Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.
-Richard Paul Evans, The Gift
I made it through another weekend. It was a tough one, three weeks here and no phone calls or visits from anyone. My GP said she would visit but did not come or call. It really got me down and I spent all day Sunday just sitting in my room in the dark. I feel so disposable. Work has already replaced me even though they are not supposed to because I am on medical leave. My boss did not even let me know, a co-worker texted. Since I am not working I can not afford to pay my counsellor so she has forgotten about me. I hate being all alone in this world but I get scared to reach out to anyone because I have trouble dealing with disappointment.
I have found that jigsaw puzzles help quite a bit with my anxiety. There is a big table in the back of the TV room to work them on. It keeps my mind occupied and I do not have to try to make small talk but there are still people around, which I like. On days like Sunday though it is hard to be around happy people with their visitors. I am glad they can be so happy, I just can not picture myself ever being like that.
I went to the bookstore Saturday to get a sweatshirt to wear around the ward instead of the pajama top. I feel like everyone knows that no one cares to visit and that is why I can not get any clothes from the outside. I would feel a little better if I did not have to wear the pajama top. Well, on Saturday the bookstore was closed for inventory and they are normally closed on Sunday, so I went back today. I bought a sweatshirt and then when I got back and put it on I found a big hole in the seam of the arm. I will have to go back tomorrow to exchange it. That just seems to be how my luck runs. It takes three trips and four days just to get a shirt to wear.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
-Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
It’s Friday evening, which in here means another long weekend to try and fill the time. My psychiatrist and psychologist have both given me homework to read and write which will help with the boredom. I am starting to talk more with some of the other patients, too. For this weekend I have unlimited 30 minute passes, a one hour pass each day and a two hour accompanied pass in case someone decides to visit, which has not happened in the last two and a half weeks.
Since I do not have anyone to bring me extra clothes I have been in hospital pajamas except when I go out for the longer passes. This week the doctor told me about a group that will provide clothes to patients. Today I got a pair of track pants and a tee shirt so I do not have to wear the pajamas all the time.
A lot of things that would not seem like a big deal outside of here really are a big deal now. Going out on longer passes is a major source of anxiety but it is also building my confidence. Having clothes is helping me be a bit less self-concious about not having anyone “on the outside” to help me out.
The best thing that happened this week was getting a message from a friend asking if I want to get together for a coffee. That gave me a little hope that one day I can have a halfway decent life. One of my homework assignments is to write what my dream life would be. That one is causing me a ton of anxiety because I can not imagine any of it coming true. It just feels like I am setting myself up for dissapointment again and that gets harder and harder to handle. Sometimes when I look at how hard recovery is going to be, I still wish with all my heart I could have jumped off the bridge before the police stopped me.
I still have several posts to catch up on from my hospital stay. I will post those in the next couple of weeks. I have been discharged now and I am safe at home.
Today I met my new doctor and he seems very down to earth. I felt at ease with him from the start and I am looking forward to working with him. The hospital’s main job is to stabilize patients so they can go home and continue treatment on an outpatient basis. This will not be a quick process for me so I should have plenty of posts as I continue my work.
In the couple of days since discharge I have mainly been reconnecting with some semblance of a normal life. I have registered with a program that will provide social opportunities very similar to the groups in the hospital. My outpatient team also offers similar opportunities as well as skills groups and a one on one peer counselor. I am quite excited about the peer counselor. It will be someone who has lived through what I am now going through and made it to the other side. My case manager is a registered nurse and she and I will be meeting regularly. For now we will be working on CBT and DBT skills together. I learned some of the basic skills in hospital and these are what has helped me the most. I am hoping this is what will empower me to lead a more fulfilling life.
I will let you know how it is going for me as I progress.
No star is ever lost we once have seen,
We always may be what we might have been.
-Adelaide Anne Proctor, “A Legend of Provence”
The routine during the week here seems pretty mundane, so I don’t think it is much to write about. In the mornings after breakfast I see my doctor, then it is just groups after that. This morning I went to a mindful meditation group. Right now there is a cooking group making their lunch. Cooking sounded like a fun group, I really like the occupational therapist running it, but I get very self concious doing stuff like that in a group. After lunch I will go to the mood group and learn more about CBT from the psychologist. After that I will probably get a coffee and go for my 30 minute walk. In between I read, color and work on a puzzle. I save TV for the evenings, I am not a big TV watcher. See, pretty mundane stuff.
I do chat with some of the other patients, and the occupational therapist has been great to talk with. I went on a group walk yesterday and had the chance to chat with her quite a bit. There is a possibility that my family doctor will come to visit this evening. It would be great to see her and it would be my first visitor since I have been here, over two weeks now.
My nurse this morning is a student. Being a university hospital we do get the students with other nurses supervising. I find my nurse today pretty amusing. He is obviously not totally at ease around patients and not totally sure how to engage me in conversation. That seems to be a very important skill for the psych nurses and most of them are really good at it. Right now I have very little concentration and patience so I probably have not made the student’s experience any easier or better.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
Daddy felk into the pond!
