This is a story that I hope will help someone somewhere. Here is the link to the back story.
I was crying almost all the time, and I felt so vulnerable. I could not eat because everything tasted too strong or the texture made me feel sick. I would think about the house payment and the fact that we had no income and start to feel symptoms again. I called my parents and they just thought I was upset over the job loss. They were not digesting the fact that something more was terribly wrong. I was the strong one. I could cope with anything. Nothing could stop me when I was fired up. They just could not believe that I was unable to be a functioning person, they tried to talk me through it logically. It didn't work at all.
I tried to go to work, but everything that had used to be easy was overwhelming me to the point of getting that feeling again. I thought perhaps focusing on work would help me feel better. I was so wrong.
It was time to enlist a professional.
My husband took me to a therapist I had seen about 6 years earlier. I liked him and trusted him. That says a lot because I have serious trust issues with any sort of mental health professionals. I may piss off a lot of people, but I grew up in a place in the 70's where the ratio of shrinks per capita was the highest of anywhere else. EST was in Big Sur down the road and everyone was in group therapy somewhere. Many of my friends parents were shrinks and they were the most fucked up people I have ever met.
One group therapy that my bff family was deeply involved in, would take peanut butter and shove it up your ass if they thought you were bullshitting too much. I am not kidding or making this up. I had some very bad impressions of some of the absolutely fucked up people that were in the industry.
So all that being said, I know there are valuable people in the field and you just have to weed through to find them. I usually say something like, "You people are so fucked up that you became a shrink to fix yourself." Something real diplomatic to see their reaction. The one I trust will always look at me and smile wryly and say, "Yes, I suppose that could be true." Or something like that, with as much self depreciation as possible. It might be a little extreme, but I do not want to spill my guts out to someone that can't admit that they are human.
So our health insurance changed to Kaiser. I want to be clear that I tried to see my therapist through Kaiser but they refused because they have their system they want us to use. They did not care about my trust issues and refused him reimbursement.
My husband called him anyway when my symptoms were not getting better, but worse. My husband could not talk to me about money without my disintegrating into a wailing mess. I am the bill payer, I am the one with all the passwords. He did not have a clue about our bills or how they were paid. He only knew that our bank account kept draining out because we had no income and automatic payments were coming out, well, automatically.
I can't remember all of the timelines as clearly as I would like to, the worst episodes would happen early in the morning because I rise earlier than most to contemplate and enjoy the silence of dawn. But now I would wake up and start to tremble and feel over heated to the point of sweat running down my sides. I couldn't speak complete sentences even though I was thinking them completely. I got worried about everything.
I was unable to leave my house at all. My therapist recommended Lorazapam to take the edge off. He really wanted me to try to see a psychiatrist. I balked at this and only agreed to try the Lorazapam. It knocked me out cold three hours at a time. When I woke up I was still unable to keep the attacks at bay unless I completely knocked myself out. My husband was alone with two major life events, and he was pretty desperate. He talked me into going into the Kaiser Mental Health Clinic to talk to a crisis counselor.
I went into a room with my husband and told her what was happening in our life and very vividly how I felt physically. I tell her I need to get away, I am bombarded with news I can't handle. That I feel overwhelmed and surreal. Nothing makes any sense to me and that I am ready to go to a hospital to be assessed and possibly put on some meds. My children are frightened and my husband is at the end of his rope. He can not help me and I can not help him. His helpmate is gone in place of this person that can't stop crying and curls up into a ball for hours if he mentions money, bills, or even if there is conflict or loud noises in the house. He is desperate to get me help.
The Crisis counselor looks at me and says the only place with a bed is The Bridge House. I say ok. She says to us that I am not really qualified for it, but she will talk to her supervisors to see if she can't place me anyway. I nod and tears stream down my face. She comes back about 10 minutes later and says I will have to stay 72 hours and arrive by ambulance. I asked if it was a hell hole, and she simply said, "Well, it is not a spa or a hotel." I get a little nervous, but we are desperate, and she seems confident that I can get help here. We signed the papers.
