My Last Visit to the Psych Ward

last-visit-psych-ward

 5 weeks after my fourth and most recent hospitalization: May 21, 2010
 

I shuffled into the day room, sticky soles of my grippy hospital socks licking the cold linoleum floor. Everyone mingled in this spacious room, the brightest spot in the house that we were living in for the time being. Sanity had begun to return to my foggy brain. Finally. There was such relief with being able to recognize a thought, rather than being led by a force hidden, so far beyond my control. For two days I had been aimlessly wandering the long, dank halls of the psych ward. Incoherent and lost. The perfect pharmaceutical cocktail was starting to even me out. And I was counting the hours until I’d be released to the care of my husband. I was desperate to see my son.

I noticed that the flowering plant on the counter of the open nurse’s station had withstood my incessant plucking, as it still had about a dozen blooms, by some miracle.

“She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me.” I debated, pulling at the tender petals of a flower I had stolen late into the night on my evening of admittance. “I know it’s going to be a girl. But what will she name it?” I mused to myself out loud, lost in the psychosis which my pregnancy had spun me into.

Later that night, or maybe it was the following morning, one of the nurses tried to get me to eat. “You need to eat something, sweetheart. For the baby. Here, try this,” she urged, shaking the small box of Apple Jacks she had brought from the kitchen down the hall. We were in my sterile little patient room, a desk between us. She sat in a chair across from me, attempting to coax me into taking a few bites, as I sat in another chair, shaking, sweaty and weak from exhaustion. A small container of milk was ripped open on one side to form a drinking spout, but hadn’t been touched. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, staring at the items in front of me labeled “Eat Me” and “Drink Me.”

I may have taken a few bites, a sip of milk, but my mind told me she was trying to poison me. I made sure not to eat or drink too much, for fear of never waking up.

Eventually I did decide to lie down and rest on the stiff single bed with the scratchy white sheets in the far corner of the room. No one slept in the other bed in the room. I had my own private room. Good thing, too. I needed to just sleep, to dream off the mania. It had taken two days of the nurses pumping me with antipsychotics until I finally relaxed enough to sleep.

I emerged a day later, after a long, hard sleep, to “meet” the other crazies in the day room. I might have met them a day or two earlier, but my memory was a slice a Swiss cheese when I was manic, so I didn’t remember. Two did stand out, though.

Tony was a big, burly Italian guy who chain-smoked and had the cough to show for it. He was warm and engaging, and I liked him immediately. He made me smile with his obscene jokes, a welcome escape from the situation we had all found ourselves in. Tony was constantly searching for a number in the phone book. When he wasn’t in the smoker’s lounge, he was on the phone pleading with the person on the other end to come pick him up.

Mary had left the day before. She was young like me, and claimed she was also very early pregnant, although I didn’t believe her. Hell, I didn’t even believe I was five weeks along. We had promised to keep in touch, but I knew there was no way I’d live up to my end of that deal. I didn’t like to take hospital memories home. Art therapy projects were an exception. Nothing like a glimpse into a mad mind for old time’s sake. So instead of giving her my number when she wrote down hers for me, I hugged her goodbye, telling her it would be too painful. She understood.

The exercise lady arrived in the afternoons, swooping in to lead the patients in yoga or dance sessions in the day room. She’d turn on 80’s pop music and we’d bop around, forgetting about the frustrations attached to having lost touch with reality. During those moments, everything seemed to disappear and for three minutes I was okay. Hips swayed, eyes closed softly so I could really feel the music. But as quickly as her sessions began, they were over, and we were back to waiting for our next activity to pass the time until we’d see the outside world once again.

Held for forty-eight hours of insanity, twenty-four for the meds to really start kicking in, and another forty-eight and I was good to go. A final meeting with the staff psychiatrist and I was given my ticket out of that joint. It had been my fourth stint in a psych ward, and it was a house of medicine I was hoping not to have to visit again for a very long time, maybe even never.

Ready to get back to my own home, to my family where I’d be nursed back to complete health so I could get back to being the kick-ass mama and wife they loved. This last visit to the psych ward solidified my commitment to staying well. For myself, for my husband and for our son and the unborn baby I was carrying. Not another day would pass without that little salt pill sliding down my throat before bed. My family deserves this promise. And they’ll get it, forever and ever.

last-visit-psych-ward

Living with bipolar disorder

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that I am living with a mental illness. Not because I worry about what other people think of me, it’s not that at all. It’s because I have to constantly be taking the pulse of my mood so that I can manage my illness to the best of my ability. Over the last seven years I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I like to describe my experience living with bipolar disorder as a scale of one to ten. A simple ten point scale tells so much for someone like me. Think of it this way: 1 = completely depressed, can’t get out of bed; 5 = in the middle, balanced (this is what I strive for every day); and 10 = completely manic, need hospital. I won’t lie, I like being in the 6-7 range, but when I do have those times when I creep up to the 8’s, I start to crumble. I know that when I get to 8, I need to make time for sleep or else I could tip over to 9 or 10 and that would be incredibly awful. Just because I’ve been there before. And now we have two kids and I would hate for them to see me in a manic state. Just as I would hate for them to see me depressed. But with my version of bipolar disorder, Bipolar I, my moods swing on the higher side of the scale versus the low side.

