October 15, 2009
Once again, I snapped this picture with my cell phone. It’s not an exciting photo, but it does have some meaning to me. These are the doors that leads you to the inside of the psychiatric hospital. It’s locked at all times; only the receptionist can let you in or out.
I’ve been through these doors more than a few times and know what’s beyond them. But every time I come to the front of that door to be let in, I get a little nervous. Maybe I still remember the first time I was led through this entrance.
September 30, 2009
This is so obviously not a good or exciting photo. It’s quite boring. But I’m posting it here because I took this photo within the locked doors of a psych hospital. I was taken to what I would call a ‘holding area,’ where you might first be taken to when they have to process some paperwork. I was waiting on some papers when I realized I had my phone with me. So, before anyone could catch me with the phone, I snapped the photo (I don’t think I’m allowed to have a phone in there). If I can get my nerve up to just hold that camera-phone up in the corridors, I will do it. I like to keep a record of my ‘travels’ with some photos. I would love to get photos from my ECT…
June 23, 2009
I am at the psychiatric hospital’s waiting/intake area. I walk up to the receptionist desk and ask to see Dr. F, my new ECT psychiatrist. She nearly assumes that I’m a visitor. I tell her, “I’m the patient.” Oh, she says. She takes down some information.
I guess they are redoing the bathroom by the waiting area. The sound of the drill is almost unbearable but that noise also masks all my anxieties about being here though I know what to expect. The receptionists have bouncy voices that resonate in the space. It’s probably a good thing. Their chatter kind of suspends me from sinking into my nervous thoughts.
There are several people sitting in the room, most of them holding a red ‘visitor’ badge in their hands, indicating that they don’t have any personal business being here. But maybe this is routine for them, too; people seem pretty calm for having to sit here. An older lady is fashioning herself a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich by slicing a banana and placing the slices into a sandwich she pulled out of her tupperware. A guy is messing around with his BlackBerry. Some are watching Rachael Ray on the television that’s in the room. Maybe they are also looking to have distractions from thinking about being at the hospital. I breathe in deeply and I apply more lip gloss, as if I hadn’t smeared enough of it on already.
An intake person calls my name to come into the corridors of the hospital. The receptionist buzzes the button that opens the doors. I’m led to a bare room with two sofas and a trash can. The chairs feel like they’re covered in plastic. There are no magazines, tables or lamps. Just a dull, square room with linoleum floors. Now, this feels like a psych hospital. It’s a barren room, but it doesn’t feel sterile. Instead, it feels almost worn out, though there is no visible sign of that on the furniture. Maybe this is the perception I have because I know what happens in here.
An assessment person comes into the room and starts to ask me a series of questions: how’s my appetite, what medications do I take, when did I last harm myself – those types of questions. As she asks me about my recent condition, I realize that I don’t really have an answer. I begin wishing I had a clue what happened in the past few months. I clearly didn’t mean to get back into this mess again. After the questioning, a nurse stops by with the vitals machine, making sure that I’m alive. Apparently, I’m still alive.
March 5, 2009
I’ve been sorting through a few boxes of “stuff” in the last few days. Much of it turned out to be trash, but yesterday I came across my discharge papers from August 2004, when I first spent time at Parthenon Pavilion and also met Dr. J., who later became my ECT doc. Seeing those papers brought back memories of the circumstances that led me to check into that hospital and the moment I was told that I had bipolar II disorder. I knew I had these papers somewhere, but I found something else today that even surprised me. Among the pile of old bills and stuff I don’t really need, there they were: pages of my thoughts from that hospital stay, all written in some purple pen. I knew I had scribbled things down during that time, but I did not remember what all I had written in there. Take, for example, this thought:
Great. Bipolar II. Sounds fun, like being put in a hospital.
It’s probably not that surprising that I had written that in those days. After all, I thought I was being confined there because I needed a cool-down period after an overdose, not get a new diagnosis. But I had also written the following the day before:
I didn’t know hospitals did ECT at this frequency. It’s a lot of people going through that procedure. I wonder how everyone reached the conclusion to go ahead and do the procedure.
Here it was, in my own handwriting, something that proved I had thought about ECT five years ago! It’s so weird that I am now that person who’s getting ECT at the hospital. And I now know, from my own experience, how one might reach the “conclusion to go ahead and do the procedure.”
This is one time it was a good thing I can’t throw anything away.
January 19, 2009
It was like pulling my car into a gas station, except in this case, car equals me. The room had seven beds, divided by a checkered hospital curtain (the person next to me thought the colors reminded her of a Mexican restaurant). The nurse asked me to wear a “vest” that allowed her to loosely tie my body to the bed in case I try to get out of the bed later and fall off. Then, someone inserted an IV, followed by my ECT psychiatrist, who was wearing some sort of a track suit. I saw him for about 30 seconds, just to tell me happy new year and that I will be receiving unilateral ECT for today (less memory loss, according to some) . Then, the anesthesiologist spoke to me for about 10 seconds. There’s no countdown.
And then, I woke up. It was already over.
My head still hurts, and there’s some hardened gel in my hair from where they placed the electrode.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.