Finally, we touched ground at the clinic.
The first thing they do, after you fill out the paperwork and pay the gap, is take your vitals and take a picture to put in your file so the staff coming in on the next shift can match names to faces. I’ve had several pictures taken over the years to account for aging – and my hair being a different colour in each one.
In all my previous pictures I look either depressed or agitated but in this one I was concerned that I look inappropriately cheerful. There’s a good reason for that though – after I’d had my medical and was awaiting the nurse with my admission package, BF ducked into my bathroom. The nurse came in while he was doing his business.
She apparently didn’t hear him flush the toilet and wash his hands while she was setting up the camera. When he threw open the door just as she was pressing the button, she startled so badly that she jumped and we had to take the photo again. The second one came out but it was obvious that I was trying to supress my amusement.
After BF left, I was to have my admission appointment with a doctor who I hadn’t worked with for five years, as my regular hospital psychiatrist was away. I was a little nervous about this meeting; I had been a difficult patient to deal with at the time but was having a lot of trouble expressing what was wrong with me, and took a lot of frustration out on my care team. As a result I was told again and again that they had no idea how to help me. I harboured a deep distrust of mental health professionals for a few years after.
My communication skills have improved since then and bearing in mind that I didn’t get along with my current psychiatrist when we first met, I was willing to give him a chance. I figured it was a better option than starting with yet another doctor who I don’t know at all. I was relieved to find that he was willing to give me another chance too, and after the official admission business he asked me what I hoped to achieve with this admission.
I explained the deal with my current medication. The mood stabilisers seem to be struggling on their own. The efficacy of Topamax is unclear. My anxiety is out of control. I probably need to be on antipsychotic drugs as well as mood stabilisers – as many bipolar patients do – but we’ve had trouble sticking with one so far because of side effects.
He listened, and conceded that this would be worth a try…and if I left it with him, he would come up with something. Wait, what?
Turns out I didn’t have a good appreciation for how gung-ho my regular psychiatrist’s approach is.
In our next appointment three days later I found my frustrations from five years ago resurfacing somewhat. The doctor seemed unwilling to make a solid decision and kept throwing the conversation back to me, asking me if I had other ideas. Um, why go through three years of psych residency if it were that simple?
I pressed him and he listed off some antidepressants to treat my low mood which was met with an (admittedly ungracious) groan from me.
“Pristiq? PRISTIQ??? Don’t you remember what I was like when you put me on pristiq before?”
“remind me?” He quipped innocently
He suggested Cymbalta, saying that some of his bipolar patients had seen improvements on the drug but I was hesitant, maybe unfairly due to the number of people of mental health forums I’ve been haunting despairing over side effects. I said I would ask my dad, also a doctor, for a second opinion.
Finally he printed out some information on the natural supplement SAMe, explaining that it could be a cheaper way to regulate my sleep and depression. Oh great, now we’ve exhausted all our pharmaceutical options I thought glumly as I left. Clearly he thought he was giving me greater autonomy over my treatment plan but at the time I felt like I had all these decisions on my shoulders that I’m unqualified to make.
I spend a lot of that week in bed. I was low, in mood and in energy. BF normally cares for his mother but she had been in respite for a few weeks so he was with me constantly. Whether I liked it or not. All BF all the time. I just didn’t have the energy to entertain him and I was getting more annoyed by his presence because I felt like he was just doing it to ease his own guilt, rather than because he thought he was helping me.
On one such day he said he was coming over. I told him no, I wasn’t up for company but he turned up anyway. In the mood I was in I told him that if he must be here fine, but I said I didn’t want to talk so I wouldn’t. And rolled over and went to sleep.
I napped most of the afternoon while BF lay on the floor playing candy crush, every now and then being woken up by an overdramatic look-at-me sigh from him. About two hours in when sighing his feelings out got him nowhere he got up and stormed out. I’m not sure how long he was gone for as I was asleep in between but he came back with my nurse who looked a little perplexed.
“You should get up.” She turned to him “She hasn’t eaten today.”
I pulled the covers over my head. “Too bad.”
He yanked the quilt off my bed. “Nope! We’re going for a walk. Even if I have to wheel the bed out the front door.”
After some protests from me – and a threat to roll me off the bed that probably would have been carried out – we did go for a walk to the nearby lake, and ate Thai food in the sun. My mood improved for about five minutes.
I was hoping to debrief with the nurse over whatever my boyfriend said to her, but she wasn’t in for the rest of the week. If he wants to be around and harass me fine, but I don’t want him annoying the staff.
That was a conversation I wasn’t able to have until week two.
So you’ll be hearing about that in the next instalment of the rehab diaries.