I spent a week and a half hospitalized for depression as an inpatient at a behavioral health hospital, and all I got was a lot of decaf, terrible antiperspirant, and ungroomed eyebrows (dangerously close to being “eyebrow”). Oh, and a will to live.
When I ran out of methylfolate, my mutant brain began to rebel. All of the work I had done to pull myself out of the dark pit of depression flew out the window as my symptoms came roaring back. I was tired of living with the darkness, the fatigue, the brain fog, and the sadness of depression. And, because it seemed that there was no other way to live, I was tired of living. I fell into the old habits of isolating, harming myself, and outwardly presenting as if everything were fine.
When you stuff everything down, at some point you run out of space. My tipping point came during my weekly therapy session. After describing the hopelessness and elaborating on the details of my thoughts about suicide, my therapist convinced me to go to the hospital. Once I had been assessed, I was given the choice (that wasn’t really a choice) to either sign myself in voluntarily or be put on a 72-hour hold. I signed myself in.
The unit I was on is designed to be a crisis stabilization unit. There’s no one-on-one therapy, visiting hours are actually a singular visiting hour each day, and the items you’re allowed to have are extremely limited. Patients are expected to be in group therapy, meeting with a doctor or social worker, or working on an alternate activity like journaling. You are locked out of your bedroom for most of the day, so your options for privacy are slim to none. You and your roommate must sleep with the door open, as nurses walk around all night long doing “checks,” where they mark down your whereabouts and what you’re doing on their clipboard paperwork. Not to mention your bed is hard and noisy, and your pillow feels like a sack of uncooked rice. It was a difficult environment to be in for 11 days, to say the least.
Being hospitalized for depression is not easy, but the good news is, it works. I switched medications, and while it’s too soon to say whether it’s a good fit for me, being kept in a safe place surrounded by people who understood what I was going through went a long way towards getting me back on my feet. The groups tended to cover topics that were familiar to me, so not much of the information was new. That being said, hearing other patients’ perspectives and experiences was what made my stay helpful.
I stayed for several days longer than the average at that hospital. The staff wanted to see more improvement than I was making, and I wanted to avoid triggering a 72-hour hold by declaring that I was checking out against medical advice. This resulted in my estimated discharge date being pushed out a day or two at a time while my frustration levels grew. Eventually, I agreed to do a partial hospitalization program at a different facility near where I live. This was enough to convince the staff that I was safe to go home. Today, I start the process of doing a PHP. I feel much better than I did when I was admitted to the hospital. I know that shifting back into my normal routines will be a tricky transition and that a week and a half in a hospital doesn’t fix everything. But, it’s a start.
And now, the real work begins.