Well, I felt a little bit inspired to talk a bit today about something that I certainly notice in myself. It is a phenomena where I have social anxiety disorder (which is part of the reason why Prozac/Fluoxetine works well for me) especially after I have isolated myself for some time. There are times of course when this can’t be avoided, like the other week when I was sick for a few days. I seriously could tell I hadn’t had any decent human interaction in some time when I first started getting out of the house again. Fortunately these days it isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger. I have a very gripping memory of being 14 and being in the Psychiatric Ward of Edmonton’s General Hospital and every moment I could isolate myself I would. I was afraid of the other patients, one time I started a conversation with an older man and he started drooling, something very common with psychiatric medications at the time and still to this day, which upset so greatly that I pleaded with my Dad to get me out of there, that I didn’t deserve to be there. My Dad had a great deal of experience with mental illness at the time though, he had cared for my mom who had an illness for many years and he told me that these people were not to be feared or misunderstood. Still, it was very difficult and I wouldn’t participate in groups or go to the hospital school, I would mostly sit in my room and read a History book that had nothing to do with any class I was taking (I recall it was a fascinating book though about the war in the desert during World War Two) and I would even hide when I heard the nurses coming around for their half hourly checks.
The end result of all that isolating was that when I went to Air Cadets on Thursday of one of those two weeks, I had to get up in front of everyone in my public speaking class and I was literally terrified. I shook, I stammered, I messed up what I wanted to say, I thought about my acne which was quite bad at the time and I even had a great deal of trouble looking anyone in the eye. Not long after this, after I returned to school and went about my normal activities, I actually ended up doing fairly well in that public speaking class and greatly enjoying it. But the question remains: how does one adjust from being in a hospital/institutional setting and get back to interacting with people in the outside world?
That is basically the question I wanted to answer in today’s blog. I remember, though it has now been 15 plus years since I was hospitalized, that it is a big adjustment going into the hospital but it can be just as big an adjustment when you get out. I met a man today who actually had been a Psychiatric Nurse on one of the wards I was on 25 years ago and he was telling me that often he would encourage people who were in there and in what they felt was a dire situation that everyone eventually does get discharged. I personally have seen people on the inside who were very much gone, thinking only of their next cigarette and their next meal who are out walking around in public stabilized on medications and doing well. It does take a great deal of support, but it is always possible. With some of the more serious cases, and mine was very serious a number of times, there is need for frequent visits to nurses and doctors, possibly injections of medications to help with ease of taking medications and higher levels of compliance. Not to mention something I don’t know much about in the US, but I do know here in Alberta is the situation where a person needs to receive some kind of financial benefits. (In my case most of my benefits go directly to the group home I live in), but the thing to remember is that one day no matter how bad you think things have gotten, you will be back in a place you are comfortable with, with a degree of freedom you won’t have in the hospital and no one to answer to outside of your loved ones.
But how do you get to that point? Inside the hospital it is a matter of accepting you need help and doing everything you can to find a Doctor who you can be honest with and one who will help adjust and change your medications to an optimal level. Inside the hospital your medications will likely be higher than when you feel better and are discharged, but still it is possible to work with something you can handle. It is important when you are in the hospital to work with the staff members to have as full a life as you can. I can recall going bowling for free in Edmonton close to the hospital I was in, working at recycling parking meters part-time for a small amount of money and then there was events such as dances or therapy sessions which I would participate in, and if you are lucky, you will make a few friends. At this point I think it is important to note that meeting a significant other or life partner or boyfriend or girlfriend is almost always a bad thing when you are in the hospital. I can’t tell you why this is, but I can tell you that this is something I learned from experience and was also told by a number of staff members. Perhaps it has to do with how people in a hospital setting can be very different people when they get home and they will be under a great deal of stress at this time. I have had two such relationships and both were serious disasters.
So, when you get out probably one of the best things you can do is to start walking. 15 years ago when I got out of the mental institution after 5 months on the inside, my Dad was kind enough to come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk different routes in any time of year through Edmonton’s beautiful river valley. When I noticed my concentration and patience was returning, I started getting interested in reading Steinbeck and not long after I once again took up my old hobby of writing. By sheer chance a friend handed me a stack of papers in a plastic bag one day and here was the manuscript that is now (available on this website to order) “Through The Withering Storm”. Writing brought new meaning and purpose to my life, and from those small steps at first, I started turning back into a fully active, working and traveling and even writing person. More on that tomorrow, I side-tracked a fair bit in this blog and I don’t want to put too much into just one post or I will run out of ideas and my readers will run out of patience. As always, I am just an email away, firstname.lastname@example.org