Tag Archives: hospital

Hospital

I have not been writing, I apologise. I’m currently in hospital. There is a lot to say, but I’m not able just yet. I’m increasing my medication, starting yesterday. Migraines, naseau, dizziness, blurred vision, tremors, muscle spasms, hot and cold sweats, (more) sleep disturbances. I’m exhausted already, and this is just the beginning.

I will write more when I can.

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On pride (& learning to swallow it)

I’ve been neglecting this space somewhat. I’m drowning in university work which I don’t seem to be able to do. I have all my references, I’ve written out structured plans for my reports and essays, but somehow there is a block when I actually attempt to do this work. I lay out my books, articles, pencilcase and laptop, open a word document… and then nothing. I’ve spent hours sitting staring at the blank screen, knowing exactly what I need to do but not being able to string the words together to form a logical argument.

It makes me feel so lazy. It’s so hard to explain the complete absence of motivation that comes with depression. That I love what I study – I love learning, I love doing well academically, I love piecing research together and weaving ideas into a coherent response. But recently my mind is blank. I close my eyes to try to focus and there is nothing there – a faint buzzing and grey static, punctuated only by intense ideation, primal screaming and violent imagery.

I’m going to need to apply for extensions for these assignments which makes me feel so pathetic. I got through last year without using any extensions, and that made me feel good about myself. I don’t like having to ask for special consideration. I don’t want to be that person. It embarrasses me, and it makes me disappointed in myself. Surely if I’ve managed before I can manage again? I need to keep reminding myself that there is a reason this is happening. I need to get back on my medication. I need some more support so that every inch of energy is not expended on keeping myself safe.

I’m going away for work tomorrow, I’ll be without internet until Friday. I’m not sure how I will cope with my headspace – but I keep reminding myself that I have been away working in far worse states than this, and I got through that. This – medical complications, ideation and strange sensory side effects – this is small game. I can do this. Thankfully I have an amazing job – on an isolated island surrounded by bush. When I’ve been unwell while working in the past, I spend the nights wandering the beach and navigating the island by moonlight. It’s a beautiful place.

The week that I return I have two exams, and when they are done I will be going into hospital. It’s a complicated situation that I don’t have the energy or cognitive function to explain right now – but I’ve been teetering on the edge for a long time, ignoring the signs. I’ve been lucky to have managed to stay out (not including schedules and emergency presentations) this long since returning home, and it’s time I swallowed my pride and accepted more help. Noone is going to change this for me. I have to make these decisions myself, and accept that things aren’t okay. When I can think more clearly I will explain further. For now, look after yourselves, and look after each other.

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Monday

Apologies, another non-coherent post. I should wait until I’ve had some sleep to write about this, but I want to document everything I can remember, before I lose pieces.

9:30am Monday, the phone rings. A lady from the local CAT team asking whether I was at home at the moment (yes) – “good, we’re at the top of your driveway. We’ll be down soon”. I sat with these two women who I had never met before for a total of seven minutes while they ticked off the questions on their list. Their notes, which I would read the next day, read: suicidal ideation, but no immediate plans. Restarting medication. Recent history of serious suicide attempts and has been to the Gap four times in the last week. Not sleeping or eating, has lost weight. Recommend follow up with community team, has appointment with psychologist 22/3/12.

They left after assuring me that they would call in a couple of hours and someone would be out to see me again that afternoon. Fine, whatever. I don’t really want to see anyone, but if it’s the condition of staying out of hospital, fine. I went back to bed. An hour and a half later the doorbell rings again. I start walking to the door and see a police officer through the side window, making his way around the back of my house. Immediately I know what has happened, and that his role is to make sure I can’t escape by a different door. I take a deep breath and open the front door. There are two different women, one with a piece of paper in her hand, and another two male police officers. None of who I have ever seen before. “We just need to speak to you for a minute”. You’ve already got a schedule in your hand, it doesn’t seem like speaking is what you’re interested in at all. Drawing on rationality from somewhere, I figured it was best not to argue and reminded myself that the only way to get the schedule revoked is to see a doctor at the hospital. I pulled on a pair of jeans, put a couple of textbooks in a bag, walked out the front door and lit a cigarette. Despite agreeing to go to the hospital and be reviewed, the police held me by the shoulder as we walked up my driveway to their car, firmly enough that a bruise has started to develop today.

