Hello everyone! Welcome to the third installment of my “Scrawling Toward Sanity: Journal Share” series! If you missed Day One or Day Two, be sure to check those out, too! If you’re new, this is the part of the blog where I share journal entries I’ve written along the path to recovery and reflect on what I’ve learned since.
Before we get into the thick, heavy parts of this post, I’d like to acknowledge that today is a special day for pet owners – the day we celebrate our fur babies – National Pet Day! So, I’d like to share with you the cuteness of my two fur babies, if you’ll indulge me! They are self-care central and I love them to bits!
Tallulah (aka: Tulers) is on the chair, sitting pretty. She’s my little therapy kittie. While she has no official training (as far as I know) she chirps, bats at my face, and licks me if I’m having a panic attack or flash back and stays with me until she’s satisfied that I’m fully out of the badness and back in the present. The giant fur ball chilling on his back and sleeping in the middle of my kitchen is The Lord Commander Jon Snow (though we pretty much just call him Jon.) His purrs give a truck engine a run for its money, and he is the biggest snuggle-bug ever. I’ve always been a “cat person”, and black cats are my favorite. In my experience, they are nothing but sweet, smart, and loving. Happy National Pet Day, everyone!
Also, a quick update for those of you who’ve reached out after my post yesterday about having a rough day. (Thank you for the love and support! I really appreciate it!)
Today, I had my second appointment with my new therapist and I can officially say that I think she’s a good match for me right now! This is an immense relief, as my attempts at getting established, on-going treatment and support have been beyond frustrating. If I said I wasn’t a little worried that they were just going to throw me with someone without experience in PTSD and Bipolar Affective Disorder, I’d be lying. Happily, she has experience with both and seems truly, genuinely kind. Still recovering from the difficult few days I’ve had. (See the ugly bags under my eyes?) BUT, I’m feeling very confident moving forward, which is more than I can say for my feelings since November.
Alright, onto the actual body of this post. I’ve kept a journal since the first day I was admitted to the psychiatric unit, and I’ve found not only is reflecting a useful tool in seeing how far I’ve come, but also, in sharing my experiences, I’ve been able to shed some light on what inpatient care is actually like – pull back the hospital curtain a little, if you will.
Day three was a very big day for me. Initially, day three was my discharge date. When I say “initially”, I mean the ER psychiatrist estimated a three day stay. This, it happens, was completely incorrect. I stayed on the unit for another four days after writing this entry. Day three was also the day I finally accepted that I truly needed some ongoing support above and beyond a short stay in the hospital. I’m going to let my own words from that day elaborate. Here we go:
4:50 PM – I’m having a really rough day today. Anxiety has been really high. They want me to do a partial hospitalization, which is Monday – Friday 8-5*. This means no work & no school. I don’t know how to face that. It also makes it impossible to deny just how fucked up I am right now. You don’t do full hospitalization followed by partial hospitalization if you’re just switching meds. I’m having a really hard time accepting that I need this. And I’m having a hard time seeing the point. I’m having a hard time accepting that this will ever get better. Even if it does I feel like I’m going to be followed by this for the rest of my life. And I fucking hate it. I feel like I’m completely fucking stuck in my head and there’s no way out….. My whole life I’ve been strong. Maybe too strong. But it’s been a key part of me. The idea that when shit falls apart, I’m the one that can stand up tall and handle it. The idea that I don’t NEED anyone to take care of me. The idea that I’m the one who takes care of people. … I think I’m so fucked up that the only people who will ever love me are also fucked up…. people hurt other people because they are hurting. I always tried to bury my hurt so that it wouldn’t hurt others. … How was it not enough? All the suffering that I labeled as some sort of noble self sacrifice didn’t save [anyone]. That’s what kept me going, though. The belief that I was protecting… that I was helping… I feel like the entire reason for my existence has been fucking ripped from me. All the meaning I assigned to EVERYTHING [was wrong]. How do you keep going when you’ve lost your purpose? How does anyone keep going without a purpose? Now, intellectually, I know how fucked up that sounds. … But that’s the loop I get stuck in. And I know it’s flawed. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get out of the loop. …. I need to open up more. I need to be honest. I need to be upfront. I’m here for help and I need to ask for it. I need to express my needs. I’m trying, but my God do I suck at it. In positive news, I connected with a few other patients here, so at least I talked to someone face to face today. That’s something. And, I went to every single group! Which is huge progress. The challenge is applying the theory and knowledge and skills to my emotions. Which is super difficult. Honestly, it feels impossible.
