Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Hospital Stay from Hell [Part Two]

[TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about suicide, mental illness, and sexual harassment]

[This is a continuation from my previous post. Read it here.]

They had to wheel me up to the 6th floor of the hospital for insurance reasons, although I was fully able to carry my own weight. They parked the wheelchair next to a blood pressure machine and told me to wait there while they left to get the paperwork. I was waiting nearly 45 minutes before anyone bothered to talk to me. My time sitting next to that blood pressure machine was spent watching other patients on the floor.

One woman kept going up to the front desk saying "I'm lonely, I'm lonely. Will you come sit with me?" over and over. The woman at the front desk reminded her that there were people eating dinner in the next room and she could talk to people there. The woman replied "But I'm too lonely. I'm lonely". I watched this woman's movements, listened to the way she spoke. She was obviously mentally ill, but I couldn't figure out what was plaguing her mind.

Shortly after, another woman came up to the front desk and asked the nurse at the front desk if she could feed her. This woman was probably in her late 40's and she was acting like a small child.

I wriggled in my seat uncomfortably. All I had on me was a hospital gown and socks. My mom and dad had my purse, my medications, and all my electronics. I had no idea where I was. I thought I would be put in a room so they could try new medications on me, but instead it appeared like I had been thrown into the loony bin. I started to lose it.

"Where am I?" I asked the nurse at the front desk.

"You're in the Acute Mental Ward, ma'am"

This is about the time where I started freaking out. I asked her why I was sent up there, why I didn't have a room yet, and why I was still sitting there if no one was going to take my blood pressure.

"This has to be a mistake" I said.

The nurse was a young woman who we will call Jackie. She was very pretty and she seemed to have her head screwed on just right. She joked and laughed with me as I was waiting for some dude to give me my paperwork and send me to my room. She asked me why I was sent there and I replied hastily, "I don't know" and shrugged my shoulders.

I know what you're thinking. "You're there because you tried to kill yourself, right?" And you would be correct. According to the records, I tried to commit suicide. But that wasn't the case at all. Yes, I was depressed, but I didn't want to die! I was having a rough two weeks! I shouldn't have been put in the mental ward!

Nurse Jackie agreed that I probably should have been placed elsewhere, but there was nothing she could do to get me out of there.

After another 45 minutes of talking with Nurse Jackie, a male nurse came up to me with some papers to sign. Of these was a Patients Bill of Rights, which will become very important later. I tried to refuse to sign these, stating that I was mentally competent and just having a rough time, but he warned me that it could extend my stay if I tried to refuse treatment. That sounded slightly illegal to me, but I signed anyway, not wanting to experience this place more than I had to. He told me I'd probably just spend the weekend there and go home on Monday. Afterwards, he took my vitals and left. No room assignments, nothing. He just left me in a wheelchair. I sat there for another hour before Nurse Jackie just took  me to my room myself. "You were assigned to this room before you even got out of the elevator, I don't know why they made you wait out there," she whispered to me.

The first thing I noticed was the two beds. I asked her if I had a roommate and she nodded her head and told me that everyone had at least one roommate. When I got to my bed, I looked around. The first thing I noticed was the half-door leading to the one-person bathroom. The door didn't even close all the way. There was black mold covering the bathroom floor, and the mirror has a mysterious residue all over it. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned in over a century. The main room was alright, but still in a clear state of untidiness. There were plenty of drawers for people to keep their things, which prompted my worries further. My parents had all my stuff, and they had probably gone home by now. I didn't even have a book to read. The staff didn't give you any tooth brushes, tooth paste, soap, or any hygiene products unless you asked for them and gave them 30 minutes to find one for you (and there was no guarantee they would get you one). I wasn't allowed to have any electronics at all, because I guess it's possible to kill yourself with a cell phone? We also weren't allowed to have gum, any snacks, hair accessories (unless they were soft scrunchies), combs, jeans, razors (obviously), or any form of entertainment except a book. Nothing. I understood some of these restrictions, considering some of the patient's suicidal histories, but I wasn't allowed to have a jigsaw puzzle? Or my Kindle? What was I supposed to do? It's not like these guys had much for entertainment, save an old TV from 1989 in a room with popcorn plastered on the floor.

