Earlier I said I would tell more about my inpatient stay, and I do want to do that in case someone else is scared to go to the hospital like I was. Every hospital is different, but if you are desperate enough, any hospital beats suicide, so please go.
When I finally decided to go (and undecided about 20 times while on the way there and in the waiting room) I was so terrified I was scaling my husband like a cat climbing a tree. It is safe to say that I have never been so scared in my entire life.
There were a lot of hoops to jump through just to get there, or rather, locked door after locked door. I went through most of these hoops with my husband and a nice young woman who was talking on her cell phone Zomg she did not have a cell phone. She was just talking to herself, like, a complete conversation. Also, she would cry for a few seconds, then laugh. I was certain they were going to put me in a room with her and then my anxiety would get so high I would literally stick to the ceiling. “Don’t worry,” my husband whispered. “You aren’t like her.” Wasn’t worried about that. I was worried that everyone was going to be just that cuckoo. And the ceiling thing.
But as it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. They put me in the Veteran’s unit, where there were mostly surly people like myself. The lady who was her own best friend went elsewhere.
All I had with me was my purse. They took it and locked it up. No cell phones here. No computers. (ZOMG the withdrawalllll) Also nothing that could ever, ever in your wildest imagination, be used to harm yourself. Like my shoe laces. I wondered exactly what you would do with shoelaces since they were too short for a decent noose then I thought well maybe someone could try to choke themselves, but that seems difficult, or cut off circulation, and then I thought, you know, I really don’t want to know. Please no one tell me. My shoes wouldn’t stay on without laces, so I had to give those to my husband. Also my hair clip. And my bra with the underwire. Thankfully not my undies.
Then a guy asked me to rate my depression and anxiety on a scale from one to ten. This would be the first of MANY times this question was asked. When I said ten (or really 20) on both, he said “If it’s because you’re here, don’t worry. It’s not One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They’re putting you in the Veteran’s unit. They’re pretty laid back over there.” You know, for mental patients. I was not convinced. They then separated me from my husband and my terror notched up higher still. They took me through more locked doors (up to the dungeon!) and into the unit. One guy was sitting out reading a book. Other than that, it was nurses. I sat and waited for them to take vitals while they pretty much ignored me. After a while, I started near hyperventilating with my crybabies, but most people in Camp Loopy didn’t seem to notice. I guess they see it enough.
Finally after checking me out for scars and bruises (I had a few but I explained that I honestly, for reals, just walked into walls on a regular basis), they left me in my room – one bed, some shelves, and best of all, no roomie. I think I was the only one who didn’t have a roommate. I’m not sure if it was because I was the only one paying with private insurance or I was just a speshul snowflake, but I didn’t care cause MINE. There was also a tiny bathroom with this tiny shower. It had a curtain in front of it, which was good, cause that was pretty much your only privacy. You had to leave the door at least partially open all the time. Rounds were every 15 minutes. These guys were really concerned about us. Also their jobs.
There were two types of employee there most of the time. The nurses and the techs. You could tell them apart by scrub color. The nurses gave you your meds. The techs . . . couldn’t give you meds. They could unlock the laundry room door. Cause of course the laundry room was locked. Nobody taking rides in the dryer here!
We had frequent “group time”, kind of like circle time in kindergarten. These were on the schedule which was mostly followed. I got to know the other inmates, er, patients. One of them pointed a Kleenex box at me and said I was making excuses. At that point, I just got upset. By the end of my visit, had she done the same thing, I might have tried to shove it up her nose. But she wasn’t all bad – really none of them were.
A few of them I almost never saw because they slept most of the time, in spite of the techs shouting at them to go to group, supper, etc. A few were just really quiet. The women were quite outnumbered – only four of us compared to probably thirteen, fourteen men. Hard to say since a few didn’t leave their rooms. Each day someone would leave, or a few someones, and someone else would come in.
I was there from Tuesday evening until Friday afternoon. Each day had different employees, different patients, and different rules. But there was still routine and best of all, no decisions to make. They told you when to eat, when to shower, when to go to group, when to take your meds, etc. For the first time in my life I did not feel responsible for anybody else but me.
. . . stay tuned for Nurse Ratched!
It was interesting to read what you felt as you made the decision to go to a hospital. I worked in such a hospital for 9 months as a student assistant and I learnt a lot about people and life there. I will stay tuned for your next post.
I’d be interested to hear what is was like from a student’s perspective. We had a couple of students who came in to “observe”. They were cute, like startled baby deer.
I admire you for chronicling your experience for others (and with your wonderful sense of humor, too!). Many people suffering similar disorders may be too scared to seek help. By you sharing your story, you help reveal the mystery and make it seem more doable for them.
I do hope so. Before I went in, I googled “what it’s like in a mental hospital” and found a blog that talked about one guy’s stay. And the comments on the post was interesting – so many different experiences. Clearly there needs to be more consistency across the board with mental health, but then some politicians would have to remove their heads from their behinds first, so who knows? I am thankful that at least my experience was mostly positive. I was fortunate.
Sounds scary when you have no idea what’s going to happen next (as in at check in) and then to be separated from your husband. Did they describe what they were going to do and why at each stage? They do for medical procedures and I find it calms me.
I love it when doctors and nurses explain what they’re going to do to you and why cause it’s so freaking rare. A few people explained some things here and there but I didn’t believe them because I kept hearing Jack Nicholson in my head. It’d have been nice if SOMEONE had come up to calm me down when first got into the unit, but later on there were some nice people. Also some asshats. I’ll get to them later.
I am finding these insider reports on the looney bin to be fascinating, and love that you are able to present them with your usual sense of humor! I hope the experience has helped you out… and I beg to differ that there are many, many ways one can harm themselves with their underwear!
Come to think of it, you are right. How could they allow us underwear? You can snap people with that shit. Also if you get the holes mixed up, we’re talking strangulation and loss of circulation. They need to get on that ASAP.
I am hoping this insider report helps people. No one should be afraid to get help.
Thank you for sharing this. Since your last post about Camp Loopy, I seriously considered going…then, I had my own hospital stay. I spent four days in detox and had people trying to get my BP down from stroke levels. You are so right that the best part about it is no responsibility. Next is IOP.
I’m looking forward to reading more. You are so strong (and funny of course).
Aw, thanks, jaded. I’m sorry you were in detox and about your BP. Hope you are better now. And I hope your IOP program is better than mine was – I really think if I’d gone at the right time it might have been better. Ah, well.
There is something majorly comforting about a routine and knowing what’s going to happen. Also about not having to be responsible for others. I think that’s why I quite like being a novice and am in no rush to apply to take vows – no major responsibility.