Looking back on my/our times inpatient, I see an array of different experiences. While at first I felt locked up, caged and incapacitated, later on I felt safer and more in agency of myself.
My first inpatient experience was in 2010. I was in a psychiatric hospital from April to June 2010. The rooms were cold, with white walls and loud air conditioning. I always fell asleep watching the wall, the shadows portrayed on it by the blinds.
The worst of all was when the visits went from once a week to none. When my phone was taken away from me. When I wasn’t allowed to see my parents.
Being caged in a room with no lock, no security, no privacy, without any contact into the world — and no hugs, that was what the hospital was like. I can’t believe I went there by choice.
The hospital rooms I’ve been in still aren’t all that comfortable. The one I’m in right now is a mismatch of blues and purples (with a blue ceiling, of all things!) and the clock on the front wall is loud and crooked. Here we fall asleep with not just our teddybear but also with our unicorn, bundled up in surprisingly comfortable hospital sheets.
Here there is much less need for the sort of musical escapism I did as a teenage patient. Here I am a subject, an agent in my own treatment, and my folks no longer dictate my medical ways. On the contrary, I/we decide how and when and why I am treated.
I was visited by a friend last night, and would most likely be visited by my family and other friends if I were/am to stay longer. My friend gave me the biggest of hugs and played with my hair and kissed my forehead while we lay on my hospital bed talking at ease.
This time around, I have my phone, my laptop, my tablet — all connection to the outer world is intact. We are not trapped or suffocated, though staying within these four walls does get a tad bit boring in the end, when I’ve finished all imaginable tasks on my computer. And I do not regret coming here by choice, or having come here the last few times this past February and the year before. In between we have been treated in an open daytime ward, a six hours per day sort of thing, like a part-time job except your job is your own health and well-being.
Unfortunately, it is still a struggle for the staff to understand our condition and our way of being. The phrase “so I hear you have these personalities?” is still a frequent visitor, and if I don’t remind them they’ll forget I’m not L (unfortunately, L is still up in her Limbo Room). I’m seeing the doc today. Going to determine whether I leave or stay. Wish me luck!
A bigger obstacle than psychiatric ward staff to the treatment of a D.I.D patient is that of a psychiatric doctor. Why? Because there is still a divide between the people who believe/assert/think/etc. that D.I.D exists and people who think it’s humbug and that we’re all faking it. The person supposed to treat you may not even believe you are telling the truth! So you may now understand my relatively high level of anxiety and paranoia when entering a doctor’s office. Either I’ll be respected and treated as an equal, or I’ll be patronized and treated as though I’m just a vivid actress faking a bunch of crazy stuff. Third option is that the doc wants to believe me but actually has no clue about what dissociative disorders are and, evidently, has no clue how to treat me.
My experience yesterday was something like this: if you put the three options within equal distances of each other and drew lines to find the smack middle, my doc would have been sitting on top of the bulge of the three coalescing lines. She had quite a carefree outlook, vivid vocabulary, mild hand gestures. Naturally she wanted to hear everything explained, again, in detail. Fortunately my care worker was with me. I stared at my thighs, and at my Adventure Time leggings, as the doc said in a chirpy voice: “You’re not exactly normal, are you? You’re like a splash of color.” I giggled at this — my leggings and my unicorn hoodie were both so colorful I reckon the eyes of passersby would sting. “No, I wouldn’t say I’m exactly normal.”
The doc decided I’ll stay till Friday, then try being home for the weekend and then come back for the beginning of the week, during which we’d have my second treatment plan meeting. My Abilify will also go up from 7.5mg to 10mg (bring on the muscle spasms!) and my Mirtazapine might go all the way up to 30mg (it’s 7.5mg now – whoa).
I have been given permission to take outings during the day. Physical exercise is very important for me in order to keep dissociation at bay, so I went to the gym today, as well as a walk. It is the time of year I wish I lived somewhere else, somewhere where it didn’t start getting dark after 3 p.m. So here I am sitting on my hospital bed with my small turquoise HP Chromebook purring in my lap, waiting for my designated nurse to come knock on the door again.
Hospital room photo available from Shutterstock