I’m pretty sure that even before “the diagnosis” I suspected one of the seemingly alarming experiences I might yet face would be admittance to a psych ward. Of all the taboos I have to confront, analyse and strip away, this was the most daunting. Sometimes I consider the possibility of asking to be shown through one or two, just to figure out which style I prefer. If there is much difference available… which there may not be… And maybe some sort of pamphlet explaining what will happen to me there…?
There were two lines of precedence contributing to this suspicion; one was my own melancholy. When one of your first memories is of wishing you were dead, followed quickly by the understanding that this was not a “normal” thought process, it’s not a wild step to assume you may face some mental challenges in life, requiring treatment, possibly of an “extreme” nature.
The second line of precedence is written in the twisted branches of my family tree. In a sense, those issues belong to them, not me, so I won’t anatomise them here, except to say it’s not unreasonable to conclude that with my personal medical history and my family’s, the chances of me seeing the inside of the hospital for psychological reasons are pretty high.
The laughable reality considering this state of affairs is that it took so long for me to accept medication as an option. I now can’t believe that I accepted as normal, and a sign of weakness, illness which in others I have great sympathy for and patience with! More fool me.
The terror of course was that having experienced chronic, low grade depression my entire life, like other dysthymics, I didn’t know who I was without it, without the symptoms, the melancholy, the mind fuzz, the exhaustion, the suicidal ideation, low self-esteem etc etc etc. My illness was my personality as far as I was concerned, and vice versa, so what would taking medication do? What would happen to me? Was I going to change entirely?
AND, considering that my depression is chronic, and I’d be looking at taking meds loooooooong term, what if there were side effects? What if it didn’t work? What if I had to take more and more and more?!
And what if it DID work? What exactly were we hoping for here? Sudden super-human ability to cope? “Functionality” (the favourite word of psychologists everywhere!)? Or just coping a little bit better…? What should I aim for?
I’ve been medicated for three years now… It went past so quickly! And for several reasons, I’m now looking at an increase. Environmental/circumstantial factors, internal factors, they’re all playing their usual parts…
Except as I wait for them to work, the desperation is creeping in. Sure, the suicidal ideation’s there (it never fully leaves… Or did it…? For a couple of months maybe…?), but it’s a familiar friend. It’s the desperate edge I don’t like. The edge that’s got me panicking. Considering my options. (Not for suicide mind you. For escape.)
My symptoms have increased. I’ve started having panic attacks now, which are no cake walk, and frustrate me in the extreme. Situations I’ve worked on for years to cope with, function through, and frankly, kick arse during, are now turning me into a quivering, nauseated, sweating, then blacking out mess.
And now the headaches have started. Another new symptom. Hooray!
I didn’t even know they were a thing… But as I’ve thought through whether I’m doing anything differently or not in terms of diet, sleep, TV etc (and I’m not), I’ve consulted the literature on depression again, and hey, turns out depression headaches are a thing. And having had a heavy headache every afternoon for the last week, untouched by my osteo panadol (which usually kicks butt even on back and tooth pain), I’m thinking it wouldn’t be irrational to consider adding it to the list with appetite loss, sleepiness, hopelessness etc.
But, to borrow from those irritating bank ads, I know what you’re thinking.
Time for a few days off perhaps? Some time to ride out the headaches, adjust to the new medication and stress less?
Sure, great idea.
But like you’ve, I’ve got work deadlines. There are things I need to do NOW to stop the problems currently plaguing me from piling up higher. Tasks that if I can tick them off in the next couple of weeks will hopefully prevent further nightmares down the road.
And, as always, it seems so wussy, intangible, anti-empirical and anti-Protestant-work-ethic to say, “hey, I’m gonna ignore all those important deadlines and take two weeks stress leave”. Even though if anyone else asked me if they could/should do that, I’d say “YES! Immediately!” and cover for them as much as I was able…
The ‘it seems wussy’ thing is just stupid, I know. All the people who’ve experienced what I’m talking about (and it’s A LOT of people!) know just how physically taxing it all is. Ah yes, physically taxing. Sadly, you can’t put a bandaid on your brain, and thus the problem of intangibility becomes inextricably linked to the idea you just can’t hack it. Your arm hasn’t been chopped off, you should be at your desk! (Again, in my case I’m blessed that this is just the voice in my head, not the voices of my employers and co-workers. But for so many people, this is literally spoken to them. A complete failure of empathy and understanding. It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with you, so get on with it).
And that’s why the pondering of the psych ward pops up again. How deliciously tangible that would be. You’d clearly be actually, seriously sick, requiring that level of attention. Maybe even the naysayers in my head would take me seriously if I admitted myself. It’d be pretty hard for them to say I’m just not trying hard enough when someone’s taken my shoelaces off me and popped me in a calm, beige room.
The thing is, that with more and more care providers recognising that in everything from birth, to palliative, to dementia care, in-home treatment is best, the tangibility and horrible realness of getting scheduled will probably not result (for me), in much medicinal gain. The most I could seek from such a thing at the moment is “time to rest and reflect” (turns out there are brochures!) and maybe “find out what is happening emotionally and why” but apart from giving myself permission to rest, I can do all those things without a nurse standing by…
It would be good to roll off to hospital because then it would feel for once and for all like something is truly, properly wrong. Instead of just ‘all in my head’.
But at this stage it’s not medically necessary…
I may yet experience the pros and cons of a psych ward as a patient… I’d prefer that to following through with any of my ‘non specific active suicidal thoughts/active suicidal ideation with any methods (not plan) without intent to act’ even though they’re only the-thing-about-my-disease-which-worries-other-people, rather than the-part-which-I-find-most-burdensome-on-a-daily-basis…
I may need at some point to “stabilise medications [I] might be taking” or “get intensive treatment from doctors and other health professionals with specialist training” but at the moment, between my doctor, counsellor, medication, supportive workplace, family, friends, cat, belly dancing classes and warm, comfortable home (I know! What have I got to complain about?!!) hopefully the ideations, tears, headaches, panics, sleepiness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and global hopelessness will calm down again to the point where I can function in daily life.
Wouldn’t it be nice.
As google says, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, please google “suicidal ideation” in your country, and the name and number of a helpline will be provided. In Australia, they suggest Lifeline on 13 11 14.