Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It's Already Tomorrow

For those of you old enough to remember Li'l Abner, you may remember the character Joe Btfsplk. For you young people, in the olden days when everyone read the local newspaper on Sunday, the comics or the "Funnies" were a page or two of color short cartoon strips such as Peanuts, Mutt and Jeff, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Pogo, and Brenda Starr - Reporter, to name a few. Later there was Doonesbury, a Pulitzer Prize winning strip. But I digress.

The character Joe Btfsplk ran around with a permanent black cloud over his head. I often can relate to Joe. The sun can be shining, I can be with my favorite people, doing something I love to do, but in reality I'm just going through the motions. One lesson I have learned since the first of the year is to live in the moment. 

We cannot do a damn thing about the past (but learn from it and not repeat anything that was painful), worrying about it and beating ourselves up over it achieves nothing. Worrying about the future should only be done at a time that your thoughts and actions will be productive. Otherwise there is a wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over something that cannot be changed at that time.

Life is too short. (And, for God's sake don't fret over time wasted in the past.) We need to grab the brass rings, embrace our friends and family, and get 125% out of every minute from here forward.

Then when you are by yourself or talking with the appropriate person at the appropriate time, figure out that issue you need to work out. Like trying to eat an elephant, it is best done one bite at the time.

As Charles Schultz once said in "Peanuts", "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."

Monday, January 30, 2017

She Tells Everyone I'm Crazy

In one our sessions, anyone who has an issue presents it to the group to get their feedback. The therapist is generally quiet and just moderates the conversation.

On Tuesday Ruth spoke up. "I just find that people at my church make fun of me. They say things like - 'just get over it and why do you need to take medicine'. It is hurtful."

John asked,"Have you spoken with your pastor?"

"He is the worse. He said I needed to get control of myself. That there was nothing wrong with me. And I should not act as if I had a problem."

Margaret asked, "What about your friends? Are they supportive?"

"Not really. They make fun of me. They don't understand."

Levi spoke up, "And your family, certainly they are supportive?"

"No not at all. I have an aunt who just gossips and tells everyone that I am crazy. Every time I go to the doctor or the hospital, she calls family members up to tell them, 'She is doing it again'"

"Doing what again?"

"Acting crazy."

After listening to all this I (gently as I could) said, "Ruth have you thought that if your church family is not supportive then that is not the best place for you. I do not go to church but I do know that a church should be comforting and take care of its own. Especially a pastor. That is the one person who you should be able to count on for support."

"I know, but it is my church."

"And, if your friends and family are stressing you out, then they are toxic. You need to distance yourself from them."

"But they are my family."

Levi added, "Ruth if you are not getting support and worse yet, are being put down and stressed, it doesn't matter who they are, they are not good for you."

The therapist spoke up, "Ruth, I think everyone is right here. If you are not getting love and support from your church then they are making you feel worse every time you go.

"I do. I come home more depressed than ever each time I go."

The therapist continued, "And even though they are your family, you need to cut off the ones who stress you."

After some more conversation, Ruth agreed that this all made sense and she would try to find another church and cut ties with the friends and family who were causing her so much stress.

On Friday, the therapist asked her how things were going? Had she been able to break those toxic ties?

Ruth responded, "Somewhat. My Aunt called last night and all she talked about was how sick I must be not to have shown up for the family dinner last."

The therapist asked, "And how did you handle that?"

"I just listened and apologized."

"And your friends?"

"The one who was bothering me the most told me that I should not listen to you."

"And your church?"

"I went to Wednesday services and the pastor told me I needed to get my life straight."

"Ruth, do you remember what we talked about on Tuesday? And how you said you were going to break those ties and start with a new church and find new friends who were supportive?"

"I know, I know but my family told me if I could not count on my family, who could I count on? And my pastor reminded me that I should be loyal to the church and let God heal me."

John looked at her, "And how's that working for you?"

The therapist intervened," Ruth, we are here to help you. But we can only help if you help yourself."

Peter spoke up, "I just wake up every morning gagging. My anxiety is worse. Mama is still calling me a baby and I do not think anyone likes me."

Ruth, right off the bat, said, "Peter, you need to find some friends who support you and have a frank talk with your mother and tell her that she is not helping you. Don't you take care of her?"

"Yeah, it's only me."

"Then you need to sit down with her and tell her that you learned in therapy that you needed support from her."

