If you haven't already, go back to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this story. Once again, thank you for reading!
When I walked into the unit for the first time and saw what I had gotten myself in to, I was terrified. The other patients were people I would ordinarily never come into contact with. Drug addicts. Schizophrenics. People with anger disorders. People who had tried to kill themselves.
I'm a middle class stay-at-home mom. I have a degree in Library Science. I've never even tried drugs. I have nothing in common with these people. What am I doing here? How could being locked up with these people possibly help?
But it was too late to turn back; even though I had voluntarily committed myself, the law allowed for me to be held in the unit for four days. I had no choice. I was not in control.
When I first arrived on the unit a nurse took my vitals. I was weak and dehydrated. I had dropped to almost ten pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight and my blood sugar was out of control. I was just as much of a mess physically as I was mentally.
After intake procedures were completed, I was pretty much ignored by the staff. I didn't even see a psychiatrist until almost 36 hours after I first checked into the hospital, which was very frustrating. When I did finally see him he just ordered for me to keep on taking the antidepressant that my OBGYN originally perscribed, and added a second one that was supposed to help me sleep. It didn't.
Even though one of my primary complains was insomnia, I wasn't given any special consideration. The rooms were doubles and I had a new roommate almost every night. The first night I shared with a very sweet older lady whose snores literally rattled the closet doors. The second night it was a heroin addict going through detox. Another night it was a woman who was on suicide watch and had to be checked on every 30 minutes throughout the night. And so on and so on. We all had to wake up at the same time every morning to go to the nurses' station for vitals, and there were very few opportunities to nap during the day. If you skipped seeing the doctor, or going to groups, or a meal, it went into your chart as further proof of your mental illness. I've never liked getting bad grades.
I saw the doctor for less than five minutes every day. Random staff members who didn't bother to introduce themselves or inform me of their function within the unit would sit down with me and ask me random questions from time to time. There was no Whoopi Goldberg character to share no-nonsense, life-altering advice.
During the profound, intermidible, lulls in the action I found myself talking a lot with the other patients, the same people who I had found scary and off-putting just days before. I even began to develop friendships with a few of them, and discovered that I have more in common with drug-addicted teen mothers than I thought.
Nemo visited me every opportunity he could, and one of the first times he brought me pictures of the kids that he had printed off at the pharmacy. I kept the pictures tucked in a book, and challenged myself to look at them throughout the day. Disassociating my beautiful children from my mental illness was difficult and painful work. Rationally, I knew it wasn't their fault, but my life since Noni's birth was such a confusing muddle that it was difficult to tease the strands apart. At first, even glancing at my children's faces dropped me into a panic attack, and I would have to quickly tuck the pictures away again.
I felt a deep spiritual suffering. I had always found consolation in prayer, but I had never prayed so hard in my life as when I asked God to lift me up from my depression when I first started spiraling. At the time those prayers seemed to go unanswered. I ended up in the hospital; that was kind of the opposite of deliverance, wasn't it? I spoke with the chaplin and even a priest from a nearby church, but I can't even remember what it was they told me. They were kind and genuinely concerned for me, but I wasn't in a state to take in what they were saying.
On Friday, the fifth day of my hospitalization, I was sitting in group session when a nurse came in and, without ceremony, dropped discharge forms into my lap.
I didn't understand. Discharge hadn't been discussed in my last meeting with the doctor. By what criteria was he judging me ready to go? I hadn't slept for more than a few hours a night since I got there. I still had panic attacks when I looked at mere pictures my children. I still hadn't adjusted to the medication. I still couldn't face being a mother. I started crying and crying and crying.
This was the turning point, not just in my illness but in my life as a whole. At that moment I found the courage and the humility to say, I am weak. I need help. I can't do this alone.
I refused to be discharged. For the first time in a long time I used my voice, and I was heard. I wasn't discharged that day.
My psychiatrist wasn't seeing patients over the weekend, so on Saturday I had my daily appointment with a different doctor. I was still feeling the sting of "my" doctor's betreyal, and I poured out my woes to this new guy. Can't sleep. Can't eat. Can't even think about my kids. Basically a mess.
First of all, he scolded me for going to my OBGYN when I was experiencing symptoms of PPD. "What do they know about the brain? Nothing. Their job is to deliver babies, not prescribe psychotropic medications."
He wasn't a pleasant man, but I owe everything to him. He saw that the medications I was taking weren't working and would likely never work. He wrote up orders for me to start taking two different antidepressants and sent me on my way. I was skeptical; my prior experience had shattered my faith in the healing power of drugs.
I don't know if it was the drugs or just finally getting fed up with the hospital, but by Sunday night, I was ready to get the hell out of dodge. The thought of being at home with my family scared me and I didn't know how I was going to get through it--but I was ready to be a wife and mother again.
Read Part 4 here.
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