Welcome to day 4 in the #Write31Days challenge. Sorry for being a bit late to publish my post. Today, I’m sharing a personal post, describing how far I’ve come on my journey of learning to cope with mental illness.
I sought mental health help for the first time in early 2007. I was severely behaviorally disturbed at the time, having aggressive meltdowns several times a week. Though I didn’t physially attack other people, I was quite verbally aggressive and threw objects a lot. This behavior lessened with some counseling from a community psychiatric nurse and eventually medication, but it didn’t completely disappear.
When I was admitted to the psychiatric unit on NOvember 3, 2007, I was seriously suicidal. I had spiraled down into a crisis while living independently. I at the time showed classic borderline behavior, making suicidal threats when I was seriously distressed. I no longer threw objects as much as I’d done before, but I was still verbally aggressive.
After about three months on the locked unit, my disturbed behavior became less severe, but I still had many milder meltdowns. I’d also display rigid behavior. For example, I had a crisis prevention plan and i’d tell the nurses when they weren’t following it. Now the staff at that unit were quite authoritarian, so I was threatened with seclusion for telling staff they weren’t following the rules. I don’t see this as disturbed behavior on my part now, but I do see how, in the insane place of a psychiatric hospital, it was.
My meltdowns and outbursts didn’t lessen in frequency till I went back on medication in early 2010. It also helped that I’d transferred to the less restrictive resocialization unit. I eventually was quite stable there on a moderate dose of an antipsychotic and a low dose of an antidepressant. I still had my moments where I’d act out, but they were manageable.
This changed when I transferred to my current long-term unit in 2013. I transferred in the summer, so there were often fewer staff available. I also couldn’t cope with the fact that my part of the unit was often left to our own resources when the staff were catering to the needs of the presumably less independent people on the other floor. I started eloping regularly, something I’d previously done sometimes but not nearly as often as I did now. At one point, it eventually led to the staff considering having me transferred to the locked unit. That fortunately never happened. Instead, my antipsychotic was increased to eventually the highest dose. I have been relatively stable for about nine months now.
What helped me along this way was a building of mutual trust and cooperation. An example was that the staff would often offer to allow me into the comfort room when distressed. At the resocialization unit, when I’d have severe meltdowns, I’d be transferred to the locked unit and made to sit in their comfort room. Their comfort room was really a reconstructed seclusion area and there was little comfort to be found. Consequently, I saw the comfort room as punishment, but on my current unit, it isn’t. We have a really good comfort room which is truly calming. I learned to realize that the offer to have me sit in there was an offer for help, not punishment.
Eight years into my mental institutionalization, I still cannot say I have fully overcome my destructive ways. They have significantly lessened, but I still have my moments. That probably won’t be over with for a long while.