"I don't know if I can do that."

Ruth spoke again, "Of course you can. Right now she is a major stress for you. And you can address it."

The therapist laughed, "Ruth that is right. Does that mean you are going to talk with your family and friends?"

"Oh no, I don't think I can do that."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Communications From a UFO

As we waited for the therapist, George announced to no one in particular, "The blinking lights are signals from a UFO." 

Randal responded "I don't think so." 

Margaret said "Has your medication been changed lately?"

George replied, "They are telling me that God wants to see me."

Margaret laughed, "Not anytime soon, I hope."

George, pointing at the ceiling, "They are blinking again, do you see them? Now they are saying that they will be taking over."

Donald asked "Are there any little green men?"

George looked at him, "No, that would be crazy. Little green men? What do you think this is, My Favorite Martian?" 

Ruth added, "Well I hear voices all the time but it is neither God nor little green men." 

George once again, "There are NO little green men. Do you know how absurd that would be?"

Levi spoke up, "I hear God all the time." Then he added,"I don't hear anything."

Peter said, "The thought of us being taken over scares me. My anxiety is very bad right now. I don't think anyone likes me."

Margaret added, "Maybe the little green men would take my children with them."

George, by now irritated, "There are no NO little green men!"

Donald said, "But there is a UFO?"

George answered,  "Of course, there has to be a UFO because it is communicating through the flickering lights."

Donald responded, "OK, then if you cannot see the UFO, how do you know there are no little green men?"

George now incensed, "That's ridiculous, if I told you I saw little green men you would think I was crazy and seeing things."

Peter asked in a panic, "What if it does land here?  What if they are going to get us? 

Margaret laughed again, "Not us, but my children." 

Just then the therapist walked in and asked, "What are y'all talking about?"

Donald said, "A UFO that is sending signals to George through the flickering lights in the ceiling."

The therapist looked at George and very seriously said, "Do you see little green men?"

George replied, "No, do you think I'm crazy?"

Friday, January 27, 2017

Feed Me, Feed Me

Medication is good – it makes you feel better and it may control your symptoms.

Medication is bad - since one of the major side effects is weight gain. I know because I have been subjected to incredible food cravings due to what I have been prescribed.

We had a session with the pharmacist, and just for the record, she was about 5' 4" and weighed, at most, 100  pounds. One the main topics she was to speak on was how to avoid weight gain with certain medications. I was enthused. But then her talk was just about increasing exercise, eating healthy, and losing weight. This is when I realized there was a failure to communicate.

Certainly exercise and a healthy diet are good lifestyle choices, however neither of these have anything to do with food cravings. I have found those cravings are evil and all-consuming.  They make candy and sweets call me from the cupboard. I find that carbohydrates whisper "Come hither and eat me now".  My body is constantly in a starvation mode. Unless one has experienced this, one cannot comprehend the pain and agony. Simply telling someone, "Eat Less" is totally ineffective when your body is saying "Feed me, feed me", all the time.

When I realize a certain medication is causing weight gain I contact my doctor.  My statement is very simple – "If you think I was depressed before the medication, then be aware this medication has caused me to gain weight and now I am just one honey bun away from a death spiral. Therefore I suggest you prescribe something else."

I raised this issue with the Pharmacist. Her response was, "Yes, some medications can cause weight gain."

"But how do we handle that?"

"Like I suggested, more exercise and a better diet." I realized this was going nowhere. Perhaps a more rotund pharmacist who suffers from depression and is on some evil medication would be more sympathetic. If I looked like a waif (as she did) I would not be able to relate to the question either. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This is Why I Do This

I do not want anyone to think I am making fun (or light) of those I am in therapy with. (I have changed all their names . . . and genders, in some cases.) One of the reasons I decided to write this Blog was to show that mental illness can happen to anyone. Most likely one or more of your friends and family suffer from some type and you are totally unaware.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Hiding it does no one any good. Trust me. When I went into a death spiral my family was shocked. They knew I had my "low" days. They knew I wasn't always happy. They knew I was under a certain amount of stress. But I kept the depth of my depression inside. My thought was, "Why burden someone else with this?" "This is not something anyone would understand." "They would probably think I was insane." (I'm not insane but ill.) Also, it comes and goes.

