I have heard it joked that having a small child in your house is like living with a crazy person. And I am here to tell you that I can confirm that it's absolutely true, although to be more accurate, it is like living with a ward full of psychiatric patients. I know because I just left there.
As many of you know, my depression has been excruciating lately and I was not finding a lot of help from the professionals that I contacted. Last Saturday, I had finally had enough and I checked myself into the psych ward at the hospital (you were wondering where I was, weren't you?).
I waited until Lila was out and about with her dad for the day and then called my mother and begged her to take me to the hospital (actually, she was more than willing and thought it was the best idea). I didn't think they were actually going to check me in because I was not threatening to kill myself or anyone else (for a change). When the doctor told me she wanted me to check in voluntarily or else she was going to check me in involuntarily with a required 72 hour stay, I signed the papers all the while crying and trying to convince the doctor that my child would never survive without me.
Even in a state that can best be described as desperately useless, I was more worried about my kid than I was about myself. I felt guilty for leaving her - for NEEDING to leave her. I felt like I had been so removed and uninvolved for weeks now, and I was finally doing the inevitable. I was leaving her. My mother convinced me that she was in very able hands (her Dad is a fantastic father) and that this would truly be better than letting her see me in such a state of utter breakdown. I knew she was right-in my head. But my heart told me that I was a deserter.
The ward was a hospital ward with a long hallway with patients' rooms on one side and offices and other useful rooms on the other. In the middle of the hall was a large open room with a TV and several tables in it. The TV was always at full volume and the fluorescent lights and linoleum floors make the room harsh and uncomfortable.
But it isn't the decor that I think was the important part of this story. It was the people. They don't separate the truly insane or disruptive patients from those who are depressed or anxious and the crazies ran the place.
The first person I saw was a guy with a thick black beard and shaved head who just stood in the hall smiling to himself. He just stood there. Didn't look up. Then he tentatively took half a step before smiling to himself again. I was instantly afraid. He was totally in his own head and I realized then that I was here with truly ill people.
There was also a guy who constantly paced the length of the hallway all day and half the night. When he sat down, he would try to talk to you or concentrate on something to no avail. He would get frustrated and jump up to walk again.
There was a woman who barked. She mostly barked but also liked to repeat everything that people said when she was in the mood. The first night I was there, they were watching some show on Telemundo that was like America's Got Talent but only showcased children. At one point, a dance team came out enthusiastically gyrating to annoying techno music. She heard the music, jumped up and started imitating the dance moves. Here was a 50+ woman who barked doing some really athletic dance moves. I was pretty sure she was going to hurt herself.
There was a guy who was essentially catatonic in a wheelchair who would piss himself and then come to life fighting the nurses who tried to change his pants.
There was a girl who confined herself to her room most of the time except that several times a day (and often in the middle of the night) would come out into the hall screeching, howling and hooting as if she were at some fantastic dance party that only she could see.
But my favorite memory will always be of The Yeller. The Yeller was a 70 year old man who came in complaining and bitching but in completely nonsensical sentences. He literally yelled utter nonsense for 4 entire days, quieting down for 3 hours here and there but mostly going on non-stop. He just could not shut the fuck up. He yelled all kinds of interesting gems and I was convinced that if I could just transcribe it, there would be some sense to be made of it. But I doubt it. He would walk up to you for no reason looking like you somehow offended him and he'd point at you and say something like (and I quote) "You can tell me abracadabra and put it in the dryer. But you have to get the user's manual that's in the refrigerator because the sponges need a bath." After 4 days of him yelling day and night, I decided that ready or not, I needed to go home.
Coming home was really strange for me. My house looked weird. Lila looked like she had grown up, and I just felt completely out of sorts. I knew that the relief I felt from the excessive sadness and anxiety was mostly due to being away from my real life and I knew that it was going to be hard to disappoint Lila, who thought that since I was coming back from the hospital that I was going to be all better. I am not.
But all that being said, I found out that I have an incredibly well-behaved and well-adjusted child. Lila missed me and asked about me often but only cried about it once, at bedtime on the second night I was gone. In fact, I would often call her at my mother's house during the day and on more than one occasion when my mother asked if she wanted to talk to me she shrugged and said, "not right now, I'm playing." When I told my doctor about this, she asked if that hurt my feelings and I had to be honest: I was completely relieved that she was secure in the idea that I was coming back soon. She wasn't traumatized by my absence and that freed me up to do some of the work I needed to do to get myself in good enough shape to get out of there.
Like any stay in the hospital, coming home did not mean I was "cured". It only meant that the crisis had been averted and that the hard work of really getting better was beginning. Before I left, they made me a prompt appointment with a therapist and a psychiatrist, which boggled my mind since every shrink I had called in the last month told me they were either not taking new patients or wouldn't be able to see me until October. I have new meds (which I already think need adjusting) and I am still having a ton of anxiety and sadness.
But now I know that there is help out there. And I have something that I didn't have when I went in there. Hope.