Category Archives: Therapy

The last 2-ish weeks (the catch-up post) or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace being in a psych ward.

This is a follow on from where I explained Friday Sept 28th; you know, where I got dumped, sectioned, evicted and had the police called on me twice all in one day.

That weekend, I stayed with my friend from work and that was not great, but it meant I was safe from roomie Gilbo for a day or so and that was a big relief.

Later on Saturday afternoon, I got a call from a GF at work, Bel, asking if I was up to going with her to visit a mutual work friend for drinks and cheese, and I jumped at it. She drove to get me and she and I both took our dogs and went to visit our lovely friend Will.

Will had purchased a massive bottle of JD which he and I jumped into (Bel was driving) and the 3 of us spent the evening dressing up in Will’s drag queen costumes and catching up as I had not seen either of them in weeks. Bel left around 2am but I stayed and Will and I took some Ritalin and Xanax and finished the bottle of Jack Daniels and had one of those nights where you really talk about stuff that ‘matters’ (you know, when you are really drunk and high and say stuff you probably shouldn’t and then it’s awkward in the morning?).

The worst part was that Will lives a long way from where I was staying and I had my dog and needed to catch 2 trains to get home and it was stinking hot and I was worn out from lack of sleep and starting to sober up by the time I left.

When I eventually got back to where I was staying, Gilbo had sent a text:

I have put all of your belongings on the front porch. If not collected by tomorrow I will have them collected.

Definitely evicted.

(For anybody wondering, no it is not legal for him to do that, I was only 1 working day late with the rent, he violated laws by entering my room and touching my things, he should have given me notice irrespective of rent and he had possession of my bond but, it isn’t a police matter and I was not up to the arguing/horrible stuff that was going to happen if I tried to get back into the house).

On Monday morning, friend-from-work told me I couldn’t stay there any longer – and I knew that – but he was good enough to drop my dog at the neighbour’s house and then me at the hospital for my outpatient (mental health) appointment.

The appointment led to the psychiatrist telling me that he was not happy to let me go and that the events of the weekend were too much and that he wanted me in hospital. A nurse drove me to the neighbour’s house and they agreed to take care of my dog for what was going to be a 3-day hospital visit at that point, but there was 2 of them and they went to my house and loaded up all of my belongings into the car for me. Sometimes, people are incredibly generous and the 2 nurses put up with Gilbo’s rudeness (he just stood there, drinking and staring at them apparently and didn’t life a finger to help).

Not long after, I was in the emergency psych ward (PECC) with every belonging I had in the world locked up in a storeroom.

The worst thing about hospital stay is the boredom and the worst thing about psych hospital stay is the being locked in so you can’t even go and buy a coffee or have a cigarette or anything like that. At least for the first 24 hours. It was tough and I cried a lot and I ate and slept.

Day 3/72 hours came and the psych decided that I needed to be transferred to the general psych ward for an indeterminate stay and so, all of my belongings were transferred, as was I.

I actually made a good friend in the ward, a young bi-polar guy, and we had far too good a time discussing the absurdity of life in a psych ward and managed to get alcohol inside a couple of times and got terribly drunk while trying to pretend that we weren’t so we wouldn’t be caught by the staff and we snuck cigarettes in the girls bathroom (3 women in ward as opposed to around 12 men) and generally behaved like we were on a high school camp only, we couldn’t leave and, the rest of the class was bat-shit crazy and the staff had control issues and were there only to ensure we behaved ourselves and didn’t have any fun at all– definitely, exactly like school camp.

Psych wards are a tedium of waiting – to see doctors, for food (helps structure the day and reassure one that time is indeed passing) – I ate so much food that I am actually on the cusp of fat right now, yuck – and for meds. There is no therapy or anything of that nature, it is a containment model only and it is slow and frustrating. There is no internet access and you don’t have your phone. There is a TV room (they did let me bring in my hard drive with a bunch of TV shows and films to watch) a kitchen, a courtyard (still no smoking) and after a day or so you get a couple of short, 30 minute breaks outside whereby you can smoke and go to the local store.

All up, I spent 13 days in hospital. Because I had no internet, I couldn’t look into housing and the looming reality that every item I owned in the world together with myself was going to be placed on the street and left to my own devices was looming.

I actually had a meltdown about a week in when the doctors were pushing me to come up with a solution to my housing crisis and refusing to listen when I tried to explain that I couldn’t actually do anything while I was locked down but leaving meant going out into the reality of being homeless. After yelling at the social worker, they locked me in a room with the social worker and a doctor and drilled me on what I was going to do and I lost it completely … I spent the day in a corner of my room crying and they medicated me with valium and left me alone for 2 days.

