short version: if you get the chance to go to Mental Hospital TAKE IT! It's fucking brilliant!
History of abuse, suicidal depression ptsd symptoms, long time walking-in client for mental health services, medicine user, dead-ended. Recently took a chance to be observed and diagnosed for 6 weeks in a mental health clinic, weekends at home.
I, admitted Monday last week.
First impression, very overpowered I was, see what I expect to see I didn't. I could go through loads of stuff I misunderstood and loads of things that went wrong in the last week, but perhaps I save that or forget it. Positive stuff instead Ok?
All the people in the clinic have a background of trauma. 20-25 people maximum in the Unit. We're split in two Groups, one for PTSD and one for Depression. I'm in Depression. It's all so very practical! Meal times at set times, meals planned shopped for budgeted and prepared by the residents, tomorrow it is my turn with three other people I don't know, to plan shop for and cook the evening meal. Great opportunity to learn some new skills!
Doing almost everything in groups, for instance therapy sessions. So different from one-to-one therapy I had already for years with psychiatrists. I see they got it right, putting me in depression group, and all the regularity of the set meal times and therapy session times showed me just how casual and chaotic my life has been. I do need a lot of practical training. Sitting at table to eat a meal, is very different from standing in the kitchen or watching TV while eating. Having to ask, please pass the Butter? after sitting alone in a box for 3 years is a big shock but I'm worth it. You can even cry there, everyone is either professional or a caring traumatised adult.
The therapists are OK. I mean they talk back. All the other psych trades seemed to let me say my thing however crazy, as they investigate the hole in my life, but a Therapist will say, No you are wrong! It's like this...! I had some nasty shocks, they initially said 8 weeks when I arrived at the unit. I said no, six! She said, no 8! I had a conversation in group therapy Tuesday with my 'head therapist' or something (translation). She and I were able to agree to 6 seeks, we shook hands on it. That was such a relief! She seemed genuinely concerned that I felt it was a prison. So I'll be sure to tell her that I began to see some use in this time.
I have to get through these six weeks before the hospital team decide what seems the best course of progress for me, what day-time/part time therapy I may benefit from next. There are a few themes at that unit. Most of the non-residential therapy on offer there, is also available very close to where I live, one exception is the 'male survivor of csa' therapy - that group is unique. So it seems to me I would not go to that mental hospital for anything except the ms of csa group. At the end of my internal admission I will see one result or another, Yes or No. Two choices, its a fifty fifty thing. Six weeks jail then a flick of a coin. I started counting periods of 5 minutes passing on the clock. That was too much counting so I started counting mealtimes. At 14 meals a week (we don't eat Friday dinner at the unit, we go home at 3pm.) I've still got 70 obligatory meals to attend before I'm released.
I had expected high walls, barred windows, locked gates, and lots of cameras. Men in white coats should sit behind banks of computer monitors watching the camera view of everything everybody did all the time. This is after all Observation and Diagnostic! Lots of fears about lots of things came to distort my view of the place really. This hospital cluster isn't behind bars at all, it's open into the local population areas, the neighbourhood, kids on bikes, mums going to the shops, dog walkers walking past and mingling with the patients and staff walking between the main therapy building and the residential units or playing games or smoking.
Interaction with people is such a scary thing! I didn't get in any arguments yet. I had some tense negotiating sessions with staff and some very useful feedback. All the commitments the staff made, so far they have honoured. I spent many hours alone in my room, listening to English language radio and reading a Harry Potter book. That was great! I'll take another book with me, this week (I'm going back today, I must check in before 22:30. I'm all over the place, here's a different thing, I flung a frisby around in the open air last week with some other blokes on the unit, just for five or ten minutes, but we had fun, trying to catch the thing, it was a windy day and swirling around madly. We had fun. Then I thought, hey it must be 24 years since I last had fun chucking something around outdoors with other humans. Damn, that was a long wait, but it showed me, 'see, I CAN have genuine fun! And it doesn't have to be so long before I decide to enjoy myself again!
