I know that the posts in this series are coming farther apart than originally planned. The overall journey has continued to develop, and I’m hoping to have more time soon to catch up on posting and sharing everything that’s been happening lately.
In my last post, I left off when I was facing a decision – to take a nap or take a shower. I’d been in a pretty rough place for a good part of that first day on the Behavioral Health Unit, and I remember looking at my all morning nails and wanting to chip and peel the polish off, at least on 2 fingers, because, bluntly, they pissed me off more than I could say. The design I was wearing at the time had the word “Strong” on each index finger and a semicolon on each ring finger. I had chosen them before the spiral started, and because it was a good reminder of the struggles I’d had in the past. However, by the time I was admitted, my depression was so bad, my self image so low that I just didn’t want to see that hope or reminder. In a way, I almost wanted to wallow in my misery, wanted to stop fighting, stop being strong. The thing that sucks with mental health issues, especially when you’re generally high-functioning and understand your own symptoms pretty well, is that it is just so exhausting, because you so often feel like you’re in a constant battle with your own brain. In that first day in the BHU, I was tired of fighting. I wanted to just surrender.
So, when one of the other patients mentioned that taking a shower and doing her makeup every day was helping her feel just a little bit better about herself whenever she looked in the mirror, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I could feel myself mentally rolling my eyes at the suggestion. I hadn’t even been on the unit for 12 hours yet, I was still trying to figure out what was expected of me, what I was supposed to be doing. I had barely slept the night before, and I had no appetite. On the other, hearing her suggestion reminded me that sometimes just going through the motions of self care, and pushing myself to do things that are good for me, especially when depression is telling me it doesn’t sound like a good idea can actually help. Kind of like when I realized that walking is medicine. There’s a little bit of power in acting against what depression is so loudly advising to do, or not to. So, I grabbed the towels and rummaged through my toiletry bag that I was given the night before and took a quick shower.
I felt lucky that there was actually a shower and bathtub in the bathroom attached to my room, so I didn’t need to ask permission or anything. Standing under the hot water, I just let my mind go blank, and I could feel my body relax a little, even with using the watery shampoo/body wash and rough washcloth. When I got out, I didn’t have any other clothes or underwear to wear, so I just put the same ones back on, and, after realizing that the brush they gave me was essentially worthless, I combed my hair with the cheap plastic comb in my toiletry bag. On my way to lunch, things felt a little different. It wasn’t so much like a switch had flipped, but my head was definitely clearing up a bit. Less of a light switch and more of a dawn, or maybe someone slowly turning up a dimmer switch.
I still felt as though I was finding my feet, as it were, throughout the afternoon. Sometime after lunch, one of the nurses mentioned that something had been dropped off for me. Surprisingly, it was a change of clothes. I hadn’t expected them until visiting hours that evening, but my kind husband drove across town during his lunch hour to bring me some clean undies, pajamas, pants and a shirt. He also dropped off a bra, but I wasn’t allowed to have it, because it was an underwire, which was understandable but disappointing.
Having showered and put on regular clothes, I started to feel a bit more like myself. I found out that I was allowed to have my journal, since it wasn’t spiral-bound, so I called hubby again and asked for my journal and a book or two to read, since the book shelves on the unit were rather lacking. I asked him to bring it when he came down for visiting hours that evening, and asked what the plan was, since children weren’t allowed to visit. He said that he’d drop the kiddo off with some of the grandparents (thankfully, they’re all local) on his way down. I had already made it known during check-in and with the day nurse that I wanted all information about my care to go through him, and I’d told him I was OK with him deciding who needed to know what, so I trusted that he would make the best decisions to both be able to see me and ensure our kiddo was well cared for.
Over the course of the afternoon, I went to another group, and then opted out of a group in favor of resting. The occupational therapist, and my assigned social worker both asked me for some of my time, to chat, over the course of the day. I spent a good deal of that first afternoon just thinking- about, in a way, everything: my depression, my family, where I wanted things to go from here. There was also a few games of BINGO that I joined in on, and actually won (a couple of fun-size Snickers). While I was still feeling somewhat out of place and self conscious, I did have some fun playing BINGO, and even opened up and chatted with other patients during down time and meal time.
As the afternoon went on into evening, there were fewer organized activities, so I kept returning to the bookshelf, desperate to find something to read. Eventually, I picked something out just to pass the time. Some options were heavier or darker (like murder mysteries or various non-fiction books), others seemed like interesting series (like Percy Jackson), but were lacking the first book in the series, and I didn’t want to start in the middle. So, I ended up with a book that was literary cotton candy (not a lot of substance, pretty one-note, and you generally feel a bit guilty for finishing the whole thing): Shopaholic Ties the Knot. The best I could say for it is that it was a quick read, as I finished it that same evening. I’m not sure if it was intended, but I found the main character annoying, shallow, and frustrating. Based on the back cover, I think there’s actually a series of books about this Shopaholic character (and this one falls somewhere in the middle of the series), but I will likely not go seeking out any of the rest of the series.
That evening, I was able to meet with my assigned psychiatrist, who was glad to hear that the order he’d put in for my meds matched what I was used to taking. Otherwise, there wasn’t too much substance to our conversation, though I was impressed that he was willing to listen to what I had to say, and my own understanding of my mental health. He asked about my sleep, and I admitted it hadn’t been great the night before. He offered meds to help me sleep, and I declined, saying that the lack of sleep was likely the high emotions and new location.
As the doctor was leaving, my husband showed up, and we had a good chat. He seemed hopeful that I’d be home soon. Realistically, I knew that the soonest I’d likely go home would be Friday (it was, at this point, Wednesday evening). Possibly as late as the weekend. A good part of when I’d be able to go home would depend on the doctor’s input, even though I had been admitted voluntarily, to ensure that I was stable enough, with a good strategy in place to support my discharge. He did bring me a book and my journal, which was nice to have, to help me dump out some of the thoughts cluttering my mind. When hubby and I were discussing when I’d likely go home, I mentioned that, while my head was starting to feel a bit clearer, I’d probably be in until at least Friday, which I was completely OK with. I wanted to ensure that the clarity that was starting to grow had time to establish into some semblance of stability.
That night, I got a roommate, who was nice enough, and pretty calm, all things considered. I also spent a few minutes braiding another patient’s hair. She was on a one to one, and had been pretty aggravated and impulsive earlier in the day. As I braided her hair, however, she was calm and relaxed. Everyone has their ups and downs, and it just becomes even more magnified when you’re in a place where everybody is struggling with their own mental health. I noticed that most of the patients (and even myself, to a degree) seemed to spend more time focusing on their mental health battles more than fitting in with societal norms, and thus there was far more impulsive behavior than you’d encounter in most everyday life.
With no personal electronic devices to distract myself with, I went to bed fairly early. The bed didn’t feel any more comfortable than it had the night before, but the combination of having my own pajamas to sleep in, and having had time to let some of the big emotions and feelings of crisis pass helped me to get much better sleep that second night than I had in the first.
What factors can impact your sleep quality and/or quantity? Do you sleep well in a new place?