Tales From The PsychWard

I have Bipolar and had my 1st episode at the age of 19. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my mid 20’s. My Bipolar disorder is also greatly affected by the seasons. In the Fall and Winter I tend to get depressed, hibernate a lot, and sleep more. In the Spring and Summer I tend to get manic episodes where I feel like the Energizer bunny who wants to do everything, make friends with everyone and I feel the most happy. The following is me documenting a real severe manic episode that lead me to be voluntarily admitted to the hospital for 5 days. Some of this was written while there, but most I have written in the months after I was discharged.

Tuesday June 7th, 2016
I worked today a full day till 4:30pm and while working I was already deep in thought. Driving home I was in a dazed somehow I was focused on the drive but not really there. I wanted to run with a friend but ended up staying home to help my mom with my nephew. It was a long challenging day. I was already nervous because the little girl I took care of that day got a bump on her forehead when either her or her brother threw a toy in the air. I was in the kitchen finishing up a glass of water when I heard the commotion in the playroom downstairs.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink. During the night the running thoughts began and I kept getting up to type these thoughts out on my phone because I felt that they were important. Plus I also wanted to document this manic episode to discuss with my therapist. I usually sleep 7-8 hours an average night. I have a very hard time falling asleep on my own. I have racing thoughts most nights regardless of the time of year. One thought leads to another, leads to another and I can’t for the life of me fall asleep even if I’m physically and mentally drain. It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to shut off. I like the mood stabilizer I take, my 1 pill for my Bipolar disorder. I normally take it after dinner 7-8pm and it makes me drowsy so that when I go to bed around 9:30-10:00 I knock out most times without a problem.

Anyway back to the story that night I even took my mom’s sleeping pill because it’s stronger and I still couldn’t sleep. At that point I knew I was in trouble.

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Wednesday
I called in to work at 5am and told them I had neck pain which was true because I had been dealing with neck pain for a month. I couldn’t focus at this point. It took me forever to make notes to myself on what I would say for work without divulging too much information. I woke up my mom and sister at one point. While talking to them I was crying and I felt I was not making sense. It felt as if what was coming out of my mouth was gibberish in English and Spanish. At this point I was panicking.

I tried to sleep in the morning but I couldn’t turn off the racing thoughts and I couldn’t calm down. I called both my psychiatrist and therapist. The psychiatrist wasn’t in so I left a message and realized he wouldn’t be in till the next morning. My therapist replied and calmed me a bit. It was a relief to know someone knew what I was going through. She said she could see me Saturday.

I must tell you at this point that I have been seeing her for 2 years. I stopped seeing her a month ago because I thought I was doing well enough on my own and I thought I could manage everything.

I was obsessing on certain things. I felt that the only way I could calm down was if I took my new medication which I had run out of. But once I got it, I realized that wasn’t enough. Then after that I was obsessing on when I would see my primary doctor for a doctors note for work.

I was able to make an appointment to see a doctor at 7pm for that evening. My sister took me. She didn’t have the address and while driving down Cermak I was irrational, I wasn’t making sense. I became delusional, I began believing that it was all a joke that everyone was in on, but me. I somehow believed that she knew where my doctor was. I was crying and probably not making much sense to her. I couldn’t even focus on giving her my doctor’s number so she could find the office. During this time I remember dialing work and saying I was having a panic attack.

My sister finally got a hold of someone at the clinic and we found it. While in the clinic I began crying hysterically thinking everyone around me knew I was being recorded for a social media video. I concurrently thought that I was going to be surprised and surrounded by people that are or have been a part of my life. I am writing what I can somehow remember at this point. As you see my Manic episode was severe because I was both paranoid and delusional.

In the examination room I kept saying I was Bipolar and that I was going to write a book. I was irrational and my sister couldn’t calm me down. Thinking back now I wonder why that doctor didn’t send me straight to the hospital? I wasn’t making much sense couldn’t he see I needed help? Didn’t he see how bad I was? The doctor sent us home with something to help me sleep, that’s all and probably told my sister to contact my psychiatrist.

When we got home my sister fed me and had me run around the block in an effort to tire me out. My mom slept with me that night. I didn’t want to be alone my nerves were so out of whack and I don’t think she wanted to leave me alone either. I wanted my mom to comfort me, tell me that everything would be okay. That this too would pass. I was so grateful for her during this time and more that she was stable and well herself. (She’s also Bipolar)

I was able to sleep about 4 hours that night and it was enough to be able to focus a bit better in the morning.