10:!5 PM – My day, thankfully, improved slightly. I forced myself to get out of my room. I watched South Park with Sam and Dani. The episodes were actually kind of funny. I also talked to [my nurse]. I explained how I was feeling. She made a very good point – I’m having a massive disconnect due to my professional identity. I “know” all this stuff and have even helped teach it in some cases. I know this, so when I hear it mentioned in group, my first thought is “I already know this and I can’t apply it so this doesn’t help and I can’t get better.” which is, by my own admission, a thought I need to challenge. It’s not going to happen over night. I need to recognize that 28 years of trauma isn’t going to become manageable and I’m not going to “fell better” in quite a while. It’s going to take time. I don’t need to focus right now on trying to not be depressed or not be anxious. What I need to focus on is ways to slowly decrease the depression and anxiety over time and skills to cope with it in a healthy way in the meantime. I’m not sure what that looks like, but a break from work and school might actually be really helpful. Being able to only need to take care of myself and Katie might be really, really helpful. Maybe I DO need a hard reset. I’m going to call [supervisor] tomorrow and give him the update and ask if FMLA is an option. If not, it might be time to apply for Medicaid. I guess we’ll see. Either way, I’m actually a little excited for tomorrow for a few reasons – treatment team meeting, taking a shower, going to groups, finishing my [art therapy project], and Cassie and Wendy both visiting. I feel like I’m settling in. I’m actually feeling really fucking good and optimistic – though I might just have a sleeping pill buzz going on. I’m really not sure. I guess the test is how I feel in the morning. We’ll see.
As you can see – day three was indeed a turning point for me. I think I talked to a friend of mine on the phone that day and said something to the effect of, “It’s like I thought I was coming in with a broken finger and I found out I have cancer.” Day three was when I started to accept the depth of issues before me. But it was also when I started to entertain the idea that maybe I could take some of the stuff from the groups and actually learn some useful skills. I did a lot of thinking that night about what the nurse had said. I realized I needed a pretty massive paradigm shift if I was going to get anything out of my stay beyond medication. I needed to be able to put my professional knowledge aside and approach everything with “beginner’s mind” – thinking about how the skills could apply to my current situation and not whether or not I’d heard of them before.
Getting in touch with the “emotional truth” of what was being taught was difficult for me. I tend toward the “intellectual” side of life. For example, asking questions like, “How can this DBT group help when I already know everything we’re covering?” and “If DBT skills that I already know could help me, wouldn’t I have been able to avoid the hospital all together?” The intellectual side of my brain likes to cause trouble when it comes to my mental health. It’s the same side that tells me that I should be able to handle things because I understand them. I know depression. I understand PTSD. Thus, I should not allow them to affect me this much. But, as I’m sure you know, you can’t think your way out of depression, and you can’t reason your way out of a flashback or panic attack. It simply does not work. I (mostly) know these things now. (My intellectual side still has its “moments”.) I am making significant progress through continued use of those very same skills I thought were useless to me at the beginning of this journey. And that’s something.
Not only is this journal share part three of an ongoing series, it was also my Mental Cleanse Challenge activity for the day! While I, as always, finished in the 11th hour, I was successful! Also, the cold is finally subsiding (both outside and in my sinuses)! So, I’m optimistic that I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled postings!
*the partial hospitalization program was actually 9:30 – 3, I had incorrect information at first.
Tomorrow, look for a resource post – we’ll be digging into some Emotional Regulation skills I’ve found particularly helpful in my journey!
As always, please let me know what you thought of this post, share your questions or comments below and please feel free to get social with me on Twitter and Facebook! Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night (or day).