And everyone’s face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
-Alfred Noyes, “Daddy Fell into the Pond”
I have gone for my 30 minute breaks the last two days in a row. It may sound silly, but this has been a big deal for me. I left the safety of my pajamas and ventured back into the real world. Both days I was very happy to get back to my room on the ward. I had a strong urge to run away yesterday when I had time to think about it, so today I didn’t give myself time to think. If I satay busy with errands it is easier. I think what scares me most right now is life after the hospital. I can’t picture me having any kind of life worth living and not being in a safe hospital scares me.
I am starting to see that I am not alone in how I think. The group sessions have been good for that.
None of the staff here know it, but I started a plan to kill myself as soon as I arrived. Those first days here they checked on me every 15 minutes, day and night. In between checks I managed to make a reasonably strong makeshift rope. I won’t say how because I don’t like giving the details to anyone else, but it was a pretty ingenious and crafty project. Since before I went to solitary confinement, I have had this rope hidden in my room. I am certain they are strong enough and after confinement I tried to hang myself in my room. There wasn’t anything to tie it that would work so I just managed to choke myself a bit. It wasn’t even enough for me to black out. Then I had to hurry and hide the rope before the next check by the nurse.
During my breaks I have found a spot outside behind the building that would work at night. I am totally certain I wouldn’t be found in time andit is my back up plan. It may sound morbid and sad, but it helps me a lot to know it’s here. Thoughts of ending my life are still a comfort to me.
In fairy tales it’s always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers have to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the window.
-Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife
The weekend is pretty quiet on the ward. I think most people are out on passes. I will take my first 1/2 hour pass today (Saturday). There are no organized groups or doctor visits on the weekend, so really meals are the only thing to break the day into maneagable chunks and relieve some of the boredom. Of course, with no family or friends, I think I am the only patient with no visitors either.
I was thinking this may be a good chance to describe the ward. When you walk in, there is a nurse station directly in front of you with hallways to the left and right of it leading straight ahead. These halls meet at the far end of the ward so that the nurse station and the two or three private meeting rooms behind it occupy an island surrounded by the halls. On the outside of the halls are patient rooms, two washrooms with showers and a small laundry room for patients. Immediately to the right when you come in is a large TV lounge with an exercise bike. The TV room is connected to a dining room shared with the ward opposite mine. The hall at the other end of the dining room leads to a smaller TV room with movies, books and magazines. Past that are large doors leading to the other ward, so essentially this is the end of the ward I live in and I haven’t been past those doors.
My room has one hospital bed, a locking cabinet and one of those adjustable tables that you can move over your lap while in bed. It also has three plastic chairs and a reading lamp bolted to the wall. The back wall is windows all the way across with a waist high ledge that I use to store things. If I sit at the head of my bed the view is just the building and a little piece of sky. The foot of the bed faces East and I have a glimpse of the mountains, plenty of trees in our courtyard and a large slice of sky. My room is the second one on the left hallway, right across from the nurse station. Because I am a trans woman, I have a room to myself. That is not so bad, but at the same time it does reinforce my isolation, lonliness and sense of being different.
The locking cabinet in the room has my clothes in it. The nurses keep it locked until you are allowed to wear clothes insread of pajamas. They keep cellphones and valuables in a seperate locker near the nurses station. You are only allowed to use your cellphone when you are off the ward on a pass.
Just outside my room in the main hallway are two large whiteboards. The first has thevday and date and a list of patients and which nurse they are assigned to for that day. It would honestly be difficult to keep up with the day and date without that board. The other board lists the day, time and location for the weekly groups.
Pick up your room, my mother says
(She says it every day);
My room’s too heavy to pick up
(That’s what I always say).
-Mary Anderson Hoberman, “Pick Up Your Room”
I am starting to get into a routine. I now have unlimited 15 minute breaks and today the doctor gave me one 30 minute break a day and my clothes. That means I can go to the store or coffee shop and back. It is actually a little scary, I haven’t tried it yet.
I see my psychiatrist each weekday morning and I started seeing a psychologist today. During the week, there are 3 or 4 scheduled groups each day that I can choose to attend. Some are sort of therapy groups for mental health and some are arts and crafts, social or exercise groups. Even those are more about learning things that will help in coping with problems that come up.
I think my problem is one main issue (and just to be very clear, being a trans woman is not an issue in my mind at all!) and when others are added to it, it all gets overwhelming. My one problem is always there and is usually manageable until other problems are added in.
Yesterday was a really bad day because the one main problem was brought up in a way that really bothered me. It was inadvertent, but I don’t yet have the coping skills to manage. I ended up going to the nurse. I was given drugs that calmed me down and actually let me sleep over 12 hours. My doctor was happy that at least I went to the nurse. I wouldn’t feel safe in the real world. I am afraid my coping strategies there would not be as benign as seeing a nurse.
The psych ward is actually not a horrible place right now. It is starting to feel safer and safer.