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Thursday

I woke up early and showered. Hot showers always make me feel better when I’ve had a bad day. The night before crying in my dad’s arms I asked him to stay home because I needed him. My dad rarely takes a day off from work even if he’s sick. He must of seen how bad I was. My mom had a doctor appointment of her own this morning and was going on her own so
my dad took my to my psychiatrist for an appointment at 9:30.

I walked in to his office and told him I was manic. Within minutes he told me he was sending me for observation at a hospital near by. He called out to his secretary so she could come translate in Spanish to my dad what was going to happen. They would be calling the hospital to let them know we would be on the way.

When I got to Holy Cross the woman taking my information knew what exactly what I was going thru. She told me these racing thoughts are sometimes called flying thoughts. I remember crying because someone understood what was going on in my head. I told her I was having a manic episode and she took all the pill bottles I had brought in with me.

At that point I was taking 1 pill that is my mood stabilizer for my Bipolar, 1 pill that is for my thyroid, and 1 pill to help me sleep, those are the main ones. But there was 1 bottle of pills for depression that I have taken in the past, another for the Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers for my neck pain. It’s true many such as me turn to medication for everything, but in my defense I think of my mental illness. I know for a fact I am more stable when I take my mood stabilizing pill every day.

While at home I couldn’t focus on which bottles I could just throw out. They had just added up and I hadn’t realized the collection I had. I didn’t intend any harm to myself I must point that out here. What I wanted most was just to calm down to be able to get some good sleep, stop the racing thoughts and be able to focus. I wanted to be okay, to feel in control and feel like my normal self.

I didn’t know at this point if this was severe manic episode, if I was truly depressed or if it was a mixed episode. I was crying a lot Wednesday and Thursday. I wish I had had the will power to pull myself together, put on my gym shoes and run 3 miles, but I was physically tired and mentally drained. You know I was because there were brand new running shoes that had just arrived that Tuesday and I didn’t even get to put some miles on them!

Back to the story.
At the hospital I pulled out my IV because I thought it wasn’t real what I mean is that I somehow thought the ER room was staged. Once again I thought someone was live streaming a video of me of this fake ER room. I thought everyone was in on what was happening to me.

I was paranoid, heard noises, and voices whispering around me. I thought it was my brother in law and his friends saying “Come on don’t you get it this isn’t real. You don’t really need to be here, you’re fine.” People kept walking by and I thought they were all in on this fake setup of a hospital ER. There was a woman with a purple shirt so I associated her with my current job because we wear a purple t-shirt. There was a lady that reminded me of Ms. Dornbos my grade school gym teacher and I heard a woman wailing for a loved one and I thought it was one of my relatives. I kept getting up thinking I was suppose to walk out because everyone that was in on this was outside those ER doors.

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I kept saying I’m going to write a book. I kept thinking I needed to charge my phone to call someone. I was searching the drawers next to my bed searching for my phone charger when in reality my charger was taken with the rest of my stuff. At this point the nurses told me I couldn’t get up and to stay in bed, but I didn’t listen. The nurse gave me a sedative, a shot on my right arm to calm me down. I had been given a tray of food and I ate, and I had gotten up trying to get another tray for Lord knows what reason but the whispering in my ear, telling me I was getting somewhat closer to figuring out what was really going on.

From the ER room they took me upstairs for the night. I was to be observed all night by a counselor and nurse. At this point they were taking my belongings including my phone which I didn’t want to part with because I didn’t know anyone’s numbers by memory. The counselor gave me paper and a pencil to write out any phone numbers I needed. My phone was dead so she let me charge it enough that I could get the numbers I needed.

There were maybe 5 recliner chairs in the room, these chairs leaned back almost all the way and those patients being admitted for observation were able to sleep very well on them. I remember they had good snacks for us during this time. There were just the recliner chairs, a bathroom, a mirror, and a chair for the nurse/counselor. The whole night there was a security guard out in the hall as well.

Friday

On Friday in the late morning early afternoon I was transferred by ambulance from one hospital to another. I’m believe the 1st hospital didn’t have room in their psych ward for me but my friend A. who I met at the 2nd hospital, told me that she was transferred as well from that 1st hospital. I remember the 2 EMT’s in the ambulance were very nice. I remember looking out the back window while I rode in the back of the ambulance. I was trying to focus on what was happening, but it all felt like I was in some kind of a daze. I felt like I was a spectator watching this movie play out.

That night in the psych ward I remember watching the Golden State vs Cleveland basketball Finals game. I love basketball, it’s my favorite sport, but as much as I tried I couldn’t focus on the game.

Bipolar is what you have not who you are.

