The hospital

I never spoke about the hospital I go to for my appointments with the psychiatrist. It is well known here as the “mental” hospital, and has even been colloquially termed “The Mental”. Of course it has all of the typical stigma attached to an institution associated with mental health.  I have told hardly anyone in my real life that I go there for appointments. I am afraid people will talk about me behind my back. Say “she must be bad if she has to go THERE.” So I absorb the fear and stigma and keep it to myself.

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There is something inherently creepy about a building that was erected in 1855. I can’t help but get the creeps. I was very nervous the first time I went there.

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Even though the grounds are actually quite pretty and it is next to a huge part of land in the city that was owned by the Bowrings and is now called Bowring Park. This is the entrance to the hospital.

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Getting back to the creepiness of the hospital, I was wandering around inside and found one of the staircases that had protective steel guards encasing the empty space between the stairs. My guess is that this prevents patients from jumping or hanging themselves.

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I may not be doing a good job here of decreasing the stigma. My doctor’s office is a very typical office, on the first floor. It looks like any regular hospital office inside.

But if you wander the North ward you may see a locked steel door like this.

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It is a bit unnerving. My mind races with media images that propagate the “escaped lunatic.” But fear is unwarranted most of the time. The only people who have ever spoken to me in the hospital are one guy who wanted to know if I had a smoke, and another who asked if I had spare change for a pepsi. Nothing scary. 

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There is a common area/field outside for sports, but I’ve never seen it being used. 😦 The intimidating fence and barred windows don’t help.

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I think some of the images I’ve presented of the hospital look intimidating, but it looks that way, in part, because of the age of the hospital. It is in serious need of a makeover.

What you don’t see is the faces of the people.  Friendly staff and other patients JUST LIKE ME. I wasn’t comfortable taking any pictures of people there. But, the people who work there really do seem nice, approachable, and non-judgmental. That’s really reassuring to see.

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I think stigma needs to be challenged about mental institutions. But I have no idea how to do it.  Certainly, the look of hospitals such as this one doesn’t help. But we have to get a dialogue going. We need more bequeathments and monetary donations to mental health and mental hospitals. We need to continue to give the very best care that we can to patients. An old hospital building is nice, as a historical artifact, but a new building would sure be nice.

Retreat

Took the past week and went to one of the national parks for some r&r and time away from daily stressors, stressful family and loud noises. I just wanted me, the nature and the quiet. I called it my “writing retreat” in hopes that I would get some thesis work done too. It’s been so long since I got quality time to do good work. I thought if I called it a writing retreat, it just might inspire me to write.
It worked! I have chapters 1 and 2 edited now, and am working on chapter 3.

It’s really scary for me to write for some reason. I used to be a good writer, and could pump out a term paper no problem. I guess now, it’s different. This is, by far, the biggest chunk of writing I’ve tackled. And I have all the fears of failing, haunting me. And I had to apply for an extension to my doctoral program. I applied on medical grounds, and I have a good letter from my physician, but I’m still scared they will deny me, based on “no regress made”. I had a rough year. Do I expect it to get better? Yes? Has it already? Yes. God, I really hope I get the extension.

Anyway, my week retreat is almost up. I’ve loved it here in the woods and I’m hoping to do it again by myself, in August.

Here’s one of the friends I made. 

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Cactus

This is my favorite song by Ferron, a folksinger from Canada. The words resonate with me.

http://www.ferrononline.com/
Cactus
Copyright © 1994 Nemesis Publishing, All Rights Reserved

It’s been a year since you left home for higher ground. In the distance I hear a hoot owl ask the only question I have found to be worthy of the sound it makes as it breaks the silence of your old town. These letters are another way to love you.

It takes trouble, and it takes courage to be free. But you ‘ll find, it you are soft enough, love will hang around for free. And the coldest bed I found does not hold one but it will hold three. I hope you never have to know what that can mean.

It’s safe to say I took the long and winding path. And were it not for loving friendships who knows how long I would have lasted. You’re young one day but youth is rude and while you watch it walks right past and then…hey…you get your chance to think like me.

When I was young I was in service to my pain. On sunny days you’d find me walking miles to look for rain. And as many times I swapped it all just to hop a moving train. Looking back, it was a most expensive way to get around.

And I found that all the world could love you save for one. And I don’t know why it is, but that kiss will be the haunted one. You’ll pine and weep and you’ll lose good sleep and you’ll think your life has come undone, until you learn to turn and spurn that bitter wind.

Because it’ll probably be the one you least expect to, who will wager through your storm with you, who will give your fears respect… who will melt your burden down…though you probably don’t want that yet, still…the odds fall sweet in favor to an open heart.

Seems to me the tools for being human are wicked crude. They’re not so slick and smooth and shiny as some stranger might allude. And while your longest night might test you, you don’t be scared of solitude. And remember what is shared is also true.

