A New Blog, A New Year – Continuing My Mental Health Journey

One year ago today, on July 26, 2016, I was being admitted to the hospital for postpartum depression, and later what I personally consider to be postpartum psychosis. For me, this date will always hold a significant place and be a reminder of some really trying and hard times.

On the anniversary of this occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to start my new blog “Threads of Anxiety” – dedicated to be a place where I continue to write and share my mental health journey. I thought of the blog name because I feel like looking back, I can see this underlying presence of anxiety in my life, and at certain times it is very noticeable and other times it’s lying dormant under the surface. But it’s existence is there, like this thread being sewn into my life.

I started writing about my experience with postpartum depression and my stay in the hospital on another blog, but I never really finished the whole story. I had high hopes that today I would have been able to have written the rest out, but alas, it did not happen! However, I am making a commitment to keep writing my story and putting it out there – so hopefully in the next few weeks I will be able to do that.

If you didn’t previously get a chance to read my story, I have posted the first part from my other blog in three separate posts, in a series I’ve called, “My Psychotic Break.” I plan on adding to this story, although a year later my memory is bit fuzzier. It has been something that has been hard to write, yet also good and cathartic. Forgive me for taking so long, I have needed to be in the right frame of mind and it is challenging to think back to this time in my life.

Mental health issues affect so many people – it’s not something to be ashamed of or hide. I have recently noticed more people sharing their struggles with it, although maybe it’s because I am just more aware of it. Sharing my story has been so encouraging to me because it’s allowed me to connect with others who are dealing with similar issues, and it’s given me support from so many different people.

Thank you for reading and for your comments and love.

My Psychotic Break: The Next Day (Part 3)

This is the next segment chronicling my time in the psych hospital – “Day 2.” 

*Names have been changed to protect patient’s identities

Wednesday, July 27

I got woken up in the middle of the night by a nurse I had never seen before, telling me I needed to move to another room. Um… what? Is it really that urgent at 2am for me to move to another room? Apparently it was – I was moved to another pod in the same unit, just on the opposite side of the central nurses’ desk. It wasn’t hard to move, all of my belongings were in a small laundry basket they provided to all the patients, so I picked it up and moved to my new room. It just so happened that this new room already had one occupant, but it ended up being *Lindsey so that wasn’t too bad, she was one of the friendliest people I had met there so far. I asked the nurse why they were moving me and she told me that Lindsey did not do well being alone in a room. I remember that sinking feeling of “this is not real, I’m in a dream,” coming back, but I tried to ignore it. It just didn’t make sense to me, and anytime I couldn’t make sense of something, I assumed it was because I was in a dream-like place and things didn’t always have to make sense. In dreams, anything can happen and you never question it, you just go along with it.

I guess I had slept for a few more hours when the same nurse came into the room again, I had no idea what time it was. The only clock in our entire unit was by the nurse’s desk and normally I would have just checked my phone to see what time it was, but obviously I couldn’t do that. The nurse told me she was just there to take my temperature and blood pressure, pretty standard procedure as I was to figure out. Why they have to take your vitals at 5 in the morning instead of 2 in the afternoon is beyond me, but that’s how it worked.

Every morning there was a 6:30am smoke break (I never went to those, too early) and then 7:00 was breakfast. Breakfast was usually pretty good – they always had cereal in case you didn’t like whatever else they were serving. After breakfast there was a little bit of time for people to take showers if they wanted to or do laundry if they needed to.