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Saturday June 11th, 2016

I awaken super early and was told to go get my thyroid pill.

I made 2 friends on this day. I was feeling more like myself and started chatting with those around me regardless of who they were. I was real curious to learn about their own struggles and stories as to how they got here. I did stay away from those I could see weren’t themselves; meaning they were either really drugged up and unable to hold a conversation, or they were talking to themselves or making comments that didn’t make sense to me.

I remember there was a woman who was always singing to herself. We commented on her a lot because she had really bad body odor. It was said that the staff cannot force you to shower if you don’t want to. I don’t think she took showers at all. The body odor was so bad it stayed behind even after she walked out of the room.

My roommate P. was very helpful but at one point I doubted what she would tell me because I didn’t know if she wasn’t well enough to really know what was going on. P. showed me how to make my bed and change the sheets. Something so simple but at that point something that felt overwhelming. She went along and showed me where to get new gowns and towels to shower, and what to take in the bathroom to change and what to leave on my bed. She had a whole routine to doing it. There was nowhere in the bathroom to put your clothes without something getting wet or touching the floor. The space in the bathroom was small, just the toilet, sink, and not so clean looking shower.
I left my socks on in the shower this day, but didn’t think of this on Friday and went in barefoot. I hate using public bathrooms and this bathroom just had that cootie feel to it. There was a whole bunch of bars of soap in the shower, people were just using them and leaving them in there to accumulate. I did see a custodian cleaning during the night when I would get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but for the most part we were responsible to clean up after ourselves.

I met J. on this day, he is also Bipolar. He talks to everyone. He’s been on this depressing looking floor various times. He says he doesn’t like to nap during the day because he will miss something, he also says this even about going to the bathroom. And I can totally relate to this because I’ve experienced it myself when I’m manic and real happy and excited about something that I’m enjoying at that very moment.

There was a recreational room with a pool table. I played pool after getting my medicine. I usually take my pill after dinner because it can make me real drowsy but they gave it to me after breakfast. I took it because I was told I had to take it but I didn’t know I had the choice of just taking it later. After awhile it made me real sleepy and it was hard for me to focus on the pool game.

A medical student came to my room to ask me questions and then he came back with the doctor. The pill was so strong that I went down in his arms on to the floor as if I was fainting. I was told my blood pressure was real low at that point 99 over something. I knocked out for a few hours after this.

My sister L. called a bit ago, I’m happy she’s coming to see me! She came to see me that evening during visiting hours. I was with my 2 friends when she arrived and we moved to another table to talk. I love her because when I have real bad episodes she’s always there for me no questions asked. I have 3 younger sisters. The 2 middle sisters are married with kids. I knew the 34 year old wouldn’t be visiting me. Whenever my mom has been admitted to the hospital she never goes. She just doesn’t like hospitals so I didn’t even ask her if she would be coming to see me because I already knew she wouldn’t. I did talk to her and my nieces though, it was so wonderful to hear my nieces’ voices.

L. is just a year younger than me. Growing up my mom would dress us alike. She was there with me when I had my 1st Manic episode. Everyone thought I was just depressed and so I had taken a semester off from my sophomore year at DePaul. We took a trip to Los Angeles to visit my aunt and cousins. During that time I got so bad and they didn’t know what to do with me that they called an ambulance. I was in LA for a week and spend most of it in a psych ward till the doctor gave an okay that I could be discharged.

These are the only 2 times I’ve been hospitalized due to my mental illness. Age 19 and 37. I really think I’ve done well with recognizing my symptoms for the most part and taking care of myself if I’ve only been hospitalized twice in almost 20 years. I’ve been able to hold a job for most of my adult life.

Sunday June 12th, 2016

I played piggyback and 21 with the guys (R. B. and J.) but mostly with R. He asked a staff member if it’s possible to be both Bipolar and Schizophrenic. I noticed he used a lot of gestures, didn’t speak much, and had a hard time focusing, but thanks to him I played cards most of this day. I kept socializing with those that could hold a conversation. The majority of us were Latinos and Blacks.

There was a Black woman in her 20’s who made several comments about being a virgin. A Black man just 3 years older than me, would creep us out because he would constantly stare at us saying he knew us from somewhere. The day we were discharged he wasn’t wearing bottoms and exposed himself in the room where we watched tv and ate.

I met a guy named B., I remember his name because it rhymed with rice. We started talking and played a game of pool. If I were to see him on the street I wouldn’t make eye contact with him. I would keep walking. He had a lot of tattoos all down both arms as well as the back of his neck. But what would make me walk the other way was that he even had letters on his face, I’m thinking his initials. I meant to ask him what they stood for but it slipped my mind.

