other units. I have a whole lot to say about the staff there and how they affected me, but that’s a post for another time and another day.

So the thing I guess I learned the most about all these friends and acquaintances is to just accept them into your life for the time they are there. Practice mindfulness. Enjoy the moments you have with people, and don’t rehash the past out when you’re with them, nor stress about the future worrying about not being with them. Just enjoy that time you have because you’ll never get it back. I’m new to this whole mindfulness thing, having never heard of it before my stay there (it’s a big part of DBT, among other things) and I tried to practice it and just simply be in the moment with the people there. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from missing them now, but I’m not dwelling in self pity over them no longer being in my life. I’m simply acknowledging that I feel nostalgic, and am doing something about it. Several somethings in fact, lol. I messaged several of them tonight to see how they were doing, and of course, here I am blogging about it too.

This mindfulness thing is something I’m striving to do with all my relationships now. I am trying to live in the moment with each one, because each moment is really all we have. We don’t know if we’ll have another moment to follow, so we need to appreciate the here and now, and be grateful for it…it is called the present after all.