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Mental Minefield: Prelude to Inpatient Care

Mental Minefield: Prelude to Inpatient Care

September 6, 2017

Katie Gertz; @KGertzPoetry

Hello friends!

I'm Katie, and if you're paying close attention, you may be wondering why I'm late to the seriously wonderful, creative party that is KBE.

Warning: In this and the following blog post, I'm about to describe inpatient treatment for mental health in detail, including the process of being Baker Acted, brief description of self-harm and thoughts of suicide, and some medical specifics of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), including needles, IV, and physical pain.

As they say on House: "Viewer discretion is advised."

(I got the image here <http://wallpapercave.com/house-md-wallpaper> and put the text over it.)

Then again, my family always watched House while eating dinner, even though my mom and I are pretty squeamish. Still, I'm not gonna sugarcoat anything, so here are some resources in case something bothers you. Will I ever get to my story? Yes, friends, but it would be irresponsible of me not to include life-saving information when potentially reminding people of very dark times in their lives. Save the following information somewhere. It's very nice to have easily accessible it when you need it, or when you need to include it in prefacing your own stories.

 

If you find yourself upset for ANY reason, PLEASE call, chat online, or visit the online safe space of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is "a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in Suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

Emphasis mine; please note that you do NOT need to be suicidal to use this resource, and you can use it if you're worried about someone other than yourself! From <https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/> and <https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/>

 

Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

En Español: 1-888-628-9454

Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889

Veterans: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text: 838225

Disaster Distress: 1-800-985-5990

Chat online: <http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx>

 

Here is the Trevor Project (LGBT) line:

Phone: 1-866-488-7386, available 24/7

Text: "Trevor" to 1-202-304-1200, available M-F 3pm-10pm EST/12pm-7pm PT

Chat online: <http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now>  available 7d/wk 3pm-10pm ET/12pm-7pm PT

And the Trans Lifeline as well:

US: (877) 565-8860, Canada: (877) 330-6366

From <http://www.translifeline.org/>

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Without further ado, I am late to this bonanza of blogging because:

When I first learned about KBE, I turned it down because I felt that I did not have enough energy to commit to writing a blog post every week - and I still don't! You'll likely see me once or twice a month thanks to the flexibility of our illustrious founder.

This is a common struggle for those of us with chronic mental and physical illnesses. Depression does not obey deadlines, friends! It can be incredibly frustrating because we know we are capable of great work, but most jobs require a consistency that we just cannot demand from our minds and bodies - and if we do demand such consistency,  we pay dearly in the form of burnout, worsening states of mind, and injuries.

 

When I got word back that I would be allowed to write one article a month, with flexible deadlines, I was elated!

 

Unfortunately, I was also on my way to a psychiatrist appointment.

And I had just cut off a bunch of my hair…myself. As is usual with what I identify as hypomania, it's not that I didn't want to cut my hair, and it's not that I didn't like how it turned out…it's just that I hadn't even had enough energy to shower for two or three days prior, and now I was hacking off my hair AND showering right before driving to my appointment? Like I said, it worked out fine, but the timing felt…off.

 

I had also written in large green Sharpie letters the words "PHONE BACKGROUND" on my wrists and the backs of my hands, which is unusual for me because I understand that Sharpie is somewhat toxic and I usually avoid doing anything mental-health-related that's visible enough for other people to notice and ask me about. The Sharpie was to remind myself to refer to the following image:

 

(I found this on Facebook somewhere and made it my phone background. I believe the original version is this: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/471611392212076761/)

In other words, friends, I was not in a good place.

I didn't know if my new psychiatrist, whom I was about to see literally for the first time, would be able to hear my "silent screams," so to speak. I wasn't sure exactly what I needed to scream about in the first place.

With that in mind, even though I was excited about the prospect of blogging once a month, I  decided to wait to answer the message.

It's a good thing I waited, too, because, unlike a few psychiatrists I'd seen before, this one really did seem to understand that I was in trouble and unable to express what I needed. I told him how I'd started browsing convenience stores for pocket knives, my preferred tool of self-harm. Luckily I hadn't found any I liked (I count myself very lucky that I am exceedingly particular about how and where and with what I will self-harm) and I hadn't plucked up the courage or fallen far enough down my personal hellish rabbit hole of depression to go to the stores that I knew would have what I was looking for.

