We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!
The anxiety seems to have grown a life of its own. Stupid me for thinking sleep might be possible.
I don’t know myself. I am a stranger. I looked in the mirror tonight and recoiled. I looked away. I tried to set my mind at ease. Tried to tell myself it’ll level out. It won’t keep on like this.
I don’t believe it.
(unedited) My discontent and anxiety continues. It has been much the same since I returned home. sure I am happier than being on that unit. Anything is better than that. but I remain restless and out of sorts. Miserable in mind and body. I don’t feel like myself. The tools I usually use to get by are failing me right now. Last night I ran on weary sore legs and though to myself. Who is this? why does everything feel so abnormal? I stopped using the ear plugs once home but still find myself overwhelmed by noise. On the bike it was car traffic. In the house it is the TV, or my partner’s voice. It is registering as to harsh, too loud. I isolate and find quiet when I can. I try to just ignore it though that often proves impossible. I don’t understand any of this. but most of all I remain in this frenzied terrified state over watching my body change. and why it only seems to bother me. Though according to the scale a lot of this is water. doesn’t make me feel better. I usually run right around 51% water. That has been closer to 55% over the past week. Doesn’t seem like much but I feel like a water buffalo and honestly I can’t remember ever having my midsection look like this. I have always been much like my mom and we are both deceptive when looked at. We can appear quite thin though in reality are carry a decent amount of weight on us. We won’t get an ass. or thighs. So where I am gaining isn’t the issue but more the fact that it is so quick and I was pretty okay with my weight before. The anxiety over it is so great at this point that I can’t even bring myself to talk about it. My partner says talk to Virgil about stopping the drug. I went through that fucking hell ride to get on it. To back up now it feels like a waste. Though I don’t know that I can tolerate how I feel at this point. I don’t remember ever feeling this out of sorts over it. I know when I was on the Saphris my weight maxed out in the high 130s and I was really unhappy. It came back down after we stopped the med and I started exercising religiously. All I can think of is what happens if I can’t exercise or run? As I ran in the late evening yesterday and my shins kept sending mixed messages (ok, nope) I was scared. I can keep pounding out the miles but they are coming at a cost now. with almost 10 lbs more on my frame I feel it. my shins hurt along with other critical parts. I can’t get any heavier than this and run like I do. It won’t work. What am I supposed to do? Do I just let it go? fuck it. all in the name of possibly being stable? This sure as fuck doesn’t feel stable. this feels like some sick fucking nightmare. To live disgusted and anxious? I just don’t fucking know what to do. Like the other aspects of my life that are question marks here is another. I don’t want to see Virgil or anyone else. I can’t listen to another person tell me I’m fine. you can stand to gain some weight. That is not okay. Never will be. Because it is only alright if I am okay with it. If my heart, soul and mind are okay with it. They are not. They are not fucking alright. I am angry and frustrated. I am miserable. But who cares right? long as I am stable.
I can’t seem to control myself at all. I have eaten endlessly since my return home. With each pound gained my fear soars but that doesn’t stop me. If anything I eat more. I run knowing I can’t do enough miles to counter balance it. My legs would never survive. I keep eating. and eating. The scale continues to climb. I pull on my running clothes in disgust. Wanting not to see what is happening to me. It is my fault. I am the one eating anything and everything I can find. I am the one that can’t control the binge. My mind does the math and I recoil in terror at where this is going. I can’t do this. I can’t. I have never been this hungry in my life. I give in to it and eat to escape that hollow pit in my gut. It doesn’t last. and the cycle repeats. Nights are the worst. When the seroquel munchies come along. Last night it was an entire container of hummus. the pitas. the bagel chips. the cheese. I went to bed in tears. I have never had an entire container of hummus in my life. I felt disgusting and filthy. putrid weak disgusting thing. I had run yesterday. I had not run enough. By the time all the meals and the binge were added up I would have needed to run an ultra marathon to even come close. Each day has repeated. I stood in the hallway crying looking at my disappearing abs while my partner tried to comfort me. It is from the hospital, “you just need to go back to your routine. run more. bike more”. I felt no comfort as the weight has climbed since the beginning. I thought I would be okay. I had fought off the seroquel weight gain. I had been able to be in the minority that held steady. I am losing this battle and it is just begun. I know the sedentary week off didn’t help. I know. It has put me behind. just as I was already behind. I have to do something. I can’t do this. I can’t. I worked so hard for so long to get to where I was at and it is slipping away far too quickly. Flying fast away from my control. It leaves me sick with worry though all I can think about is my next meal. To feed this beast. This stranger in my body that never is satiated.