I was allowed to make a phone call. They had these prison-like phones that you could use at certain times of the day. That was the first thing, of many, that I equated to prison. You had to ask permission and someone had to sit near you while you made your call. I called my parents with a list of things they needed to bring me. The list was long, and every once in a while, the woman sitting next to me would shake her head and say "You can't have that in here" or "You won't need that. We can give you that". She took me back to my room where I sat on my bed and stared at the wall.

I remember thinking that the room was in such a state of disrepair, that I could still easily kill myself or somebody else with anything in the room, if I wanted to.

I still hadn't met my roommate, and I was so worried it was the "lonely" woman from earlier. She scared me, like she would try to kill me if I told her she had an eyelash on her cheek. I decided to go to the "food room", as the inmates patients called it, and see if there was anything to do or eat. There, I saw a woman coloring a mandala with non-toxic crayola markers. There were no seats available except for a few at her table, so I sat across from her with a popcorn snack.

"Hello, would you like to help me color?" She asked me.

I accepted. I figured I was stuck there, so I might as well color. There was no harm in coloring, right?

She told me her name was Maria and she had been there for a couple of months. She was a very sweet, heavy set woman in her mid 40's. She told me all about the sun goddess depicted in the mandala and what it meant to her. We had a surprisingly pleasant conversation while we colored in the intricate patterns that made up a woman's fiery face. Eventually, the clock struck a time I didn't know because there were no clocks anywhere, and Nurse Jackie stepped in and told us to go to our rooms. Coincidentally, Maria was my roommate, so we carried on our conversation in our room.

Maria showed me the ropes around the Acute Mental Ward. She mentioned that there were certain things you had to do, certain people you shouldn't talk to, and the schedule we all must follow (again, like a prison).

While we were talking, a young male nurse poked his head in, counted us, then told us to get our medication.

Now, at this point, I was taking Clonazepam and my pain meds once with every meal, then right before bed. I couldn't take my pain meds until AFTER I had eaten, though. Everything else, I took before bed. It's really not hard to remember, but the idiots that worked at Methodist Hospital couldn't even get that right. They nearly overdosed me on Vicodin, because I can totally take 4x my regular dose, right? The nurse giving me my meds asked me which room I was staying in and said, "Oh, your roommate is Maria? You might want to take a Trazodone. She snores very loudly and you won't get any sleep, otherwise". I accepted the Trazodone, at which point he put TWO pills into my hands. Two Trazodone could have killed me with the other meds I was on. But whatever. Let's give little, 100 pound Mouse an extremely high dose of this stuff. No one will notice.

I noticed they didn't try to give me any anti-depressants, like they told me they were going to do in the first place- that's why I was there, after all. But I figured they would just wait to do that tomorrow. They didn't. The four days I spent there were wasted and I got no treatment at all.

For the sake of time, I'm going to list off all the other weird crap that happened the next day:

-My parents dropped off my stuff
-I took a shower in the nastiest shower ever
-While I took a shower, a male nurse came in to count the inmates patients in the room and ended up watching me undress for a good minute. WHY DON'T YOU JUST TAKE A PICTURE, ASSHOLE?
-I ate barely-edible meals

During my second day, I met with Rosalinda, the Physicians Assistant. She advised I go to group therapy, so I did.

This is what happened at Group Therapy:

-Rosalinda spoke to all of us.
-A middle-aged woman I had never spoken to asked why all of this was happening to her.
-Rosalinda said that when a woman feels emotions during pregnancy, the baby feels them later in life (which is not true). She also said that stress during pregnancy always means that the woman unconsciously doesn't want the baby, and leads to depression in the fetus because the fetus knows it's unwanted (also not true).
-I stood up, explained why Rosalinda was wrong and stormed out of the room, half of the other patients following behind me.

