My Journey to Stability, Pt. 3

by Shara Adams

A circle of blurred faces surrounded me, all talking at once. The level of chaos outpaced my own mind and I struggled to keep track of what was going on. Drugged and intoxicated beyond capable cognition, the world began to slip away once again. In the mess of voices, the realization of my fragile state caught the action of the paramedics and I was whisked down the stairs from the apartment to the ambulance. Because of the design of our place, a stretcher was worthless. They half carried, and half walked me down the precarious stairway. Once I was inside the bus, one of the paramedics joined me and began a pleasant conversation with me.

Blonde hair and blue eyes watched me intently. It may have been my lost mind, but at that moment, he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen. Smiling, I was lost in his hypnotizing gaze. His voice was soft and inviting. I felt like I could listen to it forever, and I did listen to it the whole way to the emergency room. He conversed with me to keep me awake and cognitive of what was around me, and it worked perfectly. It also kept my mind off the fact my husband had not come with me. I did not notice this fact in the middle of everything going on; he was completely absent from my side.

Once inside the ER, I was forced to drink charcoal from a small cup, and it did not take long for it to make a reappearance. It was absolutely disgusting, and my toxic stomach contents were having none of it. Frustrated nurses yelled at me for throwing it up and then gave me another cup – but I never touched it to my lips. Without something to focus on, I was slipping away from the bright lights of the room. Metal walls of the elevator were my final memory before losing consciousness. I have no recollection of being in the ICU or being ‘asleep’. No dreams or thoughts; it was as if I went to bed and woke up the next morning but waking up this time was a much different experience.

Stirring in the hospital bed, my eyes opened several days after my arrival. I felt lost and confused at my surroundings, but my eyes fell on a familiar face and relief washed over me. I am sure she felt the swell of relief as well. My mom had driven about 740 miles in eight hours to be by my side. We later calculated that she had averaged about 95 mph the entirety of the drive, never being pulled over. There was always a driver going faster than she was, and they were the ones to get caught. Her foot never left the gas pedal, and I will never make fun of her panic.

Once awake and somewhat aware of where I was, I noticed the lack of a certain person from the room: my husband. This was something my mom attempted to fix, but it was only mildly successful. He came to visit me once during my entire stay, but never said a word and refused to look at me. He sat on my bed and I rubbed his back, but nothing I did to interact with the stone-faced body made any difference. His blatant resentment was more than I could overcome. I began to wonder if I went too far to prove my point, but it also seemed to be working.

The chaos from the apartment had compartmentalized in my mind, blurry and distant memories, just like that night.

by Shara Adams

For more stories by Shara Adams, visit http://pennedinwhite.com.

My First Time.

I have never been hospitalized before. I think that I am pretty good at hiding things, but I couldn’t hide this from myself. I knew there was something wrong. I wasn’t sleeping more than a couple hours, I was becoming emotionally abusive, and I was falling back into overspending. Mania. This isn’t the first time I have been manic this year, but I hope it is the last. I moved into a new apartment earlier this week and I already can’t make rent. I am exhausting. I am tired from being me.

I took myself down to the hospital which I think we can agree is a feat on its own. Not having insurance was both a blessing a curse. The plus side is that I could choose whatever hospital I wanted and the downside is that I am uninsured. I can’t help but laugh that this insanely expensive vacation I just took and I didn’t even get to go to the pool. I am constantly, actively working to better myself. I take my medication, go to all my doctors appointments, religiously see my therapist, use the breathing exercises. I am not immune to it. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. Clean, hospital like in some ways, slightly degrading, and cold. BUT I am blessed to have gone to a place that provided me a private room and bathroom. Granted, everything was bolted to the floor and the bathroom had no door. Overall it was a really nice place filled with people actively trying to get better.

I was sad and anxious that I was taking all these days unpaid, but I had to. I had to go and get help. It was an out of body experience watching me set fire to all the relationships that took years to rebuild. One conversation has sent it all tumbling down. Here I am, trying to intervene and slow the damage. I was discharged yesterday afternoon and it seems that my grandparents are going to be the hardest to recover. I suppose it is divine timing because we just moved away after living next door to them. I am fortunate to still have my mom in my corner because it would be hell living together for the next year if I am going to be the source of her pain and anger.

I am doing better today. Better than yesterday, better than a week ago. I just have to keep pushing forward. My anxiety is manageable right now and I hope that it stays that way. I hope that this made inpatient stays a little less scary for those who haven’t experienced it.

Keep fighting the good fight!

You Don’t Need to be Ashamed of Being Hospitalized for your Mental Illness

Why is it that we’ve normalized being in the hospital for physical illnesses; but when it comes to mental health you’re immediately labeled crazy for being hospitalized. Society has played out hospitalization for your mental health in a negative way. Only the “crazy” people go into the psych ward.