Nighttime is the hardest. The kids have been asleep for an hour and within that time I’ve cleaned up the kitchen and (of late) collapsed on the couch in front of my favorite show right now: XFactor. Some nights I am motivated enough to do a workout and then am filled with so much serotonin that it’s almost impossible to turn off the endorphins enough to sleep right afterwards.

I’m trying to curb my evening leftover work/facebook surfing/twitter gazing/blog stalking to a minimum so that I can hopefully join the 10pm bedtime club.

When I do climb into bed, I get super jealous of my husband who, within exactly two minutes of us shutting off the lights, is snoring away happily. I’m a different story. My eyes close, my breathing slows down, and I shift around until I get into a comfortable position to try to nod off. Thoughts pop up and a running to-do list keeps flashing before me. I’ve learned coping mechanisms over the years so now I am able to turn down those things and find sweet sleep. If ever an hour goes by and I am still not asleep, I know that I must pop a sleeping pill to help me get the zzz’s that I need.

I’ve just been thinking lately about how I live with this each and every day, and will for the rest of my life. Nothing I can’t handle, just thought my readers might be interested in knowing a little bit about what it feels like.

4 years ago he changed my life forever

I’ll never forget the moment I became a mom. 

Even though I was manic beyond belief by the time I finally got to hold him for the first time and for the entire four weeks following his birth, I still somehow knew how incredibly different my life was going to be now that he had arrived.

He made me want to be a better person. He gave my life purpose. He made us a family. He made my heart explode with love every time I held him to my chest.

Little Man, your Mama loves you more than anything in the whole world.

Over these past four years you have become such an inquisitive fire-cracker of a preschooler who challenges me to the core each and every day.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your laugh makes me smile and within seconds I am laughing right along with you.

Your energy keeps me motivated to run along with you.

Your eyelashes make me so incredibly jealous.

I love the way you protect and love on your baby sister.

I get goosebumps when I see how happy you are when you’re in the water. You are such a fish.

You are so passionate about fire trucks and fire fighters that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you become one someday.

Having you in my life is one of the most magical miracles I have ever experienced.

Singing you Twinkle, Twinkle every night these past four years is my favorite way to end the day.

In one hour you turn four.

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Man. I love you to the moon and back.

Love,

Mommy

xoxo

Two years ago today

It’s been two years to the day today that I was last hospitalized for a manic episode.

And what a storm it was. I had just found out I was pregnant and thus was so excited I couldn’t sleep for a week. You see, it had taken us ten months to conceive the little lady and being the impatient, total Type-A person I am, that was just way too long.

When I don’t get enough sleep, it leads to mania. My thoughts race out of control, I start talking in circles, and I lose touch with reality. My husband knew the signs all too well. He knew what needed to be done.

Within thirty minutes, his mom was here to help with our 18-mo old son, and the EMT’s and two police officers were standing in our bedroom trying to talk me into going with them to the hospital. When I wouldn’t consent, my husband signed some papers, and they cuffed me and put me in the squad car. Luckily this time it was pitch black outside and they didn’t have their flashing lights on. So hopefully the neighbors didn’t see and think I was being arrested.

 

Crazy how far I’ve come in those two years. I’ve learned so much over these past six years living with bipolar disorder. I’ve learned how important my family is to me, I’ve learned which friends care enough to actually talk with me about what I’ve been going through, and most of all I’ve learned that I can overcome this “mental illness” to make my dreams a reality.

Six years ago I was so crippled by depression and anxiety that at times I didn’t want to go on. I was being so selfish, but I saw how my condition was affecting my family and I hated that I kept bringing everyone around me down because of my mood. I felt like I had lost my identity because the career I had worked so hard to build over the past four years came to a screeching halt after my second hospitalization. I couldn’t handle the pressure at work any longer – the pressure that had pushed me to work harder and smarter over the years was now causing panic attacks and driving me deeper and deeper into depression.

Ultimately, I had to resign from my job and with that I felt like I was a nobody. I was worthless. I was sad. I didn’t feel like there was anything worth living for.

Looking back, it basically took me all of 2006 to pick myself up again. I went through so many weeks of crying hard every.single.night. It’s hard for me to think about what my parents and husband went through during that year. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to stay positive and supportive to someone who was so incredibly sad.

But they did. And Thank God they did. I am eternally grateful to them.

I never would have imagined that I would be where I am today without the love and encouragement of my dad, mom, and husband. Along with my in-laws, brother, two sisters-in-law, and a handful of close friends, I trudged through 2006 and made it into 2007. I made it to see another day.

And now I know that there is so much to live for.

I am so thankful to have found a medication that works for me. I know that I am lucky. I take my medication religiously and stay on top of my moods to make sure I continue to stay stable. I have too much going for me to end up in the hospital again. I don’t want to miss a second of this life.

Because it really is too short when you think about it.