Because there’s a place where the water races wide. And you could be hard pressed (in the muck of time) just trying to reach the other side. You learn to find the only way, or you learn to say you tried. It seems to me a lot of little towns were made that way.

Now while I’m at it…let me tell you about the moon. Because I heard some people talking, looks like we’re probably going to have to move there soon. All I know is the face it shows at midnight is not the one it shows at noon. But I bet it’s a standing kind of wistful from over there.

In a word, I heard that life’s a cactus tree. And should you find a way to break it’s skin, won’t you have a drink for me. But…if you’re standing near a cactus, you’re probably where you shouldn’t be. Isn’t this why you left your home, though you love me.

Now when I imagine life is only time and space…then I guess I’ve seen the best of it upon your tender, loving face. And the faith that you bestowed in me gives me a solid sense of place. I learn to say…Fire, Water, Earth and Air…I learn to say Fire, Water, Earth and Air…I learn to say Fire, Water, Earth and Air…and I’ll see you there.

 

Sad

Meds update. I’ve been on remeron for 5 weeks now. I see a big difference. I am able to do work again. The crying spells have lifted almost completely. I still have what I call “blue funks” (my own combination of anger/irritability/sadness) but not as frequently. I still have general anxiety daily so I’m continuing on with the clonazepam on a low dose. The addition of remeron was making me quite sleepy with the prozac and clonazepam, so the psychiatrist lowered the prozac dose by 20 mgs. Since the prozac has a long half-life in your system I’m only starting to see a difference now in regards to sleeping, after a week. I’m taking fewer naps and I’m getting a full 8 hours of solid sleep each night. Granted I have bizarre dreams, but it’s a side-effect that is not a deal breaker. Oh,  and I’ve put on 10 lbs. I’m trying to exercise more to combat the weight gain that remeron can (and has) caused. Also because exercise is “good” for me. Blah.

But what I really want to write about is that my therapy with M has ended. I’m pretty upset about it. Two weeks ago he told me that he had done all he could for me, that we have used all the resources available to us and that it was up to me to do the work, outside of sessions. It really came out of left field for me. Of course I didn’t expect therapy to go on forever, but I don’t think I am ready to leave the proverbial nest quite yet, either. I feel like there’s a ways for me to go yet, in terms of learning to cope with daily situations, work on my thesis, and especially in terms of my personal relationships. He thinks he’s done all he can.

I’m not sure I buy it. Maybe it’s because I don’t want the sessions to end, because I’m losing my support system. He wants me to lean on friends. I told him I didn’t have any local friends that I felt I could share my deepest feelings with, and he told me it was time to reach out, make new friends, outside of my partner and sister. I have no idea how to do that.

Maybe it’s my ego talking, but part of me wonders if he felt anything for me, beyond being just another client. Could that have been why? Or maybe he terminated sessions with me because he saw that I was starting to care too much for him. Not romantically, but as a friend, instead of a therapist. And therapists frown on that sort of thing. Maybe that’s why I feel like I was dumped.

He knows I’m upset and not ready to let go.  We talked about it for the entire session today, our last session. After our time was up, he shook my hand. He refused a hug.  It’s over.

And I’m more than a little sad and confused. He was my shoulder, and now I don’t have one anymore.

 

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I don’t know how I feel.

Does that make sense? I am just there. Not happy. Not terribly optimistic. But existing, sometimes peacefully, at moments. Then there are times when the agitation comes back. I just want to scream! Everyone’s voice grates me. The dogs’ barking goes right through me. I don’t want to answer the phone or read a book. Or do anything.

So I go through the motions, get up,  drink coffee, force down breakfast and my iron pill. Take my meds. I might sit there for awhile, read news online, check Facebook. As often as not, I go back to bed. The new med is making me quite sleepy. I need at least 9 hours sleep. And often, a nap for at least an hour in the afternoon. Seems like a lot, and it gets me down. I keep thinking what a waste of time sleep is. And how if I was at a full-time job, how would I manage?

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks on the remeron. I am definitely more sedate in a general sense. Especially if I take my clonazepam, which I’m supposed to do, but I still struggle with, because then I feel especially stoned. It works for the general anxiety, but the cost is great. I am definitely more foggy when I take it.

I have had more than a few good moments in the past two weeks, so there is reason to be optimistic. My partner and I went camping for a long weekend and it was a lot of fun. Sunny and warm where we went. I am feeling blue again now, as we are back to the grey, foggy city. Sometimes I really hate living here. It’s just so dark, rain,  drizzle and fog. For days on end. It really gets to me.

Anyway, I see my new psychiatrist again tomorrow. I will tell him about the increased sleep and see what he says. It’s really going much better than before, even though I don’t feel well today. Maybe there is something to keep me more alert, or maybe he will reduce the prozac.

Made a little progress on a chapter for my thesis. I feel a bit like it’s pulling teeth. And my motivation is still lacking.

