Adjusting

We’re home from hospital, and as excited as I was, it’s hard. I’ve been through this process before, and it takes time to adjust to being at home, but this time it feels harder.

Gone is the highly structured and enforced routine. Several weeks in hospital and nearly every day went like this:

7:30am – 9am: Breakfast

8am – 9am: Morning medication

9am: Community meeting

9:30am – 10am: Anxiety management group

10am – 11am: Morning tea

11am – 12pm: Morning group

12pm – 1pm: Lunch (and brief visiting hours)

1pm – 1:15pm: Lunchtime medication (if you have any)

1:30pm – 2:30pm: Afternoon group

2pm – 3pm: Afternoon tea

4pm: Walk/yoga/other group

5pm – 6:15pm: Dinner

5pm – 9pm: Visiting hours

8:45pm – 9:30pm Nighttime medication

10:30pm: Second round of nighttime medication for those who go to bed late (not me!)

All of that routine is gone. I didn’t participate in all of the groups because of my physical health issues, but there was still plenty to do. I also saw my doctor six days a week for what was often an intense therapy session. Plus chatting to my nurse in the morning and afternoon. Then throw in tidying my hospital room, washing my clothes, showering, and other self-care. Very little free time!

Now I’m home it’s really hard to keep any routine going. I can sleep when I want, for as long as I want. I can take medication when I want, eat when I want. Complete freedom.

Admittedly I was craving my freedom a couple of weeks in. Desperate to be able to have more down time, and time for Netflix. My focus was therapy though, so Netflix had to wait. Now I can watch as much as I want, but I’m finding myself bored with it already.

The hardest part? Loneliness. I’m an absolute introvert. I need time to myself to process my day, recharge, and plan for the next day. That doesn’t mean I don’t like socialising though.

In hospital it was easy. If I was feeling sociable I could sit in communal areas and chat with other patients. I could participate more in groups. I could stay longer in the dining room and chat with other patients after finishing my meal.

At home I’m almost always alone. My housemate is physically well and able, and is out a lot. It’s almost like living alone. It’s such a huge difference to being in hospital. In time I’ll adjust to spending more time alone, but for now it’s hard.

I wasn’t anxious about returning home, I was excited! I always am, and I think that makes me forget how hard the adjustment can be. Going suddenly from being surrounded by people, talking to multiple people multiple times a day to seeing one person, chatting briefly, then being alone all day is really difficult.

I feel so lonely. So isolated and alone. I’m working on it though. I’m not giving up and sitting in despair. I’ve got a couple of things planned with close friends and family. I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to feel whatever I feel, but I need to remember that there’s something I can do about it too.

Onwards and upwards! More posts to come about the work we did in hospital.

Stuck

I’ve reached a point that I’ve reached many times in the past. A point where outpatient therapy isn’t working. A point where I’m fleeing the images I’m continually seeing in my head, the nightmares, the body memories.

Therapy involves talking. Talking about the flashbacks, the body memories, the terror, the fear, the anxiety. It means facing what I’m scared of and trusting my therapist to go there with me.

At the moment I’m running from all of that. Listening to what younger parts have to tell me seems okay in the moment, but it allows everything else to come up. Once that door is opened it’s very hard to close.

Talking about that in therapy leaves me sitting in an awkward silence. Too scared to talk about what’s really going on, but still frustrated at my fear.

Opening up that cupboard of painful, traumatic memories leaves me feeling overwhelmed. When that emotion reaches a tipping point I zone out. Dissociate to the point of being completely unresponsive. So unresponsive that I’ve been referred to as unconscious whilst in that state.

That unique ability makes outpatient therapy difficult. I’m desperate to talk about everything going on inside, but terrified of not coping, of losing control, of zoning out. Dissociating at the moment, to that extent, is almost guaranteed if either I or my therapist push talking.

That leaves me with only one choice. Another hospital admission. I’m frustrated and angry at it coming to this point again. I don’t want to be in hospital. I want to be okay. I’d prefer to stay at home in my own space, with my own things, and my freedom. Sure, hospital isn’t bad. It’s actually one of the most helpful things I could do right now, and the staff are amazing, but I still don’t want to do it.

I have a month or so until my admission. A month or so to try to get practical things organised for the time I’m in hospital.

Depending on how I cope in the lead up to this admission there may or may not be new posts. I’ll try to keep up with posting every two weeks, but prioritising self-care means this may not happen.

