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.

The Stigma Of Treatment

All the important people in my life know I struggle with my mental health. That’s old news. I’m not even overly anxious about sharing some of my struggles with the right people at the right time.

On the other hand sharing what treatment I’m receiving for my mental health is so much more anxiety provoking and worrisome.

I’m on three psychotropic drugs, and there’s plenty of judgement and stigma from people about that. I need these medications to function, if anyone has a problem with that, they can get lost.

I’m seeing a therapist weekly. At this point in time the therapist is a psychiatrist. In the past they’ve been psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors. Therapy is a really good way to help me manage my mental health. Again, if people have a problem with that, they can get lost.

Then there’s the inpatient psychiatric admissions. Five in the last two years. Most of them for about three weeks. Not all in times of crisis, but of great stress, and with multiple crappy coping strategies being used.

I’m heading for my seventh admission with the same doctor at the same hospital. I trust my doctor, and I trust the nursing staff. I know the admission will be helpful, they always are, but I’m scared to tell anyone.

I worry so much more about what people might think about me being in a psychiatric hospital, than being on medication, or in therapy.

Is it really that bad that I need to be in hospital?
Yes. Doing the same amount of work in therapy outpatient is impossible. Plus I’m stuck, again. DID chaos, and multiple shit storms brewing beneath the surface. That doesn’t even cover the issues I’ve had with mood (both hypomania and depression in the last month). It is that bad.

Can’t I just get over it? Isn’t therapy enough? Can’t they give you medication?
I’m doing the therapy, and taking the meds. I’m still struggling. As for getting over it? Get lost.

I know hospital is a safe place to crash land. I can be a mess, be emotional, struggle in any kind of way and it’s okay. I don’t have to keep it together. I don’t have to keep smiling. Staff are kind and supportive. I have time and space to unleash the chaos, work through it, and put myself back together again.

I’ve still only told a few people. I’m so fearful of their reaction to, and judgement of inpatient treatment that I stay silent.

I think the stigma associated with psychiatric or psychological treatment can often be so much worse than the stigma associated with a diagnosis.

It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s even more okay to get whatever help you need to be okay again.

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.