Group therapy is interesting and sometimes entertaining because you realize that there are many souls out there suffering as you are. I also realized, that in the great scheme of things, I am so much better off than so many people. I ONLY suffer from depression. This can be managed. I do not have to deal with voices in my head, fear of leaving my house, anxiety of most situations, uncontrolled anger, multiple personalities, and insane mania. 

It is also interesting, because as a group, we share something in common - mental illness. And although, it is not a funny subject, we do laugh at ourselves. We also support those who are not doing well, those who are not responding to the medication and treatment, and those who are in therapy against their will and resent it. 

I can assure you, I add my fair share of entertainment to the group. Most importantly it has made me realize that it is not the end of the world to admit I sought inpatient help and now am taking advantage of outpatient therapy. After all, if we cannot find humor in our life, how can we muddle through it? 

Family Support or Not

I thought I had problems until the day Diane walked in. She announced she suffered from anxiety, ADHD, Depression, and Agoraphobia. OK, that means she is sad, hyper, not focused, anxious, and scared to leave her house.

Of course, all and all, the group is a motley bunch. Every one of us has our issues, our problems, our neuroses, and our diagnosis. It seems each is unique with our own quirks. They say you are never cured, you just learn how to manage - a scary thought at best. Great, it would be my luck to have a disease that is incurable, personal, goes into remission, and then, out of nowhere, rears its ugly head.

There is Levi with his multiple personality disorder. His responses are always interesting because there is usually more than one and often they conflict with one another. Although I have never heard one of his "personalities" talk to another and so far he has always spoken in English. (There was a gentleman in the IOP with the same disorder whose two personalities carried on a conversation, one of them speaking English and the other French.)

David wants to argue with everyone. When the therapist asked him why he is inclined to argue, he replied that he did not argue with anyone. "There are just stupid people out there who say stupid things."

Of course there is Peter who is convinced no one likes him (but his cat). He suffers from anxiety and depression.

Bob has social anxiety, fights with his siblings, and only wants to play video games in his basement. Otherwise, he is just depressed. Our President accuses folks like him of hacking into our systems and effecting (affecting?) our electoral process. Given he lives in the United States and does not speak Russian, I seriously doubt it.

An older lady, Margaret, dressed in very expensive clothes and jewelry, joined the group. She said her diagnosis was depression and psychosis. She was silent until the discussion turned to support groups and our families. The therapist asked each of us to describe our relationship with our families. 

Levi loved his family and did not have one, David feared his wife would leave him, Peter stated no one liked him and his mother called him names, and Bob said his parents were dead and he missed them very much. The older lady spoke up for the first time, "I hate my children. I wish they had never been born."

"Well", said the therapist,"Let's start with you, Margaret . . ."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

... And I'll cry if I want to

After my initial meeting with my medical team, the resident said, "We need to wait until you are not so 'emotional' and are ready to talk."

I looked at her and calmly said, "I'm an emotional person. I cry when I watch romantic movies. I cry when I read some hallmark cards. I tear up at the memory of my parents and the birth of my children. What makes me happy brings me to tears. What makes me sad brings me to tears. What hurts me brings me to tears. Anything sentimental will make me puddle up. I have been seeing a doctor for 14 years every 4 to 6 weeks now, and rarely do I go through a session without crying."

"You don't ever get ready." I said.  I continued, "Maybe there should be a different base line for me. After all, I'm the reason they make waterproof mascara."

I think this got lost in translation, because when I was finished she said, "Well be all that it may be, you are still too emotional."

Not to be rude, I did not say what I was thinking - Isn't this what you are here for? If I'm an emotional mess, then we need to start there. Or perhaps I should wait until you work on your bedside manner!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Do Not Think Anyone Likes Me

The session began with Sue (the therapist) asking, "How is everyone doing?"

Answers around the table were:

  • "Good"
  • "Better"
  • "OK, but I have been better"
  • (from Levi, who suffers from multiple personality disorder) "I feel super" pause "I want to kill myself" 
  • (and from Peter) "My Mama still calls me names. I do not think anyone likes me."

In response to Levi, the therapist asked,"Why do you want to kill yourself?"

"I don't, why would you think that? I feel better than I have in months."

Then she asked,"What did you do this weekend?
  • "Worked in my garden"
  • "Visited family"
  • "Cleaned my house"
  • (from Levi) "Went out with my girl friend" pause "I want to kill myself"
  • (from Peter) "My Mama says I can't drive. I do not think anyone likes me."