The restless edgy vibe was in the air from the moment of awakening to when I finally succumbed to medication induced exhaustion at night. It was relentless. Pushing hard and making us brittle. A raised voice caused my heart to skip and my anxiety to soar. We all felt it. Everyone moved around with caution. Stepped cautious and aware. Few willing to make eye contact at all. I took to hiding most of the time. I thought I’d be safe from the chaos there. Though isolating would only add notes to the chart and lengthen the stay. I had to stay out on the unit though I couldn’t tolerate the noise. each vibrated off the insides of my skull. richocheting here and there, intensifying each till they became unbearable in number. I pulled pillows over my head to muffle the noise. I resorted to ear plugs all the time. Sure looked nuts but it did cut down on some of the disturbance. I started to take small trips out of my room. just for a little while. Enough to start figuring everyone out. I needed to know where the risk was greatest. If there were any allies to be found. I had to leave my room for that. Figured the safest place to start was the woman who offered a hello when I arrived. She was kind. Depressed and starting ECT. She had questions. I didn’t have the heart to share my true thoughts on the subject. I stuck with “it works for some”, “didn’t really for me” and left it at that. She was a gay buddhist craftsman. I thought they were usually okay? Mindfulness keeping those demons at bay. guess I was wrong. She was tearful and miserable like me. sad. We cried through a few meals together. She introduced me to a middle aged white guy also starting ECT. Same questions. My answers measured and kind. I wanted to tell them the truth. the realities. What they were not saying might happen. Instead I steered the conversation elsewhere. Of home. and family. The mundane. Anything but the ECT. We swapped food and complained. He liked egg whites. I’d eat the yoke when breakfast was a single hard boiled egg and a small muffin. Most patients were hungry and the meals all over the place in terms of size/portion/contents.(one morning a kaiser roll with scrambled eggs/ cheese and a sausage patty the next a single hard boiled egg and the tiny muffin). You weren’t supposed to share food, but we all fell into the pattern of accepting something we wouldn’t eat just to give it to someone else. It created alliances. For the first couple days I was so anxious I could barely look at food let alone consume it. I earned a lot of “friends” by supplementing other’s meals. The chicken sandwich for the massive manic latino guy. Anything left on my plate for the white guy getting ECT. My dessert for the wonderful gay guy always adorned with a head wrap/tee shirt. (Least they gave him that much leeway when they took his mascara). All seemed to appreciate the kindness. They gave me some slack. Even were civil when everything was coming undone. I found myself watching and wondering. Looking at symptoms and scrolling through my brain for all I had learned in abnormal psych. What was I looking at? Some I could see clearly, others I was confounded. Was that mania mixed with something else? How could I assess the risk when most I could not even figure out what was going on with them. I had set aside those I knew were psychotic, to varying degrees. Some fairly coherant for parts of the day others lost completely. I let them be. If they walked in front of me on the med line, or to get coffee I let it go. Though I actually would not have said anything regardless. There were those with a wild eyed paranoid look. Just a little too much whites of the eyes showing. Too much time spent walking the sides of the hall and never getting close. They got a wide berth. I didn’t meet their eyes. I didn’t enter their space, even if it was they who were passing by me. Easiest were the ones that sat still and silent hour after hour. day after day. I wondered what was going on, if anything in that frozen state. Was their mind going at all? too fast? too slow? Was is painful there in the stillness? Was is peaceful? Did they register what chaos was around them? I was left with many questions and no answers as sadly none spoke.
Our small group bonded together. The gay cabinet maker, the middle aged corporate guy, the queen and I. Eventually a young pretty borderline joined us as well. We ate together. Looked out for each other and made sure each were okay. When ECT ended badly each time for the woman we comforted her. When visitors came, time was shared for those without company. It was an oasis within that mess. I can’t begin to guess how much worse it would have been for me without them. I have been thinking much about them and their next month there. I know what they are going through and I wish I could make it better. The borderline went off to the partial program and the queen returned to his home. I do hope they make it. Both had much to offer the world. As I knelt weeding in my overgrown spring garden I thought back over each of the people I have met along my journey. Most I have forgotten, others I remember so clearly. I wonder what happened to each of them. Where are they now? Did they survive? but most of all my mind reminds firmly stuck in the halls of that unit.
