Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sketches Off Crazy

trees and birds I wished were happy
Last week was hard.

Normal people read that as: Oh, something bad happened. What can I do? Want a hug?

Mentally ill folks read that and think: Oh, that fight. That's a craptastic fight. You're still here! **knuckle-bump/high five**

NOTE: I feel inclined to share my experience, but would like to offer a warning. The following account is told through my filter, and I was irritated, grumpy, and trying very hard to control the angry urges screaming through my head. You may find this offensive.

By Monday (March 31) last week, I'd pretty much lost track of time. By Wednesday, I'd forgotten I had a therapy appointment that day and could barely drag myself out of bed. Thursday none of my coping skills worked, and Friday I asked my daughter to stay home with me because I was afraid to be left alone. Not because I suddenly had anxiety about being alone, but because part of my mind was insisting I try to peel my skin off. I was consistently scratching my arm and face. (Didn't draw blood, because I have this super-power where the logic part fights the non-logic part and stops me from doing anything toooo nutso)

By 11:20 a.m. on Friday I was in the doctor's office with my husband answering questions.
Q: Do you have a plan?   -- this is always the first question they ask. And I was asked this by at least five different doctors/triage nurses/crisis workers/etc throughout the day.

A: No. Not because I don't want a plan, but because I cannot have one. I have kids who need me, a plan is not an option. Would I like one? Would it be an immense relief to not have to fight this battle in my head every day? Oh hell yes. But it's not an option, because I am needed here. If I had a plan, it would be carried out and done. So no, I don't have a plan.

Some of the other questions: Do you drink or take drugs? How is your energy level? What is your relationship like with your family members? Are you sleeping? If you went home right now, would you be safe? What meds are you on right now? Have you been taking them? And on and on and on.

You have to go through the emergency room and their crisis unit worker for intake, so we head off to the E.R. of the hospital. Long story short: The hospital took our medical insurance, but not the behavioral health portion. I LIKED this hospital and was not happy at having to leave. Didn't matter; at 4pm we headed over to a different hospital and a 2nd E.R. To avoid ambulance fees, we opted to be discharged and Rob contracted with the crisis worker to absolutely positively not take me home.

Now, there is a whole 'nother story with this E.R. visit, because I was at this E.R. last month, for a completely different issue, and had a doctor who dismissed me and sedated me when I insisted she was wrong. And I got the SAME DOCTOR. She patted me on the head, said it sure just sucks to be 40, and prepared to address my uterine issues, which were NOT why I was there. She then gave me another freaking sedative, which made me so groggy that my husband had to help answer the intake therapists questions.

Oh, and she had to point out that the officers in the E.R. were out there to make sure I didn't run away. Because even though I was there voluntarily, asking for help, apparently I was a flight risk??? Rob kept me distracted with trivia games, but I was furious.

At 9:45pm (that's almost 10 1/2 hours if you're keeping track) I was finally admitted to the psyche ward. Rob takes my things home because they won't allow my meds or phone in the hospital, and at that point I'm in a hospital gown, so he takes the bag with my clothes, too. They don't let him accompany me to the psyche floor...

...So when I get there, and they tell me I can put my street clothes on, I don't have any. Joy of joys, they give me what they have on hand, which is either waaaay too small to waaaay too big. I wear what I can sort of fit into and wait until Rob can bring me clothes the next day.
(NOTE: The day I was released, my eldest daughter and I cleaned out our closets and took over bags of clothing and shoes to donate.)

In the psyche ward you get:
A comb, baby body wash/shampoo combo, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, two small towels, toilet paper? (I had to go ask the nurses for toilet paper, so I'm not sure if that's supposed to be provided or not,) a pair of socks, and a bed with no sheets, but some kind of stretchy material that's not quite a blanket but pretends to be? And if you want conditioner for your hair, the nurses have some they keep in a locked room they'll put into a little cup thingy for you if you ask. (They buy it themselves because the hospital won't supply it, which is very thoughtful of them.)

I kept the socks I had from the first hospital and was the only patient there with blue socks. I felt like a rebellious teenager with my blue socks surrounded by the ugly yellow ochre (baby poop) pairs of socks that surrounded me. Those socks made me super happy.

When I called home, I was allowed to request:
a hairbrush with plastic bristles, clothes w/ no drawstrings, and a robe.
I was not allowed to request any movies, board games, card games, or even my sketch book or charcoals or art pencils.

I was bored. A Lot.

If people wanted to get ahold of me, they could call or visit, but they had to have a special code.

Oh, and visiting hours... They set aside an hour and a half for visiting hours on specific days during specific times. Ok, fine, that works. They tell you that you get a half hour for up to two people at a time. Ok, fine. What they don't explain is that you get a half hour TOTAL of visiting time. So the first day I could have visitors, and I had seven people show up and they had to split the thirty minutes up into ten minute increments. That sucked.

What follows is my emotional journey, because along with the second hand clothes and toiletries, I got a journal and a teensy little pencil. I went through a bunch of those little pencils.

