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’
Last night’s sleep felt like it was good sleep. That deep and recharging type of sleep that makes you feel refreshed. I wake up with 5 minutes to spare before the breakfast service closes. I was meant to wake up earlier and have a shower. – yes, I know, I don’t know why I keep telling myself that I can fit a shower in before therapy, we all know I can’t! I finish breakfast with just enough time to rush back to the room and onto the first session of the day, self-awareness & goals. This session is good as we start with a mindfulness technique and move on to a detailed check in.
A new patient has arrived and I can tell instantly that I am not going to gel with her. Patient C3 is insistent nothing is wrong, she is the happiest person you’ll ever meet and she is only here to ‘wash out’ following side effects from medication. This doesn’t ‘wash out’ with me. I don’t believe you. I don’t blame you for not being able to face up to what’s really going on but you don’t get admitted to a £700 per day psychiatric hospital for ‘nothing’. She is terribly keen and full of enthusiasm that I feel tired just trying to keep up with her. I appreciate you are here for whatever reason it may be but oh please, don’t be in my group!
The session is tabled to finished at 1015 but we over run to 1030. Brain wave and I can manage to fit a shower in before 1100 CBT! Especially now I know there is a ward hairdryer. Ta da! Problem solved, hair washed, face washed, teeth brushed and all with 3 minutes to spare
1100 CBT and my worst fears are confirmed. Patient C3 is in my group. Yay for you all reading this, not so yay for me. This is going to be interesting. During check in, she politely informs us that she is only here due to side effects of some medicine and all she needs is the Therapist to confirm everything she is feeling is only due to her medicine. She also needs help with concentrating whilst she prays. Therapist A very politely replies that she can’t comment on medical side effects, her doctor will need to assist her there and whilst she can help her with concentrating, she will be doing so in a more general capacity rather than in a spiritual capacity (who thinks Therapist A may be an atheist?). Finally, Therapist A informs Patient C3 that if needed, the hospital can arrange spiritual guidance. Patient C3 has the potential to even more annoying than Patient A2.
During check in, I state I am struggling with the new OCD diagnosis and the fact now it has a label, the rituals are upsetting me. As we start exploring these, it comes out that one of my rituals is having my room on the ward in a certain order. If it’s not in order, the nurses might be able to tell I am a bad person. Ok, I know, that’s quite some leap to make from messy bedside table to I’m a bad person. The thing is though, I worry a lot what others think about me, including that they may not realise I am a bad person. Shit Patient C, you’re more messed up then you thought. So, instead of focussing on the piece I wanted to discuss, my rituals, Therapist A thinks it would be a great idea to explore why I am bad. I disagree Therapist A, this will only end in tears. Snotty tears to be more precise!
The therapist wants to understand what parts of me aren’t bad. I pause for a few moments before responding that all of me is bad. She doesn’t believe me. Like the good CBT therapist she is, out comes the marker pen and she starts scribbling on the white board. It’s a barometer for how bad a person is. At one end is Good, at the other end is Bad. Where do I sit on this line? Well, now you’ve really started something, out pour the snotty tears that I’ve perfected over the last few months. If I could only find the off switch to my tear generator. I did warn you this would end in tears. As you can guess, I think I am close to the Bad end, I’d say only about 20% off being at the limit of bad. Next, she asks where I think Hitler would be. He’d definitely be at the bad end of the barometer. She nods, knowingly. Quick question to any psychologists out there, what is going through your mind during these knowing nods? I’ve always wondered. To help me confirm I am bad, she wants me to answer a list of questions honestly:
- Do I kick babies in the street? Urm, pardon? No, of course I don’t
- Do I kick puppies? Again, pardon? No, of course not
- Do I steal old ladies’ handbags? Seriously woman, who do you think I am, no I do not steal old ladies’ handbags!
- Do I help friends? YES I do this one! Yes yes yes yes yes, I like to try and make everything alright for everyone. Ah, this was a trick question, I see what you’ve done Therapist A.
Ok, I hear you, you win, I’m not a completely bad person. I’m still bad though. Therapist A then sets me homework, oh goodie! I need to start a list of things I like about myself. Oh bugger, this is one of those homework tasks that’s going to take a long long time.
The next piece of advice I pick up is aimed at another patient but it sounds useful so I may as well add it to my list of things to work on. When trying to challenge our thoughts, we should look at a global rating.
If 1 person doesn’t like me, no one will ever like me = FALSE
If 1 person doesn’t like me, then that’s 1 person = TRUE
If I lose my job at 1 company, I’ll never be successful anywhere else = FALSE
If I lose my job at 1 company, it doesn’t mean I will lose my job at every company = TRUE
This is interesting. I do jump to assuming 1 person disliking me is universal. Ok, I think I could get on board with the above. I’ll start challenging my thoughts against a global rating.
Finally, we work on being able to tolerate our emotions. Patient C3 is struggling to tolerate her emotions. She wants to minimize them, push them away or forget about them. All the things we are not meant to do. She doesn’t appear to want to hear the answer that Therapist A is very patiently repeating: you’ve got to learn to tolerate them. Don’t worry Therapist A, Patient C3 may not be listening but you’ve bagged one C today, me! I’m listening. The example Patient C3 has is a mistake at work. Yes, a mistake is disappointing and annoying and uncomfortable but it’s not the end of the world. We need to learn to draw a line in the sand and move on. Easier said than done but maybe if I do it enough times, it’ll stick.