Once again in response to Levi, the therapist asked,"Levi, you just said you wanted to kill yourself again?"

"No, I didn't." pause "I just feel hopeless and the world needs to end." Sue told him they would talk after the group session.

Next: "Name something you did that made you feel better."
  • "Went to a movie"
  • "Baked a cake"
  • "Took a long walk"
  • (from Levi) "Worked with my model car collection." "I want to kill myself."
  • (from Peter) "I always play with my cat when I feel bad. I do not think anyone likes me."


"Why do you keep saying you want to kill yourself?"

No response.

"Remember last week when we all set goals. What was your goal and did you accomplish it?
  • "I said I would do something for myself and I planted flowers in my yard"
  • "I wanted to spend more time with my family and I went to my son's for dinner. It was the first time I had seen him in months"
  • "My goal was to get organized. I cleaned my house"
  • Levi was silent
  • (from Peter) "I drove my mother to the mall. She kept telling me I was a baby. I do not think anyone likes me."

"Great, now we need to set new goals."
  • "I am going to go out and buy myself some new clothes"
  • "I'm going to invite my children over to my house for Sunday dinner"
  • "I am going to clean out that guest room closet that I have avoided for years"
  • (from Levi) "I want to invite friends over to watch the game." Then he laughed, "I am in the mood to party."
  • (from Peter) "I'm going to go to the grocery store"
In response to Peter's goal, the therapist asked,"I thought you went to the store last week?"

"I did, but I didn't get out of my car. This time I am going to take my mother and go in the store. I do not think anyone likes me."

Monday, January 23, 2017


As the therapy session started the therapist said, "I apologize if I cough and wheeze today. I am just getting over this crud. I feel fine, but you would not know it to hear me."

Several folks around the table commented that they, too, had been afflicted by a bad cold or flu and totally understood.

Peter, sitting next to the therapist, said, "I was able to drive on the interstate to Columbia with my mother." This comment was ignored by the group which I found odd.

Sitting across from me was Judy. Now Judy is an older middle age woman wearing a loose red cardigan and thick black rimmed glasses. Her hair is streaked with grey, a little frizzy, but falls on her shoulders. She spoke up. "One of my vocal chords does not work,"  she said pointing to the left side of her neck. "And the doctors do not know what is wrong. I have had an MRI, a CAT scan, and X-rays. Finally one doctor explained to me that the malady is due to a problem with a nerve in my forehead," with that she pointed to the top of her face. "And this nerve goes down my side," she indicated bringing her finger down the right side of her body, stopping at her waist, "Into my stomach where there is some issue."

Several of us just shook our heads, I think in a combination of confusion, empathy, politeness, and, in my case, trying not to laugh. The therapist just smiled and said, "Judy, I hope that gets better."

Then Peter said, "When I feel bad I play with my cat."

I may not get any help out of these sessions, but they will at least be entertaining. You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Pot Roast is not worth a Damn!

Everyone is an expert, whether you need advice or not, some feel the obligation to share. One of the first days when I sat down to eat, an older gentleman introduced himself to me as "Thomas". "Is that what you ordered?" He asked looking at my tray. I laughed and said " Not even close."

"Figured as much. They'll bring you a menu and you can choose your meals for the following day. And a little advice, the eggs are pretty good for breakfast, the string beans are OK but the macaroni and is quite tasty."

I thanked him for his advice. While I tried to finish my meal,  a lady at the end of the table got my attention. " I don't like the food", she said. 

A med tech walked over to her and said, "Miss Lydia, if you don't like, then don't eat it."

"I want to go away," replied Miss Lydia.

"Where do you want to go?"

"Far away". The med tech started to assist her getting up.
"Why are you touching me!"

"Oh said you wanted to leave."

"But I'm not through with my meal."

"I thought you didn't like the food?"

"Who said that?"

And out of no where Thomas added, "Oh yeah the pot roast is not worth a damn."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Whaling Elephants and Imaginary Friends

I was on the phone with my DH when Lydia started yelling, "No, no, no." This soon became "Nooooh, nooooh!" Then noises from her sounded like a whaling animal, as she kept yelling "No" at no one in particular. My DH, who could hear the cries over the phone, asked, "What in the world is making that noise? " I quickly explained (as best I could) that it was a "who" not a "what", and what was occurring. He added, "Well someone needs to help her, she sounds like a dying elephant."

