Today I am sharing a guest spot from Douglas about his last hospital visit in the psychiatric ward. Douglas really wanted to share his story so it will presented here on The Bipolar Writer blog. It shows the realities of our health care system and highlights how tough it can be for the mental illness community. You can find Douglas on his blog– https://douglas-shoback.com
My Hospital Stay
Just got out of the mental hospital where I never should have been. I wasn’t suicidal, wasn’t going to harm myself or anyone.
On Monday I was feeling extremely depressed. A depression that was getting worse and worse. I started having suicidal thoughts. Not suicidal ideation, I wasn’t forming a plan, and I had no intention of harming myself. But I didn’t want to get to that point.
A good friend told me to go to the ER to be observed. Also, I’ve been trying to get into an Intensive Outpatient Program for months, and nobody had been helping me. Besides, I had lost my medical insurance in July.
Luckily, I had managed to get insurance through the Marketplace for a $476 premium (Yay American health care!)
My only transportation to the ER was by bus, and I couldn’t handle that at the moment. So I called 911. I explained I was very depressed but knew myself and my illness, and that I didn’t want to get to the point of harming myself. Not once did I say I was going to harm myself. Just that I wanted to be observed.
5 minutes later a fire truck and the police show up at my apartment. It was really embarrassing. They made me sit on the back of the fire truck, took my vitals, and treated me like an unstable person. The police never removed their hands from the top of their guns.
Soon, an ambulance shows up. More vitals, more questions, more denials that I wanted to harm myself.
I was loaded into the ambulance, and they took off, siren blazing, to an unknown hospital.
After a 20 minute, anxiety-inducing ride, I’m shuffled into the ER where I repeat myself for the 5th time.
Blood is taken, I pee in a cup because it’s assumed I’m a substance abuser. After an hour wait, a nurse comes in and asks me the same questions as everyone else. I tell her I have insurance, but the cards haven’t been sent yet. Nonetheless, my insurance is active, and I give her the phone number to the company to verify that it is.
I tell her I’m diabetic and need my insulin. I tell her all my medications. I stress again I’m not having suicidal ideation or have a plan. I’m just very depressed and want to be watched. And, oh, can you find me an IOP? Thanks!
Soon a doctor comes in. Says she hears I’m suicidal. I once again say I am not, I just don’t want to get there. Oh, can I have insulin now? I’m diabetic.
She scribbles things down, and I’m left to my own. For 2 hours. Then 5 hours. No insulin, no medication. While waiting, another patient is put in my room, and I get to hear all of his personal information. And still, I wait.
Dinner is brought to me. It’s all carbohydrates. I still haven’t received my insulin. And it’s going on 8 hours now. I know nothing.
Getting fed up, I venture into the hall and ask a random nurse what’s going on with me. He said he’ll get my nurse. A new nurse comes in 30 minutes later to explain that because I don’t have insurance, they’re trying to find me a bed in a state mental hospital.
By now I’m pissed. First, why am I going to a mental hospital? Second, I have fucking insurance. I tell her this, and she goes off to validate my insurance again.
My roommate has already been discharged to a mental hospital for 2 hours now.
It’s now 2:00 am. I still haven’t had my medications or my insulin. I protest, but nothing happens.
Around 6:00 in the morning I’m informed that they finally found my insurance information and are trying to find me a bed in a private mental hospital. I ask again why I’m being admitted. I’m told because I came in suicidal. Auuuuuugh!
It takes another 6 hours for them to find me a bed. I’m told they’re fast-tracking my intake. Around 3:00 pm, I’m told they’ve found me a bed in a hospital 12 miles away. I just need to be transported there now.
Loaded into another ambulance, strapped into a gurney, and we take off. It begins to pour rain, and flash flood warnings are sent out.
50 minutes later, via many diversions down alleys due to flooded streets, I’m finally wheeled into the mental hospital. I’m starting to think that now, finally, I can get some rest and get my meds. I’m starting to go through withdrawal. It’d been 36 hours since I’d taken them.
Nope, I’m placed in a triage room to wait. And wait. And wait. I try to sleep, but it’s so hot in my room, I’m coated in sweat.
Suddenly, in the room next to me, loud screams start along with horrendous banging and clanging. The person in the room next to me entered into psychosis and tore apart the recliners the provided us. Metal was clanging, and he started banging his head against the small glass window in the door, eventually breaking it. He kept chanting “kill me, kill me, kill me.”
The staff was so ineffective at calming him down, the police had to be called in and transport him god knows well. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.
I still hadn’t had my medication, and my anxiety was overwhelming. I just curled in a ball and hoped it is over soon.
Eventually, someone came to see me. They took my stuff, put it in a bag to lock up. They took my phone and other valuables and locked them in a safe. I signed a bunch of forms and, finally, was transported to the 4th floor to my bed.
Except not. I had to sit and wait for another 45 minutes by the nurse’s station while they put my file together. There were no computers, no technology. Only binders and paper.
I asked if I could have my medication and my insulin. I was told I would have to wait until morning when I could see the doctor. But, hey, here’s a Benadryl!
It’d now been 48 hours since I had my meds and even longer since I had my insulin.
Finally, I was thrown some scrubs–too small–and shown to my room.
My bed was a plastic mattress crammed into a wooden frame. My pillow was some rubber monstrosity tucked into a scratch pillowcase. My room was blistering hot and, since we were near the lake, humid as fuck. I didn’t sleep well that night.
I have a fitful sleep. 7:00 am rolls around, and I’m called out of bed to take vitals. Blood pressure. No insulin still. But at least they checked my blood sugars.
A breakfast of dry eggs, mushy square potatoes, and sausage. I return to my room and try to sleep.
Around 10:00 am, I’m called to see the medical doctor. He asks me about my physical conditions and is appalled that I haven’t had my insulin in almost 56 hours. Apparently, the ER never mentioned in my paperwork that I’m diabetic.
He immediately prescribed me my non-psych meds, and I finally get my insulin.
10:30 I see the psychiatrist. She listens to me and agrees I never should have been admitted as an inpatient. But because of the forms I signed, I’m stuck here for 3 days. My heart sinks.
She prescribed my psych meds, and I’m finally given them after over 56 hours. But not all of them. Because this hospital is so disorganized m, they missed several of my meds and have to pull my profile from my pharmacy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck!
At least I get the ones I’m withdrawing from. I return to my room and try to sleep again.
The first day passed in a blur. Between bouts of sleep, all I do is eat and use the bathroom. I didn’t leave my bed the whole first day.
The next day they finally had worked out all my meds. I get everything when I’m supposed to, except I have to correct the nurses constantly on dosage and check I’m getting the right medication.
The next 3 days are rife with fuckups. There is only one glucometer for the entire hospital on 5 floors. The staff can’t read the doctor’s orders. Group therapy caters to the lowest common denominator.
This was an experience on a Ken Kesey level. I was finally released on Friday after checking in on Tuesday. But not after the staff lost some of my belongings and forgot to return my CPAP.
I could go on and on about how horrible this was. Mental health treatment in the country is basically locking up patients like prisoners, medicating them, then shoving them out the door. Mental health is one of the most neglected health issues in this country.
I was seeking an IOP and short observation. Instead, I’m admitted as an inpatient and treated with no respect and have no dignity.
When healthcare is run as for profit, it fucks everyone in the country.
thanks, Bill Watterson
Featured Image Credit: Jon Butterworth https://unsplash.com/@jonjons