Posted on | September 20, 2010 | 7 Comments
So, at the end of my first post about depression and my hospital stay, I wrote that nine months later I’d be back in. Here’s what I didn’t understand. My first trip to the hospital, those four days, they didn’t ‘cure’ me. They only served to stabilize me. And since I was so resistant to it, I probably wasn’t even all that stable, only very medicated and very much in denial. The second time around I knew I was in trouble on a much deeper level. Even when I didn’t want to answer the intake counselors questions, I did.
His name was Aaron and he asked if I was having suicidal thoughts. I paused, thought about what I’d been thinking, and answered honestly. “No.” Aaron cocked his head to the side and put his hand on my arm. “Kim, what have you been thinking?” Well, that was a totally different question. One that I answered honestly. “I’ve been thinking that it would be better if I just wasn’t here. If I could just . . . go away. Leave. I don’t know how I’d go away . . . but being away would be better.” I tried to make it clear that I didn’t have a plan, that I was not going to commit suicide. But the damage was done. Aaron squeezed my arm and said, “We call those thoughts suicidal ideations. They are dangerous. We’ll help you.” I knew I was being admitted. I also knew that I was not going to be out in four days.
I didn’t cry as long, the second time around. I was at a different hospital, on a unit that was geared to patients with depression and anxiety more than alcohol and drugs. That also meant I didn’t have to go through the humiliation of a full body search. Plus, I was familiar with how things worked now that I’d been in- patient once before.
Immediately I was put into a small group that was actively working through issues. It was all about what depression and anxiety really felt like, what triggers they had, side effects of meds, coping strategies. I was able to just sit and listen while I waited for my in house psychiatrist to see me.
The doctor I saw was hard core. She was abrupt. She was borderline rude. She was not a nice lady. Thank you, Jesus. I didn’t need nice. I didn’t need polite. I didn’t need my hand held anymore. I needed somebody to say, “I’m putting you on these meds. These are the side effects. They suck. You will talk to these five people about how you feel. It will suck. You will talk about how you feel in these six group meetings every day. It will suck even more. You will sleep here. You will miss your family. You will talk, because if you don’t talk you will be here even longer. You will not leave here until I know you are safe. Good bye.” And that is what she said.
So I stayed for a week. And it sucked. But it put the wheels in motion for me to get better. I learned that I wasn’t going to ‘heal’ while in the hospital. The hospital was only going to get me stable. I was going to be put on high levels of different meds to get me out of the crisis, and do some really tough therapy. I was going to have to face my deepest fears and admit my lies, all my little tricks to cope and appear normal. (which was pretty funny, since I so did not appear normal!) I was told that I would be in therapy once a week for the next year if I wanted to succeed. This is when I began to realize just how much help I needed. 52 therapy sessions. I needed help. I was told, point blank, by that wonderful psychiatrist, that I would probably be on meds for the rest of my life.
When I visibly recoiled, this is what she did: She folded her hands ever so calmly on my chart and said, “Yes, you will need medication probably for life. You will take it. You will learn to deal with this . . . issue you seem to have about it. Or you will not. If you do not learn, then I will see you back here. And I do not want to see you again, Kimberly.” So that was something I started talking about in group time.
When I was discharged, I was not just sent home. I went into what they called a ‘day program.’ For two weeks I went to a kind of school to keep learning about depression, anxiety and my meds. So for about 3 1/2 weeks, my life was all about my brain and how it worked. My brother and his fiance` were living with us, so they really helped out, plus my mother in law came to stay. Then my mom came. With out my family, I don’t know what I would have done. Kerry, my sister in law, was a life saver. I was humilated at having to go back to the hospital, and terrified of facing her, but still, I knew she was hugging my kids when I wasn’t there at bedtime. I knew she was loving them. She doesn’t have kids, and to put this responsiblity on her, I can never thank her enough.
Once they were all gone and I was on my own. . . well. I was ‘stable.’
I certainly wasn’t healthy. I went to my counseling appointments and muddled through the days and weeks. Mostly I felt like I was underwater. Just breathing. I barely kept the house functioning, the kids fed and clean. I was not a loving wife. I was not a present mother. I was not a responsible or reliable wife. Art never knew if I was going to do anything I said I’d do. I might fall asleep, or get a migraine, or just plain forget. I kept working with my counselor and my psych. I was alive, but I was not living.
In late May I told my counselor that I wanted to change psychiatrists, that I didn’t trust myself with the one I had. He scheduled in five minute increments and I felt I was just saying, “I’m fine!” so I wouldn’t hold up the waiting room any more than I already was. I needed to see someone who could prescribe meds as well as listen to me. She suggested someone, and I took the first appointment I could. This woman listened to me. I sobbed my way through the first 15 minutes of the appointment, explaining why I was changing docs, lest she think I was a drug seeking junkie. I explained my lack of energy. My lack of motivation. My lack of me. How I used to be this fun person who laughed and enjoyed life. Who loved her children and her husband. Who could breathe with out being overwhelmed. She shook her head and we went through all the antidepressants I’d been on. All. Of. Them. I didn’t realize till then just how many I’d been on. She’d name one and I’d go, “Oh, yeah. Spring, 2000.” She’d name another and I’d say, “Yup. December 1999.” It was sad.
When we were done with that little exercise she said she really felt that antidepressants weren’t working for me, because if they worked for me, then one of them would have helped, right? TA-DA! So she switched my meds. She switched methods. I’ll be honest, when she told me what she wanted to put me on, I started to freak out.There is a stigma attached to that kind of med. She smiled and asked, “Does it matter if you feel like you?” Oh. Umm, NO!! So I started it. I was afraid to hope. I was scared out of my mind. And then . . . I met myself again. When I went back for my one month check up I was crying for a different reason. They were tears of joy and hope.
I’m not ‘healed.’ But I am healing. Now instead of coping with getting out of bed and breathing, I’m working through the fact that I missed out on about 2 1/2 years of life. Yes. 2 1/2 years. Typing it makes me cry. Admitting it brought me to my knees last week. I have a lot of work to do. But finally, finally, I know I can and will do the work.