After that nightmare of a "group therapy" session, Rosalinda called me into her office. She explained that I needed  "extra treatment" and extended my stay for another two days simply because she was mad that I saw through her lies.

Fuck this bitch and her lack of basic knowledge of biology. 

At this point, I just stayed in my bed, except for meal times, and read my book. I didn't even consider going back to that lie-fest. In fact, a bunch of patients decided against it too after I filled their heads with scientific facts. I felt like a super hero of knowledge. Saving one person from bullshit one day at a time.

I could go one about all the other bullshit that I experienced there, but that would take weeks.

By my last day, I had experienced sexual harassment from the staff, watched normal, slightly depressed adults turn into mindless zombies, listened to lies about mental illness being spoon fed to mentally ill patients, and felt like a prisoner. I even checked the patient bill of rights and about 75% of my rights were not met by the staff. I never even got any anti-depressants! I never saw a doctor, I never had a clean bathroom, I didn't got my medications at the right time, which made me sick and in a lot of pain. The staff just zombified the patients, instead of treating them. THE LIST GOES ON!

I could not get out of there fast enough.

This is what's wrong with mental health. There's no funding, nobody cares about these people enough to listen to them and treat them. They just put them in the mental ward and call it a day. Feed them just enough to keep them alive, then pretend they don't exist. This is not okay! I should not have my breasts on display for every male nurse to gawk at just because I was a young girl trying to take a shower. At least give us doors to the bathroom so we can have a little privacy to poop! None of the people I talked to while I was there said they felt better since being there. Many of them had been there for months. My roommate tried to kill herself while I was right there. If this program was working, she would have felt like there was hope, not suicidal. Nobody there was happy. Everyone was a zombie.

I wasn't even supposed to be there! Apparently there was some mix-up and my case got filed under "going to kill herself right now unless we send her to hell the Acute Mental Ward". Everyone I spoke to said I shouldn't have been there. They said I was too "normal". Everyone there had been cutting their wrists, spewing nonsense from their mouths, and had been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. I was just having a hard two weeks.

This was the worst, and most enlightening, experience of my life.

<3 Mouse

EDIT: Apparently people are calling my post into question, and are asking for "proof" that I was really at this hospital. Here is one picture of some food receipts and the Patient Bill of Rights. It shows the date I was there, the name of the hospital, and a few other things. I have more proof, but this should suffice for now.

NOTE: The names may have been changed.

If you, or someone you love is feeling suicidal, you can visit the American Foundation for Suicide PreventionTeen Help, or The Trevor Project.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hospital Stay from Hell [Part One]

The last picture we ever took of him
Have you ever had one of those days where everything is going wrong? You try so hard to change things for the better, but all you can do is sit back and watch the chaos burn away any chance at hope you'll ever have. Amplify that by two weeks and you'll have a glimpse at the two weeks from hell that I experienced.

At the time, I guess you could say I was depressed. I was still not feeling better, I was in constant pain, there was nothing anyone could do about it. But I kept my depression in check. If I did have any weird suicidal feelings, I felt like I could tell my mom about them. But they never really did materialize. I was just sad. I didn't want to kill myself, or anyone else. I talked with a therapist, and even she agreed that I was just sad and my depression wasn't dangerous to myself or anyone else around me.

But then all Hell broke loose. 

My mother works at the Humane Society of San Antonio, and every once in a while, she gets the urge to foster a dog for a short amount of time. We already have two dogs, so my father usually doesn't allow her to bring home homeless dogs, no matter how long she says they will be there. But this was a special case.

The dog's name was Rusty. He was 15-years-old, was blind, deaf, and had arthritis. He wasn't much to look at, but he was sweet and very smart. My mom brought him home as a sort of hospice care. The vet said he may only live another couple months, or so. I was reluctant to bring home another dog just to watch him slowly die, but I had no say in the matter. The second she brought him home, I was obsessed with him. He was a bit skiddish at first with both my parents, but when I introduced myself to him, he stuck by me and never left. Maybe he could sense that I was sick, too, and he felt it was something we could bond over, or maybe I used the same perfume as his previous owner and it gave him a sense of nostalgia, or, just maybe, he got tired and happened to fall asleep on whatever lap was willing to accept him.

