I have been hospitalized four times in my life and partially hospitalized one time. They have all occurred in less than 2 years of time.
One hospitalization and the partial hospitalization were for mental illness and they happened last summer . Two other hospitalizations in 2016 and 2017 were for medication-induced pancreatitis. The last hospitalization was for a diabetic foot ulcer in the fall of 2016. This also included a PICC line, a lot of at–home nursing care and a long healing time. I had to go on medical leave from work which was really hard for me to do.
I am not a fan of being in the hospital. There are a lot of rules and regulations and a lot of boring down time and prohibitions from leaving the floor, “for your own safety.” Hospitals can feel like prisons, right down to the horrible institutional food. Privacy is a constant issue and there were always people coming in and out of my room. My absolute favorite was when the overhead light came on at 5 AM and someone came to draw blood from. I had earned the title of a “hard stick” and so taking multiple sticks was the norms. Me, not a morning person, being flooded with light and then having a needle repeatedly stuck in my forearm was not my idea of a fun time. Then there was the time they would not let me take a shower and told me to take a bath in the sink only.
In the mental hospital we could not have any of our stuff. They went through our suitcases with a fine tooth comb. Everything was seen as a source of potential harm and as something you could use to hang yourself with. A little string with lovely origami that a woman sent me was seen as a source of potential harm. They took it and then did not return it to me when I checked out. I literally got it in the mail about 2 months later. No phones except for a tiny phone booth I could not fit in and very little computer access. I can see why they did the limited phone and computer access because they wanted people invested in their recovery. I went to various talks and workshops throughout the day and found them moderately interesting and helpful. Thanks to my insurance, I was only allowed to stay a week even though I needed more time. From there, I went into a partial hospitalization program.
The partial hospitalization program was from around 9-2 or 3 every day. There were about 12 of us that sat around a big table and were lectured to my several staff members. It was hard to make connections with other patients because they were constantly coming and going. The psychiatrist was absolutely useless and did not help me one bit. The social workers/nurses like to talk a lot and there was not a lot of engagement. I found it minimally helpful but did appreciate the emphasis on self-care. Unfortunately once I finished the program and had to go back to work most of my self-care went out the window.
As far as the mental hospitals, both in-resident and out-patient, they were a little bit helpful while they were going on but when they send you back into the world it is a different story. It is hard to transfer the skills to an outside life where all the stress and difficulties return with a vengeance.
Someone once asked me: which is harder – the mental or the physical health problems. I thought about and realized I didn’t even need to think about. Mental problems are harder hands down. When I had pancreatitis and a diabetic foot ulcer, they fixed me up. They essentially cured me. Now, I have the possibility of both returning. But I have confidence that they can fix it quickly or take a longer length of time. There is no fixing mental illness. There is no cure. Man of us relapse constantly. To be honest, I would not wish severe depression on my worst enemy. I could picture additional hospitalizations in my past and dark thoughts of self-harm. With depression you often have to take it one day at a time and even one minute at a time. While the hospitalizations taught me some things, they do not cure the future. I do not fear future hospitalizations; I fear that they will continue to leave me in a vulnerable state where by I continue to struggle mightily in an interminable battle for my very life.
I wish I could end on a more positive note, but as my friends know, I am all about keeping it real! If you have depression and have been hospitalized, I would love to hear your experiences. Feel free to DM on Facebook.