Because I was raised with the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" rule, I expressed my fury in the journal.
On Saturday, I went to my first group session. Grumpy, angry, and still in a mental fog because nothing had been adjusted with my meds, I went and sat and worked eyes and a mouth in claw marks into my hand while people talked. I realized something while I sat there. These people were in real pain. I did not fit in with them in a way that I still don't quite understand. I don't have the same pain, I don't have the same family lives or trauma or reason to be broken. They have real reasons.

I have a chemical imbalance. I was the odd sock of the group, me and my blue socks.

Then the social worker/therapist called on me and asked me to participate, so I started listening to her. I wish I hadn't.

Shhhhh, don't trust these people
She wanted to know what everyone's interests were, and wouldn't you know it, she loved those things, too, or was an expert on said subject. My instincts told me she wanted and needed our approval, which made me disinclined to give it to her because she was trying to hard to sound official.

I immediately decided I didn't trust her, and definitely didn't want to talk to her.

Oh, and the coping skills we were going over? If people had questions about them, like "how does being compassionate to yourself even sound?" she moved on to the next one. Awesome.

I was irritated by people not brushing their hair
but I don't know why.
Then, oh lucky me, L came to my room after group, handed me a sheet of paper entitled Safety Plan, and said I needed to fill it out. She wanted to find out everything about me, and I really didn't want to talk to her. After giving her a very brief description of why I was there, she said, "Oh, maybe you need two or three safety plans to help handle yourself after your upcoming surgery." And she said again that I should practice being compassionate to myself, and maybe grounding. Did I know what grounding was? I said yes, I did.

(Note: yep, sure I should practice being compassionate with myself. That is true. Doesn't mean I wanted her to be the one telling me.)

I looked at the sheet of coping skills to see if her definition of grounding was the same as mine.

Nope. My definition of grounding is completely different.

Their definition reads: Detach from emotional pain (grounding)   Distract, walk away, change the channel. 

My definition is: Holding onto/blending with/getting energy from a source.

After I'm done illustrating the words, I look over the safety plan and wonder if she'd heard me at all about why I was there, and, HELLLOOOOOOO, I was there willingly, remember??

So by this time I feel more angry and annoyed.

And then I decide to make fun of the safety plan, but I am still pissed, because if I can snark at things, it takes the edge off.

So that day ended, they doubled the dose of my anti-depressant and the psychiatrist said that yes, I am definitely Bi-Polar type II and started me on a mood stabilizer. And Lo, I start to feel like me again!

Ok, I felt good until I had to talk to L again.

She wanted to talk about the safety plan. When I told her my triggers were my meds not working, she told me that was rationalizing my behavior, and that I needed to think beyond that.

Look. I KNOW I have some great self-control, and I used it getting myself to the hospital without hurting myself severely, without hurting my kids, And, amazingly enough, without yelling, snarking, swearing, or being mean to the nurses or even to L. It didn't change how I FELT, which was out of my control until the meds kicked in.

Conversations with L left me feeling like this:

And then the meds really started working, and I started doing things like this:

I was going for dragon. Cover up the right horn and it's a unicorn

What I loved most about J, the therapist who took over during the weekdays, was that when I went into her office to talk to her and I explained why I was there, she immediately changed from 'addict mode' to 'person mode.' We talked about things I can do to improve my relationships with my kids, I trusted her with details. She listened. I loved her.

New therapist, new Group sessions with meditation and stuff, actual discussions

One of the days I had really bad uterine spasms. I didn't draw anything that day. I spent all my time curled up with hot blankets while the wind blew and the rain speckled my windows.

Every night just before 9pm, my husband and my kids would go outside on the front lawn and do flashlight dances for a couple of minutes before bed-time. I looked forward to it all day, since kids under 14 are not allowed to visit the psyche ward.

By the time I was released, my room began to feel like a jail cell, and the other patients began to wear on  my nerves. I couldn't fix them, I couldn't help them, as much as I wanted to. Nothing was ever their fault, and they hated the nurses. I loved the nurses and felt like they have a hard, hard, thankless job.

Posted this on facebook April 11, 14 :

I feel blessed. God has been very generous to me, and I am grateful. I have a husband who loves me fiercely, kids who happily did flashlight dances in the front yard so I could see them say good night from my hospital window every night. I have awesome friends who helped Rob be Mr. Mom, who love my children and help them when I fall short, and who love me and accept me, failures and frailties included.

I saw so much pain in the hospital. So many people who didn't have the kind of support I have. Whose families were nothing like I am familiar with. Whose lives were hops from one hit to another, one place to another, not knowing where they were going to live or stay or be. Or who had so much personal pain they ended up there because they were trying to end it all.

I felt greatly humbled. I did not fit the mold. I was there because I was starting to have a psychotic break, yes. But not because I'd had any recent trauma. Comparatively, my life is rose-colored, rich, fulfilling, and beautiful.

Today I can see all that, and I am grateful. Grateful for my friends, my family, the spring sunshine and warmth, all of it. I may have things I moan and groan about - we all do. But I am very glad I can see the things worth celebrating. It's hard when the haze of depression hides them.


  1. *hugs* You are a saint - under those circumstances, I probably would have killed someone. Or at least been very unpleasant!

    And so cool of you to share!

    Love you, Chris-chan!

  2. Welcome back, my bestest friend. I missed you. <3