And then there was a lot of sitting around time. They had a schedule of the day posted by the nurse’s station. I knew around 10am or so there was supposed to be an activity of some sort. Some days it was just that, an activity, and other days it was a group therapy session. Patients were never required to go to any activities, but they were encouraged. I remember Lindsey telling me early on that you should go to all the meetings and activities because that helped you get out faster. “Getting out” was a big topic of discussion among the patients. It was always, “I think they’re gonna let me go home tomorrow” or “I can’t wait to get out of here, this place is driving me crazy!” It was a bit unnerving to not know exactly how long you were going to have to stay, and that decision seemed to be determined by the doctors and case workers. If they deemed that you were doing well and being social and “trying,” then it was likely that they would let you out sooner. If you stayed cooped up in your room and did nothing, it was likely they would make you stay longer. All the patients caught on pretty quick to this, and I realized that most of the patients were not in there voluntarily like I was. They had been admitted due to situations like attempted suicide or drug abuse.

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My Psychotic Break: Behind Closed Doors (Part 2)

This next part of the series starts by detailing my admittance to the psychiatric hospital and what my feelings and thoughts were as I was going through this process. I also wanted to share what it was actually like being a patient in a psych hospital, something I never thought I would experience firsthand. 
*Names have been changed to protect other people’s privacy and identities.

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The front lobby of the (psych) hospital was warm and inviting, decorated nicely – it had a tv in the waiting room which was playing an episode of How I Met Your Mother. After you are admitted and get checked in, you are taken back behind a few locked doors, and you begin to realize it is all a facade. Behind closed doors, there is no more warm inviting atmosphere. There is no paint on the walls, no warm and fuzzy decorations or atmosphere… just white cinder blocks. There are 2 “units” as they call them. And there is no fraternizing between units, you have to go through locked doors to pass between the units. Each unit is set with a nurse’s station in the middle and 4 “pods” surrounding the station. A pod is basically a collection of rooms, a suite if you will (although calling it a suite has too nice of a connotation): a living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms. The nurse’s station is basically a large central desk where the nurses on duty sit and check files, answer the telephones, etc. Us patients are not allowed to go behind the nurse’s desk. In each pod, the living room area has couches and tables, and a tv (although the tv is behind a glass case – I guess maybe it is considered a safety hazard.) There are two bathrooms with showers in each pod. And there are 4 individual bedrooms off of the living room where patients sleep. Each room is furnished with 2 wooden bed frames (flimsy mattresses included), wooden nightstands and wooden dressers – although there are no drawers on the dresser, so it’s really more like an open bookcase. There are two thin vertical strips of windows in each room, but they are frosted over so you cannot see the outside. Another thing I didn’t realize, getting to be outside was a luxury at this place. Mostly you are cooped up inside all of the time.

So, after I had signed my life away (I mean, checked in) and said goodbye to Dean, I begin to think that maybe this was a mistake. The very first thing I was asked to do was to strip down totally naked. There were two nurses in this little room with me and they needed to see what scars or marks I already had on my body, obviously the reason being to know if I obtained any new injuries while staying in the hospital. Not that it was a huge deal, I had just had a baby and was used to people seeing all kinds of parts of my body exposed, but it was a little strange. And I had not been informed that this was part of the welcome you get after you get admitted.

After that they took me behind two more locked doors to where I saw the unit where I would be living. This was where I really started to get scared. As I said, the decor was non-existent and it was cold and drab. The nurses showed me to my pod, put sheets on my bed, and then basically left and didn’t tell me what I was supposed to do or how anything worked. I decided to sit down on the couch in the living area of the pod. Two other people were in the room – one I couldn’t tell if it was a girl or boy. This person had short hair and was very stocky, and I couldn’t tell if he or she had breasts or not, or if it was just an illusion from being a bit overweight. The other person was exactly the image you would expect to see in a psych hospital: wearing just a hospital gown, no shoes, long unkempt tangled hair, long beard that had not been shaved or groomed in probably weeks… Not to mention he kept laughing maniacally and staring at me. (I am not making this up, I promise!) They both sat down on the couches and started talking. Mostly it was about when they would be able to get out, hoping that each new day would bring freedom. The conversation was also interspersed with a lot of profanity, mostly the f-word, which I later realized was just part of the culture here among patients at Abilene Behavioral. That and smoking, almost everyone smoked. But I’ll get to that later.

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