This picture was the first thing I saw on my facebook this morning, so perhaps I am doing something right. The last line of my first blog was:
1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
So I kind of wonder if this is God’s way of confirming that I’m doing something right.
(Continuing from the description in part one)
This time the car veers sharply to the right, into a ditch, and halfway into a field. The car stalls out and will not start up again. Dust is flying around in front of the headlights, a la “Back to the Future,” like a mysterious fog. Or is that the engine smoking? I throw open the car door and leap out,.thinking the car might explode. Then, forgetting about the danger, I panic at the next thought. Wasn’t my son in the car? Did I just hit him? I throw myself to the ground, trying to see under the car. Where is he? Then I remember. He’s at work and his father is picking him up.
Relieved, and catching my breath, I notice there are lights on at the house across the street. It looks like there may be a party going on. I cross the road, hearing multiple voices, some of which are familiar to me. They’re waiting for me behind the house! It’s the marriage supper of the Lamb! I begin to run toward them, nearly falling on my face. I hear Todd, a man from the church I’d attended before. I hear the pastor of the church I now attend. I run behind the house, excited beyond belief. I am stunned when I reach the back patio and find that no one is there.
I go around to the front of the house and knock on the door. A man answers the door, and I beg to use the phone to call my son, a friend, anyone. While I am using his cell phone, he appears to be doing something. He seems rather nervous. I notice a strong smell of pot. It overwhelms me and I am afraid. I had never considered that I could be in danger by knocking on a stranger’s door. I thank the man for his help and leave quickly, thinking he could have a knife or something behind his back. I start back to the car and see that there is a police car and an ambulance parked behind it. I wonder why they are there. I begin to cry, relieved that once again I am safe from harm. As I ride to the hospital, the ambulance attendant’s voice alternates between Todd’s voice and the pastor’s. The attendant prays with me at my request, and I start crying afresh.
Hallucinations (experiencing things that are not real through the five senses) and delusions (holding beliefs that are not true) are often experienced in the manic phases of bipolar. You can see in the example above that I was hearing, seeing, and thinking things that seemed real to me at the time. During another episode, I believed that I was Mary, Jesus’ mother. God was speaking to me personally from out of the clouds. The clouds undulated and had colors, shapes, and very realistic human features. No one could have convinced me these things were not real.
After the car incident, I was in a psychiatric hospital for the better part of a month. The psychiatric hospital, to me, is a safe place that I know will bring me back to health. Whenever I’ve landed there, I’ve always known it was for my good. I don’t know why I have never fought it. I suppose it’s because by that point what’s going on with me is not fun. Besides, the staff is nice, the food is good, my needs are met, my medications are managed, and in short order I’m usually able to return home and care for myself. The hardest part, I think, is the long wait in the emergency room before one is transferred to the facility.
One area of patient care that can be neglected is spirituality. In the emergency room one time, I was (I think) acting in a safe manner, but really needing spiritual help. A chaplain was called, and I asked him to pray with me for a little while as I was waiting to be seen. The best he could come up with was a pat on the shoulder every few minutes and a “there, there.” I kept telling him, “No, I need you to pray with me, say a prayer.” I grew desperate and frustrated that he wouldn’t listen to me. How could a person wearing a priest’s collar in a religious facility not pray with someone who obviously needed it? I had the impression that he was afraid of me. He could not make eye contact at all. And I’m pretty sure I was not doing anything inappropriate that would give him pause.
There are different modalities of treatment used in the hospital once a person is admitted. Besides the locked door, medication, and adequately trained staff, there is an individualized treatment plan to meet the patient’s needs. I have a social worker who coordinates my therapies: group meetings, a psychiatrist who sees and evaluates me daily, different kinds of recreation, and occupational therapy. There is very little free time. Inevitably there is a patient or two with whom I can relate. There is nothing like a friend who knows what you are going through who can commiserate. Again, I have found that spiritual needs are not addressed. Other than that, the treatment provided helps me to develop skills I can use on the “outside.”
Funny, that term “on the outside” is reminiscent of prison vocabulary! And I suppose that is one reason some patients object to being put in the hospital. Some are admitted against their will, once it’s determined that they are a danger to themselves or others. Once there, a patient has few choices. They cannot leave the building unsupervised and without being approved to do so. The doors are locked, and if a person becomes violent, they are restrained and placed in a padded room. But all of the above is for their safety. They may react to these interventions with anger, yelling and even throwing things. That is the one thing that’s difficult for me when I’m in the hospital. I react very strongly to loud noises and anger, and some patients who are ill do act out angrily and I feel threatened. But the staff is trained to deal with that and can usually keep everyone safe.
There are patient advocates in most communities who actively work on passing legislation to protect patients’ rights. These rights must be respected whether a person is in the hospital, and/or when law enforcement becomes involved on the outside. I agree that patients should not be restrained or medicated unnecessarily, but there are times when this is necessary. This will protect them, other patients, and the staff, who have a right to be safe as well. In fact, I briefly worked as a nurse in a combination psychiatric and chemical dependency unit. I enjoyed it tremendously, but there were times that I felt very threatened. I also had to take care of people who were on the wrong side of the law, including pedophiles, and it really traumatized me sometimes. The final straw was the time I was standing between two patients who were about to come to blows. I tried to intervene by talking them out of it, and one punched the other in the nose, right above my head (yes, I am vertically challenged, lol).
There are times, I know, when law enforcement or staff overreacts to a person having symptoms of mental illness when they are a threat to themselves or others. Advanced training is continually enabling them to work with the mentally ill, to be more sensitive to our issues, and to better know how to help us. Certainly there is a lot more to learn, and the care of those with mental illness can be improved all the time.
In the next blog I will be talking a bit about the effect of psychiatric disorders on family and friends, and also about the importance of having support when you have a mental illness.
PS: This image was on my Facebook after I finished this blog entry. Doo doo doo doo …