***Some content in this post series may be very triggering***
In Part 1 of this post series, I mentioned that I do not remember at least half of my 10 psychiatric hospitalizations, mostly the second half. In order to write this part of the series I’ve had to refer to the past hospital records I collected to figure out what likely happened when. I may still mix some things up. The hospital records do not contain the full story of my experiences. I remember mentioning that to my current psychiatrist of 12 years, and he said he wasn’t surprised.
After I completed the six months in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) following my first hospitalization, I returned to my job. It was actually a bit of a miracle that they held my job for so long. Even more unbelievably they held my job during my absences for eight more hospitalizations and IOPs that followed. I had returned to work maybe five or six times in between (a guess) over a four year period, but still. That was generous of them. My husband told me a long time ago that my President and CEO boss said they had “Big plans for Cindy” even despite my behavioral record. It was only during my last stint at work that those “big plans” were starting to develop, but unfortunately my 10th hospitalization happened, and that turned out to be just too long for my employer. I was eventually terminated. Instead of becoming perhaps “Director of Communications”, I became disabled on Social Security Disability.
Part of the reason I was in the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for a total of six months that first time is because almost two months in I had a second hospitalization. Coincidentally, that second hospitalization was right about the time of year that I am writing this post, in May. According to my records, my second hospitalization was for anxious depression with numerous panic attacks. I was again having suicidal ideations, though had not had an attempt. They put me in the dual diagnosis ward again. I was disappointed because I was sick and tired of hearing about addiction. I’ll confess that I had gotten drunk a couple of times since officially stopping (when first hospitalized), but drinking wasn’t a daily issue anymore. They call those occasional drinking bouts “slips”.
During the second hospitalization I turned 35. Yes, I spent my birthday in the psychiatric hospital. Actually, it could have been far worse. A nurse must have noticed my birth date and secretly told all of the patients in the ward. [Or hubby told the nurse.] The nurses surprised me with a huge cake, and patients even gave me little gifts; drawings they made in art therapy, little trinkets they had with them, and one guy even gave me a little kid’s Mickey Mouse watch. Why or how he had that, I do not know, but it was rather touching. I do recall that I couldn’t see my husband that day. The dual diagnosis ward at that hospital only allowed visitors twice per week, and one of those days the visitors had to sit through addiction counseling for family. My husband hated that! So did I.
After I got out of the hospital the second time I returned to the IOP to finish out the six months. Then I returned to work for the first time since my near firing.
I am assuming that my time back at work at least initially went well. My records indicate that I didn’t return to the hospital a third time until about seven or eight months after my work return. When I returned for hospitalization number three, the records say I had a mixed manic episode (mania mixed with depression) and that I had explosive and histrionic symptoms. Apparently they changed my medications from Lithium (a mood stabilizer) and Seroquel (an antipsychotic) to another mood stabilizer, and even more Seroquel. The Lithium had caused me to have hypothyroidism, so they decided to take me off of it. When I improved slightly, they sent me back to the IOP.
I only lasted in the IOP two weeks before being hospitalized a fourth time. I guess they discharged me prematurely after two weeks the time before. This next hospitalization cited explosive mixed manic behavior again. Tirades, mixed with uncontrollable crying, and laughing jags. Hmm? I guess it must have seemed pretty wild. I felt wild and out of control. I recall them giving me an injection of Haldol to calm me down after laughing hysterically for what seemed like 20 minutes. Then this time they put me on a real powerhouse antipsychotic. I recall that the doctor said it worked well, but that it gave me akathisia. Akathisia is a type of severe inner restlessness where you can’t stop moving, even at night, though I wasn’t sleeping anyway. I guess I walked around the ward for hours and hours each day and night. When I’d stop I’d basically suffer, so I didn’t stop. So the doctor told me that I should “Keep this medication in mind for emergency purposes in the future,” but he put me on something else instead once my mood calmed. That stopped the akathisia in its tracks. I was also glad for the medication switch because my medications were making me gain lots of weight rapidly.
Returns to IOPs after hospitalizations were basically mandatory. I don’t remember how long the IOP lasted this time. What I do know is that I have a feeling that it was during this time period I had a change in the psychiatrist I saw privately. Suddenly in my hospital records I’m seeing someone else. I sort of recall once entering the IOP saying (yelling) that I’d quit prematurely. My outside therapist was coincidentally the Director of therapy in the IOP. As a punishment, she basically quit me. And when she quit me, the psychiatrist I was seeing quit me, too, at her recommendation. That was their way of forcing me to stay in the IOP. It worked.
Upon my eventual release from the IOP I had a very exciting new psychiatrist to see. If you read Part 1 of this blog post series, you might remember Dr. Ripley? He was the extremely tall, handsome psychiatrist I had during my very first hospitalization. The “angel” man. What made this doctor switch even more exciting was a story my IOP therapist told me. She said Dr. Ripley had a big old BMW motorcycle he used to ride to work, and how handsome he looked on it pulling up every morning. Knight in shining armor. Well, it was also clear that I was not the only one with a bit of a crush on him.
Dr. Ripley was everything I remembered and more, but my mental health was still far from stable. From what I remember, I had extreme anxiety at work during my returns. You can imagine how I felt thinking that people thought I was crazy, and how many of them waged complaints against me in the past. Well, if bipolar mixed mania is crazy, then I guess I was, though crazy is often not a very pleasant word to people with a mental illness. I remember at times sitting at my desk in front of the computer completely frozen. Anxious thoughts racing in my head. I’d go to the bathroom just to escape. Sometimes I went to my car and sat there crying. I called out sick a lot.
Dr. Ripley ended up referring me directly back to an IOP, not yet the hospital, but this time I begged him to send me elsewhere. I was afraid of that old therapist (Director of IOP), so I chose to drive to the IOP 40 mins from my home, despite the old one being only 15 mins from home, by foot. I finished at this new IOP either prematurely, or it was very soon after that my moods went berserk again. Though I’m not sure of the timing, perhaps this was one of the occasions when I decided to suddenly stop my medications cold-turkey. Instability and other reasons can cause many people with bipolar disorder to do this.
This story is continued in Part 3 of 4