I rang off and made my way across the room. "Miss" Lydia, the patient who sounded as if she were in such dire straits, was leaning over the side of one of the lounge chairs still crying for help. The nurses came over, checked her, and tried to straighten her up in her chair.

As I sat down to read I became aware of 2 female patients in deep conversation. After I paid more attention to them, I realized they were not talking to each other, they were each talking to themselves or to another party, whose presence I was not aware of.

My parents were quick to remind me that when I was 2 years old, I had an imaginary friend named "Googy". When I was sent to sit on the back steps, ie in time out, they would find me in deep conversation with my friend. Given my history with Googy, who was I to judge Helen and Martha?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Right out of Central Casting

As with any situation, there is a cast of characters. I sitting in one of the small glassed off rooms waiting  for my medical team. An older black man was unplugging 2 sets of electric sheers from the wall. A Med tech happened to be in the room and she asked me if I met Will. I replied no and stood up to introduce myself. The Med tech continued, as she pointed to the sheers in his hands, "He's the best and his price is right. just let him know if you need his services."

I thanked him and said I was fine right now. Will (and his sheers) left the room. After he was out of ear shot, the Med Tech smiled, "I don't think I would have him cut your hair, if I were you. Let's just say - every hair cut he does is a little different and a bit unique." I laughed and told her I would take her advice.

After the meeting wih my doctors, I was going back to my room to pick something up. As I was walking through the common area I culd hear a patient yelling, "I lost my teeth. They are gone."

A Med Tech walked over the gentleman and calmly asked, "Did you put them on your dinner tray?" Then she added, "Did you look in your pocket?" But once again the patient just moaned, "I lost my teeth." The Med Tech asked, "Are you talking about your dentures? Are you missing your tops or your bottoms?"

From across the room, another Med Tech laughed, "Mr. John, open your mouth. Look your teeth are still your mouth." With that the first Med Tech just shook her head and walked away.

Another lady sitting by herself at the table started shouting, "Leave me alone. Go away. Don't push me out of the chair."  When no one came to assist her, she jus got louder, "Help me, help me. No one is paying me any attention."

The nurse walked over, patted her on the back and said, " 'Miss' Lydia, it is all OK, no one is trying to push you out of your chair."

"Miss" Lydia looked up at the nurse and yelled, "Well, why the Hell not."

Meanwhile George was shuffling around. He would walk over and sit in a chair, a minute or 2 later he would get up from that chair and sit in the next one - but not for long.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

. . . and No One's at Home in the Top of Your Dome.

Not being a mental health professional (nor do I play one on TV) I did not have a clue of the diagnosis of the patients in the unit. When I first arrived, I was told that many of them suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's. But that was just the tip of the ice burg, there were other issues here. I did not know enough about mental health to even start guessing - multiple personalities, depression, and/or psychotic personality disorder.  Other layman's terms that are not PC acceptable come to mind - snakes in the head, bat shit crazy, and certified loony, to name a few.

I was not sure if the addition of my name to the rolls here should give me reason to feel more sane and normal than ever. Or should I question my sanity and normal mental ability to keep up with the human race.

One morning while I watching the news, an older very articulate gentleman sitting next to me was commenting on the state of the world. I was very careful to listen to his views and not blurt out some incendiary comment. It was clear what side of the political spectrum he was coming from. We exchanged comments about the rise of China, the insanity of North Korea's leader, Brexit, etc. 

All was going swimmingly until he looked at me and opined about the golden years of America - days of our military might, when we ruled the world, and other leaders of the world knew the value of our institutions such as the CIA. Then he started talking about the Tri-Lateral Commission and the cold war.

As soon as I could do so, I politely "remembered" that I had left a book in my room and I excused myself. OK, I could add delirium  and living in the unreality zone to the list.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Death by Booklight

Naturally everything brought into the IOP had to be inspected and inventoried. Only when it was deemed "safe and appropriate", would it be released to you. If not deemed "safe and appropriate", the item (or items) would be stored in a locked closet for safe keeping.

My daughter had insisted on getting the few items I had requested and bringing them back that same night. After they were "processed" they would be given to me. I knew she had brought the items and around 8pm I checked with the nurses' station to see if they had received them. After a very brief search, they said no, she had not brought them in. By 9:30 I was exhausted and hoping I could get a good night's rest.

