Hey everyone. I am here writing as myself. I just wanted to share with everyone what has happened this year and the experiences that have led me to where I am now.
When I began the year 2017, I never thought I would be where I am now. I was anticipating a hospitalization right off the bat. I initially created a health care power of attorney and psychiatric advanced directive to protect myself from being sent to hospitals that have been harmful in the past. I was going back to crisis group at the local mental health center and was going to go see my psychiatrist that first week of the year. That was when I discussed with him the idea of doing ECT or electroconvulsive therapy (see link at the bottom for information). We agreed and then started the process. My first hospitalization occurred in January and ECT began. I was committed to doing the full 6 month process and go as long as I needed to to see results. The problem was we weren't seeing results. I was still falling into self-harming behaviors as before and ending up in the ER time and time again. Starting in February I had hallucinations for the first time. I began seeing and hearing things that weren't there. I knew they weren't there so I wasn't totally gone but they were there. We still can't figure out why this occurred but it is something that we fought with for a little while. I ended up in the hospital for a second time in February for suicidal ideation. I was continuing with the ECT but with no improvement. Eventually after I was released the doctor decided that it was not working and that he wanted to stop. I had 11 treatments over 4 weeks before he decided to stop because it wasn't working.
From there, I went back to the mental health center for outpatient care. I didn't like the therapist I had and asked for a new one. My old therapist was being difficult about finding me a new one and I wasn't getting anywhere so I eventually stopped going to therapy. I started having reactions to my medications and couldn't get in to see a psychiatrist so I stopped all my meds. Things just crumbled from there.
During this break in therapy, my job was basically blocking me from going back to work so I had to switch jobs and give up the job that I loved and then my dog died. Things just continued to get worse.
When I finally admitted that I was on the edge of a breakdown, it was the end of March. I was suicidal and self-harming. I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital that was close to 4 hours from where I lived. When that hospital would not give any help that I desperately needed, I checked myself out after 4 days and found another hospital that would help me that was 2 hours away. I stayed there a month. They messed with my medications over and over again desperately trying to get a combination that would prove effective. My hallucinations returned during this hospitalization as well and had to be dealt with as well. It was at this hospital that I finally gave in to the idea about looking into something more long term. However, there was no long term hospital that would take me that would also take my insurance. From there it was decided to try ECT again. I was transferred to hospital #3 to restart ECT. Keep in mind during all of this time I was still suicidal and unsafe to be discharged.
Hospital #3 (End of April to Mid-May) was miserable. Staff were non-helpful and nurses were not consistent in giving me my medication which really messed with my head. I gave up on ECT after they did 4 sessions in a week and it took too much out of me combined with the poor care of the nurses. I discharged myself in hopes of going back to hospital #2 to get into a long term facility. When I got out and asked to go back to hospital #2, I was denied. The hospital would not take me. They had given up on me. I freaked out and overdosed, trying to end my life. My friend who lived in the city came (I was still 2 hours from home) and picked me up and took me to the ER which I have no memory of. I spent the next few days in a daze, waiting for another hospital to take me. Eventually a hospital in my hometown accepted me and I was transported by a cop. Except this time the transport was in handcuffs. Yes, you read that right. Handcuffs. Like I was a criminal. It was miserable.
Hospital #4 (Mid-May to Mid-June and end of June to beginning of August) was a hospital I had been at before and a hospital I liked. I made it very clear when I first got there that I wanted to do long term treatment. They began that search quickly and hit some roadblocks but we continued to search until finally I was accepted to a program. I was discharged after a month with hope that we could line all the insurance information up and set up an admission date while I was doing outpatient treatment. It didn't work out. I spent 8 days out and insurance wasn't cooperating and I was falling apart again. So I went back in for another 6 weeks. This time we had to wait for all the insurance information to get put together and then we had to figure out how to get through the 3 day period that I had to be out between stays. Once that was figured out, we made everything work and I was discharged. I made it through the 3 days and traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, where hospital #5 also known as River Oaks was.
River Oaks is nationally recognized for their trauma program. People like Dr. Phil have sent people to River Oaks. News stations have asked River Oaks for guidance on how to handle situations like 9/11 because they are one of the top trauma programs in the country. Going in to this program I wasn't sure if I really deserved to be there, if I met the requirements. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I learned more at River Oaks than all of my hospitalizations combined (and that's saying something considering there's 24 other hospitalizations). I learned very quickly that I deserved to be there and that I needed to be there. I received help and compassion and validation that I have never received in my entire life. Things I have needed and have been searching for so desperately. They had so many aspects of their program that put together made everything work. We had groups from 8:30 in the morning until 3pm or 5pm and then a 6:30pm reflections group. We had homework assignments to do. It was almost like being in college again. The therapy included art therapy, expressive therapy, music therapy, lectures on so many topics, dialectical behavioral therapy and so much more. We also received individual therapy 5 days a week which has never taken place in any other hospital I've been at. Everything was geared towards us working through our trauma and our emotions and our struggles that came out of that. We had trauma group to process what had happened to us, skills groups to learn specific skills to manage different aspects of ourselves, inner child groups and psychodrama to act out things we needed to get out. They focused on the root issues and things that grew from the roots. It was all-encompassing treatment. They also had a psychiatrist on staff to help make sure medications were regulated. They had a dietician on staff to make sure our nutricion needs were getting met. The whole experience was amazing.
What was most amazing about it was how much it changed me. So many people kept commenting on the changes they saw in me. I walked in with no hope. I walked out with hope. I walked in sheepish and quiet (according to my therapists) and walked out more comfortable with myself. I walked in completely depressed. I walked out with a smile and a hearty laugh. I walked in unable to handle stress. I walked out with the ability to handle stress in positive ways. I changed in so many ways because of them. They changed my life.
I never thought an end to the life that I was living was possible. I never thought I would shake the thoughts that constantly haunted me. I never thought living a life free of self-harm or suicidal thoughts would be a possibility. But I can say that I did not self-harm while at River Oaks (I had never not self-harmed in a hospital before) and have not self-harmed since I have been home and I have been home about a month. I haven't really had any suicidal thoughts either. I've had a LOT of stuff thrown my way since leaving the hospital and a LOT of stress put on me about many different things and I've been able to handle it. Life hasn't been unicorns and rainbows but I've managed. I feel completely different.
As I move forward in my recovery, because there is still a long way to go, I hope to continue to grow and maybe make another visit to River Oaks for a tune up but we will see what happens.
It's been a long year so far but it looks like things might just be turning around. I'm going to try to make these last couple of months count.
Information about ECT: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/electroconvulsive-therapy/basics/definition/prc-20014161