Whatever the case, he and I grew very close and we bonded.

Within a couple of days after Rusty appeared into our lives, my mother brought home a German Shepard puppy. She was supposed to go to a training camp for service dogs in a couple of days, but they had no room for her in the shelter, so, of course, we decided to keep her until the camp was ready for her.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, we had doubled the number of dogs in our house in less than three days.

The puppy didn't last long in our house, but she did leave her mark. Bite marks. On my feet. And the chairs. And everything else in the house.

Just a few short days after the puppy left, Rusty began to show symptoms of kidney failure. We rushed him to the vet, and the vet confirmed our suspicions. We scheduled to put him down the next day.

I remember bringing him back to the Humane Society the very next day. He was wrapped in a blanket. He didn't know what was going on. They put him in the back of this big, green, cart and wheeled him way. He couldn't keep his balance as the cart drove away, he was whimpering long, loud cries for comfort. I couldn't even be there with him as he crossed the rainbow bridge.

And then he was gone.

To shorten this blog post, I will be making a list of all the other crap that went on during those same two weeks:

-Someone died
-I got into a fight with my best friend
-My parents were pressuring me into going back to school, or getting a job, even though I wasn't physically ready
-My parents pressured me into going on disability. 
-My relationship with my boyfriend was falling apart.
He looks cute, but watch out!
-Someone else died

Needless to say, I was grieving three times over and I was a wreck. I needed a way to cope with all the loss surrounding me, but I couldn't. I needed control, but I had none. So, I did something stupid.

I emptied a bottle of pills into my hands.

I wasn't going to take them. But I told myself that I at least had control over my own death, if I so desired. I could play God.

But I didn't take the pills. I didn't intend to. When my mom found out, she panicked and called my therapist, exaggerating the story, saying I WAS going to kill myself, not that I was giving myself a philosophical coping mechanism. My therapist told her to send me to the hospital, where they would analyze me and put my mother's thoughts at ease.

When we got there, all I could smell was old cigarettes and death. We went up the the window, the woman asked me why I was there. I didn't know what to say, so I sarcastically said "Apparently I tried to kill myself".

I was lead to the back room, where they put me in a hospital gown and sat me in front of a TV while I waited for the doctor to see me. There was one other lady in there with me. I tried to pull out my phone to maybe play a game or text my friends, but then I remembered my parents were holding on to my purse.

The whole thing was agonizingly slow. It took almost half an hour to get seen. When I was finally sent to the room, I was very surprised to see a TV screen waiting for me, not a doctor. A doctor from India was working today, so I had to Skype with her instead. Man, if I actually was suicidal, this probably would have sealed the deal for me. Not even the physician wanted to physically be there with me. They couldn't be bothered. After a 2-minute chat with her, she determined that I was not suicidal, but I was depressed, so she wanted to put me on some anti-depressants. She was wary, though, because of all the other medications I was on, so she said it would be best to hospitalize me for a day or two so they could monitor me for any drug interactions.

That made sense. I'd spend one day in the hospital to try a new medication that had the potential to interact with my other medications. I agreed to the treatment.

But when they wheeled me upstairs, I wasn't ready for what I saw.

[Continue to Part Two]

<3 Mouse

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Word's Most Interesting Surgery Story Ever

When most people tell you stories about past surgical procedures, there's a sense of urgency in their voice. This procedure was life-or-death. Whether or not the surgery was life threatening, cosmetic, or a routine appendectomy, the recipient of the surgery always conveys a troubled tone when they talk about their experience under the knife. A friend of mine once had surgery on his hand to fix a broken bone, and any time he tells me the story, it sounds like it was a delicate procedure, full of possible risks and complications. It wasn't. He went under, the doctor made a small incision, placed the bone back into it's natural position, then closed him up. Simple. The surgery took maybe an hour. When he tells the story though, he mentions the grueling pain, the complicated cast that was left on his hand for two weeks; it was the seven-hour-long surgery that saved his life! But why do people do this? Why do they make a simple procedure seem more terrifying than it really was? Simple, they were scared. This was my friend's first and only surgery ever, so his mind exaggerated the experience and translated it into something straight from the Vietnam war. It's not his fault, he was just scared.