She was both innocent and volatile. Clearly an adult but not able to behave as one. Her anger raging at times though more often it was time spent in gibberish spanish/ english speech and watching TV in childlike wonder. Far too often I caught myself looking around for a child as her voice had the tendency to travel and amongst all the ambient noise it was far too easy to mistake it for a youngster. I was awoken like that. Startled awake. bolt upright. My brain confused and shocked about how a child might have ended up in that unit. Lost? was there a mistake? It was momentary as each time my senses caught up to me and I reminded myself it was just her. A child lodged firm in a mentally ill adult body. Most moved around her. Paid her no mind. Avoided her.
The tantrums were a part of each day. Whether it was over cake she could not have (diabetic) or the TV remote that wasn’t turned over. Her voice rose high until staff finally reminded her about inside voice please. She would often storm away and slam her door. Bringing more reprimand. Tears and sulking followed. More ignoring and avoiding. It went on like this. I spoke with her when she looked at me, though often I could not understand with the spanish and the speech patterns that created a sort of sing song rapidity. I helped her shoot hoops when they took us outside the handful of times as often her shots fell short or carried wide. I told her what a good job she was doing. and praised her for baskets made. She told me about the voices. I could not ignore her. I could not look away. It felt cruel.
One of the evenings she was trying to get her clothes in the dryer. Staff was needed to unlock door to laundry to accomplish this. she asked as one walked by doing checks. Nothing. Not even a shortening of stride or a glance. She became upset. A second staffer came by. Same. She started to cry. and then to yell. Nothing. A nurse and psych tech walked by talking. neither even looked at her. Here there was a grown woman yelling and sobbing about her clothes in the middle of the hallway and yet they didn’t even blink. nor look her direction. None assured her they would come right back, or even express they were doing something and she would have to wait. Sure she might still have went off, even if they had, but did it need to get to this point? After then swiftly passed she just lost it. My heart broke. It just fucking broke. I wanted to help her, but there was nothing I could do and it wasn’t like I could get any better treatment. I returned to my room to get away from the meltdown that might have been averted. I could not watch anymore.
I think often of her and how she is treated in there. I think of her parting words to me when she heard I was leaving. It was a typical rounds morning and we all sat lining the hall. Because of fire safety, or something all the couches and chairs line one side. Everyone sits facing a wall. To talk is impossible, unless you happen to get a couch with nobody occupying the center spot. You can angle your body enough that looking at who you are talking to is possible. They want you all in a row so the rounds go smoothly. Nobody needs to be tracked down in their room, and none have fallen back to sleep. It is noisy and chaotic. Staff walk by. Maintenence is dragging around carts dumping garbage cans. others are checking outlets/ plugs. Random staff pass by. The exit doors close hard. Sound echoing up off the linoleum. foot falls too loud. Above speakers pipe in random music. That morning it was Top 20 pop/rock music. She saw me and our eyes met. She asked if I was leaving in her sing song voice. I said I was. Her eyes teared. I felt odd standing over her. I squatted uncomfortably so I could be at eye level. She continued.
“Ey Mommie. you need to take your medicines. h-okay? you need to sleep right. d-you need to go to therapy and do what they tell d-you. Ey?
“Yes. I will take my medicine. I promise”
“D-you need to be good. No want to come here again”
“I know. I know. I will be good.
“Mommie d-you need to find a husband. make a family. BUT NO BABIES”.
“ok”. Now at this point her voice is loud enough to be heard throughout the hall. Most people are looking away. uncomfortable.
“No BABIES. d-you need to use a condom. but they break, yes. so d-you need to use a sponge. not just one, no. No, d-you need a- LOT. then no babies. okay mommie?
“Ok. I will be careful and no babies.
“Ay-mommie. D-you need to grow your hair. why you not grow your hair mommmy?
“It is easier like this.”
“Be good okay?”
I can’t shake my hospital stay. It stubbornly lodges behind my eye lids. interrupts rudely and uncalled upon. Some are images, others sounds. Most are complete vignettes of experiences during the week. Most of all it is the feelings. The fear. The filthy tarnished can’t get clean feeling of being treated like something less than worth a damn. It sticks to you. Holds tight and doesn’t let go. Our experiences as humans are based on our interactions with others. Our connection. Our sameness. This was devoid of that for the vast majority of the time. Whether it was the inability to communicate because those around me were far too lost in psychosis or catatonia or worse from the people “caring” for us that couldn’t be bothered to make eye contact, or even say something. Anything. I withdrew within myself and found solace in drawing. There were no pencils allowed and only safety pens. I created a world of black and white. Of line and form. No erasers to fix. I sat alone in tears with only these images. I was not asked if I was okay. The staff felt unapproachable and for the most part uncaring. I kept to myself. But I cannot unsee what I saw. or unhear what I heard. Those will stay forever. As I sat talking in session today I realized how deeply this has rocked me. This has traumatized me. How sad. Beatrice asked I write about my experiences. To capture these flashbacks. To write each so we can go through and process them. To get them out of my head so they cannot fester up there. I will try and break them up into pieces so these blog posts are not epic and too drawn out.