The most inaccurate perception that psychiatrists seem to have (as I see it) is that if you are seen smiling, happy or laughing, then that means that you are ‘better’.

There seem to be 2 types of psych patients; those who have ongoing issues that affect their ability to deal with the very basics of life and which often leave them delusional and sometimes dangerous, and those who have ongoing issues but who can ‘manage’ for the most part. With the former, they medicate heavily and lock up/down for long periods of time and often and with the latter they medicate and wait for the crisis to pass and then release. The ward I was in had an adjacent ‘acute’ ward (we were ‘sub’ acute, a singularly stupid term if ever there was one) where the serious cases go, often being transferred to the regular ward when they are feeling ‘better’.

The other patients are what makes rehab and psych stays bearable. This place was no exception. But I saw some things this time around that were disturbing and frightening.

The first was a woman, around my age, who was in the acute ward but who was allowed out for smoke breaks. She is in a wheelchair and has only one arm and no legs. She has one prosthetic leg and I assume they are working on the other. She has zero bladder control and whenever I passed through the acute ward the smell of urine was overpowering.

This woman’s physical handicaps are not the issue per se, I mention them only because of how they came to be: she jumped in front of a train and lived. My worst nightmare: surviving a jump and being disabled/brain-damaged forever, it’s why I don’t jump. I felt horrified and being faced with my own worst nightmare and horrified at myself for reducing this woman to being a representation of my worst nightmare. I struggled with this every time I saw her.

There were also some entertaining personalities, like the boy who thought his computer is god and who has made an entire religion around it, he was very, very sweet and harmless but comes under the umbrella of un-fixable and spends more time in the ward than out of it.

On around day 5, a gorgeous young blonde girl was brought in and within 45 minutes, she realised that she was not going to be allowed outside to smoke or allowed to use her phone or allowed to do anything really and she had a complete and total meltdown. She kept screaming “I am not a dog, you can’t do this”. It was obviously her first time at experiencing the loss of power that is incarceration and it tends to hit hard. I tried to talk to her but she was too upset and the staff eventually turned up and medicated her and put her into acute for 3 days where I could see her through the window wandering around in a daze. She came back to use for one night and then was released. Funny thing is I saw her yesterday at the train station and she was all dressed and made up and looked absolutely stunning – we hugged, it was weird. I doubt she will ever be back in a ward but I also doubt that she will get over that feeling of being at the mercy of somebody else’s whim.

Victims of violent crime (I am using this word loosely and I apologise to anybody who has survived a violent crime and prefers a different term, I mean it in the literal sense rather than the descriptive) have said that one of the worst aspects of being a victim is the knowledge that comes with understanding that somebody else can take away your personal power and hurt/impose/destroy you if they wish. There is an unspoken link between this loss and being incarcerated, it is one of the scars that doesn’t leave.

Which nearly brings us up to date

The day before I was being released. I still had nowhere to go. I was talking about it with a fellow patient when his visitor asked about my situation and offered, very kindly to let me stay with him for a week or so. Sometimes, people just blow me away with their kindness.

A is schizophrenic and a drug user and pretty much a broken man. He has this tiny unit which is filthy and disgusting and disorganised and there is barely room for him but he has made room for me in order to help out. Not only that, but when I was released, he drove to collect me and put all of my stuff in his car and gave me at least a base to think from.

As I have posted, this place has proven to be problematic and I desperately need to get out but I am entirely grateful to A.

I am looking for new digs, trying to shake off the humiliation from the Pup both during our BU and last night when he didn’t take my call. Trying to shake of the humiliation from the ex who sent those dreadful emails a couple of weeks back. Trying to shake off the humiliation of not having a home for the first time in my life and trying to shake off the humiliation that comes with losing your own power in an institution.

I tend to laugh a lot. I am a giggler. My sense of shame does not disappear just because I laugh. It is written all over my body through my scars.

The best thing that has come from all of this, besides having the chance to connect with some people in quite a special way, is that I called both of my sons and told them what had happened. Neither of my boys has ever really known about the seriousness of my issues. They lived through it once when I destroyed a previous life (much like what is happening now) and they got dragged into it because they were only teenagers at the time but even then, they had no idea the real extent (although what they saw and experienced was bad enough). They are both men now and I made the decision to tell them about the past two weeks because they need to stop thinking of their mother as ‘quirky’ for their sake as well as mine. I will write some more about this another time as I think it is important.

But for now, it is today.


