Personal Stories about Psychiatric Hospitalization
After a few months of my depression symptoms getting worse and worse and the suicidal ideation getting stronger and stronger, I decided to hospitalize myself. I practically had to convince the doctor that saw me in the emergency room that I would commit suicide if he didn’t admit me. I know they wanted me to wait it out and see what they could do in outpatient first and give the medicine the chance to kick in. At that point, though, I couldn’t sleep or eat and couldn’t get the suicidal thoughts out of my head, even for a second.
Being hospitalized was one of the scariest things I ever did, but looking back on it now, I believe it was really what I needed. I not only needed medication and a safe place, but I needed some intensive therapy, some ideas of ways to release some feelings, and I needed a chance to figure out what my next steps would be when I was released. I still use things they taught me there every day.
I'm not saying it was easy—and I never want to do it again—but the staff was really nice and very well trained. Not at all like the horror stories you sometimes hear. We were on a pretty rigid schedule from about 7am to 7pm. I needed that, though. It didn't give me time to dwell—instead it gave me something productive to focus my attention on, like getting better. It was also nice that during our group sessions, day treatment patients came in so it created a higher functioning group, which was a lot less scary for me.
It's not an easy decision to make, but I think if you're in a good facility and willing to make changes in your life, it can be the best thing for you.
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A Full-Time Job
The summer before my third year of college, I was living alone, experimenting with drugs, and not eating or sleeping consistently at all. During a stressful trip out of town, my thoughts began to race. At first this was fun. I had an unending supply of ideas for books and screenplays I wanted to write. I was making staggering realizations about the secrets of life. But I was also having more and more problems getting my point across to other people or carrying on any type of logical conversation at all. When no one understood my ideas and revelations, I became suspicious and paranoid.
After a couple weeks of this, at the end of another completely sleepless night, I called my father and asked him to take me to the hospital. Once there, I had the same problem I’d been having with everyone else. I couldn’t communicate, I was suspicious of everyone’s motives, and I was very scared. I screamed at them that I didn’t want to be committed. One nurse tried to explain that I was being admitted, not committed, but I was convinced that I’d be locked up and never come out.
When I refused to check into the first hospital we went to, my father took me home, where my thoughts raced even faster. In less than an hour, I was again asking for something, anything that would help slow my thoughts down. We went to another hospital where, after what seemed like a million questions, I was admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit. I refused the first couple doses of medication and for the first 12 hours, I wasn’t even completely sure where I was.
I had to get worse before I got better. It turned out I was extremely sensitive to medication and with the help of the psychiatric nurse on the unit, we were able to adjust my dosage and add other medications so my side effects weren’t so severe.
I got the best support from other patients on the unit. I had something in common with most of them, and with long stretches of time between groups and educational sessions, we learned a lot about each other. My roommate was especially kind, considering it took me several more nights to actually sleep.
In retrospect, my first hospitalization was absolutely necessary. Had I not gotten help, I might have put myself into danger or hurt someone else. After the initial 10-day inpatient stay, I began day hospitalization, or “partial,” where I was on a 9am–5pm schedule of support groups, therapy, education about my illness, and medication management. Needing more medication adjustments, I crashed into a depression and was re-admitted to the hospital, where I again tried new medications, and this time they worked.
I stayed out of the hospital for a year and a half and returned to school and work. But I hadn’t really learned the coping skills I needed. In response to additional stress in my life, I stopped sleeping again, and my thoughts started racing again.
I checked into the hospital again. This time, I thought I knew everything about myself and my illness and made myself very difficult to get along with. I attempted to check out, but by the time I’d had the evaluations and filled out the forms, it was time for me to be released anyway.
The third hospitalization was a wake-up call for me. Until that time, I hadn’t been taking care of my mind— it was like running on a sprained ankle. I realized that if I wanted to have the chance to live my life uninterrupted, I would need to take some responsibility for my treatment and life.
I had a lot of learning to do. In the years that followed, I went on and off of various medications and had a lot of therapy. I learned to recognize racing thoughts, irritability, and other symptoms, and most importantly, I learned how to keep my sleep regular with medication and self-discipline.
I used to be really ashamed that I’d had to be hospitalized, but eleven years later, it’s a lot easier to see the benefits of the whole experience. I couldn’t have gotten well on my own. With the severity of my symptoms, it had been wise to get me out of the chaotic world I lived in and into a place where the only thing I had to worry about was stabilizing my mood, which at the time was a full-time job.
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I have been hospitalized twice due to depression. The first time was in May of 1995. In the two years leading up to my hospitalization, four of my close relatives died violently or by their own hand.
While in the hospital, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features, and a personality disorder that was not specified. My stay in the hospital was very short, and I did not really gain anything from it, because I did not think anything was wrong with me.
In May of 2000, I got married and had two beautiful children. Unfortunately, we divorced in October of 2002. Last April, I started having psychotic features again, and I believed I might hurt my children, which scared me to death. So, again I checked myself into the hospital.
I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. My stay in the hospital was much longer, and I got more out of it the second time around. The main problem I had was accepting the reality that I had a problem. The second part was accepting the fact that I needed to stay on medication to keep myself better. I have been involved with a support group through the mental health clinic here for almost a year, and it has been beneficial to me. Also, I am with three on-line support groups discussing bipolar disorder.
Right now I'm trying different ways to express myself. I have taken up writing poetry, which I have never done before, so that is a new beginning for me. I am actually quite surprised at the words and feelings that come out when I write.
I feel society in general has a misconception of mental illnesses. That is why I have been educating myself as much as possible on depression and bipolar. My main goal is to help people out, and if I could help at least one person out from what I have learned through my trials and errors, then I would deem myself a success.
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