Tag Archives: psychiatric hospital

Abandoned again: psychological irresponsibility

I really had hoped I’d seen the last of “psychological irresponsibility” in my life, but it seems I attract mental healthcare professionals who like to end our professional relationships with cruel abandon. Thankfully, I have the rest of my far more reliable care team backing me up – though the shock of D’s departure was enough to increase my depression to the point where hospital was required. (Yes, I’m back in hospital. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Am I angry? You betcha.

This time, the news was broken in a phone call. His tone was chipper: “I told the hospital last week that I’m leaving to focus on my private practice.” I accessed his services through my hospital’s outpatient outreach program, which is designed to help people stay well and prevent admissions – yet here I find myself again; ironic much?

He didn’t even suggest we have a final wrap-up session. I asked for one, and we made a time, but I was certainly left with the impression that this was something of an imposition. Would you believe he sent me a text asking to reschedule that session because he had a lunch to attend? Mate, sometimes it’s best to give a little less information: I don’t want to know that finishing up our work together is less important to you than a social outing.

I called his supervisor the day after the news. (The psychologist in question wasn’t available, or I would have had a conversation with him.) I reminded him that, about a year ago, he’d asked me to “give [this psychologist] a go” after an administrative reshuffle meant the excellent worker who had had my case was re-assigned. I reminded him that I’d had reservations about welcoming a man into my home, that it had taken a great leap of trust on my behalf to make that OK. I also let him know – since he seemed unaware of the fact – that my mental health had been deteriorating over prior three weeks. He asked that I give the next worker assigned to my case “a go”. I put down the phone with a shiver: those words no longer inspire confidence.

Having left the supervisor in no doubt as to my displeasure, I tried to put the matter out of my mind; but, as I was driving to the post office nine days ago, I suddenly remembered the original phone call with awful clarity. I remembered how cheerful the psychologist has sounded, how he delivered the news as though he were commenting on the pleasing results of a sports match.

If you’re new to this blog, you won’t know my history with abandonment and health care professionals. I had a close professional relationship with my first psychiatrist who treated me for almost five years, then stopped with five days’ notice. The rupture of that therapy came at a time when I was vulnerable on many fronts, and eventually resulted in a complete breakdown. This psychologist knew of that history. I’d made sure of it, and included it in the PowerPoint presentation I made summarizing my medical history when we started work together.

Anyway, I was driving to the post office, and I heard his voice on the phone again in memory’s ear. My reaction was immediate and physical. I felt numb. I walked into the post office and stood at the counter with my parcels. The clerk said something to me from across the shop, but the words didn’t penetrate the fog which had wrapped itself round me, filling my ears and eyes with thick whiteness. I mailed the parcels, walked back to the car, and started the engine. I was only as I approached the corner that I realized the clerk had asked if I was all right. I’d completely ignored her! I drove around the block and walked back inside.

“I’m so sorry about before,” I said, and felt tears on my cheeks. “I think you were talking to me, but I didn’t hear what you said. I probably seemed rude.”

“That’s all right,” she replied, looking at me carefully. “Perhaps you need to go home now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“Should you be driving?”

“No, probably not; but I don’t have far to go.”

“OK. Take care of yourself.”

I turned and walked back to the car as though I’d received a full-body beating.

It seems as though my trauma, like my preferred name, is something this psychologist “can’t be expected to remember”. Yes, sadly, that’s a direct quote when I reminded him I prefer to be called “Catie” rather than “Catharine” … three months into treatment.

So: here I am in hospital again. Is it wholly because of the rupturing of that professional relationship? No; my mental health had been deteriorating before that. On the other hand, would I be here if he had handled things differently? No, almost certainly not. This trauma, re-opening the door to that historical hurt, is what precipitated the events which landed me here.

I understand that I don’t know all the details surrounding this incident. I acknowledge that there may be factors beyond anyone’s control which contributed to D’s sudden departure. However, what I do know is this:

  • D had been given the knowledge that an event like this would be extremely triggering to me
  • D had told the hospital a week before he told me that he would be leaving (which implies that he had been planning the move for longer)
  • the therapeutic relationship we’d had was terminated abruptly, and without closure
  • I am now in hospital.

My issue is not that D stopped treating me, nor even that he stopped treating me suddenly. My issue that that he had been given the information that this would be a destructive event in my life, and yet did nothing to mitigate the damage it may cause.

Here endeth the rant.

Have you ever been the subject of psychological irresponsibility? How did you recover?

Therapy ruptured

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Free Resources

The first installment in what will become a growing library of resources on my website is for people who learn a friend or loved one is in a psychiatric ward or clinic. This can be a confronting situation, and sometimes people are not sure how to react. This page contains suggested topics of conversation and gift lists to help make that first visit seem less overwhelming. Enjoy!

 

http://dysthymiabree.com/free-resources/

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Simple Things

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This picture means a lot to me. Not much to look at, is it? But I used to run alongside this creek, back in 2009 – the year I replaced drinking with jogging as my coping mechanism for stress (and lost 20kg in the process, yay!).

