Being admitted involuntarily

One of my worst experiences was being admitted to a psychiatric hospital involuntarily. It was two days before our first wedding anniversary and I was acutely suicidal I didn’t tell my wife, I wrote a note for my psychiatrist to read because I didn’t think I could get the words out. Here’s what it said:

Dear A

I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I’m becoming scared and confused. The things we talked about on Wednesday have been in my thoughts for some time, and are filling my thoughts more and more persistently now. The thoughts are obsessive and used to just prevent my sleep, but now they’re present during the day a lot too. I’d like to die. I used to want to cut my arteries in my wrists and watch the blood drain away. I’d fantasise that I’d be lying in a field of daisies and then the sun would come out, my blood would pump out of me and I’d finally feel at peace as I drifted into light. At first I was less clear on how I’d do it this time, but I had a sense of when. I started a timer last week – it works by counting each time I become focussed on dying, and sometimes I speed the timer if it feels right or if the focus is particularly intense. I’ll do it when the counter gets to 100, but the counter is cleared at the start of the new year. Right now I’m at 30. I was looking at my arteries this morning. They’re small. Perhaps slicing would be the best option? Every time I go to the disabled bathroom at work I think that would be a good space. There’s room, a drain and the door locks. I’m telling you because I’m scared. I’m also confused because I kind of like thinking about and planning it. Do you think that’s just because I’m just attention seeking? If I meant it id have done it?

I don’t know if I’m depressed. I know I don’t feel happy and excited by things. I know when to show happy and excited, but I really just feel terrible and want to cry. Mostly I just think I look awful and am stupid.

I have a sense of isolation and loneliness. I can’t tell family or friends because they’ll worry and stop trusting me. They’ll either think I’m seeking attention, the boy who cried wolf, or someone who needs constant monitoring. Do you think I am? I feel guilty telling you and my GP because you’ve done so much to help me that I don’t want to let you down. I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I’m not being an honest person, but its unfair to burden people anymore.

Although these thoughts are becoming increasingly intense, acting on it would be too unfair to my wife. They’re scary. I’m beginning to feel trapped between my thoughts and feelings, and my obligations to others.

I hope you can take this seriously and not be angry with me, think I’m faking it, or think I’ve taken my treatment for granted. Please don’t tell anyone.

Regards

Rachel

I was so unwell I couldn’t sit in the chair. I came into his room and sat on the floor, back against the wall. He sat opposite me on the floor too and read my note. He asked me to go to hospital but I refused, knowing my wife would be mad for ruining our anniversary. He asked me to sit in the waiting room, went and saw my general practitioner, and arranged an involuntary admission. That involved a trip to the local emergency department by ambulance, a nurse sitting with me all night to make sure I didn’t leave, and getting admitted to a private psychiatric hospital the next day.

My wife was furious. I’d lied to her about my mood and suicidal ideation and I’d ruined our anniversary. But I was too sick to know how to resolve the problem. I was admitted under an awful psychiatrist- he was old, out of touch, and I couldn’t develop any rapport with him. I quickly got myself off the involuntary list and organised to be discharged. The next week, feeling terrible, I went and saw my general practitioner and asked what to do. She suggested another hospital admission but I refused knowing how angry my wife would be. What a mistake.

2018: the start of a great year

This year I feel amazing. Not the kind of amazing you feel when you’re hypomanic, but unfettered, reliably and sustainably amazing. I feel resilient, buoyant and in control. I feel like for the first year in many, I’m not going to have a hospital admission this year. I’m not going to try and kill myself, I’m not going to cut myself and I’m not going to engage in hypomanic spending or restless productive activity.

I’ve just returned to work 4 days a week, I’m making time to catch up with friends on weekends, I’m walking for half an hour a day and am cooking twice a day (well, having 2 meals prepared at home each day). My meds are stable, my sleep is stable, my team is stable (and amazing). It’s all (finally) working. But it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been in a deep depression for the past three years, and experienced mood swings for the 15 years before that. Read more about these experiences in other posts 😊.

An overview of my history

I’ve experienced a fair bit of trauma in my 35 years. My uncle groomed me for sex when I was a child, my swim coach and doctor sexually assaulted me when I was 12 and 20 respectively, my wife raped me repeatedly through my 30s before and during our marriage, I experienced anxious/ avoidant attachment trauma to my parents and live with an eating disorder that I developed in my early teens. I’ve been admitted to a general hospital following suicide attempts 4 times, been admitted to a psychiatric hospital 10 times including once as an involuntary patient and I have a diagnosis of type II bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. It’s been tough but I’ve got through.