This is where I am transported by ambulance to Bridge House. A facility where I was not only supposed to stay for 72 hours, but it is a locked down facility. Not allowed to leave or walk outside without permission and close supervision and only once a day in a fenced yard. No one told me this. No one told me that I was basically saying that I was suicidal and needed 1/2 hour checks 24/7 for 72 hours. I don't know about you, but this is the worst type of situation you could have put me into. I get panicked when I realize what type of facility I am at. They take everything from me, and I refuse to change into a bright blue paper gown they offer me again and again. They search my body and cut my pant's string off. They shove a pile of papers at me and tell me to read and sign them all. By now I have gone into survival mode. I have shut down all talking and I just watch and silently cry.
I am shut in with 15 other people, plus nurses, guards, and a flurry of therapists that all look 22. I become enraged and call to tell my husband that indeed it is a hell hole and that if he misses visitors time he will not get to see me, and that I will never forgive him for putting me here. I start to look around for a way to get out. All the doors and windows are locked. I start to plan my stay. I will cooperate for three days and then if they try to keep me, I will escape. The longer I am there, the more I feel that I might have to escape. I trust only the other inmates, as I called them to myself. I talked to many I was locked in with about what the system was like for them and what this place took to be released.
I am sorry for writing in many parts. I can't seem to write without needing to stop and gather myself. Reading that someone might recognize themselves in me, helps. I also want you to know that my story does end with real help and hope. But the journey there was too long and too damaging to ignore.
I do not know if I can make a difference with my story in how mental health is dealt with in my community, but I do know I am going to try when I have regained all my strength.
I wrote down all my fellow inmates names as soon as I was released, I needed to hold their stories close, and this was how I could remember them all. Everyone of them. I hope you will all feel as much for their situations as I still feel. I can't take care of everyone, this is a lesson I have learned, but I can at least tell some of their stories in the next part.
Mental health is a part of physical health. What is so difficult a concept about that?
Lessons learned from this is, know the laws in your state about mental health holds. You just never know when you might need to know your rights. Oh, they give them to you to sign after you are admitted, but they are not clearly spelled out about when and if they can keep you after the 72 hour hold is up.
My parents came into town the next day and listened to my symptoms and both said at the same time, "Those are classic panic attacks." My mother started to list people in my family that suffer from panic disorder and told me it was genetic. My Dad told me that it was all chemical and they were appalled that I had been placed in this facility. They knew it was the worst possible place for me. It was for suicidal patients with many suffering from schizophrenia, severe bipolar disease and they did not even treat for panic or anxiety at all. The fact that I had never even contemplated suicide as part of my manifestation of symptoms was a serious breach of protocol when it came to placing me in this facility. It was never explained to me until after I had been released.
I was assessed in a ten minute meeting with a real psychiatrist the next day, who recognized that I did not belong there. She would not release me though, as in her words, they wanted to take the 72 hours to assess me more. I knew it was because they would lose the $800 per day they charged to Kaiser if they did release me before the hold was up.
I was furious. I now understood what I was experiencing. And it was because my parents happened to be in the medical field and recognized my symptoms. Not because of any treatment I had been given so far. I needed a psychiatrist to diagnose my panic attacks and give me meds to help me. The meds can take a few weeks to work completely, and I was desperate to get out of this place so I could get real help now. I seemed to have less symptoms at Bridge House only because I was scared to death that they would diagnose me with something far worse than my true diagnosis and try to make me stay. My insurance would pay and it was a clear goal to keep those with insurance and release those with Medicaid. I know I sound paranoid. If you had seen this place and experienced the people running it, you would have been too. It was also the feeling my husband and parents got too. My husband related to me later that he had a plan to break me out if it became necessary after the hold was up. This place made you feel like you had fallen down the rabbit hole.