Continued from The Unit - Part 1 and The Unit - Part 2
Although I had talked to my spouse several times in the last 24 hours, I hadn't actually seen him since he left me at ER. Up until I was taken to the hospital, we had been in a cold war after a heated argument that took place the weekend before. Sometimes for a truce to be called, something major has to happen, and this was pretty fucking major. Forty-eight hours prior my admission, I didn’t even want to talk to him, and now I couldn’t wait until I was paged that I had a visitor. Visitation hours were from 6 - 8 PM every night and a couple of additional hours on the weekend. There were a lot of restrictions for visiting hours, as there can only be two visitors at a time and children are not allowed. I was over the moon when a crackly voice over my room intercom told me to go to the recreation room.
The visitation room was a combination of hope and despair. There was an elderly couple arguing in the corner, parents playing a game of Sorry! with their daughter, and an animated group of friends catching up. There were also people with their respective families sitting in silence, not ready to acknowledge the situation or just there out of obligation. All guests were searched before entering the room - cell phones, food from home, shoes with laces were all asked to be stored in a locker. My husband brought me a manual toothbrush, but the floss was confiscated - I would need to ask if I wanted to use it.
We had a good conversation, and we agreed to seek out couples’ counseling so we could improve our communication and relationship as a whole. He told me how Dr. B was skeptical of me and what I had told the team earlier. She felt I was holding things back. He told me about how our son wanted to be “sneaked in” to visit. He stayed until almost the end of the visitation hours, and I held back tears as I gave him a long hug.
On the way back to my room, I first stopped at the comfort room. The comfort room was a small room, available as a quiet space for patients. It was dimly lit with a chair and couch, aromatherapy and a large TV. I asked to be let in and walked into an amazing, welcoming and beautiful space. I grabbed the weighted blanket, sat in the chair and watching the soothing scenes on DVD. It was videos of the rainforest, animals, and waterfalls. Seeing these scenes reminded me of a recent trip to Starved Rock with my family, and I just started wailing. I had used crying as a call of despair the night before, but today I was using crying as a release. I was finally coming to terms with where I was, where I’ve been and where I needed to go. I just sat there while I cried hard and I cried for a long time. But, afterward, I felt better. I left and went back to my room to study.
I had no problems sleeping in the unit. The nurse came by with the medication cart to give me my new dosages of medication, and I was offered a sleeping aid, which I refused. I woke up the next morning to the blood pressure guy and then shortly after that to Dr. B coming by to check in on me. I actually felt fucking amazing. I don’t know if it was the medication or the reflection or something else but I suddenly had some hope that I had lost. She was happy to hear that I was feeling better and she informed me that Dr. A and her posse of students would come by at some point during the day to check on me.
After breakfast, where I had been given hard boiled eggs that clearly were not made following basic culinary standards, I decided to attend all the sessions that were on my schedule for the day. I first participated in yoga class where I learned that you can use full water bottles as weights and I colored a picture for my son during recreational therapy. I went to a mental health skills session where we watched a TED talk by Andrew Solomon on depression, and we had another patient-led group therapy session.
After my first group therapy, I became more social and not as scared of being on the unit. Maybe it was because I am more social than I thought, or perhaps it's because I was just bored, but I tried to engage with other people who were capable enough to have a conversation. Some of the other patients were lower functioning - delusional, suffering from dementia, severely withdrawn - but there were other people just like me who were there because their depression had compromised their fundamental safety. Most of the fellow patients I spoke with were kind and supportive.
During group therapy, after a lot of people requested discussing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and I started the patient-led discussion by asking someone to explain it. That started a great conversation about ECT which was very informative for me. (My takeaway was that I should never get it).
Dr. A and her posse of med students came to visit me during the downtime between group therapy and dinner. They asked me the same questions as the day before, and this time I felt more prepared. I was also ready to start pleading my case of why I should be allowed to go home. If I am going to keep on living at least let me go back into the real world so that I can enjoy the few things that had been my moments of zen. I had a concert to play in. I had theater tickets. I wanted to pick my son up from school. The suicidal ideation was still background noise, but I had come to realize during my two days of serious reflection that through death I gained nothing. At least if I stayed alive, I would have the fleeting moments of happiness and perhaps those brief moments would evolve into lasting happiness.
They offered me the option to go home the next day if I felt safe enough to do so. They had spoken with my outpatient therapist, psychiatrist, and my spouse and agreed that getting me home sooner was a better option. I was being released into a supportive environment with a stellar treatment team. They would set me up with intensive therapy for a few weeks, and although Dr. B still was skeptical, Dr. A looked at me and said, “Although we would normally keep a case like yours longer, I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think you’ll be back.”
I hope I will not be back either.
about the author
My name is Dana Johnson and I am the creator of the Mood Check-In blog.