This is a blog about depression. If you are easily offended or take offence to my very sarcastic humour, please do not read any further. Mental illness is not a joke; it is not something to point fun at and I fully understand that. BUT…when the going gets tough, sarcasm and humour is my defence and so I will be parading it around all over this blog.
If you need help, please get it. Whilst I hope this has a happy ending, I don’t know yet and given I’ve not been able to fix myself, I really don’t want others using this as a ‘How To Be Happy for Beginners v2.0’
Day 2 in the big brother house… ok ok, it’s not quite like that although at times it feels it is. Everyone is watching me (patients, nurses and doctors a like), I’m always worrying about what people are thinking of me, wondering what exactly the nurses just wrote down on my chart. It’s tiring and sadly there is no £100k reward for ‘winning’ and a cheering crowd outside. Come to think about it, what does ‘winning’ even mean in a psychiatric hospital? Not killing myself? Leaving as a happy person? There doesn’t seem to be any answers in the back of my workbook to make sure I get this right.
Whilst I leave that deep and heavy thought out there hanging, let’s get back to the real issue at hand. My room is definitely not on par with the others! The cheek of it. Is it because I am here on insurance? Was it just timing bad luck of when I was admitted? Or, do they not like me! Oh my brain is on overdrive about this. It’s really bothering me. That being said, questionable carpet room is growing on me. It is increasingly becoming my safe haven.
My drug test came back yesterday and I’ve tested positive for benzo’s. I very quickly start trying to refute this, I don’t touch drugs, my mind is enough of a scrambled mess as it is without adding illegal chemicals to the mix. I didn’t even have a drink the night before being admitted. I am quickly, and quite embarrassingly, reassured that the reason I have tested positive is because I am in fact on prescription benzo’s. Well I never, who knew (the pharmacist, psychiatrist and nurses obviously)!
I have some very exciting news… I have had a shower AND brushed my teeth! Yep, I am winning at life. The shower was shit though. I’d have been better washing my hair in the rain. Do I tell the nurses? Do I ask someone to look at my shower? No, I’m too scared, in case the nurses think I am a nuisance and then don’t like me – this is maybe something I should work on whilst here.
After meds (yes, they really do check that you’ve swallowed them so you don’t trade them with another patient) it’s a dash to breakfast as the restaurant a.k.a a glass conservatory with Poundland LED fairy lights to ‘accentuate’ the design, stops serving at 0900. Being late has its benefits, I don’t have to make a choice of what to have as there is little left. I dive in for the safe option of sugar free alpen and some dishwater – they don’t serve proper coffee, they probably assume that with all the meds we are on, adding caffeine isn’t a good idea. Clever, very clever.
Today is the first full day and starts with assessment. This checks I am suitable and well enough for groups. It’s basically an episode of this is your life except without the celeb appearances and they only focus on the really crap parts of the past. I am deemed well enough for groups [insert cheers] and I am assigned to Group 1. That sounds good, right? Group 1 – does this mean I am in the best group? I never let an opportunity pass me by for my competitive spirit to come out. The bubble is quickly burst when I am told it’s more a case of juggling the numbers in each group. Oh well, I’ll tell myself I am in the number 1 group anyway. Being part of a group, as I will slowly come to realise is a very powerful thing. They start to become your family in here. More on that later.
Next up, hard work. My first ever group therapy. I’ve had therapy in the past. In fact, I’ve had an awful lot of it. I have never had group therapy though. Morning sessions are CBT based to help us learn coping mechanisms and ways to break the way we currently react to things. Today we look at our values. I start the session a little complacent as I’ve been working on my values with a psychologist prior to being admitted. This session proves more useful than I first thought though. Time to put my arrogance away. We get given a handout listing out values and we have to pick our top 10 and rank them. This is like being back at school, I’ve got a daily timetable, blue folder and everything.
What are my values I hear you say! They are (ranked in order):
- Communicating feelings without fear – to be honest, this could have stopped at communicating. It’s a basic life skill that I lack
- Sharing my true self with others – I am a people pleaser and try to be whoever people want me to be
- Developing emotional maturity – I’m here because I am very emotionally immature
- Being honest & trustworthy – I tell lies. There, I’ve admitted it. I lie for many reasons. I want people to like me so I lie to say something that I think they want to hear. I lie to hide how bad my mental health has been. I lie to create a perfect illusion of life
- Staying healthy physically & mentally – The mental health part is obvious right now, I wouldn’t be here if I was mentally heathy. The physical piece is a struggle as I’ve had an eating disorder since 11. I said in my first post that I think I have it under control now but, there is a fine line for me between good control and bad control so I need to strengthen this too
- Being loved by others – There is a reason I’ve been single for so long. I know my friends are there for me and care about me but it’s incredibly painful to hear. I often look for proof that they don’t really like me which is a very unhappy way to live
- Overcoming challenges – I need to have the resilience to deal with things better. Resilience is corporate mumbo jumbo for mental strength basically
- Contentment – I am not sure I know what that means but it sounds good and I want to get there
- Connecting to my own feelings – I don’t do this. I worry about the world rotating on its axis before acknowledging how I am truly feeling
- Being dedicated to my work – This is a tough one as I’m conflicted about work at the moment and not sure I am in the right place to start thinking about it now – let’s park this one for a later date
- Being able to assert my personal needs and desires – I do not EVER do this. If a friend says ‘What do you fancy for dinner’ I’ll respond ‘I don’t know, you choose’. Truth is I normally do know what I want but won’t say because what if they don’t like the option I’ve picked? What if it means they won’t like me as a person? My head is an endless battle
The observant readers will have noticed that is 11 values not 10. I am struggling with number 10 and I know 11 is applicable to me too so let’s call it a substitute.