Leaving …

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This should be a catch-up post as I have been gone for a couple of weeks. The reason for my absence is that I was in hospital. Coming to that conclusion was probably not too far a stretch for anyone who checks in here regularly.

I am not going to write out the story of how I managed to evade hospitalisation on a Friday night 2 weeks ago even though I was sectioned for a few hours only to end up being admitted on the following Monday. I’m also not going to describe the people, food or surroundings that is the psychiatric hospital experience; many of you have been there and I think those descriptions/stories can wait …

For the record, I am still homeless. I have been out of hospital less than 24 hours, I am missing my dog like crazy, and I am staying with what appears to be a mid-level drug dealer who seems intent on using up the (very) little money I have on smokes and other niceties .. actually, that isn’t a fair description of him but I have the feeling this little rooming arrangement, which is to be a week or so at the most, is going to be a post of its own so, I will also come back to that.

A rather large amount of writing stating what I am not going to write about, and this is how I feel: gluggy, unsure, kinda shell-shocked and most definitely at crossroads.

The hospital has put me on anti-psychotic meds and they are doing their job – I am most certainly not psychotic but I don’t think I ever was.

The medicated me is the one who comes to accept. She accepts that the world is basically boring, ordinary, predictable, manufactured and she quietly gets in line with everybody else to do/be/have/make/know the ‘correct’ way to live and to love.

I prefer the other me, the one who screams ‘fuck that’ at acceptance and struggles to find a different way, even if she does fail most of the time.

I don’t understand myself on meds, I don’t understand how the me who rages at the banality of the world can possibly allow herself to just lie down .. to accept. Yes, my life becomes easier, more comfortable, more safe …. Is that what we should be striving for? Comfort and safety? I am terrified of losing me to the meds; of accepting/wanting … comfort and safety.

Trying to write this post even feels like a struggle, like writing through glue.

I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to be OK with this fucked-up and narcissistic, money worshipping culture that is populated by assholes.

Fuck it.


What I learned from RW’s suicide

When somebody famous commits suicide, a gazillion articles quickly flood the popular mediasphere. It may be morbid of me but I am finding it both interesting and comforting to read details about how he successfully (not the best word given the topic but .. I am sure y’all get my drift) managed to actually do it because it’s not that easy to actually kill yourself, take it from me.

The other aspect in the media coverage I am a bit fascinated with comes from the mental health professionals who are weighing in on the need for open and useful dialogue about suicide.

Ha!

Raise your hand if you have ever tried to discuss suicide in any way with any medical professional ever and ever had any response other than them immediately directing the conversation to demanding that you reassure them that you, in fact, are definitely not suicidal and are definitely not going to try to hurt yourself and that you feel ‘safe’ (whatever-the-fuck that means) — anybody? … anybody out there with their hand up?

My favourite part is when they make it crystal clear that failure to give them reassurances that you are not suicidal will result in them commiting you to a mental health facility, like, immediately, as in — you don’t even get to go home and feed the dog. This crazy logic deems that suicidal people cannot be trusted not to kill themselves, but they can be trusted to tell the truth about not having designs on killing themselves — or something like that.

Fact is, there are no spaces for discussions about suicide that help the suicidal. Speaking for myself, I would like to be able to talk through my thoughts, feelings and options in a rational manner but as long as medical professionals threaten to lock up anybody who tries to bring up the subject then suicidal people will remain silent.

So, what have we learned from RW’s suicide?

Nothing of course. How arrogant of us to think we would.

RIP.

robin_williams


Conversations with dead people

daddy


I don’t wanna go!

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It’s Monday, which means I am meant to see my psych this afternoon. 

I have blown off the last 3 weeks because I don’t understand what is going on in these sessions, all I know is that I come away feeling like crap, and kinda stupid because I don’t know what just happened.

Because it’s psychoanalysis, not psychotherapy, she and I are meant to be building towards 3 or 4 sessions a week. She has been treading lightly on getting me to decide when this happens – and rightly so as I am not capable of deciding what I have for dinner or get it together long enough to do my laundry, let alone sort out what my larger needs are.

I am also meant to have put her bills into Medicare so she can be paid and haven’t even done that because it’s a whole thing with going into a large shopping area and a large government agency and taking a ticket and waiting for my number and just the thought of it makes me dizzy.

I have 2 voices in my head: one of them is telling me that it’s really important to do this and to try to sort out some type of professional support for myself, the other one is saying that therapy is just futile and I just have to give myself more time and I will get it together on my own.

