It was on my second night in the unit that shit got real.
I had never fallen this far down the rabbit-hole before, and if I hadn’t been where I was, I probably wouldn’t be here to tell the story. That was when I hit rock-bottom and realized that no matter what I might want to believe, this was some really serious stuff I was dealing with and it wasn’t ever going to go away.
You see, I was surfing the Internet on the Kindle Fire they kept at the nurses’ station for the patients to use (with a ten-minute time limit), when I decided to see what was in my chart on the patient portal. I was curious to see what was being said about me. What I didn’t expect to see was a new diagnosis, and for a minute my blood ran cold. Bipolar 1!?? I couldn’t possibly be THAT crazy, could I? It wasn’t that I hadn’t suspected it or that Dr. Awesomesauce hadn’t talked about it, because I’ve had some pretty gnarly manic episodes and it only takes one to be diagnosed with BP 1. But seeing it in black and white like that made me realize that I really was sick, I wasn’t making it up, and it wasn’t just “all in my head” (although it is in the technical sense).
I skulked off to my room before my ten minutes were up, where I proceeded to bawl until I thought I was going to throw up. I did it quietly so the nurses who popped in every 15 minutes wouldn’t think I’d totally lost it and ship me off to the unit where the really sick people were, but it took me about half an hour to get it out of my system. It wasn’t just the diagnosis itself; it was missing my husband and pets, wanting to be home and yet being grateful that I wasn’t, and wondering if life would ever get better.
But as the days passed, it did get better, and before I knew it, my sense of humor returned and I found myself laughing and joking with my fellow patients. I was getting intensive therapy and meeting daily with my treatment team, but there was a great deal of healing in the bantering and the trading of one-liners. There was a single housefly who had made its home with us, and it buzzed us all the time, creating consternation and generally irritating the hell out of us. Someone named it Carl, and we began to share our theories about how he’d gotten through three doors. One girl drew a picture of Carl, to which I added a poem, and we gave it to our therapy leader who was in on the joke.
I know…..only in a psych unit could a fly be the source of amusement.
Patients came and went. One night a fellow came in who I will call Manic Man; he was in a mixed episode, which meant he was suicidal and had enough energy to attempt it. He dominated therapy groups; he paced endlessly and tapped his pen against the table until the rest of us wanted to scream; and worse, he never shut up. Yap, yap, yap. And then it hit me: this was exactly the way I behave when manic. And I understood for the first time why Dr. A works so hard to prevent it, and why my family gets pissy about it. It might be fun for me, but for them it’s annoying!
Finally the day came when my attending psychiatrist, Dr. W, asked me when I thought I’d be ready to go home. They were in no hurry to kick me out—in fact, I got the feeling they’d have preferred that I stay a little longer—but by Wednesday I felt so much better that I wanted out before the weekend. We agreed that Friday would be my release date…..but first, I had some work to do. And that was where the forgiveness letter came in.
To be continued…..