We go around the group and share our top 10, this means I have to speak. For anyone that knows me, I am not too bad at public speaking. However, my stomach churns itself up and my tongue suddenly feels too big for my mouth. As I open my mouth to speak, the noise that comes out is unrecognisable, it’s not my voice. I mean, it is but it’s barely audible and meek. It’s because I am about to tell 5 strangers & 1 therapist things that reveal my very imperfect self. I can’t hide behind a façade; I can’t use technical terms to be the expert on the matter. I must be me and it hurts so badly.
Group gives me the chance to learn a bit more about 5 other patients. We are all at different stages of our journey (yes, I did just use the word journey, I can assure you however it’s a fitting word for what’s going on here) but they listen to me, they respect me and they even say they are proud of me for speaking. I want to curl up and let the floor eat me, please don’t be nice to me. Please don’t be proud of me, I am not someone to be proud of. Or am I? Old me, pre-admittance me, would hold on to the fact they must be looking at a fake me. I am going to try and do this differently so I am going to try to hold on to the fact it was brave to speak today. Oh, blimey, could this actually be working?
Awkwardness over, it’s time for lunch. Lentil lasagne is on the menu today and it was good. I’m starting to understand the dining room rules a bit more now… there are no rules! Why do I always think that everyone knows something that I don’t? Why do I always think I’m the idiot and incapable one? I mean, there is proof, I have done some fairly idiotic things in the past but maybe, so has everyone else. Still, the invisible neon sign is flashing brightly above my head as I take a seat. The cliques I saw yesterday don’t seem so obvious now. In fact, you could almost mistake this as a café with lots of random people. Random people trying to get to a better place.
I am knackered. The normal me (ha, as if I’ve ever been normal, part of my nickname is Bonkers!) works long hours in an office, 5 days a week. I’m 2 ½ hours in and I feel floored. This emotionally stuff sure is hard.
1400 can only mean one thing, group therapy session numero duo. This one differs from the morning session as it’s ‘with interpersonal focus’. In non-therapist speak, it means we all help each other get through the challenges we are currently experiencing. We listen, we empathise and we encourage. It’s mighty stuff, we all want each other to get through this. I speak and yet again, do not recognise the sound that is escaping my lips. My heart pounds and I feel like I am stood here naked in front of them. In a way, I am. I have stripped off my façade to tell them stressful things. This includes the fact my mum doesn’t know I am in here. In fact, my mum thinks I am at work, in the city, at a desk right at this very moment. The group stare at me like I’ve grown a second head and the absurdity of my mum not knowing suddenly hits me like a ton of bricks. Panic sets in. I should protect my mum, I should look after her, make sure she’s ok. I can’t possibly worry her. It dawns on me I’ve not thought this through. At the end of the session we all ‘check out’ and have to say what we are feeling now. I am feeling rising panic and incredibly vulnerable. Oh, shit!
In the 30-minute interlude before session 4, Patient J stops me in the patient kitchen. He explains he is 74 so similar in age to my mum. The next thing he says feels like a knife in my stomach – he’d be devastated if his daughter didn’t tell him she was struggling and in hospital, he thinks I should tell my mum. Oh, gosh. I am very grateful for his empathy and genuine concern for me. It does put me in a pickle though. What to do?
3 out of 4 sessions done… regardless of how I feel, let’s go back to thinking I am winning at life. 1 more session to get through and then I HAVE A VISITOR! Turns out, getting through 1 more session is 1 session too many. The ‘Finding My Voice’ session delivered a double whammy of treats. I’d love to tell you what ‘Finding My Voice’ is all about however, I did not find any voice! This session is open to all patients so there are some more strangers to have to speak in front of. Patient N is hyper to the point of distraction and Patient R wants us to understand that the apocalypse is about to occur and the righteous will be delivered to nirvana. As we reach the last patient during introductions, Patient N loses control. I’m talking rolling on the floor screaming control. A nurse has to intervene and that was my cue to exit stage left. I leave, rather shaken as ‘One flew over a cuckoo’s nest’ just played out in front of me.
Back in questionable carpet safe haven, I start counting the minutes down until my visitor arrives. When GG walks in the door, it’s like a part of me is back. She’s not empty handed either and comes loaded with amazing presents! It’s bloody hard admitting things aren’t ok to friends. It’s also embarrassing. No matter how many times people say you don’t have to be embarrassed, it still is. She witnesses my 15 minutes obs as I am still stuck on level 2 and has to hear my daily re-cap with my nurse. How is this my life? More pressing though, how do I get to the next level of obs? Do I have to pass Go again, is there a secret handshake?
Tonight, I washed my face AND brushed my teeth. Twice in 1 day guys. WINNING. I am exhausted and tired and sad and still a jumbled-up mess but I got through it and tomorrow is another day closer to compos mentis me.