If I could just be transported to her office and not have to go through the train-taking and line waiting etc, that would be fine. But all I want to do is crawl back into bed yet again and just be left alone.


More therapy

I have seen my new psychiatrist 3 times now. That’s almost a record for me. 

She is a psychoanalyst as opposed to a psychotherapist. There is nothing DBT-esque about what we are starting and so far, I am hopeful.

In order to undergo psychoanalysis, the patient/client needs to agree to do a set amount of sessions per week – usually more than one and it can be 5. Yes, 5.

My T and I have been negotiating if I think that psychoanalysis will be beneficial, what that actually looks like (you DO actually get to lie on the couch!!) and how many sessions I am going to commit to.

As she is a psychiatrist, this is basically extremely expensive. However, in Australia psychiatry is covered in the same way that GP’s are covered and it won’t cost very much really, even if I do decide on 5 sessions a week.

However, the issues of meds is still in the air because she does not want to be both my therapist and my prescribing doctor, she wants me to see another psychiatrist for that .. yes, my shrink wants me to see a shrink .. go figure.

She is a quiet woman and i get the sense that she is treading very, VERY lightly with me – and I appreciate that. She has listened to my disjointed rantings and sat through my tears a and hasn’t offered solace or advice or anything of that nature … she is treating me a bit like a feral cat who could be scared off by any sudden movement, and she is not wrong to do so.

Today I told her that I feel like a balloon floating through a cartoon strip; untethered, vulnerable to outside forces and without true direction. She just nodded and let that be.

That is a good start.


Triggered

I had an appointment with the psychiatrist today.

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I was hoping we could have some sort of discussion about meds – even antidepressants. I am barely functioning out there in the real world, yesterday I had to leave work early (after arriving late) … I am a ticking bomb waiting to go off and I was scared yesterday.

I have met with this psych a couple of times before and I had a good vibe from him. He did my initial pre-diagnosis and was supportive during that time.

So, I went to the appointment with some enthusiasm and hope that he might offer some words of wisdom regarding my DBT debacle and that meds could be discussed.

What a silly, silly girl I am.

Firstly, here in NSW, there is a protocol for having your case worker sit in on any psychiatric sessions. I have seen 3 shrinks over 5-6 sessions and every time my case worker has been there nodding away and taking notes. It’s intrusive and demeaning not to be considered worthy of the privacy offered regular people.

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Secondly … all the psych really wanted to do was to insist that DBT was going to be my cure-all irrespective of how I felt about or why I felt that way.

I have been upfront and honest about my alcohol consumption from the get-go and this morning it became incredibly obvious, yet again, that honesty is not the best policy where mental health is concerned. The whole session was about him lecturing me on drinking and telling me that if I didn’t do DBT, then really, there was nothing else t/he/y could do for me.

They both sat across from me in silence for much of the session and I felt judged. I felt worthless, I felt stupid and childish. I tried to explain that I am drinking because I am not able to deal with my emotions and he kept responding that drinking was going to become a very serious problem very soon and that DBT would ‘teach’ me to deal with the emotions. Although, he admitted that DBT takes time, a lot of time – and when I ask what I am meant to do in the meantime to be able to function/get to work … he looked at me like I was a petulant child. I could feel his distaste and impatience … I spent the whole session crying and feeling like I had been ambushed …

I walked out of there more triggered than I have been in months. Basically, he offered no medication, not even SSRI’s and he even mis-heard me when I used the word ‘intentions’ and thought I said ‘medications’ and jumped all over me.

I have never once asked for or discussed medication since I started going there in January and today was no exception. And yet, I was made to feel awful.

He had become yet another man looking at me with distaste, contempt, indifference … and so, I sat there, quietly pretending to listen to the ‘advice’ being shoved down my throat given and I completely split my psychiatrist. He stopped being a warm, friendly man (I can’t believe I ever fell for it) and became a self-involved, judgemental person who has no interest in my well-being at all.

Coming home is a bit fuzzy .. I remember crying the whole way on the train and I remember that creeping sense of inevitability that I was going to come home and try, for the 5th time, to finish this.

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I climbed into bed and slept .. and drank and slept.

Now I am writing and drinking … writing and drinking … during my planning stage today, I yet again came up against the question of what to do with my darling dog. If I am not here to look after her .. what becomes of her? She is the only anchor I have and today it felt like a chain around my neck.

I am ashamed to admit it but I thought about killing her first so she wouldn’t be left at the mercy of strangers … but there is no way I could do that, not ever but death has become mixed up with release in my head.

It’s not Friday anymore … the day has become sentient; a dragon, and it hates me.