Today, I continue the story I began in Part I.
My husband and I drove to the inpatient facility, arriving in about 30 minutes. I remember being so afraid. I was afraid of what I was experiencing mentally and frightened of going to this inpatient facility. I didn’t know what to expect. I was also sad about leaving my children. My youngest, only 5 months old, was still breastfeeding. I had a friend who donated some milk for her to consume in my absence, for which I was grateful. I had no idea if I would be able to continue nursing after they gave me medications. There were so many uncertainties that night, but overshadowing all of these emotions was my determination to get help. There was going to be no turning back. I was determined to get better–for me and my family.
When we entered the lobby, I remember the lights being dimmed because it was the middle of the night. Whatever was illuminating the room cast an orange glow over everything. There was another person in the waiting room, but he appeared to be asleep. After completing the intake paperwork, we were called back to a small office to meet with a kind man who asked me about my symptoms. I told him everything that had been happening, no matter how inconsequential it seemed. He then led my husband and I downstairs where I would be sleeping. My husband carried my bag down for me and then we hugged and kissed goodbye. He had to leave to go home at this point.
I can remember how scared I was! I would be sharing a room with a person I had never met in my life who was there for a similar reason that I was. I went into the darkened bedroom, quickly changed into my pajamas and lay down on the mattress, but I was too anxious to sleep. I got up and asked the night nurse for something to help me relax and sleep, but whatever she gave me hardly put a dent in my anxiety. Eventually, mercifully, I finally slept.
When I awoke in the morning, I realized that my fears were unfounded. My roommate was an elderly woman named Barbara, and she was kind. Everyone I met there shared a story similar to mine. We were all trying to get help.
That first morning I remember getting a doctor’s examination and blood-work. It didn’t take long for them to get the results back and I was asked by the doctor if I had ever been on thyroid medication. I had to admit that I had unwisely gone off of it cold turkey. I was promptly put back on it. I also met with the psychiatrist who would be supervising my care. He was also kind. He is well renowned where I live and I feel grateful to have been in his care. His name was Doctor Holland. We chatted briefly and I explained, again, everything that I had been experiencing. He asked me if anything like this had every happened before. It hadn’t.
I soon learned that we were kept busy throughout the day with classes and group activities. These included learning about self care, learning relaxation techniques, doing crafts or exercising. The first group class I went to, the teacher was leading a discussion about what we enjoyed doing. Favorite movies were brought up and I shared two of my favorites and then burst into tears with my head down on the table. The enormity of what I was experiencing was so overwhelming. The teacher kindly asked if this was my first time with this type of experience and I tearfully shared that it was. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.
After a short stay in the basement, I was then moved to a room upstairs. I’m not sure exactly why this happened. My roommate there was a young girl, about my age. She was also nice. It turned out that being in the inpatient facility was not as scary as I imagined it to be. I was grateful to be there.
Doctor Holland initially diagnosed me as having major depressive disorder. I was started on anti-depressants and was rapidly titrated up to a therapeutic dose.
It’s been so long ago now that a lot of the details have faded from memory but I do remember that the first antidepressant they tried me on caused my tongue to move involuntarily and made my eyes dart around. My husband came to visit me as often as possible and he came one evening when I was dealing with these side effects. He says he remembers seeing me acting so strangely that on the drive home he was overcome with tears of sadness and helplessness. He was afraid he had lost the Chelsea he loved.
I was switched to a different anti-depressant but it wasn’t long after that that we realized the anti depressants were causing me to go manic. At one point, I felt on the verge of losing touch with reality. I alerted the nurses and apparently this means I was on the verge of psychosis. They were quick in treating the problem. I was given a shot of antipsychotic in my buttocks. Not the best and funnest thing I’ve had to live through. I felt so helpless. I wondered again and again what was going on and how I would get better.
Doctor Holland stopped the antidepressant and started me on mood stabilizers. I was told, at this point, that I would have to stop breastfeeding. I had been pumping at the hospital and sending it home when possible but I stopped doing it. This was heartbreaking to me.
Doctor Holland left to go on vacation. I was put under the care of a different doctor. My symptoms were not improving so another mood stabilizer was added: lithium. This made a total of 3 medications that I was on. High doses of each.
Finally after a few days on lithium, my symptoms stopped. I remember how deeply grateful I was to have calm in my mind! No more chaos–I can’t even begin to describe how good that felt. My doctor diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I was so thankful to know what it was, and even happier that they had figured out how to stop the awful roller coaster. Finally, after 2 weeks in the inpatient facility, I felt well enough to return to my family at home.
I was released just before Halloween, 2006.
There’s more to this story. Watch for part III coming soon.