I’m here to tell you that is wrong and the stigma needs to end. I was embarrassed and ashamed for a long time that I was hospitalized for my mental health. I kept it a secret from family members and friends because I was so embarrassed. I knew the negative stigma it had behind it and I didn’t want to be labeled as the “crazy” girl who spent time in the psych ward.

If you’re in the hospital for a physical illness it has a completely different stigma and no one is quick to judge over that. But God forbid you go into the psych ward people will immediately judge you for being crazy.

I committed myself into the psych ward when I was 18 years old. I was at an extremely low point with my depression. I was struggling on a daily basis with suicidal thoughts & self harm, and I knew that if I didn’t go to the hospital to get help I was going to harm myself.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me when I was in there, but I knew I needed the help. I didn’t know much about a mental hospital except for what I read in psychology books and some movies like One Flew Over’s the Cuckoo’s Nest. My perception was completely wrong and that’s why more people need to speak up about being hospitalized. If I weren’t hospitalized I probably wouldn’t be here writing this today.

I stayed the full 72 hours in the mental hospital and it was an experience I would never forget. My first day there I was a little scared because I was the youngest in the adult ward. I was admitted into the “crisis” ward since I had tried to kill myself and was with others who had struggled with suicide like myself. I was surprised with how normal everyone was though. In books and movies they make it seem like everyone is bat shit crazy going off their rocker screaming random words every second. That is not at all what it’s like.

Yes, there were some in there with more severe illnesses than others, but it wasn’t as bad as society makes it out to be. They had separated the sections to where it was a female section of the psych ward along with a male section of the psych ward. We were allowed “rec” time once a day for an hour where we got to go outside and socialize with everyone.

They had taken most of my belongings when I was admitted, so I was without a phone for those three days. There was a small library so, I did a lot of reading while I was in there. I also got to know the other women in my area as well. They were all very nice & welcoming towards me. It was interesting hearing their own stories, some were rape victims, domestic violence victims, been on and off medications, and just wanted help & support.

I’ll admit I was a little quick to judge my first day there and kept thinking to myself, “I don’t belong in here. I’m not crazy at all like the other people in here.” But the more I got to know the others, the more I realized they were normal too. Just because we’ve struggled with self-harm and have a mental illness doesn’t mean we’re crazy and should be an outcast to society.

Having spent the three days in the mental hospital taught me a lot. The biggest lesson it taught me was to not be so quick to judge. Each one of us is doing the best we can to survive and it is perfectly okay to reach out for help. It helped me accept my own mental illness and to receive the help I needed for a long time.

Rural Mental Health 911

There I was, minding my own mental health business when someone I know (read my husband of the last 20 years who is growing on me) suggested I travel with him through rural South Africa.  He is doing a review on the state of rural health, whether there are sufficient doctors, nurses and other necessary stuff for health to be delivered in a context where everyone – let alone people with mental health challenges – are vulnerable.  At first I wondered why on earth he would want me, the multiple mental illness disordered someone to travel with him, as I’m not really the kind of gal you can take pretty much anywhere (and who has consistent unreasonable demands that cannot be met).  For example, I was completely outraged that they did not have a cappucino (extra shot of espresso with cream) at a petrol station in the very rural parts of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  I mean honestly, rural health is a challenge, but no proper coffee?  This could lead to war and I am the most concerned for these coffee poor people. Anyone with mental illness within a 500 km radius is clearly suffering – if you can’t get over your pill hangover with proper coffee what can you do??

More seriously what struck me was a number of stark, non mental health friendly realities that exist in this environment.   Firstly (in no order of priority):  everything is FAR (like really far) and that means that healthcare (regardless of the reason) is difficult if not impossible to access.  If I think about the times that I needed to go to hospital, urgently (cryingly / psychotically etc) needed to see my psychiatrist / psychologist, the mind boggles at how you would access these kinds of services in rural areas in Africa when you are EXTREMELY vulnerable. Second:  I know for a fact (and it’s confirmed by research) that mental health / illness awareness is low if non-existent.  Coupled with this, as we all know, there are also many mental illnesses where insight into your own illness is low (and most likely to be some of the most severe illnesses).  Thirdly:  even when you know you’ve I dunno, felt sad and manic your whole life, and would like treatment, you are likely to be made to feel worse by way of reception from your local family / community / health workers (or all of the above) whom you may or may not be able to access after travelling loads of km’s with money or food that is in very, very short supply.

And then my personal favourite:  let’s assume you’ve been able to jump all these hurdles: if you need to be hospitalised, a “bed” is usually on a first come about to die basis, so if you’re not in the act of death and / or dying there usually isn’t a bed,  an actual psychiatrist on call, or available, approriate medication to treat you with what is often considered to be a rather minor, made-up ailment.   I have personally been told on admitting that I was suicidal and needed hospitalisation that I should come back later.  Insert witty comment here, as I have no words.  This was certainly my experience in urban areas, so I imagine that in rural areas, this must be very, very much worse.  Added to this, Emergency Medical Services in the Province has been known to go on STRIKE.  Yes.  All available ambulances were on a um, go slow.