The psychiatrist and I both agreed that this was not a stable situation, but we weren't planning on changing my medications. We agreed that the DBT individual and group therapy I've been doing for several weeks now was the most likely thing to have a positive effect on me, and my psychiatrist started to wrap up the visit, telling me to schedule my next visit for four weeks later.

But…I didn't leave. He tried again to say something encouraging and gently show me out, but I continued to sit on his couch.

While I didn't feel unsafe in that moment, I was very worried that I would feel worse in those four weeks before my next appointment, and that was not a risk I had any intention to take.

Friends, the road to self-harm (and to suicide, from what I understand) is not a simple incline where the sufferer in question moves up or down as things get better or worse, with the danger concentrated at the bottom of the slope. Instead, it is like walking around a minefield. Sometimes, with experience, we or the people who care about us can predict the location of those mines, but sometimes you can come home from one of your best days, best weeks, best months, best YEARS even, and find the knife in your hand or the lethal plan seemingly carved into the backs of your eyelids, haunting you, taunting you, inescapable.

That is why I refused to take the risk of not changing anything and waiting four weeks for my next visit. I wasn't sure how to stand up for myself, but I knew that walking out the door was dangerous, so there I was, stuck on the couch.

I think that's when my psychiatrist realized how scared I was. I had discussed inpatient treatment with my previous psychiatrist and with my parents, and I had mentioned to my new psychiatrist that I'd been considering it.

My psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to start inpatient right then. I was scared of that…I said I didn't know, I hadn't talked to my parents about doing it so soon, etc. Then he asked, "…Do you want me to make this decision FOR you?"I felt everything that had been silently screaming within me bubble to the surface in the form of tears and a compulsion to nod yes, even though I was terrified of all the unknowns, even though I could have said no and gone home and pretended to be fine.

This was not how I had planned it. This was no plan at all. There are some things I'm comfortable being very spontaneous about, but this was not one of them. I'd been thinking of shipping up to Boston for inpatient treatment, to a facility that got rave reviews from people I trusted deeply, and now I was voluntarily agreeing to be Baker Acted and sent to a place I'd hardly even heard of. In an ambulance. With barely enough time to let my parents know what was happening. I couldn't stop crying and worrying…but I also couldn't stop nodding yes.

At that point, I had been in treatment for depression and anxiety, and later bipolar type II and borderline personality disorder (depending on which doctor I asked), for three years. I had just had to quit my job and was isolating myself socially because I was so anxious and tired that I almost never wanted to talk to anyone or leave my house.

Friends, I'm squeamish and introverted and I hate being cold. I HATE hospitals. I am scared of the smell that reminds me of getting shots (which often literally cause me to faint), I am scared of getting blood drawn even though I've done it a hundred times, I am scared of all the things and all the people that are unfamiliar, and I am scared of the cold that seeps into my bones no matter how warmly I dress, the cold that settles on the most benign equipment (stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, chairs) and makes even those things unsettling.

But after three years of unsuccessful treatment, of suffering and confusion and frustration, there was one thing scarier to me than a hospital stay:

 

Living in my mental minefield, indefinitely.

 

So I said yes, and off I went

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Stay tuned for part two, my five days in inpatient care! Viewer discretion very much advised. Warnings and safety information will be re-posted.

 

And again, if you are feeling upset in ANY WAY, please use the resources provided below.

And please note that you do NOT need to be suicidal to use this resource, and you can use it if you're worried about someone other than yourself!

Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

En Español: 1-888-628-9454

Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889

Veterans: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text: 838225

Disaster Distress: 1-800-985-5990

Chat online: <http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx>

Here is the Trevor Project (LGBT) line:

Phone: 1-866-488-7386, available 24/7

Text: "Trevor" to 1-202-304-1200, available M-F 3pm-10pm EST/12pm-7pm PT

Chat online: 

available 7d/wk 3pm-10pm ET/12pm-7pm PM

And the Trans Lifeline as well:

US: (877) 565-8860, Canada: (877) 330-6366

From <http://www.translifeline.org/>