Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PSA - Why You Shouldn't End Up In a Psychiatric Hospital and Other Words of Wisdom

So I extricated myself from the behavioral center - a cute way of saying "mental health institution" or "funny farm", although there was nothing funny about this place - with a tremendous sense of relief, and fright, and shame.  Here I am with my bachelor's degree in psychology (okay, a very old degree, circa 1974), and 24 years experience as a social work attorney focusing on the mental health problems of thousands of parents and children, and I end up taking an unexpected vacation in the worst of all venues.  I could have been in Panama City Beach or Brooklyn, but instead I ended up in a truly horrible place, where the staff was almost uniformly unprofessional and acting in violation of HIPAA, where they obsessed about my eating but limited the quantity and time for me to eat (I lost weight there - my PCP is gonna be pissed), and the ward was comprised of folks who were, with one exception, in a lot worse shape than me. My one point of pride, if you could call it that, was that I was self-admitted, while my ward-mates were almost uniformly Baker Acted.  This was a place that was almost as horrible as that dark place in my mind, the one that researches suicide online. That's the lawyer in me, doing research on pills and ropes and trains. No guns; my hands are not strong enough to shoot most guns.

However awful the experience, I lived. and under the circumstances, I am willing to give my thanks to the psychiatric hospital and staff.  They must have done something right.

Yesterday I spoke with the Very Nice Lady in Human Resources about my upcoming "separation" from the State.  That's what they call it, rather than termination or "we're firing your ass."  She answered my questions, and after that I was better informed.  My husband has been a rock in helping me through this horror show.  My doctors have been gracious and truthful with me.

So goodbye, yellow brick ... something

I have to let go of my demons. And there are so many of them.  You don't get to the age of 62, almost 63, without some really hurtful baggage, filled with anguish, anger, pain, guilt, and worst of all, regrets.  So many regrets.

I need to let go of the loved ones who have died, leaving me bereft of their company.  I still grieve as though their passings were yesterday, so that the pain is as sharp as it was thirty years ago.  I have to let that pain fade, as it should.

I will have to say goodbye to my Pop and my Grandma, to Bethe and her beloved Maurice; and to all the furry babies who brought so much joy, especially both Ira cats, and Minerva, and Tuffy and Athene, Pixel, Polly, and Emeril.  I need to stop crying all the time.  It won't bring them back, and I know God is watching out for them.

I need to let go of my regrets, and my guilt.  I've made some terrible mistakes over the course of my life. I've hurt myself and worse than that, I've hurt other people, most of them inadvertently.  But I can't change what I've done; I've apologized where I could, but that's not always enough.  Unfortunately, it will have to be, and I have to learn to accept that.  I am not perfect, not even close.  Thankfully, no one died because of my mistakes, and that's the best I can say.  I can't change the past.

I have to learn to accept the present.  The fibromyalgia is not going to spontaneously disappear.  I will need to walk with a cane for the rest of my life.  I will have to compensate for the mental confusion.  I will have to walk away from the job that gave meaning to my life. I will never get my first degree black belt. I will continue to slow down, and one day, I will no longer be able to cook or knit.  Life is cruel, but it is the only game in town.  Best to live it in your own home, with the people you love.  Three days in a psychiatric hospital taught me that very bitter, frightening lesson.  I pray to God that I never have to do that again.

I have to let go of my anger.  It is the most corrosive of all emotions, one that I have tried to control most of my life. I can be vengeful, but in the end, it serves no purpose.

I need to recognize that over the course of my life, I have been primarily a good person. I've given people love and caring and I hope it brought each of them some degree of happiness. I have an exceptional husband and we raised a wonderful son.  I have my cousin Cary, my brother from another mother, and his wonderful family.  I have a surprising number of friends.  I have my wonderful in-laws, and cousins, nieces and nephews, and even a sister, Nora, and her daughter Rachel, and cousins I never knew, including the incredible Steve and his wife Cookie. I grieve for Larry and Freddie, the brothers I never got to know, and for my sister Patty, gone too young. My heart hurts when I think of my brother Elliot, what might of been, and what will never be. 

I simply have to let all the negative facts, figures, and connotations go.  I can't bring back the house in Flora Vista or the property on Central Avenue.  Time to move on.

Somehow, I will get this medical leave-disability-retirement thing straightened out, and when I do, I will be able to move onto the next phase of my life.  If my family history is any indication, I have another 30 years, and I want those to be good ones.  God willing and the crick don't rise.

By the way, I worry all the time about mental confusion and forgetfulness, but yesterday while driving home from the psychiatrist's office, I realized I could name all of the actors who had portrayed The Doctor.  This is a perfectly useless bit of knowledge, but it did make me smile.

Don't bother counting.

So here I am at yet another doctor's office, for an appointment that was set 6 weeks ago.  My daily routine used to involve going to court, attending staffings, drafting petitions - now it's all about going to this doctor or that therapist or another laboratory.  I cannot eat at all today.  Nothing tastes right to me, not even simple stuff like bread and butter.  I've been noticing that the temperature of food affects my ability and willingness to swallow the offending item.  I tried a small amount of dairy-based food recently: epic fail.  Serious digestive discomfort, definitely not worth the effort or the calories.

Today is not a bad day by any means. Our spiffy new couches were delivered.  Recliners, electronically operated.  We (Rob and Cory) moved the piano to a less-crowded spot.  We are meeting some very old friends (not their age, but the length of time we know them) for dinner.  So it's a good day, and I am thankful for that.

Oh crap, I just saw that the US reached a nuclear arms agreement with Iran.  It's raining, I'm stuck in the car, and lunch is stuck in my esophagus.  The day just tanked a bit.        

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