I’ve spent the past 3 years in a severely depressed state. I’ve had 28 ect treatments and 12 tms treatments. I think the last round 16 tms treatments were effective, but the first round of ect and the tms wasn’t. I take a combination of quetiapine, sodium valproate and lurasidone to stabilise my mood, naltrexone to deter me from drinking too much alcohol, belsomra, stilnox and mirtazapine to support my sleep, and diazepam and olanzapine plus extra quetiapine to take when I need it. Now that I’m feeling better, it’s made me focus on being the kind of person I want to be and, as dbt says, how to have a life worth living’.

What I’ve come to realise is that I like people who are compassionate and non-judgemental. I surround myself with these people and I try to cultivate this in myself. Each of my professionals – my two psychiatrists, my general practitioner, my psycho-sexual therapist and my dbt therapist embody these values. It means I can tell them anything. I tell them when I want to kill myself, I tell them when I cut myself, that I want to go into hospital, that I’ve been abused. Whatever is on my mind, I know I can tell them, even if I’m scared.

The language of mental health and mental illness

Firstly, let me get clear on the language that I use. I hate the way we use the term ‘mental health’ when in fact we mean ‘mental illness’. Everyone has a mental health – some people’s is good (at times) and others is bad (at other times). Mental illness is something that people with a diagnosis like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia have all the time. Sometimes they live symptom free but for illnesses like bipolar and schizophrenia, the illnesses are enduring, but controlled with a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle factors such as healthy diet and exercise and maybe meditation. These illnesses are not like an infection – you don’t take antibiotics and get magically cured. They stay with you forever, unfortunately.

About me

Hi! My name is Rachel. This is a meandering story of my life with type II bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, attachment trauma, surviving sexual violence at the hands of a number of men as well as an intimate partner, and the difficulties associated with identifying as an asexual lesbian romantic (that is, I fall in love with women and want to – eventually – spend my life with one, but I don’t want to have sex with her).

Much of what I write about in this blog is known only to my best friend and my team of psychiatrists, general practitioner, dbt therapist and psycho-sexual therapist. But something makes me want to share my story more broadly so I am keen to write about it for you to read too. I don’t want my family and more distant friends, exes, work colleagues etc to be able to identify me so excuse me for posting a pic of my gorgeous cat instead of myself. He’s a big part of my therapy and right now is asleep on my lap as I write 😌. It’s magic.

Rather than give you a detailed account of everything that’s ever happened to me in a linear way, I’m going to write in themes related to my illness and my life experiences, sometimes briefly and sometimes in detail. As I write about contemporary experiences I will be able to provide more specific details of my thinking and behaviours and of what my team has done in response. Sometimes I’ll state the impact of their response on me, and sometimes I won’t remember so will leave it out. I’d prefer to be accurate and have holes in my account than give a full-but-incorrect account. I’m sure you’ll understand.

First blog post

This is the post excerpt.

Hi! My name is Rachel. This is a meandering story of my life with type II bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, attachment trauma, surviving sexual violence at the hands of a number of men as well as an intimate partner, and the difficulties associated with identifying as an asexual lesbian romantic (that is, I fall in love with women and want to – eventually – spend my life with one, but I don’t want to have sex with her).

Much of what I write about in this blog is known only to my best friend and my team of psychiatrists, general practitioner, dbt therapist and psycho-social therapist. But something makes me want to share my story more broadly so I am keen to write about it for you to read too. I don’t want my family and more distant friends, exes, work colleagues etc to be able to identify me so excuse me for posting a pic of my gorgeous cat instead of myself. He’s a big part of my therapy and right now is asleep on my lap as I write 😌. It’s magic.

Rather than give you a detailed account of everything that’s ever happened to me in a linear way, I’m going to write in themes related to my illness and my life experiences, sometimes briefly and sometimes in detail. As I write about contemporary experiences I will be able to provide more specific details of my thinking and behaviours and of what my team has done in response. Sometimes I’ll state the impact of their response on me, and sometimes I won’t remember so will leave it out. I’d prefer to be accurate and have holes in my account than give a full-but-incorrect account. I’m sure you’ll understand.