He told me he used heroin and wanted to stop. He lived with a friend who also did drugs and he needed to find another place to live after he got out because he didn’t want to go back there. He couldn’t go to his mom’s because all his siblings live there. B. is 30 with 3 kids under 10. He was admitted into the hospital because he said he was suicidal although that wasn’t true. He only said that because he wanted to get cleaned but there were wait lists at the rehabs so he opted for the psych ward. My new friend A. also said she was suicidal and voluntarily admitted herself. They both realized like me they needed help.

I didn’t know how to shut off the running thoughts that Tuesday and Wednesday I was home. If I had known how to shut them off I could have slept and calmed down. But even Seroquel which is pretty strong didn’t knock me out. I was obviously breathing, but I couldn’t even focus on taking deep breaths that’s how out of whack my nerves were. I couldn’t focus on simple tasks, or use the coping skills I know and depend on most days.

At that point I knew I couldn’t do this alone. I was sinking, drowning. So I did what I normally don’t do and asked for help.

There was a Latino guy in his mid 20’s, good looking who didn’t talk to anyone. He looked, like how I felt those first 2 days, in a daze. He stayed in his room most of the time it seemed he would just come out to eat. I saw this particular guy peeling the numbers from the top of the doors. A staff member told him to stop. I noticed he peeled off just the number 6 from the room numbers. We were on the 6th floor. There were a number of people that were so depressed that they would sleep the majority of the day and I would rarely see them. Some didn’t even leave their room to eat, the staff would take the tray of food to their rooms.

My roommate P. is 57, says she has 15 grandchildren. She is a junkie who is going thru withdrawals and keeps scratching her skin. Her skin looks so dry, her legs and especially her arms too.

It’s 7:15 am we can’t leave our room till 7:30. I’ve been awake awhile, I’m writing because I can’t do anything else and I know I won’t go back to sleep at this point and besides breakfast is at 8. Those who are awake at 7:30 leave their room, but the only thing you can do is walk up and down the 2 halls. On more than one occasion us pacing the halls reminds me of the Walking Dead because some people walk so slow and more because some of us have these blank looks on our faces.

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I like talking here because I know I’m not being judged. We are all facing similar inner battles. I don’t like though when the guys are disrespectful, staring me up and down or straight out flirting with me. How can you do that here? It is not the place or the time. I have been hit on by 3 guys. So by this day I was okay to speak my mind clearly and say hey that isn’t cool and I don’t like it. R. thought calling a girl mamacita was okay, I mean it’s not the worse I’ve heard, but it reminds me of guys whistling at me when I walked down 26th street in the city.

There’s an 18 year old girl with black glasses whose depressed. The first day she was here she was quiet and kept to herself. It didn’t seem she had much of an appetite either. She started talking to a 21 year old who is also depressed. They hit it off! They sit together and chat like they are old friends. He is a cutter, I can see the cuts all down his arms and his hand is marked with cigarettes burns. My friend A. told me he had an older girlfriend who broke up with him because his family didn’t approve of her. She found out her boyfriend was seeing someone else. They found each other here. When she walked out of the hospital minutes before me on Monday I saw her waving to him down the hall and smiling. I’m sure they will continue to talk and see each other once he is out too. But it makes me wonder if a relationship does develop, what are the chances of it surviving if they are both susceptible to being depressed? I’m glad they developed a friendship because it made their stay here a little less difficult. They found someone who could relate to exactly what they were going thru.

As much as your family and friends want to be supportive unless they’ve been depressed themselves they won’t fully understand what you’re going thru. People tend to think you can just pull yourself out of your depression at the snap of your fingers. It doesn’t work like that.

June 13th, 2016
I feel like my regular self! I thought to myself today “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!” I’m ready to go home! I feel in control of my mind and I don’t feel scared now. My plan is to continue seeing my psychiatrist and therapist. I’m back on my original mood stabilizing pill. When I changed my medicine, the new pill wasn’t the correct dosage, I most likely needed a higher dosage to keep my manic episode from spiraling out of control. I did like the Latuda because it did help with my anxiety attacks but it wasn’t enough to control the manic side.

That last day in the hospital was a hectic one. It was really chaotic and had my 5 days in the hospital been exactly like that morning I would have been shitting bricks. There were a number of us that were being discharged at lunch time. They were giving us our paperwork with a follow up, our prescriptions, and for me 2 referrals. I was given a referral to see an endocrinologist for my hair loss and a cardiologist since I had EKG’s done in the ER for my open heart surgery as an infant.

