Exactly a week before Christmas a note slipped under my door warning me of changes to the ward over the Christmas break, which would start in a few days and last two weeks. I was aware the ward shut downs to half capacity over Christmas, but I had never been in hospital during that time before.
One of the hospital’s two wards would be closed off completely. This happened to be the one I was admitted to but I didn’t have to move because the wards are separated by a set of doors, and my room is one of three that are on the other side despite being under care of staff of ward 2.
No more patients are supposed to be admitted during this time, although there were about three more admitted over the next few weeks whenever someone discharged themselves prematurely. Which happens, it’s a voluntary clinic after all. Many discharges were planned for that Friday before the closing, so in the end the staff were caring for about a third of the usual patients.
Many staff were forced on leave as well by the hospital, including all of the therapists. That meant no group or private therapy for two weeks. No one was thrilled about this, least of all me. Part of the reason I came to hospital was to have some intensive psychotherapy to unpack why I spent the second half of last year in a constant state of mental breakdown. The timing of this admission is unfortunate.
Also going on leave against his will was my doctor. After feeling frustrated with his apparent unwillingness to make a decision last week I explained the kind of pressure that I was feeling. He explained once again that usually the way to treat my anxiety symptoms would be to add an antidepressant but that my bipolar made that a risky move. He suggested doubling my melatonin pill, which could help my depression and anxiety and fix my broken sleep in a less risky way than a classic antidepressant. I agreed.
His going on leave was another cause for concern. This would be yet another doctor to haul out my life story in front of, who would no doubt have a different therapeutic philosophy and I had no way of knowing what kind of changes he might make. It’s kind of disturbing really how so many staff said they wanted to stay on – especially the therapists.
As it turned out however upping the melatonin was not as risk free as we may have thought. My mood swung, and it swung high. And hard.
My thoughts were racing. I was shaky, ruminative, anxious. Irritable. I spent much of the day pacing about my room and feeling murderous toward my fellow patients. It just so happened that at this time there were several patients who liked to play instruments. And just hearing them play sent me into the most unreasonable state of irritation.
There was a lady with a flute, a guy with a guitar and a nurse with a ukulele who liked to join them. They had timetabled daily sing-alongs but guitar boy could be heard strumming away contemplatively at all hours of the day and for some reason my brain equated that with being unreasonable.
I know, irony.
I got so irritated that on closing day I ended up in the nurse unit managers office having a cry about how annoyed I was. I thought she would laugh me out of her office but she was sympathetic.
“Why do you think I timetabled these music groups? They annoy me too! I was hoping they’d get it out of their system in the allotted hour.”
She jokingly assured me that most of them were getting discharged that day.
The ward closed but it wasn’t a happy place. Christmas is a triggering time for many people. I’m lucky not to have to deal with the family dramas that a lot of the other patients were trying to cope with and they struggled. There was many, many meltdowns. The short staffed nurses did their best to cope but some therapists certainly would have come in handy.
As for me, my mood just kept on climbing. On Christmas eve I my mum came and picked me up to help prepare the house for Christmas and when I jumped in the car I stunned her by immediately covering ten different topics in two minutes, occasionally stopping to cackle manically.
“Oh my God…take a breath. You’re acting a bit manic.”
“My thoughts are racing.” I admitted.
“oooooooooook. We’re going to working keeping a nice calm environment today.”
I was worried about how I’d handle Christmas Eve mass and dinner – when the mood’s up, anxiety tends to be up as well – but in the company of my family I was able to relax and go with the flow of the evening.
On the day itself my anxiety was intense- event though I was woken up by a nurse leaving a box of chocolates on my bedside table. I thought getting out of the hospital was going to be hard and I was right. The nurses were stressed out trying to get meds for ten patients at once as we all had to go out at the same time. Some of the patients were getting agitated and taking it out on the nurses and that was hard to take. I made a mental note to bring a box of leftover candies back with me that night.
After my extreme high the day before I was tired for most of Christmas day and spent most of it on the couch pretending to mind my cousin’s children as they wreaked havoc in front of me. For the most part everyone left me alone and I got a few good presents out of the day, so I can’t complain really.
If you read last week’s entry you may be wondering…did I speak to the nurse my boyfriend unloaded on last week? Yes I did – eventually. She wasn’t in for a week after the incident but on her first shift back I asked for her version of events.
The way BF told it, he’d appealed to her for help after I refused to engage him but she remembered differently. According to her this guy – the boyfriend of a patient, remember – came up to her and gave her a brief history of BF. It’s not a happy history. She asked him if he was seeing a psychologist – which he is – and rightfully delegated that conversation onto him. Then I suppose he asked her what to do about his wilful girlfriend problem.
He didn’t deny any of this when I told him what she said, and did end up seeing his therapist soon after, saying that he felt better equipped for it. I wish I understood what it was about my depressive episode that made his whole life flash before his eyes though.
Until next time,