The following morning when I walked past the nurses' station, I noticed a box of drinks with my name written on it. I asked the nurse if anything else had been brought in with the drinks. She said not that she knew of. I pointed out that the box of drinks had been delivered and my name was on the box, I would think the other items would also be there.

To her credit, she left in search and returned in just a few minutes with a bag. From it she pulled 5 magazines, 3 books, and a book light. I was thrilled and thanked her. "The problem," she said as she handed the items to me, "was getting clearance on the book light."

As I walked back to my room, I contemplated the issue with the book light. What harm could one do to themselves with a book light? It was too large to swallow, yet too small to wrap around my neck. This one did not have a battery that could be removed and swallowed. Surely I was not the first patient to request a book light?

My DH came to visit the following day. When he realized there were a few more items I needed, he said he would get them after his visit and drop them off for me. Knowing my DH, I knew if he said he was going to this, he would. Yet, once again when I inquired at the nurse's station I was told that, no, they had not received anything.

I checked back before bedtime, then again in the morning - still nothing. Finally I found a very helpful nurse. She said if I thought they had been delivered then she thought they probably had been. To her credit she mounted a search. Again, nothing could be found.

Then she said, "There is one more place I want to check. Surely they would not be there, but around here nothing surprises me. Follow me." We went back to my room where she unlocked the closet. Sure enough, there was everything my DH said he would bring me. There was also a small bag taped shut with a note written in red taped to it. "Not to be given the patient."

The nurse looked at me, I just shrugged my shoulders, "I do not have a clue what that is all about."

She opened the bag to find the pen I had sent with my DH and the pack of ink refills I had requested. The nurse just laughed. I asked her if there was a problem with this, since it concerned a writing pen that had already been "approved". She said she could not imagine that being an issue and handed the bag to me. She also handed me all the other items he had brought.

I laughed. How was I supposed to know the items were in the locked closet. My issues did not include hearing voices or seeing through locked doors. She just smiled and said, "You would be surprised," and left the room.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough

As I was trying to read quietly in the corner, I noticed music coming from somewhere in the middle of the room. The music got louder as did the decibels of the karaoke. I looked over to see an older woman dressed in blue scrubs and a red stocking hat, singing to her heart's content to songs by Michael Jackson and Barry White. Then scenes from the "Body Guard" came up on the TV and now she was singing along with Whitney Houston.

She knew all the words to Houston's hit song, "And I will always love you." When the song was about to reach the crescendo, "Miss" Jane's table mates just encouraged her. "Come on, you can reach that note and hold it, just like Whitney. Come on you can do it."

Sure enough as Whitney's phenomenal voice sang the song, "Miss" Jane kept up with her, holding her own. There was applause all around when she finished.

Then a music video by Earth, Wind, and Fire appeared on the screen. "Miss" Jane let it be known - very loudly - that she was not a fan. And when no one changed the video, she started yelling, "I don't want no Earth, Wind, and Fire. I need my Michael. Get that s&^t off the screen. I need my Michael."

Now, at the same time, a lady sitting at the same table as "Miss" Jane  was yelling, "Help, help, help me", for no reason anyone could see. Just then George shuffled out of a room, stopped, looked around, and shuffled into the next room. All the while his minder was trying to steer him back to the common area where he could sit down.

Friday, January 6, 2017

He's Harmless, Just Confused

And, on the 6th day, a space opened and I was admitted to the IOP. Thinking back on it, why did I so anticipate this move? Being transferred from the regular hospital to the IOP required a wheel chair. This is one of those mysteries in life no one has yet to explain to me - if one is healthy and mobile why does the institution require one being moved via wheel chair for discharge? My only guess is so the patient will feel like the paralytic at Capernaum Jesus healed, when they rise from the chair to get in their car. But, I digress.

So be it, I was "wheeled" from one facility to the other. By the time all of this took place it was well past 4:30 in the afternoon. As I entered the unit, there were nurses and other staff  scurrying around and patients scattered about in the main common area.

They gathered some chairs and seated us in the middle of the main area, just in front of the nursing station. As the nurse was started asking questions, I became aware of a moderately loud din in the air.  As I looked to my left I saw several elderly patients in blue scrubs moving about as if in slow motion. One in particular was yelling at the nurse about his supper. I could hear low moaning sounds coming from some of the rooms.

