Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hospitalization (Part I)

I've mentioned a couple times the fact that I was briefly hospitalized in November of last year, but I haven't written too much about it.  I wasn't sure how much I wanted to share, and I was also feeling very emotional about it and wasn't ready to get into those feelings yet.  Now, I think I am ready to write about it.  Actually, I think it might be helpful to do so.  I'll see how it goes.

It was the day after Thanksgiving.  I'd actually had a nice Thanksgiving.  I was home alone, just me and Isaac and the cats.  Mike had dinner with his family and I made myself a nice dinner and then took Isaac for a long walk.  I was feeling pretty good.

But the day after Thanksgiving, I got an email from my mother.  I feel unsure of how much to explain about this, because I want to respect the privacy of other people but I want to be able to speak my truth, too.  The bottom line is that my mother and my sister both got angry at me because I mentioned something publicly about being abused as a child.  Apparently in my family, it's not such a bad thing to abuse a child, but it's really not acceptable for someone that was abused to talk about it.  So my mother send me this email in which she said, among other things, that she did not believe I was telling the truth about the abuse.

Now, my  mother has gone back and forth over the years about this.  For a while she insisted I was lying about it.  Then she told me she believed me but that she hadn't know it was happening at the time.  Now, apparently she has decided she no longer believes me.  As if there would be any reason for me to lie about it.  Like there would be anything for me to gain by lying.  And as if I could fake all my symptoms of PTSD.

So, she sent me this email saying she didn't believe me.  And...I had a sort of break down.  I can't really explain what happened.  It's all sort of foggy now.  It's hard to understand why it had such a severe impact on me.  But it did.  And I ended up injuring myself.

If you've never had to go to an emergency room for a psychiatric issue, especially for a self-inflicted injury, well, let me tell you, it's not like going to the ER for another type of injury or illness.  Some ER doctors and nurses are excellent, compassionate, caring, sensitive, respectful, etc.  But many are not.

You know how doctors sometimes don't want to listen to patients?  Well, they are even less likely to listen when they think you're nuts.  It's like they think having a mental illness means you're stupid.  Like it means you are incapable of making informed decisions.

When you go the ER with a self-inflicted injury, they also often act like they think you are wasting their time.  Like you brought it on yourself, so it's not like you have a real illness or injury.  They would rather be caring for "real" sick people.  Often, they are not very  kind to patients with self-inflicted injuries or those who have attempted suicide.  Sometimes they act like they think they need to "teach the patient a lesson" so the patient won't do it again.

It's not always like that.  I've had positive experiences in emergency rooms before.  But often, it is like that.

Mike and I agreed that I probably needed some stitches, so he drove me to the ER.  I was still sort of out of it, so I didn't think things through like I should have.  But I had a pretty good idea in my mind of what I thought would happen there.  I thought they would have a social worker talk to me, I'd explain that I wasn't going to harm myself anymore and why I did not need to be admitted to the hospital, the social worker would call my psychiatrist who would understand and agree with me, the ER physician would stitch up my arms, and I'd go home.  Looking back on it, I should have at least phoned my psychiatrist myself before leaving for the hospital.  But I didn't.  I didn't think of it at the time.

So I got to the ER and right away things started to go bad.  The nurse wanted me to change into a hospital gown before talking to the social worker.  I could see no reason I needed to wear a gown to talk to a social worker.  I didn't need to be in a gown for the doctor to treat my arms, either.  It was really cold in there and I felt more comfortable with my clothes on.  When I told the nurse this, she became very threatening.  She told me that I could do things the easy way or the hard way and that if I didn't change into the hospital gown myself, she would have me put in restraints and have my clothes removed.  Does that sound like a good thing to do to someone with PTSD?  I complied because I knew that being restrained and undressed like that would be too traumatic for me to deal with.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. It must have been hard. I am amazed at how ignorant and foolish the nurse was in how she treated you. The staff at that hospital clearly need training on how to effectively deal with people with PTSD and mental issues. People who self harm should not be treated with any less urgency or respect than others. I can certainly understand why you would be upset about this. And your mom really sucks for thinking for a minute you would fabricate the abuse. Why on earth would you do that. I would never do that to my kid. You can and should talk about the abuse and to hell with her or anyone else who thinks you should be silent. It perpetuates the harm.

    1. The really sad thing, I think, is that my experience was not so unusual. I've heard many stories, both from other people that were patients that were treated badly and from nurses and other health care professionals that have witnessed such treatment.