Part IV | Psychiatric unit

As the days progressed at the hospital, I started feeling better. Partially because the sleep medications Mirtazapine seemed to be working and also due to the controlled environment where I was fed, put on a routine, taking medications at a certain time and also was without the kids to watch, feed, and take care of. 

I napped or tried to nap a lot the first few days but the psychiatrist brought that  up in one of our appointments as something negative for my release. I realized the notes of the people that checked in on me every few minutes probably shared that I was napping too much. So I started reading more as I waited for the Doctor to give me the green light to go home. 

One of the patients I spoke to was called Jake (not his real name as I want to keep his identity private). He was 18 years old and shared his story with me. He had attempted suicide multiple times by swallowing toothpaste. One of his recommendations for me was to listen and support my kids. According to him, his mom is a narcissist. He was the only other patient that received calls and visits. He was hoping to be released the same day as me but the Dr said he wasn’t ready. Apparently his mom didn’t want him to take medications, which at this point sounded crazy to me. As a patient and mom I found that pretty crazy although who am I to judge as I usually prefer the natural path myself. However, ever since becoming a Mom I realized my choices for the kids were not always the same as my choices for myself. If a pediatrician recommended medicine for whatever my child has I tend to buy it and give it. Unless, for example, they recommend medicine when I know there is a natural ointment or treatment I can try first and when whatever they have isn’t too serious.  

At this point, all I knew was that I wanted to get better for me and the kids and if that meant taking 2 to 10 medications daily, I would. I was a little scared about taking medications given their side effects. I didn’t want to become addicted or sedated like someone I knew that took medications and always seemed ‘out of it’. Apparently the antidepressant Duloxetine I was taking shouldn’t cause that as it has caffeine and other day hormones. 

On Sunday, I was hoping to be released. The Doctor came to see us in the afternoon instead of early in the morning. The patients lined up waiting for him outside the door after we’d heard the nurses commenting on when he’d arrive. I was one of the last in line. The Doctor said he saw me a lot better but could not release anyone on Sunday due to hospital limited staff. I’d later find out that was BS as he released one of the other patients that was a long timer at the psychiatric unit. He told me to rest well and could expect to be released the day after. That Sunday afternoon and night felt eternal as I was dying to get home to the kids and Richard. All my family gave me a call that day and so did my therapist Iris. It was so nice to hear her voice and supportive comforting words. 

Monday morning came around and I was up by 6 am. I went into the breakfast room for coffee and asked if I could take it to my bedroom. They allowed me to do it although it was ‘breaking one of the rules’. We couldn’t take any food or drinks into our rooms. During my stay, I did receive some preferential treatment from the nurses who I’d spoken to, including some snacks when they weren’t available for everyone as they knew I was pumping milk every few hours. In order to pump, I had to request the machine each time and sign off for it at the nurse station. Once I was done, I would clean up the tools and give it back. That morning, I pumped for the last time and threw the milk away as I was told I couldn’t feed Emma anymore with the medications I was taking. Each time I did that it hurt so much as I love breastfeeding and was hoping to make it to the one year mark as I did with my first son Mathias. 

I took the coffee into the room and laid on the bed reading and sipping my coffee.  I was hoping for an early release as soon as the Doctor came in. I would stand outside his door to be one of the first patients seen that morning. I took a quick shower. The water was so cold I literally hopped in, covered my body with soap, and hopped out. I changed into one of my last clean outfits. There was a washer and dryer in the hallway that was often busy as some of the patients didn’t seem to have a home and were using the machines most of the time. Many of the patients looked homeless. I wasn’t sure if they came to the hospital for room and board or if they were somehow addicted to the medications. I plan on interviewing that section of the hospital and the Doctor as well. 

Once I was ready, I made my way to the Doctors door and waited. One of the patients was charging her ankle monitor on the wall and others were lingering around. Some patients would walk the corridors for some sort of light exercise as we couldn’t exit that area of the hospital for fresh air. One of the ladies that I was told was bipolar often walked the hallways and so did Jake as he was a young and healthy guy. He would walk around reading his books everywhere and the lady would write notes as she walked. 

I kept asking the nurses that walked by what time the Doctor would arrive and they would tell me they didn’t know although by now I knew they were informed about his arrival times way before he arrived. As I stood by the door, other patients started lining up behind me including Jake who was hoping to go home that day. At around 9 am the Doctor came in dressed elegantly as always and walked towards us with one of the nurses that would sit by his side as he saw us.

That morning, the Doctor saw me and immediately told me he saw me much better, which I was happy to hear. He asked me if I had any questions for him and I asked him when I could go home as I felt ready and he gave me the look and answer I was looking for: “Today,” he said. I couldn’t feel more relieved. He told me it wouldn’t be immediate as I had to speak to the ladies who would help with my discharge papers who would arrive later that morning. At that point, I couldn’t care less as I had heard the words I needed confirming I would go home. The bureaucratic next steps didn’t bother me although I would end up being released almost at 1 pm with all the last paperwork. 

Richard picked me up. Every half hour he would call to check in until I finally gave him an estimated time of 1 pm for him to come get me. As I didn’t have my phone I walked out to the lobby where I sat on a bench and waited with my backpack that had the comfy clothes I wore at the hospital and the books my family had sent me. The moment I saw him walking in through the tunnel passageway I jumped up to walk towards him and gave him a huge hug. He asked me how long I’d been waiting but I had no idea as I wasn’t wearing a watch. He then asked me what I wanted to do – go see the kids or stop to eat something special. He told me I had a Doctors appointment at 3 pm with the psychiatrist so we decided on lunch before my appointment so I didn’t interrupt the time with the kids so suddenly. I chose one of my favorite restaurants; a portuguese one that served delicious bacalao dishes. We drove there and sat at one of the few tables outside. I was soaking it all in as I hadn’t felt fresh air for more than 5 days. We chatted and he told me a bit about my family’s disappointment in him taking me there. I wasn’t surprised as the calls had already given me an idea about how they felt. I enjoyed lunch more than I’d ever enjoyed a meal after 5 days of hospital food. It was even a longer stay than giving birth and recovering from a C-section and I couldn’t eat anything other than what I was given. We ordered a bacalao dish with vegetables and cold beers. For dessert I ordered an espresso, the first I’d had in days as I soaked in all the fresh air I could. Richard drove me home for me to shower and get ready for my psychiatrist appointment.

I shared a summary of how I’d been feeling since having Emma and the events that led up to the hospitalization. She had received my discharge papers so she had information from the hospital Doctor and medications I was taking. She told me she would have a call with my husband and a family member to inform them on my diagnosis and how best to deal with me. The appointment passed by pretty quickly and she didn’t make any immediate changes as the medicines took a few weeks to kick in. After the call, I wanted to immediately go see the kids who were at my parents house with the nanny. When we arrived my parents told us they were at the park. Mathias spotted me first and screamed “Mamá” and came running to hug me. Emma was in H’s arms. They looked so different. It’s as though they’d grown months in the 5 days I’d been away. Hugging them, seeing their smiles and carrying them made it all worth it.

Photo by Oles kanebckuu on Pexels.com

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