Admit had been a nightmare. I don’t mean a little. 5+ hours spent in the noise and commotion. The slamming doors and raised voices. While I was dreading going upstairs I was so glad to be out of the evaluation center. I followed the staff person in silence. carrying my brown paper bags of shame. What few belongings I had brought were with me in those bags. Not a word was spoken. She didn’t offer any and I just let my eyes wander the halls I knew too well. As we stepped onto the unit I knew this was different. It wasn’t okay. not even close. when mental illness is clearly discernible clear down the hall it is pretty easy to start worrying. What stood out most was the noise. The linoleum floors did little but amplify the sounds up the walls and down the hall. Overhead speakers piped in music too loudly. A TV at one end of the hall blared away with a patient singing in spanish. Another walked hunched and tiptoeing avoiding the dark lines and changes in the linoleum tiles while speaking to herself. I took it in. In the 30 seconds from door to nurses station I absorbed it. The nurse walked out and pulled up an impossibly heavy awkward formed plastic chair and planted it there in the hall. The busiest intersection. Besides the phones and the day room. I felt stripped and naked. not even a wall to press back into. They had run out of food downstairs and I was offered a PBJ. I had eaten nothing but for a cookie that morning and knew I had to eat something. But my anxiety was climbing, fast and hard. There were so many male patients. So much agitation. My warning system was telling me, loud and clear, get out. There was no out. I knew that. As I sat awkwardly holding a tray, trying to eat a sandwich I didn’t want surrounded by people that scared me I just lost it. The nurse added a box of tissues to the crowded tray. There I sat crying. out in the open. the patients stared. I wanted to hide. to shield myself from this. I couldn’t control the emotional meltdown that was taking place. The exhaustion, fear and sadness just leveled me. I force fed myself the sandwich and the small dixie cups of water. A female patient offered a hello. A single bright spot. A large guy, like pushing 280 paced muttering and angry followed by a staffer. My breath caught. I couldn’t be there. I had to get out. The nurse did a brief check in to assess safety and to give me rundown of unit rules. I remember little of it. I stood naked before the female staff as they mapped every inch of me looking for wounds, marks and tattoos. I was somewhat shell shocked at that point. The day feeling endless. I would retreat to my hard small bed under the sandpaper rough bedding and try to make sense of it all though I could not. I would not sleep that night. I remained vigilant. every sound a danger. every voice catapulting me into anxious awakeness. I sat up cross legged hugging myself in an attempt to sooth the anxiety. angry raised voices drifted from the hall. The big guy was still agitated. singsong words came from next door as the hunched little woman continued her dialog with the invisible. and so I tried to ride it out. to make it till dawn. I had no watch. no clock. Hours ticked by marked only by the staffer doing checks. As morning dawned I drifted into restless sleep. In day light there wight be some safety.
Words have left me almost completely as this day draws to a close. I feel myself closing in tight desperate to protect myself. I wish I knew where the angry defiant Beth was. She’s not here. There isn’t much self at all. I am nothing. just a shell. I have to give in and give up. To leave what pride and identity I have left and leave it behind. To accept I have no control nor choice. My fears have no merit nor worth. check them at the door. nod. agree. swallow it. and the clock ticks and the hours drag. life suspended. interrupted. on hold. to become nothing. nobody.
is that better? is that worth it? to repeat the process again? and again. and again. who is left here now? where is Beth or the better question who is she? is she the angry youngster that started this journey 20 years ago. the one quick to tell people to go the fuck away or what has become of me now? this mind bent and shifted thru countless chemical baths and electricity. I am not me anymore. I lost her a ways back.
I know my fear and vulnerability is from my experiences behind those doors. I did not start like this. I became this. I am this. small. scared and alone. not because I have bipolar, or because my mood is in a dark place. I am scared because I learned those that heal harm. Those locks to keep you safe don’t save you from predators within.