If I lived here, I would participate in the strike and my own mental health by asking them to put me out to pasture with the cows, and hope that I be struck with lightening as a manner to reset my clearly broken brain and body.  Better than waking up without coffee, to have to walk / hike far to a facility that would be too full, or to be “turned away” by an ambulance that wasn’t working that day.  Am I making fun of this situation?  What would I suggest in this deplorable state of affairs?  I really don’t know.  I don’t know how many people with mental illness live here, what they need, and how we can help and make sure that things change.  After all – we live in the country with one of the most enabling constitutions in the whole world – and further rights that are enshrined in our bill of rights.  Unfortunately though – in the past couple of days, I have seen that this means very little if anything – to people who don’t even have their basic human rights respected, let alone access to health.  We need help, we need to make a noise, and not stop until it changes.  And YOU need to be part of it. African Mental Health Matters Too!  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Guest Blog Spot – Douglas

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

https://douglas-shoback.com

My Bipolar Experience with the ER

In the first three years of my diagnosis with Bipolar One, I was often rushed to the emergency room. Most of the time it was my family worried that I was suicidal or that I was a danger to myself. I went in for being extremely depressed to uncontrollable anxiety and panic attacks so many times over the course of these years. Each experience was different but similar in so many ways.

There were times where my psychiatrist didn’t like what I said in a session and I was brought by police car to the emergency room.

I have talked about how the hospital visits was a major part of the first three years of my diagnosis. I would go in for uncontrollable panic attacks, some of the worst of my life.

From 2007-2010 the emergency room became my home away from home.

I remember one stretch in 2008 where twice a week for months I would end up in the emergency room for suicidal thoughts or uncontrollable anxiety. The nurses and doctors all knew me by name. It was so bad that year that I left my house for two reasons. Doctors appointments and hospital visits.

My experiences there were not always good, and here is why. So many times I went to the hospital I was very suicidal, but more times than not the crisis counselor would just ignore how depressed I was and would have me write out my feelings. I would sign a paper saying I wouldn’t harm myself and they would release me, but it was all bullshit.

It’s really a problem with the system. If the psychiatric ward is overcrowded, as it usually was during these visits, it was easier for the staff to release me to my parents only to be there a week later. My only psychiatric ward visits were after I tried to commit suicide. This basically told me I had to actually act to get help.

Would I have liked being put away in the psych ward? Of course not. But there were times between my second suicide attempt and my last where it might have made a difference. Especially in months leading up to my last suicide attempt. I wonder sometimes if the crisis counselor would have truly listened to me, I might have been put on a 51/50 and it could have gotten more help.

It really came down to the simple fact that there are not enough resources to go around for those with a mental illness. At least in my experiences with the American healthcare system. My times in the emergency room did little help me, it only really served as reasons to hide what was really wrong with me.

Nothing really was ever fixed, though part of it was that I didn’t want help and preferred to hide things, the signs were there for them to commit me.

I remember one emergency room visit after my family learned that I was cutting on my arms. Some of the cuts were deep. I somehow convinced the hospital staff that I would stop, as long as I signed a paper and said I wouldn’t do it again, the hospital covered their ass. But how does that help?

I continued to cut deeper into my arms and when I couldn’t hide it with jackets without my family checking I moved to cutting my legs to hide it better. The deep cuts on my arms were a cry for help, and yet the system isn’t designed to help. It’s all about doing it on your own. Seek help on your own. As long as we as the hospital is covered, you’re on your own.

I even once told the crisis counselor that I was suicidal and I wanted to kill myself, but he talked me out of believing that was true, and again as long as I signed the paper that I wouldn’t do why I said, I released to my parents.

My point is that for so many years I needed help from the system and that didn’t really go anywhere. It was only a few years after my last suicide attempt that I got real help. For years it was basically me in denial and never getting real hope that things would ever get better.

My experience was simply something that made it harder for me down the line to fix my issues. When I would go to the ER with panic attacks they would pump me with Ativan and release me, telling me to go see my doctor. My psychiatrist as helpful as he was only upped my doses of medication.

It’s a system that does very little for people with a mental illness. That is something I want to change. Those of us with a mental illness need to have real resources available to us right away. I was told so many times that I should seek outside help, but having no money or health insurance meant those words were just empty.

Other illnesses get better support, and yet those of us in the mental illness community are often forgotten or told there is nothing they can really do.

I am curious if my emergency room experiences differ from others in the mental illness community? Does the system work better now than it did at the beginning of my journey?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoNevin Ruttanaboonta