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…..how 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…..my 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.