I know depression doesn’t go away fully. I am trying to learn a bit about mindfulness. Maybe if I can learn how to practice it, it will help. Meanwhile, if you could say a little prayer, or send a good healing vibe for me, I sure would appreciate it. I need all the help I can get.

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My dogs in the trailer, looking cute.

Thoughts on my session today

I’ve been on the remeron over a week now, and I’ve seen a difference in my mood. While I am more sedate, calmer, and a little sleepier I am definitely not as agitated. It feels like I am starting to get back to myself and that’s a really good feeling. I worry that this is temporary, and feel a bit like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I know that’s my anxiety talking. I am getting well.  I have periods of feeling quite a bit better.

My therapist says that when I’m really anxious, severely anxious, I have little to no control over my moods,  and I have to rely on my meds during those times. That I’m doing everything I can be doing. Fair enough. It is then that I must have compassion for myself, being unwell. When I am well, I am able to take control over my anxiety, at least to a certain extent.  Mild to moderate anxiety can be worked through/on.  So when it passes that threshold from moderate to severe, to recognize it as such, and accept it for what it is.

The overwhelming theme of today’s therapy session was “acceptance”. Learning to accept me for me. Benefits and pitfalls.  What are the benefits of being me? M. asked me. I could could think of a couple of things. I need to remind myself more of the benefits.  I’m kind. I’m approachable. I’m bright. I’m passionate. What are the pitfalls? Let’s put it under the neurotic/anxious umbrella term, for now.

M. reminded me of some important things. I was talking about guilt, and how I felt guilty that I wasn’t further in my thesis work. He said, “wouldn’t you be further if you could have been?” And that is the crux right there. I was not able to be further in my work.  And I need to accept that. If I could have been done by now, I would be, for who am I/have I been hurting by not being done? Nobody but me. And why would I do that to myself intentionally? Exactly. I wouldn’t. 

So I have to accept me for me. Me, who has anxiety and depression. Me, who lost this whole semester and more to this illness. Me, who struggles daily with self-esteem.  But to also accept that I have good qualities too, and to remember  them.  I can write. I am eloquent. I have drive. And when I am well, and the anxiety is not getting in the way, you can see that. I can see that.  What I consider to be faults or bad qualities are not what they seem to be.  They are products of the anxiety. And when I have moments of clarity I can see that they are simply symptoms of depression/anxiety. They are not qualities of self. They are not who I am.

Who I am is different from everyone else. I can wish and wish that I was 6’0 tall, but I’m not and never will be. That is not something I can change. I accept that. In the same way, I must accept that I am who I am. I do procrastinate. I do easily distract. But I also am kind, intelligent, musical and hard-working. Some things you cannot change.  I cannot change that I have anxiety. I probably always will. I can change how I look at it. I can accept it. I cannot change that I lost time during this degree due to my illness. Not a damn thing can I do about it. So I must accept it. It is fact.  Now I must move on. Accept that I am being the best I can be, and doing the best I can.  That my best is different from someone else’s best.  And that’s what life’s about,  isn’t it?

I will try harder to get rid of the “shoulds” and the comparisons and the guilt. That type of thinking just eats at your self-esteem and self-worth. I refuse to indulge it anymore. I choose to move forward with acceptance of who I am.

Appointment with Psychiatrist and Santa

No, I’m not delusional or hallucinating. Santa really was there! A two foot tall standing ornament.  I guess a psychiatrist’s office that is too busy to de-Christmas (in June) is a good sign. Or,  as a friend said, it’s just a “really good conversation starter”!

The appointment went well.  Much better than the first psychiatrist I met. This guy actually asked me what my symptoms were, and focused on how I was feeling now, as opposed to my childhood. He asked relevant questions, and all in all,I left with a much better feeling than I had with the first one. It pays to listen to your gut, and get a second opinion if need be.

So, he agreed with me that the wellbutrin was too activating for me, and that it might have actually increased my agitation level. Apparently 20% of patients react poorly to the wellbutrin.  We are going to keep me on the prozac and clonazepam for now, and add mirtazapine. That might work. It will be more calming than the wellbutrin for sure. He wants me to come back in 3 wks, and he told me to be persistent with calling his secretary if I felt any really bad side effects like suicidal thoughts, and he would get me in.

I have hope. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that, and it feels good. This dr said that it would be possible for me to finish my thesis, get out of the depressive/anxious state,  and actually concentrate. What a concept. I look forward to it.

I also got a diagnosis. Major Depressive Disorder with likely Generalised Anxiety Disorder as well. For some reason, a diagnosis helps. Just the label, I guess, makes it less of a mystery, less scary. He does not think I am Bipolar II; the sheer lack of any manic symptoms prevents that diagnosis. The agitation is likely due to the anxiety.

I apologize if I’m being repetitive, but I’m excited and hopeful. Tonight I start the remeron (mirtazapine) and maybe I will get some rest. Maybe this one will work.

Meanwhile, here’s Santa. Happy Christmas in June?

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