Surgery is a scary thing; doctors will knock you out, cut you open, then mess around with your insides for an extended period of time. You could lose blood, some young doctor could leave something inside you, you could wake up in the middle of the surgery, you could never wake up at all. All these things go through your mind as they're wheeling you into the OR. For most people, this is a frightening concept. But for me, it's a fairly normal occurrence. About once a year, I undergo a Laproscopy, a simple surgical procedure that removes all the rogue endometrial tissue that escaped from my uterus and made a new home elsewhere, like my intestinal sac, my kidneys, or pretty much anywhere. Having had this surgery 4 times now, this was nothing new. I'd go to the hospital, they'd take my blood and urine, I'd sit in a room wearing nothing but a gown and some extra-large hospital socks with the rubber on the bottom, then I'd wait a few hours. Eventually, they'd give me a shot of something called the "I don't care drug" (IDCD), which would make me oblivious to the fact that I was going to be opened up shortly. Soon after the IDCD had taken effect, I'd be wheeled into the OR, where they'd lay me on a table, put a mask on my face, and then I'd fall asleep.

My most recent surgery was a completely different story, though. While it was still a routine Laproscopy, it was on a semi-emergency basis. For the weeks leading up to the surgery, I was in so much pain that I was screaming. I was crying. I was eternally in the fetal position. This was the worst my pain had ever been, and it happened suddenly. My doctor was able to schedule me for surgery less than a week after our emergency visit with her. She had no idea why my pain had gotten so bad in such a short amount of time. She decided to do the surgery with a surgical robot at Saint Luke's Hospital, which would be more precise and (hopefully) the results would last longer.

This means a robot would be stabbing me, shooting lasers into my belly, then sewing me back up.

Are you intrigued yet?

I had no time to be excited or nervous for this surgery. It happened way too quickly for me to build up any one emotion while I was waiting. Before I knew it, the day was here.

We drove to the hospital at 5 in the morning. Once we got there, they sent me to a small, curtained cubicle and had me change into a "fancy" hospital gown. I remember sitting on the stretcher in absolute agonizing pain, a 10 on the pain scale, but still feeling the need to keep quiet so as not to disturb the nurses and other patients. They could not give me any pain meds before the surgery, and I was not allowed to take anything for 24 hours before. My body was confused, shocked, and in pain, and I didn't know what to do. I wanted the surgery to be over with.

Before I continue, I must interject a small quip about a weird tradition my family does before a surgery. When the IDCD is being injected, we take pictures or video of the person (AKA always me) being drugged. This leads to some pretty hilarious internet videos and a few Facebook friends thinking we're a family of drug abusers. For me, the IDCD makes me laugh. Everything is funny. Oh, there's an old man next to me vomiting his guts out? THAT'S SO FUNNY! A nurse is telling me to be quiet? EVEN FUNNIER! I have a theory that if the news was reporting a mass shooting and 1 billion adorable children had died, I would still be laughing like the soulless, godless heathen I am. My father thinks this is the funniest thing, so he makes sure to document it and show it to me when I can remember which way is up. This is how my family bonds. We have many stories about drugs.

Anyway, as they were injecting me with the IDCD, I didn't laugh. I couldn't. The pain in my abdomen outdid any desire in me to laugh at anything. It was the first somber moment my family had ever been a part of, as they watched me roll into the OR without a single laugh. How sad.

I don't remember much past that point, although I do remember them showing me the robot that would be operating on me and asking me to name it. I named him Bill, after Bill Nye, who I am convinced is my real father. After that, nothing. I remember them injecting me with something, putting a mask on my face, then... everything went black.

