Mental Hospital Experience continues...
I woke up on my first full day in high-alert mode. Tech's came in our cottage at 7:15am to wake us up and I knew breakfast started around 8am. As a nurse, I have worked with people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. I've been around alcoholics, drug addicts and homeless people. The difference at this facility was that I was one of them. I wasn't a nurse here. I was a patient with a mental illness, surrounded by really sick mentally ill patients. Many patients weren't regulated with meds just yet, many were manic, many were paranoid, many were detoxing, and many were angry.
I became very hypervigilant and became extremely alert, careful, and cautious. I'm use to being hypervigilant due to my trauma and cPTSD. I don't like my back to restaurant entrances (so I can always see who is entering), I like the end seat in rows (close to the aisle for easy access to exits), and I will usually scan any room first before I enter. Hypervigilance was taken to another level at this facility though. My eyes were opened to mental illnesses at their worst; one-on-one care for suicidal patients; irate addicts; screamers and cussers; tons of self harm. I was overwhelmed and sad for the situation so many were in.
During the first few days, I met with a Psychiatrist to discuss my history, diagnosis, and need for medications. He wrote two prescriptions for new meds for me. One helps with Dopamine and one helps with Serotonin. I also met my therapist who performed a GAD-7 (generalized anxiety disorder screening), and a PHQ-9 (patient health questionnaire) on me. My scores were not good but that wasn't a surprise to me. I felt extremely sad and anxious. I did get a calm, good vibe from my therapist though and I was extremely thankful for that. I also met with a Nurse Practitioner. I confessed to her that I was extremely humbled by being there and as a nurse, I'm use to giving the care - not receiving it. She looked me right in the eyes and said, "everybody needs help sometimes". She told me to focus on my treatment, don't get caught up in the negativity or drama that may occur and trust my therapist because "she's a great one".
I started going through the motions of the days. I would observe everything very closely. I would listen and take notes in group, cry alone during the breaks (I missed my husband and boys), eat a snack when told, eat meals when told, take meds when told, use the bathroom when told, sleep when told. We had a strict schedule. I was getting to know some of the patients, their behaviors, how their buttons got pushed, all the while trying to figure out who I could trust. This was a hard time because I was extremely depressed when I got there, wound up tight by anxiety, and I felt that my current situation was making it worse. Even though meds were started for me, they had not really begun to work.
I was humbled to the point of exhaustion and tears. On breaks, I started walking the property and praying. That became my activity of choice during all breaks. God and I spent a lot of time together. I was isolating myself and not getting to know the other patients but I was in survival mode. Also, any time in prayer with God is a time well spent.
We usually start morning groups with introducing ourselves, saying where we were from (I was the only one from Louisiana), and sharing with the group what our goal for the day was. This facility had the capacity to hold approximately 50 patients and I believe 46 patients were all together in one room in the mornings. When it was a particular gentleman's turn, he would not only say his name and goal daily, but he would also say why he was there and what his addiction was. He was the only one who would do that; (ex- My name is Bob and I'm an addict). This was not required in big groups there and many people didn't disclose why they were there or what they were working on. I had a few people inquire those first few days as to why I was there and my response was always depression and trauma. That's all I was brave enough to say. On break (after my walk and prayer time), I asked that gentleman why he was so forthcoming with his issues when he introduced himself every morning. His answer was this - "By saying my problem, I hold myself accountable to accept it, claim it, work on it, fight it and own it." He also said that he didn't do it for a few days and he felt himself regressing. I went to bed that night thinking of what my goal would be for the next day. I had a plan...if I was brave enough to do it.
The next morning was Day 9 for me. Up to this point, I was in survival mode, doing all things, connecting with some people but still fearful/overwhelmed to open up in large groups. It was morning group time and it was time for everyone to introduce themselves and say their goal. When it was my turn, I said that I was influenced by the gentleman who states his name and why he was there. My goal for the day was to do that too. With my heart beating out of my chest and my palms sweaty with my eyes looking at the floor, I said "My name is Stacie and I'm a survivor of sexual abuse". I lost my breath but sat still in my chair. The young lady next to me then introduced herself. I had done it. I looked at that young lady a minute later with tears in my eyes and said, "THAT WAS SO HARD". The magnitude of that one statement had me weak in the knees and unsteady. I had to walk out of that room filled with 46 people who I just met days ago and get some air. I made it outside before falling to the ground. I was shaking and embarrassed and humbled to the core. The next thing I knew, I was being asked if I was ok. The gentleman who had influenced me to do it in the first place had come out to check on me. I started crying and couldn't stop. I think I cried tears that covered a lifetime of hurt. He stayed with me until I could breath again and kept telling me "you'll be fine" and that I was brave. I re-entered group and found out that others had confessed why they were there too when they introduced themselves that day as well. It was a pivotal moment in my recovery. I had taken my "mask" off and fully exposed myself in a very vulnerable place. That gentleman also told me that I was exactly where I needed to be. He believed that God orchestrated all of this and placed me here with these particular people, at this time, for a purpose. I was inspired. I had the same amount of anxiety the next few days when I introduced myself and stated that I was a survivor of sexual abuse. Eventually it got easier - not easy, but easier.
It became clear to me that everyone there was fighting a huge battle caused by deep hurts. Yes, some had serious diagnoses and seemed to have different/additional challenges as well but we all wanted healing, therapy and change. Things changed for me after that. My eyes were opened, my heart grew bigger and I am forever grateful for my sharp mind.
I'll stop here for now but I'll leave you with this~ you never know how God will use you in someone's life. Sometimes a couple of words and an encouraging conversation can equip others to be bold and obedient. In turn, they will make strides in their healing and faith.
Hugs to all,