Down the rabbit hole
This is the first entry in perhaps a series of blog posts about my 10-day psychiatric hospitalization in May 2016.
This is me, sitting in Dr. W’s [my therapist, a clinical psychologist] office. Last week, she poked at me until I cried [metaphorically with repetitive questions and empathy]. I suppose there’s no good way to ask your patient if they’re suicidal. She asks me again this session, and I keep answering her queries with too specific details.
I trust her enough, so I tell her what I know: That I’m afraid I’ll stop being careful, have a lapse in thinking [in wanting to be done], and I’ll find myself in traffic. Halfway through session, we stop working and Dr. W starts calling inpatient units and day hospitalization programs.
I’m scared. Hospitalization (“a higher level of care”) was never an outcome I, who took medication as prescribed and went to therapy regularly, expected. But here I am: She calls, then explains to them (“autistic, very high-functioning, my patient…”), and then reassures me. We repeat this pattern, until Dr. W. finds someone who can admit me the same day.
She makes sure I have a ride and writes down the address for the psychiatric hospital: private, quiet, a rest; I hope. Maybe this is the worst it gets. I’m disappointed in myself and scared. I leave J. a message. She picks up, and I talk about real time, where my depression has gone — is taking me. And I am lost.
J. comes to Dr. W’s office; I see J ask Dr. W. professional questions; I’ve never seen J. the MFT [marriage and family therapist], just my friend, the woman who leads my writing group. And I am scared. Dr. W. gives J. a plan to keep me safe, and we call another friend (M) to drive me to the hospital. Dr. W reminds me to stay close, to stay safe. In the car with J. She takes me home.
I finish my sandwich — lunch eaten hours later. J gives M. a list of what I should pack — no sharp objects, no drawstrings or laces, simple crafts and books to keep me busy [I wish I would have known only paperbacks were allowed], comfortable clothing. I am going to the psych hospital.
This is scary. M. picks out my clothes, goes through my purse from that day — tosses out possible contraband. I keep talking, trying to steady myself in this new reality. We make me a list of phone numbers before we leave [my close friends, my clinicians, and the cafe proprietor]: “All these people care about you Big Time!”
We get in M’s car, and I promise to make her stop if I feel the urge to jump out (her child locks don’t seem to be working, so this is our contingency plan) — this is terrifying. I talk; M. drives. This doesn’t feel real. I don’t feel real. We reach the gates.
I get out of the car. I fill out intake forms and high-five M. for the boxes I don’t have to check. [What insight I still have — into myself and my mental state — feels valuable.] I wait. M. stays with me. The nurse arrives, and we fill out more forms. Neither M., nor I, are prepared for this, but we try. To be calm, even lighthearted. I am checking myself into a psychiatric hospital — dear god. M. leaves and promises to contact those who need to know.
I sit my iPod. The electronic Irishwoman reads the Bloggess’s Furiously Happy to me. I get a cardboard t-Rex out of my [coping skills] bag. The bag with the rainbow of hearts on it. I wait with a sack lunch from the hospital fridge, a well-needed dinner. I distract myself the best I can. I meet with the social worker who describes my patient rights and then another nurse. We walk to the unit. It is late.
I show an MHA [mental health associate or psychiatric tech] my body, dressed in only a sports bra and underwear. This is for my own safety: checking for injuries and hidden items. Because, as my paperwork states descriptively, I’m a danger to myself. This is the beginning of my vulnerability.
She tells me to run my finger along the crease of fabric under my breasts. I’m not hiding anything. She is professional. We perform our roles well. I sit at the desk with the unit’s night nurse who fills out more paperwork with me. She is kind and reassuring. [I learn later that this nurse works with children too.] I am scared and exhausted. The unit is quiet.
This is Wonderland.