12 May 2008

A Case of the Crazies, IV

This is the "looney bin" chapter of "A Case of the Crazies." It seems so hard to believe that I was actually a patient at a mental hospital now. But, I was. And here's the story...

To catch any new readers up: I had a spell of postpartum depression when Benny was around three months old. Nate and I went to a mental hospital in Austin so I could have a mental health evaluation. The psychiatrist who gave me an evaluation recommended that I check myself in. Eek. Double, triple eek.

Nate and I cried. A lot. We waited in a small room in the hospital while I was admitted. Benny, the ever amazing baby, didn't seem to mind at all. Nate left about an hour later so Benny could have a nap and I waited and waited and waited in the lobby. I had my evaluation at 11 a.m. and didn't get checked in until 5 p.m. I have a lot to say about the quality of care I received. None of it is positive - even six months later when I've had time to think about it.

When an orderly brought me down to the "psyche" ward, I was greeted by a head-twitching woman, a crying woman, and several people in line for dinner. The walls were mental hospital green and florescent lighting brightened the room. It was straight out of a movie. But much scarier because I was actually a patient there.

I had no idea what to expect, but I was too tired and anxious to really care. I asked a nurse for some sleeping medication straight away. I was there to sleep and relax. The nurse told me that they did not distribute medication until the 9 p.m. because they didn't want patients to get off their sleep schedule (what sleep schedule? everyone there had some sort of sleeping disorder). So, I sat and waited for visiting hours.

In the meantime, I had a physical to ensure that I wasn't pregnant, etc. It took less than 5 minutes. I'm still trying to get my insurance to pay the $250 bill for the physical.

Children weren't allowed on the fifth floor, but the hospital made an exception for me since I was breastfeeding. Nate showed up at around 6 p.m. with Benny. It was very surreal. Here I was, a new mom, with my husband and child in my semi-private room (which I shared with a angry anorexic teenager - semi-private my ass). At the time of my breakdown, Benny still hadn't taken a bottle. Not a big deal until his mom went crazy and checked into the looney bin. Nate and I had no idea what to expect, so I fed Benny more than I had ever fed him before. Nate had permission to visit at any time in case Benny didn't take the bottle, but neither of us wanted him to visit in the middle of the night for an emergency feeding. It turns out that that was our last breastfeeding - a memory that still makes me tear up. No mom wants to remember the last time she breastfed her baby - at a mental hospital with a angry anorexic teenager on the next bed. Messed up.

I worried about Nate and Benny. I didn't know how they would do - especially with the bottle. They stayed at a friend's house that night and we will forever be indebted to her. Nate just needed to know that someone else was in the house to help if he needed it.

At 9 p.m. sharp I lined up with the rest of the mental patients for my meds. They put me on Zoloft (for depression and anxiety), Xanax (for anxiety), and Ambien (for sleep). I laid down and slept for six straight hours before waking up to pump. Since my pump had a plug, I had to find an orderly to unlock it for me (I could have hung myself with the plug - or so says the policy). Luckily, the weekend orderlies were much more lax than the weekday orderlies and they let me pump in private. I didn't sleep well the rest of the night.

The rest of my three-day stay followed a similar pattern. Waiting for meds, pumping, waiting for visiting hours. I also got to talk with some people who were much worse off than I was and it opened my eyes to mental health. The head-ticking woman ended up being a lovely human being who was just incredibly depressed. She loved Benny's visits and couldn't stop talking about him. The woman who was crying had twin girls and had pushed herself to a breaking point.

During my stay, I saw my psychiatrist for a total of 30 minutes (and that's a very liberal estimation). I'm still trying to get my insurance to pay his $1,000 bill. What a load of crap.

Benny and Nate survived the night. But that's a story for another post, as is a description of the rest of my stay and recovery.

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