Here’s the second installment of my “Scrawling Toward Sanity: Journal Share” series. If you missed Day One, be sure to check that out, too! I’d also like to give a quick shout out to my blogger friend Betty, who wrote this awesome post on her experiences during her stay at a psych hospital. Very important, honest perspective on some of the biggest issues in our mental health system. Some of the subjects she touches on in this post will also be mentioned in future journal shares of mine. At this particular point in my journey, though, I was still too detached from comprehending the reality of my situation to even consider the lack of trauma informed care present in crisis stabilization. So, read Betty’s post, and check out the rest of her blog, too! Cause it’s a pretty awesome corner of the Internet!
Here we go:
10:50 AM – I slept like shit last night. Even with trazadone. Had a dream… [references to soon to be ex husband – redacted for now] … I felt like I needed to do everything he told me, even though I knew it would kill me either way. I was too scared. There was rotten food in the fridge in the house we were at. It smelled terrible and there were maggots and flies everywhere. I felt like a little kid again. I already had to take anxiety meds today. And I called [supervisor]. She kept asking if I was ok. I didn’t know what to say. I’m still feeling pretty ashamed about being here – but a lot of people are leaving today and they all say it really helped them. Hopefully, it will really help me, too. I’m so sick of feeling like shit. I want to feel better. I want to learn how to live and not just survive. I’m going to be meeting with the treatment team at some point today. Hopefully we can come up with a solid plan to get me out of here. ….. I feel very overwhelmed by myself….. I have a “relaxation group” in a hour, which sounds pretty brutal… But I’ll go and check it out. I guess everything they do here they do because it works and I just need to keep reminding myself of that. I have to trust that……. I have to let other people step in and kind of take care of me for a minute, and that’s definitely not my strong suit. But maybe I’ll learn that while I’m here. We’ll see, I guess.
2:00 PM -Just went to “Interpersonal Effectiveness Group” which was all about communication and boundaries. The facilitator was awesome… sarcastic, funny, engaging, honest. I actually participated and talked. Anxiety is still really high, but it feels a little less. ….. I think I’m adjusting and doing pretty well.
5:15 PM – was doing very well today until the walk at 2:30….. I lost it. Had a MASSIVE panic attack and just got that under wraps about 45 minutes ago….It feels really fucking pathetic. But I’m trying to learn to be gentle with myself. It’s a steep, uphill climb. It’s a tough fucking bare-knuckles fight. But I’m doing it. I’m still doing it. And that’s something.
9:35 PM – Recovery Planning Group was helpful, though it had some challenges. A member of the group kept talking about smashing glass as stress relief. In detail. And would not stop. Smashing bottles off walls, off dumpsters, throwing bricks through windows. It triggered me, and there was a banging in the hall that also triggered me. I need to learn how to handle being triggered and how to prevent myself from disassociating. I will talk to people about that tomorrow. Because getting that sorted out is half the battle I think. ……… I’m pretty tired of not feeling in control of my own brain. It’s annoying and exhausting and I’d really like to feel like it’s me in the driver’s seat. People keep talking about stopping your inner critic – that voice that tells me how worthless I am. How shitty I am. How terrible I am. That I deserve all of this. Etc. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know if I can learn how to do that. I guess we’ll see – but that voice has been there as long as I can remember and I’m just not sure how to quiet it.
This journal entry brought to you, in equal parts, by negative self talk and denial. On my second day on the unit, I was depressed and anxious, yes. But I was also still not quite grasping how much I needed help or how long the road to recovery would be. This is especially clear to me when I’m talking about just needing to figure out triggers and that being “half the battle.” When I spoke to my supervisor that day, I told her I’d be back to work within a week. I was on Winter Break from classes and still fully intended to return to college at the end of January and graduate in May. No one had discovered the Bipolar component of my diagnosis. And, I still had this near-delusional optimism, despite all the frustration and negative self talk going on, that I was going to leave the hospital and jump right back into my regularly scheduled life.
I couldn’t grasp how far gone I really was. I honestly believed that the hospital was a rest stop of sorts, and I was just pulling off for a few – quick break, then right back on the interstate, doing 75 in no time. It didn’t occur to me that getting a bed in a psychiatric unit is actually a fairly difficult task – it’s not like they just take anyone who thinks they could use it. Your situation must clearly require immediate crisis intervention to get a bed. And the truth is, as I was admitted, as I was writing these journal entries, I was in crisis. And on some level I knew that, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have been on the voluntary admit unit. But there was a serious disconnect going on. An inability to be honest with myself or others about my emotional state.
This entire journal entry, really, is me trying to get in touch with my emotions; I’m trying to figure out how to be honest and vulnerable, but completely unable to do it, even with myself. This is a journal! But, even here, I start to talk about how much it sucks being inpatient, then I immediately respond to myself with a caveat or a justification or a minimization. It’s almost like I was expecting someone else to read it, and I wanted to make sure that, if anyone did read it, they’d see that I “got it.” That I “understood.” That I was lucid and intelligent and just bitching to a composition book. The depth of my inability to be completely honest and open was lost on me. And, truthfully, vulnerability is still something I struggle with on a near daily basis. I’m not great with “digging in” to my feelings. I never have been. That’s what tends to get me into trouble. Those feelings don’t disappear just because I don’t tend to them; quite the opposite, actually, they tend to grow into beasts all their own and lash out when I’m least expecting it. This is something I’m still working on. But, I can say, with all openness and honesty, that I have come a long way since I wrote this entry in terms of being real with myself. There’s been no other choice. This hospital stay and subsequent treatment cost me my job and school. I can’t “pretend” that everything was “alright” when I went to the hospital. Or when I was at PHP. Or IOP. Or even now – although, things are finally falling into place with therapy and psychiatry and my primary care doctor. (And, no, that’s not me being unjustly optimistic. For once.)