One we got to emergency, I was sat in the same interview room as Thursday night, the police once again said “good luck”, and left. One of the women from the CAT team sat in the room with me along with a nurse. Cue waiting a few hours. Eventually someone came and took bloods and observations, and I was told that there were no doctors to see me. I was also told at this stage that the woman from the CAT team who had initially scheduled me wasn’t a psychiatrist, or a doctor at all. I started asking how it is reasonable for someone who has never met me to write a schedule before even stepping through my front door. Before asking me any questions. Before knowing what I look like. I was told that I was being admitted to PECU and would have to wait there to see a doctor. They told me that they had spoken to my psychologist and that she was worried about me. They didn’t mention at this stage that it had been five days since they had spoken to her and that, while worried, she had expressly told them that scheduling me was a terrible idea and would undermine the minimal trust I have developed.

Midnight, a psych registrar came to see me. I was hysterical by this stage, screaming about how I didn’t need to be there and that according to the mental health act I have a right to the least restrictive treatment possible and that this certainly wasn’t that. She explained that I had been scheduled (by a stranger, who isn’t a doctor) on the grounds that last week, I was scheduled due to being at risk of hurting myself. Sorry, what? I’ve been scheduled again, for the same reasons, without any new information, regardless of the fact that I have had no contact with any mental health professionals and that I was deemed fine last Thursday, the original schedule was revoked, and I was discharged? Apparently, yes. The psych registrar, being a student, refused to sign anything to say that I could leave.

The original schedule – last Thursday – was written on the basis of the assessment of a new psychiatrist – who had never met me before, knew nothing about my history or ability to self manage and refused to take into account anything I had to say about my support system or coping strategies. My already limited faith in mental health professionals has reached an all time low.

So, I ended up spending the night in the most secure psychiatric unit in the state. One of five extremely sought after beds that would have been much better put to use for someone who needed it, rather than me, sitting on the floor studying and doing a puzzle of rainbow lorikeets. There were four men in the unit with me. The nurses station was around a corner from my room, not visible if I needed them. The men were all loud, with violent psychoses and one continued to knock on my door, open it, and stare at me. They also didn’t stock any of my medications (despite their feeble reasoning for scheduling me changing from being at risk to needing to be supervised while resuming medication).

My mum called the nurses and psych registrar, crying that it has taken so long to get me to the stage that I am able to ask for help when I need it, and that given my previous experiences with the public mental health system, that scheduling me and locking me up was the absolute worst thing they could do – that in one night they could undo years of progress. She was right. The last thing I have any intention of doing right now is engaging with any mental health professionals.

After much complaining this morning, I was allowed to see a psychiatrist. The head of the unit. He was surprised and shocked to hear that despite being scheduled twice and having multiple daily contacts with the community team, he was the first psychiatrist that had actually seen me. He agreed that, if stretched, Thursday’s schedule could be understandable, but that I had been assessed as being fine and had been discharged. He agreed that the events of yesterday and last night were completely unnecessary and apologised, telling me that it was the first he had heard of this. He’s given me the phone numbers of directors to address complaints to, and expressed his hope that the last week hasn’t completely shredded any hope of me accessing mental health services in the future.

The events of the last week have been absolutely ridiculous. I realise at the moment I’m still caught up in this, haven’t slept for a few days and am desperately frustrated by the whole system. In the future I will definitely not be answering any phone calls from numbers I don’t know, or opening the door to strangers. I’m not at all interested in finding a new psychiatrist, and will absolutely be incredibly hesitant to reach out if I need more support. I know that I have a chronic mental illness. I know that I need medication. I know that I should have ongoing psychological intervention, but I’m not sure I’m willing to if this is the cost.

What worries me, is how long can they keep doing this? How often can they show up on my doorstep? If I answer the door, I get scheduled. If I don’t, I’m being ‘non compliant’, and get scheduled. If I speak too little I am too contemplative, too much and I am being difficult. I am an adult, for god’s sake. I study full time, work two jobs and volunteer. I’ve had depression since I was a child and have been in treatment since age thirteen. I know how to look after myself. I know how to manage my medication. I know who to talk to if I need to (though I feel that has now been compromised, after just re-building that trust). For anyone, involuntary hospitalisation is an incredibly disempowering experience – and it’s straight up not helpful for me, for someone with my history. I don’t understand how any reasonable person with even minimal psychological education would think that this is a good idea.