Well, actually, that wasn’t the only reason I gave up drinking. I realized that alcohol had a strong influence on my mood; there seemed little point in doing therapeutic work when I couldn’t hear a whisper amid the storm, so to speak.

Back to the picture. The creek wasn’t usually this full; it’s in flood, here. Actually, I think I took this picture in 2010, after various dramas ‘flooded’ my life. My coping mechanisms weren’t up to the task, and I became very unwell, spending quite some time in a psychiatric hospital.

You know what? I’m still recovering, almost four years later. Floods are like that: once a flood’s been through an area, the ground becomes saturated, which lowers its capacity to absorb water and makes a second flood more likely. Bushfires, on the other hand, deplete the fuel load of the land, making a repeat fire less likely. Sadly, the way our brains/minds react to traumas is more akin to flooding than burning.

I used to carry cards in my purse, cards I’d made myself with pictures on one side and things to remember on the other. This was on the back of the first card I ever made. It was my “Things To Try” list if the urge to self-harm or suicide became overpowering. Funny, until writing this post I never made the connection  between the fact that the creek’s flooded in the picture, and the emotional state I was in when I made the card: overwhelmed, barely coping, at serious risk of not making it through … I’ve just dug that old card out, and I had even included the  phone numbers of my emergency contacts. Me, the numbers girl! I certainly was prepared for a worst case scenario, prepared to be in a state of mind where I couldn’t remember numbers or operate my Contacts list properly.

The psychiatrist who was treating me at that time was amazing. I honestly believe I wouldn’t be here today, if it weren’t for him. If my mental illness was a flood which threatened to wash me away, he was the stone wall which held the flood in place and protected the me. He went above and beyond. It was impossible to doubt his commitment to my best interests, my recovery. He is a truly good man.

That creek – it will have been through quite a few flood / drought cycles in the four years since I last ran alongside it. (I’ve moved cities since then.) It will have bounced back, though. That’s what creeks do.

I’m glad I’ve still got the card – what do they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? I guess I have come a long way, since then. I know myself a lot better. I cope better, even if I still have bad days or bad moments. I’m not working at the moment, but there have been times between then and now when I was able to work.

That creek will still be there. Perhaps another woman is running alongside it, right now. Perhaps things in her life aren’t going so well.

I hope she makes it safely home.

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Revisiting the Psych Ward

Don’t worry, I haven’t been re-admitted! That wouldn’t be the end of the world – after all, I’d only be re-admitted if I needed it – but, thankfully, I don’t need it right now. However, I have been back to the psych ward I spent so much time living in last year.

In 2013, due to extreme depression and anxiety, there were four months when I spent as much time in hospital as I did at home. Thankfully my wonderfully plastic mind has redacted most of those months out of my memory banks, but I remember the good bits: laughing hysterically with some of the patients who’d become friends, the nurses’ names, the times hospital felt like a haven rather than a prison.

I’ve attended the same building as an outpatient quite a few times since then: my medications bloke is housed in the same building, as well as some other services, but I hadn’t been back on the ward until a few days ago.

One of my very good friends is “in” right now having a course of ECT. Obviously, I’ve been going to visit and support her.

In 2010 I also had a lengthy hospitalization, in the city I used to live in. I also went back to visit, this time to help out a friend who only had accompanied leave (i.e. she wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital without a responsible adult). She needed cigarettes, and so called me up to come walk her to the shops. When I turned up at the hospital, one of the nurses laughed and said to her, “So this is your ‘responsible adult’?” Way to make someone feel good, lady.

Going to visit my friend these last few days has been a completely different experience. The staff were friendly and welcoming. for a start. I even saw one of the clinical coordinators who’d helped me out last year and clapped him on the shoulder. “I haven’t forgotten I owe you one,” I said jovially. “Only one?” he replied. Apparently favours accrue interest!

Even being in the place felt good. I wasn’t overwhelmed with gut-wrenching fear. I didn’t feel panicky. My friend just happens to be sleeping in my old best (weird!) and even going into that space felt OK.

I’m pretty chuffed that I could go back to a place in which I had suffered a fair bit last year, and feel good about being there. The place is a good place. My friend is in good hands. And should I ever have to be re-admitted, I know I’ll be OK, too.

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The New Question

Last time I was in hospital (read psychiatric clinic, psych ward, acute care, whatever you want to call it) I started a campaign for a new question.

Where I live, the usual greeting is some variant of: “Hi! How are you?” However, if you’re staying in a psych ward and the answer isn’t “shithouse”, perhaps you’re in the wrong place.

So I thought long and hard and came up with the question: “What’s new?”

It’s just as innocuous as “How are you?”, just as non-specific, and invites either a meaningless brush-off response – “nothing!” – or a meaningful one – “some fuckwit ate the food I’d put in the fridge to eat after ECT”, “I haven’t cried all day” or even “the purple man who was following you yesterday has left, you’ll be pleased to hear”.

So if you are one of the over 225,000 Australians who are admitted for psychiatric care* may I suggest you go around asking the New Question “What’s new?” Just a suggestion.

 

 

* According to “Mental Health Services In Brief“, there were over 222,500 admitted patient mental health‑related separations reported in 2009–10, accounting for 2.6% of all hospital separations (p. 14)

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