While the staff tried to discharge us it seemed everyone else was going wild. Two young guys got into a fight and they had to be sent to their rooms. I believe one of them was restrained and given a sedative. This older lady who was in a wheelchair and had a patch over one of her eyes, called the hospital administration to complaint about the staff on the floor. She was causing a commotion in the hall accusing the staff of mistreating her. Most days I was there I heard this lady voice her opinions about being dissatisfied about something or other. They had enough of her at that point so they were sending her packing. They gave her random clothes so she wouldn’t walk out in a gown and they started gathering her personal belongings.

To add to the commotion of the fight, the wheelchair lady leaving, there was also an alarm going off in the hospital during this time. The doors automatically closed and staff was trying to figure out what was going on. During this time the ones of us that were being discharged were meeting with either our doctor or a staff member to sign paperwork. I remember while I was getting my discharged papers that one pervert of a guy decided to flash himself while we were in the tv room. He was only wearing a gown and exposed himself to those in the room while a staff member was trying to lead a discussion. The staff members at this point had had enough and escorted him to his room. I tried to be nice to him while I was there trying to include him in our discussions and card games, but because he constantly stared at the girls he gave us the creeps.

My new friend A. and I were both getting discharged together! She didn’t have anyone to come pick her up so I told her that I could give her a ride. We had just been in the hospital for 5 days, I personally wouldn’t have wanted to walk out of there alone and have to still take busses to get home. If something good came out of my hospital stay is meeting her. She is the only one that knows what I was going thru those few days in the psych ward. Like me she admitted herself because she needed help. We both suffer from a mental illness and it’s so nice to have someone that understands some of the inner battles I go thru. I am writing this part here a month and half since I was discharged and we are still in touch. I haven’t been able to see her in almost a month but we text a few times a week. We are hoping to do lunch this coming week so we can catch up. She has a new job I’m excited to hear about.

I mentioned to her while we were still in the hospital that we should try to find a support group. NAMI which stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness has support groups through out the city and suburbs near us. When things may get tough again it would be nice to find others who are supportive of what we are going thru. I think of myself as A’s older sister as I am 7 years older than her.

Right after I got out of the hospital it so happened I was given the book “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini. The author at the age of 15 was depressed and suicidal and was also admitted for 5 days into a psych ward. I highly recommend it and after you read it watch the movie too! Reading this book also inspired me to keep adding to this post because if he could write a book I could at least write a few pages sharing what I went through.

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I’ve seen my therapist a few times since I was discharged. I’m very grateful for her. We are focusing on helping me find balance in my life. Since I tend to be susceptible to manic episodes during the Summer we made a list of what helps me stay in control. Sleeping at least 7 hours a night is very important. I love going out and about during this time as it’s my favorite season and some weeks I tend to overdo it. Be it making time for my family, friends, and the guy I’m now seeing. I try to limit my outings to 2-3 per week. During these manic summer months I tend to be a social butterfly. I want to get out and see everyone, but that can mentally drain me. I am not the type to be out of the house every single day. At the end of the day I’m an introvert that loves being a homebody. It’s also very important for me to have me time, time to write, read, color, and run, I really value that time alone.

I’ve reflected on the triggers that got me into the hospital as well with my therapist. I’m glad most of all that I was able to ask for help and didn’t try to get better all on my own. I tend to be the one that always offers to help others, but when it comes to asking for help I find it very difficult. As an added precaution after this ordeal I have also shared my therapist and psychiatrist contact information with 2 of my sisters.

I continue to run, 2 weeks ago I ran my 3rd Half Marathon and will continue to train for 2 more Half marathons in September. I have started tutoring once a week through a program offered at the community college in my neighborhood. I was once a Kindergarten teacher, but now hope that after some experience of working with adults I can one day teach an ESL class at the college level. I am currently still working as a nanny, but have begun searching once again for a new job. I need something long term, a career not just a job. I know once I do find a new job anxiety may be an issue again and I have discussed this with my doctor. We will be prepared to tackle it.

Right now my mood is stable. I feel good most days, happy and contend. I will continue to do my best to care for those in my life as well as myself. Living with Bipolar disorder can be challenging some days, but I will continue to fight the good fight! Bad days will come they are unavoidable, but when they do appear at my doorstep I will ask for help and know that I am not alone. I will tell myself that this too shall pass. I think about having Bipolar a lot, it doesn’t define me, but damn it does play a bigger part than I would like in my life.

If you know of anyone who suffers from a mental illness just do your best to be supportive and learn about their illness. Some days all we need is a hug!

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