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my positive hospital experience (long)

Posted by katekite on June 29, 2002, at 10:15:18

In reply to Being hospitalized, posted by Angel Girl on June 29, 2002, at 0:07:03

There are people who've had positive experiences, like me. I'll describe it in a bit. I've been to two different hospitals (two hospitalizations total), they are all pretty different, apparently.

It's important to have a plan in place, even if (as for me) the whole idea seemed overwhelming and I felt like I'd rather die than be a locked up wacko. So if you're depressed, even if you think you'll never get to the point you need to go, its a good idea to think about it and to plan. By planning I mean asking around to find out what the best hospital around is, where it is, how much notice you would need to give to be able to go there, whether they are often full, having a back-up. For example there are about 10 hospitals in driving range in my area. They differ immensely (which might be less true in other more urban areas). Ask as many people as you can (your psychiatrist, any doctors you know, your therapist or a counselor. If they don't know ask them to find out. In my area one hospital was known to be the place to send elderly people who'd lost their marbles: a good place for them but perhaps a little scary for those of us who still have them. Some hospitals have different wards, if they are big enough, and separate out the women and men, or the young people vs older people, etc.

Ok, so my positive experience: I had been depressed and on and off suicidal most of last summer. One day at my psychiatrist's office I realized it really wasn't safe for me to leave (I had been driving really dangerously on the way there, had passed trucks on the shoulder because I no longer cared etc). So I asked to go to the hospital. An hour or so of phone calls ensued and they managed to get me into the best place around (at that point I didn't know there were differences, I was scared of them all).

I was terrified of the hospital but more terrified of going home. Mainly I had this idea that there would be screaming people or that drooling zombies would be wandering around bugging me. My hubby picked me up and drove me there. I was scared because there was a door where you buzzed and you couldn't just walk in: very much locked up. The nurse was really nice, though, asked if I'd ever been before (I was crying by this point) and said it wouldn't be as bad as I thought. (I thought, yeah right).

My hubby stayed while we talked to an admitting doctor. It was nice he was there because the doctor wanted me to take a drug I was allergic to, and we had to explain several times that it would be bad for me. (Since sometimes when really depressed and scared its hard to converse clearly, maybe have a list of the drugs you've had in the past and what they did to you. Although you can always refuse to take any pill at any time, it's your right). We finished with him.

The nurses checked the bag I'd brought to make sure I hadn't brought anything stupid like a knife (later I had my hubby bring my own pillow, a Walkman, Gatorade for the fridge, candy, etc). They took away a plastic bag and a belt, which they kept for me. Two days later I got the belt back when I wasn't a risk. My hubby stayed way past visiting hours were over. My room was a lot like a college dorm room, with its own bathroom (I shared a room -- my roomate was an old woman who's house had been robbed and she was terrified to sleep because someone come back and kill her. She was sweet, quiet when awake but snored some, I felt really sorry for her because it was so obvious that no one would want to kill her.)

There were 14 beds in the place, total, but they somehow managed to only have 11 patients ever, because that was what they felt they could handle.

Around 10:30 my hubby left and I went to bed but couldn't sleep -- the meds. I got up and wandered the one hall. Since everyone was in bed but me it seemed safer to explore. The nurses were really nice, asking would I like ice cream -- they could run down to the kitchen for me, etc. I finally lay down on a couch in the common area. Around 5 I went back to my room and fell asleep. No one bothered me. It was quiet. A nurse came and looked in on me every 15 minutes (I was on a suicide watch).

At some point that night I realized that I was safe for the first time in 3 months. There wasn't any way to hurt myself, an impulse I'd been staving off desperately for way way too long on my own. It was an over-whelming relief. It felt like I could breathe deeply. I knew nothing was solved yet, but it helped.

