Tag Archives: treatment

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.


Conversations with dead people

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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.


Why don’t you just ….

What is it with therapists

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that, after explaining self-sabotage and/or problems, they answer with something along the lines of “Why don’t you just pay the bill/apply for the house/stick at it and see how things pan out?” … etc ….

What don’t they get about the fact that I (we) KNOW what we should be doing, we understand what is necessary but, we are failing to do it – hence the therapy.

Out of the last 4/5 therapists I have spoken to over the previous 4 months or so, at least 3 of them have social work backgrounds – what is that about? Forgive me for saying so but wtf does social work have to do with therapy?

It is disheartening to have somebody offer ‘solutions’ to problems as though said solutions were otherwise unapparent … and/or to suggest that drinking too much is ‘bad’ for me – really? Because … uhm … thing is, there are meds that are better for me and which offer the same emotional relief but as nobody is going to prescribe these, that leaves me with alcohol and bad decisions.


Paging Dr Freud

Given that DBT is not working out for me at this time,

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I touched base with the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis a few weeks back and got a call this morning for 2 initial sessions with a psychoanalyst.

I have no experience with psychoanalysis and I have limited experience with therapy in general.

I think I exhibit what the pros call “therapy resistant behaviour”, but in all honesty, therapists just usually manage to piss me off pretty damn quickly for a variety of reasons:

1: They can be so damn patronising – any therapist who listens and nods and then asks me “how I feel about that” is just asking to be repeatedly stabbed with a blunt spoon …

2: They can also be seriously invalidating. The few times I HAVE tried therapy, I have been told very early on that given ‘my circumstances’ I am coping/managing extremely well and I am obviously intelligent, resourceful .. blah .. blah .. blah .. as soon as they start with this schtick, I know it aint gonna work.

3: I yearn for a therapist like Tony Soprano’s Dr Melphi or, The Gabriel Byrne character from In Treatment … a T that will see into my soul and make insightful analyses (yes, I realise that this is unrealistic but .. just once, I would like a T to acknowledge that the fact that I can hold down a career – for a while – and am reasonably well-read – does not preclude the fact that the rest of my life is a series of spectacular messes).

I ALREADY have some doubts about the new therapist – I googled her and she has a degree in social work, not psychology … this raises a red flag immediately because my current hospital T is a social worker and she is lovely and all but she wants to spend time on practical, applicable stuff. So, it is be really important that I find new accommodation right now, and I know that. I know what I have to do, I am not an idiot, the problem is that I am completely shut down and just can’t push myself to do it … so, her giving me practical advice on the steps to take is just plain patronising … (see #1). I don’t need help with figuring out HOW to find a place to live, I need help with figuring out WHY I am unable to push myself to do it, or anything that is pressing, without my head imploding.

So, the fact that the new T is a social worker is a bit of a worry.

I have done some rudimentary (read googling) research on BPD and psychoanalysis and the results seem to be inconclusive … but, given the fact that my PD makes the most sense to me when considered through the lens of PSA, I am hopeful.

I am going in there with as much of an open mind as I can. I would really like to find a therapy that has impact.

To be continued …..


(failing) Therapy

I was not, as it turns out, a good candidate for DBT. 

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I think it was not so much the ideas or intent of DBT as much as the fact that my group was run by extremely young women, and attended by extremely young women – and this made me feel like an idiot for even being there (I would feel the same about it being run/attended by extremely young men, it was mostly the age, not the gender that was the issue) and as my individual therapist was also a women, I was freaking out about having so many paid nurturing females in my life all of a sudden (yeah, that part is gender specific).

They all kinda reminded me of other ‘nurturing’ females in my life who empathise (as much as they can) but who ultimately are trying to push me to act, decide, take control etc … like it’s somehow a choice I have, and all I have been missing is a cheer squad.

I am not in this place/space/position because I don’t understand what I need to do .. I know only too well what I SHOULD be doing – I just cannot .. and I mean this literally .. CANNOT physically face the things I should be doing. No amount of spelling my name out with enthusiasm is going to change that …. and the nodding and empathising becomes abhorrent to me in those times … they don’t get it and really, why would they? Why should they? Ever tried to explain to somebody that you feel like you are living in a cartoon or a film? Of  COURSE they don’t get it, no matter how well-intentioned their empathy … if they did, they to would be in lockdown in a batcave hoping that the world ends tonight so that they don’t have to face that failure of not making that important phone call tomorrow.

I ‘failed’ to attend my DBT last week and the psych team has been chasing me since … they are obviously good, caring (dare I say it … women) people and I am grateful (and guilty) that they took the time to check on me …

I just know that I am a waste of their time, money and resources.


DBT: Round 1 thoughts

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I started DBT Wednesday morning.

Well, the group part of DBT anyway.

I have seen my individual therapist a few times now and she was the one who actually talked me down during my meltdown on Monday and got me to work.

The group was as expected, the therapy was as expected … I expected women and that’s all there was – there are 9 of us (I think) ‘in therapy’ and 2 women running the therapy.

The first hour was the main woman going around the table asking everybody to share their homework from the previous session (which I missed due to my dog’s illness).

It was dreadful.

Not only was just about everyone there completely reluctant to share, there were one or two petulant teens who just sat there shrugging and chewing their nails while the therapist tried to drag answers/responses out of them …. I swear time actually stopped at some points.

We then did some work on mindfulness … and I have to admit, I am just not on board with most of this so, I am probably not the best person to make any judgements about it. But I will say that I get why they are trying to teach what they do and how it might be effective for learning how to manage or regulate affect.

I am just unconvinced that it is what I need.

I already step out of my emotions to manage them, I learned to do that a long time ago.

It seems that DBT is about practical skills; about forgetting what happened to you, or how it makes you feel and focusing upon how you react/behave.

I think I am finally at a point where I want to know why I feel like I do and how my psychological landscape is organised.

I also think I need a male therapist. Every single male in my life at the moment is a complete ass and/or is angry with me. My recent foray into the romantic and the devastation it/he left in its wake tells me that this is an area in which I need to address …. I am also drowning in oestrogen, suffocating in women being ‘supportive’ in that professional, yet caring way … it makes me want to scream.

Perhaps it would be no different with a man, perhaps I am just not cut out for therapy of any sort.

I am going to dutifully fill in my feelings diary card and go to the meet next week. But, it feels pointless, and kinda stupid.

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