The first thing I noticed when I woke up was no pain. I mean, other than the pain from the five stab wounds I had received from Bill the Robot. The constant throbbing cramps that had always been there for the past couple of weeks were gone.

I was sore for about a week after the surgery, but I noticed the lack of pain much more every day. I still had a little bit of pain, but it was almost entirely gone. A weight had been lifted from me and I suddenly felt like I could do things again.

Sadly, though, this pain-free-ish period only lasted a couple of months. As I write this, I can feel an intense throbbing in my abdomen that won't go away with any medication. All I can do now is wait for a new treatment, or another surgery. For now, I'll just pop some pills and write about a time when I couldn't feel anything.

<3 Mouse

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Going Back on Medical Leave

Since I last posted, I went back to Clark University. All seemed well. I got to see my friends, I was excited for my classes, and I was feeling pumped to restart this chapter in my life. But my feeling of "pumptitude" was short lived.

As soon as classes started up again, I got into my typical cycle of wake up, hygiene maintenance, go to class, take rigorous notes, study, try to eat somewhere in between, hygiene maintenance, sleep. For a few days this was working out pretty well. I was living in an apartment with five of my friends, so I didn't have the hazards of dorm life to worry about. I was truly on my own. I made most of my own (healthy) food, I found ways to cut time in the morning so I could get some extra, much needed, sleep, and I was trying to socialize as much as I could. But that wasn't enough. Starting from day one, I was being annoyed by the incessant pain in my abdomen. It was hard to take notes in class because the Fibromyalgia made it hard to write things down as fast as I needed to. My medications made it hard to pay attention and stay away during those important lectures. To keep it short, I was a mess.

I spent all my time in my room. I skipped class when the pain was too much for me to even get out of bed. I was depressed. I didn't want to have to worry about homework, online assignments, or the lack of notes I was taking. I just wanted to sleep the pain away.

My friends tried to help by getting me a certain... *ahem* herbal supplement... (which was totally legal, by the way. This particular herbal supplement was decriminalized in the state of Massachusetts as long as you had under an ounce on you). This herbal supplement helped a lot, but I couldn't go to class smelling like it. It felt like a quick fix for all my pain. The seizures in my abdomen diminished into nothing and I was able to focus harder on my studies. While this was all fine and dandy, it wasn't a cure and the relief it gave me only lasted half an hour, at best, since I didn't take very much in one sitting.

At this point, my closest friends started getting worried. My roommates even noticed something was wrong. Unless I decided to go to class that day, my entire life was spend in my bedroom. They asked me questions, a friend gave me a pamphlet on depression and suicide prevention (as if a pamphlet could help me if that was the case). Eventually, the physical pain got to me, and the questions were bothering me too much, so I stopped talking to everyone completely. My grades dropped to B's, to C's, then F's. I simply didn't care anymore.

Eventually, I realized that if my grades continued to drop, I would lose all my scholarships and I wouldn't be able to attend Clark University anymore, so I went on my second medical leave of absence. It was a hard and sad decision, but ultimately, I think I made the right choice. My health has been steadily decreasing and I don't know if I could have managed passing grades that semester. I am still on medical leave, and I have been for 10 months now. I will be finishing my degree later, but for now, I am focusing on my health and hoping for the best.

The worst part of this extended medical leave? I'm really bored.

<3 Mouse

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oops (I'm Not Dead)

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have not been able to update this blog. Thankfully, I am back, and I'll be keeping you guys up-to-date whenever possible. I will probably break up the past year in a few posts, so look out for that.

Lots of things have been happening since I last posted and I'm very excited to share it all with you. Here is an outline of things you should expect coming from the next few posts:

-Going back on medical leave
-The world's most ridiculous surgery story
-The hospital stay from hell
-The slightly better hospital stay that changed my life forever
-A nasty break up. :(
-My new job
-On good doctors and bad PA's

I will be uploading one post per day until I am caught up with everything that has happened in the past year. I hope you guys are ready for the ride, because I sure am!

<3 Mouse