I was still scared of the place the next morning. It took me two days to go to meals with the other patients (just a little socially phobic, LOL). For the first day the nurses were really nice and let me just stay in bed, bringing meals to me. After that they started knocking, letting me know about meals, telling me it was 'break time' (people who smoke have to go outside, so there's always a patio of some sort, this place had some trees and a basketball court -- not like I felt up to basketball). They were nice but insistent, cajoling, not mean in any way. Seemed to understand how hard it was and how it didn't seem like anything would help, but somehow saying that it would.

This particular hospital had a big therapy program. I didn't want to go. I thought it would be hokey. It turned out the therapists were really good. One was a 'recreational' therapist who was this really good looking guy (ooh)... he led little workshops on relaxation techniques and on stretching routines, and came to my room to invite me out to play basketball just with him since he knew social things were hard for me (hard to say no to that).

When I cried because one of the meds (Celexa) was giving me bad side effects, and I wanted to not take it but couldn't make up my mind to say no, the nurse who was supposed to give me the pill went and got a booklet on being assertive, instead. The nurses were all really good at spotting behaviors that they thought I could work on. I was issued a journal and told to write (I had given up on mine at home).

Gradually I met the other patients and introduced myself: they were as scared to be there as I was. We were all happy there were no nuts in there. Which we said and then had to laugh.

The other patients were as follows:
one alcoholic woman who'd woken up from a bender with broken ribs and to realize her budgie was dead from lack of food (which understandably made her suicidal). She looked pale and shaky but made good jokes.
Two quiet, kind of slow teen boys who shared a room and were both technically schizophrenic. One was hearing voices, one was pretty normal acting. The one hearing voices would just look up now and then as if something had happened. He looked confused. We mostly talked about their dogs at home.
There was one very annoying chatty woman who I think was hypomanic or manic, but she wasn't any worse than an overly chatty mother -- certainly not threatening. I avoided her, in fact I complained to a nurse about her (couldn't help it, was like saying 'mom she's bugging me') and thereafter the nurses would intervene if she was seen talking to me for long... they were great.
One depressed woman my age who'd lost her boyfriend -- we still keep in touch even though we didn't talk much in the hospital because we were both wrapped up in ourselves.
One older man who'd broken a hip and thought it was the end -- sort of like a grandpa except he cried a lot.
A woman somewhat like me, depressed, who was about to go home feeling better. Was nice to see someone smiling.
I'm thinking that's it. All of the people were very real people: the kind you would meet anywhere, no screaming and no total nuts. Nothing at all like movies.

What made this particular hospital good? Small size. No long-term patients. Large caring nursing staff. Really structured and complicated therapy program (so you have something to do all day). And an outdoor area (which for me is critical -- nothing like staying indoors for a week to depress me). I'm sure I was also somewhat lucky, but it seemed like the nurses thought that week was par for the course.

When I left, the nurses said they hoped I'd write or come back and visit so they could know I was OK. That I could call the desk any time to talk, etc.

The one other experience I had was less good but still ok: lower nurse to patient ratio (so nobody coming by to just talk about what's on your mind), nurses on weird shifts so they were different all the time so you couldn't even learn a single name, no outdoors, not much of a therapy program (one group therapy session a day doesn't count), etc. There were so many nurses that they just hung out together and talked rather than talking to patients. It was still good from the standpoint of safety -- and I could have transferred to the other hospital if I'd really wanted to.

There have been many many times during the last months that I've thought rather longingly of going back to the first hospital - like just for one night, for example. Knowing I could call and go there has helped me through a lot of rough moments. It feels like a safety net. The thing for me that helps the most is being drawn out, encouraged to talk and encouraged to participate in life. The first place was awesome for that. The second was more just a safe place to be until you felt better on your own (so I can't say it was bad). The meds didn't hurt either.

So anyhow, I had a very positive experience the first time. The second time, I wanted to go back to the first place but they were full and I didn't want to wait a day, although I could have -- if I'd realized how different hospitals could be.

Hope this helps -- they aren't necessarily bad places.





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poster:katekite thread:460