This is a seven part series. A new part will be released every Wednesday until all 7 are out.
Disclaimer: As some of you may know, I took a Memoir Writing class in 2017. For that class, I wrote a lengthy (22 page) story about my first time going inpatient in a mental health facility back in May of 2015. I utilized a “journal” or sorts that I kept while in the hospital. It was really just a yellow legal pad with notes scribbled all over it each day. I was hesitant to share it here because it’s very frank and may contain details of thoughts I had that some people may find disturbing, but I also feel it’s an important look at what being in a mixed episode can feel like. In a mixed episode, you experience symptoms of both mania and depression. So you may have a ton of energy and engage in risk taking behaviors but your self talk may be incredibly negative and scary. At any rate, I’m now going to share that story with you weekly in several parts. I’m not sure how many parts yet, but I don’t want to make each post so long that no one wants to read it. Some parts of this story contain strong language not suitable for children. I know some of the stuff I have written and write in this part are really off the wall and bizarre, but they are the honest thoughts that I had at the time.
A few hours have passed since I arrived. The nurses have taken my vitals and the nurse named Sarah went through my bag of belongings when I got here to make sure I wasn’t bringing any contraband in. I was allowed to keep everything except for a few books. “You can switch them out if you’re here long enough,” she said. She also made a comment about how I may not want to wear some of the exercise shorts I brought because of how short they are and something about the chairs. Frankly, it seemed a bit judgy to me, particularly since I’m in a women’s only unit. No one here seems quite as bad off as I anticipated and the nurses are actually all very nice. I know that I can’t do anything else I’d be ashamed of while I’m locked up in here. I can’t spend any more money or flirt with any people I shouldn’t or drive too fast and it’s apparently Harry Potter weekend on Freeform, which is a channel we get in the TV room. In here, I know the hallucinations are fake even more than I know they are out there. I’m sitting here now, locked in a mental health ward with a bunch of other mentally unwell women, watching my very favorite movie series, with the knowledge that I am completely and totally unable to fuck up in any lasting way as long as I’m in here. I’ve never felt so safe in my life. This isn’t so bad.
Since it’s the weekend and a holiday, there’s less going on here than there normally would be. Right now, it’s a whole lot of sitting around and waiting until I can go to sleep. I wish I was allowed to put things up on the wall. Maybe I am, but I’m afraid to ask. One of my best friends, Joanne, made me a beautiful card. It’s sitting on top of the desk in the corner of my room. This place is weird, but it isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I guess I will find out on Tuesday what it’s really like on a normal day. I think it’s fucking stupid that they limit the number of books you can have in your room. I also wish River, my three-year-old Airedale Terrier, was allowed to come visit me. I walked around a corner earlier and nearly ran into Samantha. Samantha used to come into my first job at a local food place all the time and she is a therapist here. I have known her since I was 17 years old. It felt a little weird finding out she would be running groups I’m in, but it was also really nice to see a familiar face and I got used to the idea quickly. I just had my first dosage of in-hospital medication- 20mg of Propranolol which is a blood pressure medication that is sometimes used for anxiety. The nurses and I didn’t realize that it was for 5pm and it’s after 7 now. Now I’ll have to take my 9pm dosage a little late. I think I’ll probably be drugged out of my mind tomorrow after I see the doctor. They will probably get me out of here fairly quickly.
It’s almost midnight and I’m still scribbling on a notepad as fast as I can. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything with a spiral or wire or string binding, so what I have is a yellow legal pad. My thoughts are racing so quickly I can barely jot down what I mean before running along to the next thing. I almost kind of feel like I don’t really need to be here, but I know that’s not the case because of the spending, hallucinations, racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, acting out of character, and questionable choices. I hope I don’t have too much trouble sleeping tonight. Especially since my window has no blinds or curtains and I apparently have to wake up at 6:15AM to set goals for the day or some shit. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and I can’t wait to hear how River is doing.
It’s after 1AM and I’m still scribbling on my notepad. It’s taking a lot of effort for me to check my ego at the door here. I may think I’m a little better off than many of the other women here currently, but each and every one of us is spending time on a locked mental health ward in the hospital right now and we are doing so for valid reasons. I wonder how much time people here usually spend in their rooms and how much they usually spend in the little common TV room. I can’t stop crying because I just wish River was here. I miss her so much and it’s weird trying to fall asleep without her next to me. I am exhausted from the events of the day and, having cried myself out, I finally fall asleep.
The next day is long but better than the one before it. A nurse wakes me up shortly after 6AM to take my temperature and blood pressure, both of which are fine. I’m not a morning person, which must be glaringly obvious, because she says, “I’m so sorry for waking you up. You can go back to sleep for a little while.” I decide to try that since it had taken me so long to fall asleep in the first place, but another nurse comes in to take my blood for some labs, then the doctor comes in a few minutes later. He is tall, handsome, and has brown hair. Thankfully, I am too groggy to flirt with him. When I first got back to America from the Peace Corps and was doing an Intensive Outpatient Program, I said to the doctor there, “has anyone ever told you that you look like Ewan McGregor? Because you definitely do.” Inappropriate flirting is definitely a thing I do while in a manic or mixed episode. It’s so embarassing. The now doctor doubles the dosage of my antipsychotic and adds a powerful anti-anxiety medication in hopes that it will help me sleep at night and calm me down some during the day. I sort of figured they would want me as drugged as possible to end the mania or at least slow it down.