A photo from the hospital’s website…my room looked nothing like this.
The words “dreary”, “desolate”, and “sterile” sum up my room’s decor.
It was eight months ago when I was last locked up in the loony bin for bipolar depression/suicidal ideation. The relapse occurred during my tapering off lithium, and it was so nightmarish that I asked for bilateral electroconvulsive (ECT) treatments. The ECT worked in tandem with a new medication combination, and I was incredibly fortunate to have minimal side effects. While I’m not cured by any means, I’m 360-degrees better.
I know that “loony bin” is derogatory; I’ll use the euphemistically named “Garden Pavilion” at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula instead. I suppose I should wipe the snide tone out of my words at the get-go, and give this hospital much more credit. C.H.O.M.P.’s confines and staff did help to save my life. But the way in which that was done left much to be desired.
For one thing, I was cooped up worse than our three chickens. We allow them to “free range” every day in our yard, and they truly seem more tranquil after these excursions. During my lengthy time at the hospital I wasn’t taken outside once with staff for a breath of fresh air and natural sunlight. As small a thing as that may sound, I believe that staying in an ugly, uninspiring, yucky-smelling, bleak unit 24/7 prolonged my recovery, and worsened my depression. I’ve always loved nature, and during my deepest depressions getting out in nature gave me moments of comfort and hope.
A few months after my hospital release, I made some calls to Bay Area hospitals out of curiosity . I learned that numerous mental health units with the same population as C.H.O.M.P. take their patients out for walks or even field trips. Why C.H.O.M.P. couldn’t do that, I don’t know. I called the unit about it and I couldn’t get a clear answer.
And then there is the cost of hospitalization. I manage our bills, and we’re going to be paying C.H.O.M.P. for a very long time. My hospital visit cost TONS of money not covered by Medicare. I could have bought several new cards for what my hospitalization cost. Again, I realize that I sound ungrateful and that my life is worth any exorbitant medical bill, but it still, for want of a better word, sucks. I would have rather saved up all that money for my children’s college education.
The truth of the matter is that I feel triggered this afternoon.. My husband and daughter left for Los Angeles this morning. Craig’s acclaimed book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West is being honored for winning the Regional Literature Award by the Great Southwest Book Festival in Hollywood. I could have accompanied them, but I chose to stay home to write and relax. The tedious eight-hour-long drive to L.A. and and eight-hour-long drive back for only a three-day-long visit didn’t appeal to me. (Flying there was too expensive.) Fortunately Craig is so easygoing that he didn’t mind my staying home in the slightest. He’s even making time to visit my Mom while there, and she’s thrilled she’ll see her eldest granddaughter.
It’s just that I haven’t been away from either Craig nor Avi since I was hospitalized and that makes me feel nervous and sad. Memories of prior separations (I’ve had seven lengthy hospitalizations since 2007) are surfacing that I don’t want to dwell upon. I have no concrete reason to be nervous or sad – I’m in good physical health, way better mental health than I’ve enjoyed in years, and I’ve set up plans for a few fun activities to do while they are out of town.
I am lucky to have my other daughter with me. Rilla deserves to have me be in relatively good spirits during this one-on-one time. So what I’ll do to get in a better frame of mind is:
1) Work out on the elliptical – this always puts me in a better mental state
2) Plan a couple fun, special things to do with Rilla (Our big splurge is going to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which she has been begging me to do for ages.)
3) Use my Sunbox (I use this bright light for thirty minutes in the morning when I write or surf the internet. It helps me keep depression at bay)
5) Invest in some good quality chocolate!
6) Don’t be a recluse. When I stay in the house all day long, it’s very bad for my mood. Even getting out for a little while makes a big difference.
Time flies by so quickly that the three days will pass by in a heart beat anyway.
I can’t help but have a Pollyanna moment after sharing these thoughts. I’d rather be home, freaked out, than back in that cold, scary hospital. All I have to do to feel better is look out my window at beautiful redwood trees and the clucking trio of chickens. It’s a pretty damn good life. So I’ll just take the myriad of hospital bills in stride, and I’ll deal with my Garden Pavilion memories that come and thankfully go. I have my life back in my own hands, and that’s what matters now.
I dedicate this Crowded House song “Better Be Home Soon” to Craig & Avonlea; the lyrics have a different meaning than my situation, but it’s a classic song!
Hang in there, sweetheart! You’ll have some great times with Rilla and will find out just how strong you really are! Kiss the ocean for me when you head to the Boardwalk. If Positively Front Street is still there (or Beach Street Cafe–remember how many yummy breakfasts we had there?), go have a treat with your little one! Take a walk on West Cliff and think of me… I’m thinking of you with tending loving care! Hugs, Nina.
Thanks so much, dear Nina! It went fine…it was a long day, but watching Marilla’s expressions of joy made me forget my sore feet. I had lots of fun on the bumper car rides (there are 2) and the merry-go-round. I blew a kiss to the ocean & Beach Street Cafe for you! I miss that place. I think the last time I went there was with you! Sending you my love and thanks again for your encouragement. xoxoxoo always, Dyane
I wish you the best over the long weekend. I do hope you have an adult support person available in your husband’s absence. Don’t hesitate to call your psychiatrist or psychotherapist. You are reasonable in your fears given your recent history of hospitalizations. I hold you and your daughter in my prayers (in my heart).
Dear Kitt, it meant a lot to me that you took time to read & comment. I do have a few friends who know my situation and who I can call for help. Things have gone well so far, and the fact that I made it through yesterday @ the surreal Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (which I think I may write about for a post) was a triumph. My counselor is at the ready too, my pdoc, I’m not sure how responsive he is as I haven’t called him in a crisis yet…and hopefully never will! Anyway, your mentioning how you would hold us in your prayers and heart was beautiful and really moved me. You lifted my spirits. Many, many thanks! take good care, Dyane
Glad to hear!