Lunch time and it is pumpkin pie with the now dreaded steamed veg and pudding is pecan pie. Patient K and I sit together and agree that yes, Patient C3 is rather annoying. Phew, it’s not just me. I head back to my room and start toying with the idea of asking to be allowed out. I need more flavoured fizzy drinks and I’d like some sour sweets. Do I go? Do I go? No, I can’t face it. I need to recuperate before IPT so sour sweets will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m still not sure if I am allowed out alone and I don’t have the energy to go with a nurse whilst having to make small talk. I’ll go tomorrow.
The hospital is very strict on timings. If you are late to a session, you won’t be allowed in. There are rational reasons for this including patient safety, check ins can conjure up a lot of emotions, someone walking in during that is upsetting, as you may remember from a couple of my early experiences here. Just before Therapist D is about to start the 1400 session, at just the very moment I think we are going to be lucky and have no Patient C3, in she walks. Damn it, no! I’ve got a headache coming on and not sure I can deal with Patient C3. Yet again, she is very keen to make sure we all know she is here for a physical problem and it’s only to wash out her system. Yes, Patient C3, yes. Therapist D doesn’t believe her, hallelujah. She probes a bit more. Are you anxious? Are you depressed? Apparently not, apparently Patient C3 is the happiest woman on earth and other than the state the world is in she’s fine. Patient C3 wants the therapist to confirm that this is all just a side effect of some medicine. Therapist D can obviously not confirm this. Patient C3 is not so happy anymore.
I feel I took up too much time in this morning’s CBT group so want to make sure the others have an opportunity to talk this afternoon. Yet again, this is a classic case of me taking on responsibility that is not mine. Damn it. Still got learning to do! It’s the therapists job, it’s also each individuals job, to make sure people get the chance to speak. I can see this now, 24 hours later as I write up my day. Doh.
Patient K would like to discuss how she is going to explain her mental illness to her parents. Patient K, I am right there with you! I have no clue how I am going to explain this to mum. She’s away at the moment but will be back before I’m discharged. Given she thinks this is a yoga and mindfulness clinic, I’m not sure how I’ll explain that I am still here. I ask if Patient K would be able to write a letter to her parents? It will allow her to edit the letter as many times as needed and then create space for them to read it before responding. Hold on a minute Patient C, is this ANOTHER classic case of you needing to take on your own advice? Yes, I think it is. I need to work out what I need but more importantly what I don’t need my mum to do to help me. Her calling 15 times a day is not helpful. My mum will also need me to explain that being ‘better’ with a mental illness isn’t as black and white as it would be being better from a broken leg. I’ll have good days, I’ll have bad days. Some days will be a mix of both. Therapist D says the language we use will be very important. Instead of writing ‘you make me feel’ we should state, ‘this action makes me feel’. It’s less accusatory apparently.
Next topic is how Patient L3 can tell friends or family she’s not ok. Oh, I can be useful on this one too. Out comes the emoji idea that I’ve stolen from Friend X! Patient L3 likes this idea, yay me!
We check out and Patient C3 is STILL insisting this admission is only due to side effects from meds. Ok Patient C3, keep believing that, just try to stop disrupting our sessions at the same time.
The headache has materialised so I decide to skip today’s mindfulness session in favour of The Jinx boxset. I’ve managed to time it perfectly and the episode takes me conveniently up to supper time. I head down with my Sudoku book, I’ve only got 5 left to complete out of 105… can you tell I really don’t like Freeview? Patient J3 is there and wants to know if I need a hug. Damn, is it that obvious. Patient J3 is such a lovely, kind and caring person, I hope he can see how brilliant he is. He has to sit at a different table due to the combined program he is on, otherwise I’d have loved to have sat with him.
The Sudoku book does its job, it keeps me entertained whilst also signalling to others not to come near. Perfect! Now I only have 4 more puzzles to go. Supper is margarita pizza with salad.
On my way back to my room, I see Patient P in the ward lounge, why don’t I do something different, why don’t I go in and talk to her? Blimey, I’m actually doing it. We chat for 30 minutes and it’s a nice change from my ‘hiding in questionable carpet room’ routine. Once back in my room, I am regretting the lack of sour sweets. I will promise to go out tomorrow.
Dr E comes on her nightly ward round and we talk through the day, my belief I am bad and my OCD. She wants me to write a list of all my rituals and start tackling the easy ones first. Hold on though, none are easy. They wouldn’t be rituals if they were easy. We talk about my discharge next week and there appears to be some confusion as to when my insurance runs out so when I am being discharged. I thought it was next Thursday, she thinks it’s next Wednesday but when we look at the calendar, we get to next Friday. What! I can’t handle this uncertainty. I’ve mentally prepared for it being next Thursday. I’ve not mentally prepared for Wednesday, I’ve not mentally prepared for Friday. Dr E leaves and promises to confirm the date tomorrow. That should be the end of it right? Wrong. This is me we are talking about. I go into anxiety overdrive and, although I promised Dr E I would try to stop my incessant 15 minute scheduling of my time, yes, you guessed it, I start scheduling like the mad woman that I am. It takes 3 hours to get it ‘right’. It’s 0100. This doesn’t bode well. I could have done the healthy thing of going out and talking this through with the night nurses but we all know I didn’t do that. 3 whole hours spent frantically making a schedule. 3. Whole. Hours. Once I think the plan is in an acceptable first draft, I give in to my tiredness and turn the light off. The end of another day means one day closer to going home. Surely this should be something I am excited about. I’m worrying I am not ‘Normal’, I’m not looking forward to going home.