Such a lot happened. Before admission I'd been told, bring your drugs when you come to check-in, so I did, and they took them all into custody immediately which I was not expecting and it freaked me out! I mean my Medicine, not the drugs. 'But I only use at the weekends!' I realise I should use this opportunity to the best of my ability, and give myself the chance to challenge negativity and addiction.
They said eight weeks Observation because they feel longer is better, more time amongst other things, to break free from habits which bind. With which we are all starkly confronted with on Friday evening, which is why they send us home, I guess. Before I left the unit on Friday I carefully removed all my belongings and traces I had been in the place. I had said I would return, today, and I will. But it seemed vital that I didn't leave anything to stake my claim. Just to show the sociotherapists the empty space, to perhaps make a doubt about if I was gone for good. But I have said I'd return, what will happen and barring unforeseen emergencies, then I'll be back for second week. Perhaps I was the person unsure if I'd be going back. I have got back most of the medicine I'd submitted, and I brought it home. That was negotiated on Monday, I'd have left immediately I think if I hadn't been able to come to agreement. I heard lots of good up building thoughts expressed, and we're all treated like adults (however we feel inside), with respect to our own decisions, we won't be told, you can't do that. (Unless it's obviously harmful, covered by the rules already.)
I started my first hunger strike (or, did I just got anorexic?) on my very first day. Then later certain agreements were made and certain changes in my perception of myself too, and after 24 hours, I saw hunger is only hurting me, and I ate my first hot dinner in seven months. Delicious! Later I asked the staff how long they would let me hunger strike myself without intervening. They said it would just be seen as a medical matter. After it came to their attention, the staff in the dwelling unit would alert the general practice doctor, who would monitor the starver's health, and eventually of course medical intervention may be indicated. However the patient would not be challenged about the personal decision taken to not feed m/fself. He told me, I might tell my ten year old child at home, eat now! because he needs the food and needs to be told. But talking to you, he said, I'm treating you as an adult and you make your own choices. He said he would not challenge my decision or even discuss it with me unless I wanted to. That was a learning moment for me too.
I heard said to the dining room, 'Some people need to stop thinking they know what's best for them! Let the professionals do what they're paid for!' That helped me. I'd been talking with the staff about my history of mental health services, and I said what I thought should happen next, and expressing about the frustration of having finally found out there is a men's csa group which I am obviously qualified but won't they let me in! I so could not understand why I have to spend 6 weeks in group confinement first. Before they'd decide to let me in or NOT. So gloomy, damn guys I was so fucking ANGRY! And I missed you people at malesurvivor.org forums. I couldn't find an internet device though they do exist out in the sticks beyond the city wall, but I couldn't come here for days and days though I wanted to, to feel your enormous strength in the face of overwhelming pressure, your never-ending commitment, your love.
When I arrived home for the weekend, I didn't really choose to do anything and simply re-enacted a years-old routine, making a shopping-run, for food and familiar comforts. So far nothing changes! I think. Later I saw my neighbour lady, who has been feeding and comforting my black and white cat while I'm away, and I thanked her and we talked things over for a while. Next I wanted to smoke outside, so I went on my favourite walk along the waterfront and through the park, watching the ships passing on the river and the autumn trees and the wild clouds bringing sharp fresh rain. I ate an apple. High lights crystallise in the city towers as evening fades. Wild ideas pour in torrents through my head and I cry frequent bursts of tears. There's no-one near, it's blowing half a gale or more and wet. I say to the world,
Don't mourn for me if you see me weep
there's no more shame or doubt
then silent, I was crying in
but now I'm crying out!!!
I finish my walk touching the far side, over bridge and ship and back over again for home and cat and net and you brave guys, and I feel suddenly, hang on, being with the people at the unit this week, is kinda like helping me in the way the guys do at ms though very different, and though I miss the people at the unit right now, I know I'll be Ok. We're all right here. And I wept a lot in confusion and joy!
So quite an emotional roller-coaster ride. Mental health fitness boot camp, week 2 coming next Sunday.