No One Tells You How Hard It Will Be

I spent almost four weeks in a psychiatric hospital. The admission was helpful, and worthwhile, but being at home is very different.

Whilst in hospital most days looked like this:

7:30-9am: Breakfast

8am: Morning announcement usually announcing the day, date, and time, that morning medications were being dispensed, and the dining room was open until 9am for breakfast.

9:30am: Community meeting which was five to ten minutes of information about the group program, complaints, suggestions, compliments, new patients, patients being discharged, birthdays, and new staff. You’d also go around the room saying your name, and answering an ice-breaker type questions.

10am: Anxiety Management group which was controlled deep breathing for five to fifteen minutes depending on who was running it.

11am: Morning group if you were assigned to one.

12-1pm: Lunch

1:30pm: Afternoon group if you were assigned to one.

3:30pm: Occasionally a walk, but that would depend on nursing staff having time, and patients actually wanting to do it.

Afternoon: During the week there’d be yoga, a fitness class, a psych education group, or art therapy. Each group running only once per week.

5-6:15pm: Dinner

8pm: Relaxation group

8:45pm: Night time medication

That was how my time was spent. I’d also see my psychiatrist six days a week for twenty to fifty minutes. Plus chatting to nurses if I wanted to. If I needed to talk someone was there. If I wanted to rest I could. There was no cooking or cleaning. All I had to do was wash my own clothes.

Home is very different. I’ve had to unpack from moving house. I’m living in a new, somewhat unfamiliar, suburb. There’s dishes, cleaning, and washing to do. I’m trying to be sociable and keep up with friends, but I’m struggling with that. I’m back to showering once or twice a week because I’m physically exhausted, and my mood is low.

I’m anxious and unsettled. I’m scared to leave the house. I burst into tears when I need to leave the house alone. I hide inside because it feels safer than outside. There are so many things I want to do around the house and outside. I have plans for our garden and courtyard, even if they’re small. I have plans for all the things I want to do, but doing them will be a slow process.

I’m safe, and I have support, but I’m struggling. Adjusting to being at home, and to a new house, new suburb is hard (and slow) work.

I was excited to come home, and I don’t regret coming home (I have freedom!), but it’s hard.

The Psych Hospital

I’ve been in a psychiatric hospital for one week now. I didn’t come in for a rest, a break, or any kind of respite. This admission is about intensive therapy. Tackling the hard stuff.

Thankfully, today is my day off. The one day each week that I don’t see my psychiatrist. The group program today consisted of a walk that I didn’t go on. I’ve had a chat with my morning nurse, and will do the same this evening. Sundays are quiet here.

During the week the days can be intense.

To begin with there’s the 8am wake up. An announcement over the PA stating the date, time, and that morning meds are being dispensed. The dining room is open from 7:30-9am for breakfast. After breakfast I return to my room and either do some journalling or catch up on the previous night’s TV shows online. At 9:30am there’s a community meeting.

Then the groups start. At 10am there’s an ‘anxiety management’ group which consists of deep breathing exercises for five to ten minutes. Morning group runs from 11am-12pm. One of the psychologists does an assessment early on in your admission and assigns you to appropriate groups.

At 12pm there’s lunch in the dining room. Nothing exciting there. Good, fresh food, and you can eat as much or as little as you like. Afternoon group runs 1:30-2:30pm, and again, you’re assigned to a group.

Afternoons are quiet, and sometimes there’s an educational type group, a walk, or yoga. I tend to fill my afternoons and evenings with journalling, drawing, and processing memories. It’s hard work. I usually see my psychiatrist in the mornings which often means missing morning group.

Dinner is 5-6:15pm, then night meds at 8:45-9:20pm. I’m usually asleep before 10pm, but toss and turn because night staff do checks every single hour overnight.

It’s non-stop. Yes, I get time to myself in my room, but I spend that time journalling and completing homework from my psychiatrist.

I’ve already learnt a lot about our system since being here. I think we’ve done more work in six days with our psychiatrist than we’ve done with our psychologist all year. It’s useful, helpful, but gruelling.

Today I’ve done some knitting, watched two movies, and chatted to friends online. I do have unaccompanied leave, but it’s cold outside and my bed is warm and comfortable. I’m trying to rest, and prepare for another day of nurses, doctors, groups, talking, journalling, processing.