There was a table where  4 or 5 patients were sitting silently staring blankly as if there was nothing left to say to one another. Several other patients were seated in large easy chairs in various states of awareness.  So there we were, in front of the nursing station and God and everyone, giving all my medical history etc. I guess by this time the assumption was there were no secrets.

The process was long and tedious, with the nurse flipping through page after page of the intake sheets saying, "This one doesn't pertain to you. Neither does this one . . ." Instead of being able to tune out the noise, I felt drowned in it. I was close to tears. Where was I? How was this really going to help me?

Seriously! This this could not be the "quiet atmosphere that fosters healing".  I was mortified. My family was also a little surprised. "Senior" to me, just meant an age difference. I never thought of dementia and Alzheimer's being thrown into the mix. Just as all this was going on, a Physicians Assistant came and introduced herself.  She asked me, "On a scale of 1-10, how depressed are you at this moment?"

My reply was, "Given I have been waiting to be admitted into this facility for several days, I did not expect to be in a unit with dementia and Alzhmers' patients, and so far I do not find this environment a place of peace and healing - I would say a '3' at best."

She smiled in a knowing way, made some notes to the card she was holding, excused herself, and left. What was the correct answer, a 9? That I was feeling on top of the world? Frankly I was waiting for Jack Nicholson to appear at any time. I was soon to learn no matter how you felt, never give less than a 5 when they ask for a scale of 1 to 10.

As the nurse was showing me to my room, a tall, mute, man with a blank look on his face was standing in the doorway. The Nurse went over to him and gently said, "George, this isn't your room, why don't you go out there and watch television."

About that time a med tech came to fetch George. "There you are. George, this is not your room. Let's go find your dinner."

The nurse looked at us and said, "He is really harmless, just confused."

"Here is the room," the nurse said showing us the two beds and low chest of drawers beside each. Your roommate is Jill, but she is quiet. She doesn't say much, just shuffles around and stays to herself." 

It was time for my family to leave. My daughter quickly said that she would make some calls to see if I could possibly moved to the "Adult" unit. This was just not acceptable to her. I did not have much to say. I did ask if she could bring me a few things, including a book light so I would not bother Jill if I wanted to read at night. I asked the nurse if that was an issue (given the extensive list of prohibited items - belts, shoe strings, any food, mirrors, anything in a glass bottle, phones, laptops, tablets, etc) He assured me there was no issue with my having a book light.

My daughter was quick to make a note of what I wanted, "And," being thoughtful as ever, she said, "I'll bring you your pillow. I think you are going to need it." Pillow? I was more concerned about maintaining what sanity I had. Creature comforts were not on my mind.

As I thanked her I thought, what have gotten myself into? In reading through all the information and reviews, no where did I see anything that described this environment. One thing was for sure, if I did not have mental issues before I arrived, no doubt I would if I survived this.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Beginning

Getting into the hospital was not an easy feat - seems it was a popular destination. We were told there were 20 people on the waiting list for a bed. Since I had just arrived. This did not bode well for me. 

Tales of patients sleeping on beds in the halls of the ER waiting for a coveted space in the IOP abound. Somehow I managed to move up the list and bypass the halls of the ER. This alone confirms the dire straits our nation's mental health system is in. 

The IOP is divided into 4 units (Adult, Senior, Children, and Substance Abuse/ Addiction). Due to the shortage of beds, the "Senior" unit served as an overflow for the "Adult" unit. As it was to be, I was admitted to the "Senior" unit. Thinking I am still in my 30's, I needed to face reality that being in one's late 50's put one damn near the age of "Senior Discounts" and Blue Plate Specials. 

The faculty and staff at the IOP had an excellent reputation. From their web page I had been able to glean a few things. According to the description, the center offered a calm quiet environment that fostered emotional growth and healing. Patients were asked to leave all mobile phones, computers, lap tops, etc, home. Doing so ensured that you would not be distracted by these and would take advantage of the peaceful setting.

Given the attractive nature of the hospital, I pictured the IOP being bright and airy, with comfortable chairs and sofas about. I could imagine large floor to ceiling windows that looked over a tranquil courtyard. In fact the thought of so much quiet, peace, and kumbaya in one place may be more than I could handle. So be it. It was what it was going to be.