I am lost. I am confused. I don’t know who to trust. I am exhausted from the anxiety that has held so tight all weekend. I don’t know what to do or what to say. I find no words. not to my partner or my family. I pull back and try and hold off the panic. but it is so fucking strong. Where is the obnoxious been there done that detached person I can be? So confident and cocky? seen it a million times? fuck it. have at it? Where is she? where is the disconnect button? My model has that feature. I KNOW it does. Used it forever. It is malfunctioning. has been all weekend. I can’t get away from this and I can’t hide. I don’t understand, why must I suffer like this? to be so alone and small?
I wish I knew. I wish I could have faith. I have none. wish I could trust. i don’t. I am caught in a maze not of my design. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want it. this toxic haze of emotion and meds. I do not want this. I want to be told it will be okay. I need some reassurance some help. some guidance. some nurture. because I feel nothing here. nothing. but maybe nothing is what it is supposed to be.
(unedited) Trying to make sense of what is going on. It is like everything is happening all around me and I can’t seem to grasp them. The anxiety is stifling. The fear is so palpable all around me. I’m scared. I would be lying, or just plain gorked if I were to say otherwise. I can’t really say why my fear is quite this great. I know I have been on the receiving end of some bad medicine. Really bad medicine. I keep trying to convince myself I’m ok and that I can do this. It loses out each time to this cold sweat and racing heart. It takes everything from me each time I walk back in those doors. In those long hours in admitting answering the same questions over again. To feel the light seep away as the reality of this life takes hold. That buzz of the doors controlling movement and the steady gaze from the security guy. It is in the gaps between the second hand moving and the soft tapping of key strokes in the office nearby. It is insignificant and enormous. It is hell and it is salvation. A hospital has been all of that. It has brought me back from the brink though it has also pushed me far out onto the edge. I wish I could say I felt safe in the hospital. I don’t. They are not safe places. Sadly it isn’t just the patients you need to fear.
Sure nobody wants to think about it or talk about it. But most of all it is the powerlessness. The meds of their choice, the treatments of their choosing. Most would argue well why can’t you refuse. What you learn the first go round, or maybe the second is that there is a purpose in the design. There is a method to everything. They will get you to comply. whether you want to or not. It is easier to go along than try to fight the flow.
The scary thing is I have no idea what is next. I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know what type of population I am going into and I don’t know what kind of dr I am dealing with. I have the pile of unknowns. with some pretty awful experiences in the past. Most people would think one of those variables most important. not so. You can have a terrible dr and have a decent inpatient experience if the population is a good one. Just as a great dr can’t do much is the population is swinging from the rafters. Hospitals can destabilize just as fast as they can stabilize. It is a crap shoot. As always I know to keep my head down and get a feel. Find a safe spot and never get caught alone. ever. vigilance is necessary. always. the more volatile the people the more critical. the worse the staff, double it. and male patients just multiply that. It is a terrible feeling.
I’ve come across the dismissive dr who sell quality of life (any quality of life) down the road just to get the specific drug combo. I’ve had them blindly look beyond horrible side effects refusing to admit they might be the drugs they want me on. I am after all just a crazy person, what could I possibly know about anything. you don’t argue with those drs. you get nowhere. I know once you walk in and sign those papers you are at their mercy. there is no point advocating for yourself, or talking about concerns. that just gives you a resistant label. To have fears like everyone else is not okay anymore. just swallow it. take it. doesn’t matter. none of it matters. I don’t matter. You move so far from human. Why am I scared? why does it hurt? it hurts because this system has harmed me. I am this way for a reason.
I am being asked to blindly walk into this. To relinquish control to a stranger. and what pray I don’t get harmed? don’t get fucked over? how many times have the meds actually stayed the same beyond the hospital? not for the long term. doesn’t happen. Because the dosage is usually brutal. barbaric. the side effects awful. but they got you “stable” and out the door you go. back to life.
I will walk out of my life. put it on hold for an unspecified amount of time. there is no way to know how long you are gone till you go and come back. there is no sure thing. there is no way to know. they have you. usually the insurance gets you sprung before they are done with you. but back to life on hold. to find stability? what stability? like the stability I was going to get on lithium? or any of the 30+ others? how is this time any different? how can I have faith when all I have is fear? how can I trust when I see no evidence? I want no part in this. I know my fear is paralyzing me. I know I am way out on the edge of hysteria and I think I have good reason. Fear is a brutal bed fellow. and I have another day of this, at least. Or I can walk away. Refuse. Stand my ground. Can it get worse? unheard and trapped in a hospital is worse.
sorry. I am just so afraid and frustrated.