Last week I spoke on a panel at a statewide health training development day, about seclusion in locked units. The girl next to me (who had been unnecessarily involuntarily treated) said something that has been echoing in my head the last twenty four hours:
“A psychiatric unit is like a prison. And you don’t have to commit a crime to go to prison, you just have to look like you have.”

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Thursday

Firstly, apologies for what will likely not be a very coherent post. I’ve just woken up after almost twenty hours of sleep, which, after months of sleeping no more than 2 hours in a single stint, was very much needed. Last week was strange.

It seems I spoke too soon in my last post. A couple of hours after writing that, four policemen and two men from my local CAT team showed up on my doorstep with a piece of paper signing away my rights. It turned into a huge unnecessary dramatic night at the hospital. After six hours sitting unsupervised in an interview room, with the door closed and an unsearched bag (solid supervision of a scheduled patient, health system) – I finally saw the psych registrar. I spoke to her for about five minutes about how I didn’t want to be in hospital and that I was going to make a cake that day (Friday). She told me I could go home. One advantage of a) being a psychology student and b) knowing the health system and policies so well is that I am very much capable of ensuring I don’t disclose too much in order to be involuntarily admitted (again).

I’m still unsure how it happened. The psychiatrist I saw on Thursday said I could go home, and that was fine. The CAT team was meant to come and check in with me, not show up with a schedule. They wouldn’t tell me who had signed it. They didn’t tell me much at all except that I had to go with them and (knowing the procedure) I figured it was in my best interests not to argue.

I’m tired. The CAT team are meant to be coming to see me three times a day indefinitely for now, and they are the last people I feel like seeing. I would very much like to knock myself out for a few days with Seroquel, but I’m only being dispensed two days at a time and 2000mg will only let me sleep for four or five hours. I really need more than that, but I don’t think I’m going to be going near any doctors anytime soon.

Edit: some man from the local mental health team called just after I finished writing this, telling me that he & another male were on their way over to see me. I told them I didn’t want to see them. He struggled for a while to try and convince me to let them come/come inside, then said he’d call his boss and have her call me. I don’t understand why you would send two unfamiliar men to see a young girl. I just want to go to sleep.

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Memories & musings

Disclaimer: this post is a bit all over the place, my brain seems to have reached its limit from studying. Apologies.

Today I saw my doctor at one of the hospitals I’ve spent a lot of time at over the last six years. I hate going back there – seeing patients I know, smiles from nurses who have watched me grow up, tiny stairwells and intermittent duress alarms going off… but for me I think the worst reminder is the smell – the stifled, musty air that you become enveloped in when you’re living in a place with no opening windows and round the clock air conditioning. It’s so easy to forget that there is a whole world outside.

I saw my doctor today to get my scripts for overseas sorted and to have him write me a letter for customs. We covered the basics: sleep, mood, anxiety, university, friends – and then he leaned back in his chair with his hands folded beside his head, and smiled. “It’s so good to see you doing well. This has been an amazing year for you”. While I already know it myself, it’s always nice when someone else acknowledges how far I’ve come.

He has asked me whether I would be interested in talking to some of the eating disorder inpatients about my experiences. I haven’t yet given him a definite response. It’s been just over three years since I was last discharged from the eating disorder unit, and I’m not sure that it’s a place I ever want to set foot in again.

My first admission to this eating disorder unit I was fifteen, weighing the same as I had at age eight. The next three and a half years saw me getting slightly better, slightly worse, slightly better, a lot worse. Screaming matches with staff, learning how to remove and re-insert my own nasogastric tube, running on the spot for hours on end, hiding ipecac in the ceiling tiles. I’m not even sure how things got to where they are now. Little by little, life without an eating disorder became more bearable, and I learnt to trust myself. While I can’t be sure that I’ll never need another admission to the acute or mood disorders unit, I know wholeheartedly that I will never let myself end up on unit four again.

I no longer feel jealous when I see the skeletal girls sitting in the smoking area, talking about their meal plans, who is on medical bedrest and who is in wheelchairs. Eating disorders used to be so alluring – the pull can be unbearably strong… But finally, I no longer feel it. I’ve been there, and I’ve come back. I’ve seen that there is more to life than numbers and obsessions.

It’s a strange experience for me, to not be one of the patients. More often than not I’ve entered or left this hospital via the back doors, reserved for ambulances and police. Being admitted, sedated, transported via ambulance from a public hospital, or leaving, completely out of my head in police custody after my doctor has written up a legal schedule. Today I walked out the front doors, into the sun, got in my car, and drove away.

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