On the way to the hospital we called Iris, my therapist, who said I was early for our weekly appointment and when we told her why we were calling she agreed on the idea to go to the ER. When we got to the reception they asked me a few questions before taking my picture for the entrance ID. It looked like a jail snapshot. It was not my best picture, to say the least. They checked my temperature and directed us to the ER area.
I was immediately seen by two nurses who gave me the robe to change into and laid me on a hospital bed in the hallway as the hospital was overflowing with COVID patients. After they checked my blood pressure, oxygen, and other vitals, they rolled me into a little room closed with a curtain to wait for the Doctor to come see us. I’ll never forget how Richard looked at me and said “Caro, we will look back on this one day as just a bad chapter.” Those words gave me a sliver of hope. The Doctor came in and explained my options leaning towards the one of me checking into the psychiatric unit. He explained it was voluntary but depending on how I continued I could end up in an involuntary one. He explained that what I was going through was a chemical imbalance similar to a broken leg and that I couldn’t solve it on my own. I needed to see a psychiatrist and receive medications and the fastest way to do that was checking into the psychiatric unit. He said I would be there for a few days to weeks depending on when the psychiatrist released me. I was given intravenous medication for anxiety/panic attack, which I need to find the name of in my discharge papers. They gave us some privacy to talk it through.
From the hospital bed, I wrote Paca, Rach, and Lulu to let them know I would check in and not have access to my phone until I left. That was one of the rules the Doctor explained to me and I didn’t mind at all since the phone was overwhelming me more than anything those days. A nurse came by to further explain some of the details of checking in. Richard went to pick up some decent food for me to munch on before I checked in; pastelitos de guayaba and tequeños. When they brought the paperwork, I signed away as I was desperate for help and it seemed that this was the place for it.
“Carolina Copello you have a call.” That meant I had to walk from my room to the phones hanging on the wall near the nurse station.That was another thing that reminded me of what a prison must feel like. Although here the calling hours were almost all day: from 7 am to 7 pm. Most of my family called me and my closest friends and therapist did too. Each call was pretty significant and I remember most of my conversations. When Lulu called me she said “girl, we could’ve gone to a spa”.
The daily therapy was one of my favorite activities of the day. There was music and everyone sat around a long table. The room had an ocean view. Some of the patients just stood around watching the view of the ocean. A lot of the patients commented on the songs playing in the background calling out the name of the singer or the name of the song. I have a pretty bad memory with those things so I was pretty impressed with theirs. There were a few books in the room and I borrowed one the first day. “Japanese lover” by Isabel Allende. During the group therapy session, I mostly sat and colored mandalas. That’s actually an activity I enjoy a lot but don’t get to do it often with the kids. I also painted two little wooden crafts for the kids: a little angel for Emma and a flamingo for the boys. I never took them but hopefully they found a nice home.
I read a lot. I almost finished the book I picked up in the days I was there. The days were pretty interrupted though. I felt like sleeping a lot since I finally could and since one of the medications helped make me drowsy. It was a little challenging with all my calls, therapy, mealtime, pumping and my showers. I couldn’t have the pump with me in the room since it was considered dangerous so every few hours I had to request it at the nurse station. I would sign for it, go to my bathroom or room where I had one bare bed and a little table stuck to the ground and open shelves where I had some of my comfy yoga outfits and a few books my family had sent me.
I could receive one visitor a day – not sure if that’s usual policy or updated due to COVID. Richard visited me most days and my sister Maria visited me once. The kids weren’t allowed. Visits were 1 hour although they’d allow a little more time. I was the only one who received a visitor every day. Another young gentleman Jake welcomed one of his parents each day too.
One of my calls from my sister was interrupted by my brother in law who asked me “Caro, I’m going to ask a really direct question – do you want to be in there?” and I answered “No”. Because I wanted to be with my family, with my kids, with friends, in a nicer place, eating better food. But deep down I knew I needed this and I would do whatever it took to feel better. I was okay with being there as I was monitored, could sleep, read, was being fed and treated by a Doctor. It wasn’t the best or ideal place but I had no idea what else to do and I was finally starting to heal. Or at least it felt that way with a few more hours of sleep under my belt and supervision by professionals. In any case that question and answer caused a lot of family turmoil, which I may or may not get into.
The day that Maria visited she immediately told me I shouldn’t be in there and that I was a good person and didn’t deserve to be in there. That word deserves would come up a lot during my therapy sessions. Iris asked me if I thought I deserved to be sick or if I thought it was a privilege. My answer was that I felt it was a privilege. A wealthier person ‘sickness’. That somehow other women were able to ‘truck through’ it as I’d heard. Or some people simply got over it alone. So I felt in a way less of a woman because I wasn’t able to figure it out alone and there I was going to a hospital and causing all this turmoil around it. So I didn’t ‘deserve’ anything. I should’ve figured it all out. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Throughout that session and others to follow I finally began to understand that I didn’t choose to be in this situation and that I deserved to be feeling whatever I was feeling. Mental health is often not spoken about and thus very misunderstood; one of the reasons I decided to blog about all of this in the first place.