They’re Coming To Take Me Away (Ha-Ha)

Readers of a certain age will doubtless remember the silly song from the 1960s, about a rather insane fellow attempting to hide from the “nice young men in their clean white coats” who were coming to take him “to the funny farm, where life is beautiful all the time…..” et. al.

As someone who’s barely escaped hospitalization twice now due to severe mood episodes, I no longer am quite so amused by this little ditty. For one thing, the term “funny farm” isn’t, and for another, you have to be in a world of hurt to be admitted to a psychiatric unit in the first place, and that’s not one bit humorous either.

I’ll be straightforward: The idea of getting sick enough to need a hospital stay scares the living daylights out of me. Maybe it’s that ubiquitous fear of the unknown; all I know is what I’ve heard from others who haven’t been quite as lucky as I, and what little I learned from my psych rotation in nursing school. (What I do remember of that experience was actually kind of cool, though—I got to sit in on a drumming circle, and I think that was more relaxing for the patients than the drugs.)

I simply can’t imagine being in a place where I have little or no control over what happens to me, where I can’t have my coffee and cell phone, where I’m not allowed even to go outside when I feel like it. I’m on the verge of senior-citizenhood, for Pete’s sake… long has it been since I had to ask permission to do ANYTHING!?? I spent four hours in jail about 35 years ago, and that was more than enough confinement for one lifetime; so as you can see, liberty is a very precious thing to me.

That’s why I almost panicked when I was in the process of having my meltdown in April, and my pdoc semi-threatened me with hospitalization if I didn’t take immediate medical leave. He asked if I wanted to be ‘forced’ into it, or merely ‘strongly encouraged’. Thinking my boss might be less upset if this news came from my doctor and the need appeared dire enough, I said “OK, ‘force’ me”.

To which he replied, “That means we lock you up downstairs.” (“Downstairs” is where the psych ward is located.) Instantly I realized my mistake: “Oh HELL no!” I protested. “I’d rather be ‘strongly encouraged’, please.” He agreed and began to type out a letter for my supervisor, but reminded me that the medical leave was strictly that—no stopping by work to check in, no phone calls, no nada. It was either that or go inpatient… choice.

As things turned out, the move cost me my job, but in retrospect I think I still did the right thing for myself. Inpatient would not have only traumatized me, it would have cost me my job AND made it necessary to report the event to the state board of nursing, due to the effect my illness had had on my practice. That would’ve been the trifecta of suckage, to say the least.

So now I’m well, thank God, and to date there is no 5150 (involuntary commitment form) on my record indicating that I’ve been in a psychiatric facility against my will (and you can bet your ass, your cowboy hat, and your house cat that ANY visit to such a facility would be against my will). Nope, they’re not coming to take me away….not today. And tomorrow’s not looking so good for ’em either.

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

6 thoughts on “They’re Coming To Take Me Away (Ha-Ha)

  1. My very first visit to the last Psy. D. I saw he brought up the possible need for a stay “downstairs”. I agree would have been suckage. Especially since I was in the middle of a program in school where I would have been removed from the program thus not being allowed to graduate and per the program’s rules would have been not refunded for any of the cost and I believe also possible still responsible for what I would have owed had I finished the program. I never want to end up there, however, I suppose if it must happen as I am done with the program and in between jobs now would be the time…but I think I’ll still pass. If I we both ever have to though let’s plan it at the same time…it’s the only way I think I could stay ‘sane’ there.


  2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I started with voluntary admission to the bad. No caffeine, must be up and dressed when they wanted. No mirrors in the room, remember metal tray nailed to wall above sink! Had to eat what they gave you, drink what they gave you, go to group therapy sessions when they wanted you. I threw them for aq loop as I have a urostomy (colostomy type thing for urine not bowel.) Needed scissors to cut opening! I was to teach the tech how to do this..after several tries they decided I cut it myself with 2 sets of eyes watching me. Scissors are curved without even a sharp point! What did I learn, ended up back on same meds I came in on…

    Then once I got into a good place, I felt like i was on vacation. Stayed 4 days before they figured out I did not have the right ins. But in those 4 days I learned more, and felt safe and cared for. We even had a gift store we could visit is the nurse said okay, so we went every day……I collect Scottie terrier items so before I left the 6 other woman had pulled together and bought me a plush scottie. We basically did therapy together without
    therapist if we wanted. The oldest girl had been there on and off her whole life, she had 3 degrees she has received while living there in half day program. I was amazed. Kids and pets could visit at certain times. I sincerely think i would be a different prson if i would have been allowed to stay 30 days or even 15. Decent furniture, no old, dirty, urine soaked cushions

    Then there is the ugly, encouraged to sign in or they would do it for me. 2 beds to a room, the other girl looked like an inmate of a dangerous reason. The unit was coed, and the girls were scarier than the guys. woke to someone beating on a pan, then needed to get in line for meds and swallow and have them sweep my mouth, all while someone( not able to determine if this was female or male) screaming to get breakfast now or lose it. Food was used as a threat the entire time.Psychiatrist came in every day or two and stood over bed and told you how staff felt my meds needed changed. I participated just enough and took meds and played nice. After 6 days they sent me home with a prescription for 30 days. But no name of psychiatrist, I call 25 and finally got one dr to say ok but wanted more then ins but i did not care, we would see me and he was decent.

    The idea of a psychiatrist similar to the one you described is in my biggest dream,, biggest wish…….


    1. Yep, he’s the best…..I wish everyone could have a psychiatrist like him. Unfortunately, he’s going back to full-time private practice soon and will be leaving the mental health clinic I go to. I’ll see if I can continue with him since I don’t have insurance and I’m paying cash as it is, which is spendy but I think he’s worth every dime he earns.


  3. “And you can bet your ass, your cowboy hat and your house cat…” What a great line. I’m going to have to say that to somebody soon. Before I forget because I have a memory span of about 2.5 minutes these days. Very good post.


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