Alice In Wonderland By Lewis Carroll   

Image obtained by Google Images  Location:
Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the National AIDS Memorial


The Hospital

I have been hospitalized more times then I want to remember. Each hospitalization is different. It varies because most of the time there are different doctors and other staff  members and very different approaches. Each facility is different as well. Sometimes the programs change. I can tell you that the best place I have ever been hospitalized is Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. It's located about 3 hours from my home. They have an excellent medical team and approach. I have been a "guest" there more times then I'd like to remember. Prior to going to Hopkins, I have been in and out of my small local area hospitals on numerous occasions. It wasn't until I went to Johns Hopkins that I started on my journey to some stability.

~Hospital Journal Entry 2007~

I’m here again, weeping, weeping. They close the door behind me. It’s locked. I’m locked in. I look around through my tears at the patients doing various things. There’s a group in the all familiar TV room kinda eying me. Oh God, I can’t take this again.

It’s time for questions and answer time. The docs want to speak with me. I can barely utter a sound. This isn’t going to be easy…weeping…weeping. My husband tries to comfort me. He rubs my back. He’s so kind to me. A nurse takes my luggage to my room and tells me she’ll inspect it when I’m done with the doctors. UGH! I guess she’s my assigned nurse for the evening. God please let me have a private room again.

The resident and charge psychiatrist call me in to an office. They are looking over my rather large chart. I’ve been in here too many times to count. They ask me to sit, smiling, trying to make me feel comfortable. Comfortable, hardly. I’m about to bear my soul again. They ask me all kinds of questions, how are you feeling, are you actively suicidal, on a scale of 1-10 how depressed are you, what meds are you currently taking, and on and on it goes. It’s been about 90 minutes and we conclude. Somebody help me, please help me! My poor husband is in the TV room waiting for me. He needs to eat something. I’m worried about him. Now they want to do a physical. So on we go. A complete stranger is pressing his hands against my rather large belly. I just can’t stand anymore. Just do your job and get it over with!

Now I go out to the TV room and am told to “wait”. Greg is hungry and I tell him I’ll be fine.  I tell him to go to the cafeteria and grab a sandwich with red eyes and a swollen face. He doesn’t want to leave me but I insist. So off he goes. Now I’m alone in a room full of people. I guess there aren’t any groups going on right now. I don’t want anyone looking at me. I want to shrink and feel very very small. I see my nurse approaching with a gentle smile on her face. She asks me to come to my room so we can look through my stuff.

I luck out. I’ve got a private room in a good location. Thank you God, thank you! She wants me to take all of my stuff out of my duffel bag so she can look at it. She looks my stuff over and feels it’s fine for me to keep in my room. I know the drill so I packed wisely. Now it’s time for the “mini-mental”.  I can’t do this now, I just can’t I think to myself. However, she persuades me and I participate. I have to remember three things and repeat them back to her later. She asks me questions to see where I’m at cognitively. I can’t repeat the three things. I have to draw a picture. It’s lame but acceptable. Okay, it’s over. She asks me if I’m hungry or thirsty. I tell her I’m thirsty. She says I can go to the kitchen and see what’s around. Water will do just fine I tell her. She tells me I’ve been there before and should know where everything is. I wish she would get it for me. She adds that she’ll make sure I get dinner.  I don’t want them starring at me, but I’m so darn thirsty I go out there and get it. I return to my room and wait for Greg.

Greg eventually returns and tells me he feels better after eating. He brought me a hamburger which I do appreciate. I can’t get a grip. Please help me, please. Greg strokes my hair and rubs my back as I quietly cry. I can’t stand this. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to see him walk out the locked door and I know it’s almost time for him to be on his way. He’s facing a three hour drive. Now it’s getting later and he says it’s time for him to go. I grab him and tell him not to leave just yet. He gives me a bewildered look and tells me he does have to go but he’ll be back in a few days. My heart is breaking. I hug him trying not to cry because this tears him up. I walk him to the door where the elevator is. Only a buzzer or key keeps me from escaping. I hug him tightly and say my goodbyes. I watch him catch the elevator down to freedom. I want to die.

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In my experience, it's a strange occurrence to be on a locked psychiatric ward. They tell you that the locked aspect of the ward is for safety purposes. It's odd not to be able to come and go but when one is in a critical state, I suppose it is safe to be "locked in." Each hospital has its own set of rules and expectations of the patient. 

The team at Johns Hopkins is made up of an attending doc who is the primary on the case, and an resident doc who does most of the work and sometimes a medical student. They do rounds in the morning to assess how you are doing. The rooms are comfortable and the baths are shared by two rooms. They have private and semi-private rooms. Fortunately, I was able to get a private room. I was glad of that.  The daily routine consists of meeting with the team docs in the AM, support groups, occupational therapy, relaxation therapy, community meetings, and gym. Not all hospitals offer these programs. Twice a day you meet with your assigned nurse to discuss how you're feeling. This gives the staff an opportunity to write down your progress so that the team can review your status each day. The majority of the nurses at Johns Hopkins were excellent and very comforting. Meals are served three times a day. One is allowed to select meals from a provided menu. The food was pretty decent and the selections were adequate. 

Being hospitalized is not glamorous. They expect a lot out of you in an attempt to help you I suppose. You are exposed to all walks of people with varying degrees of illnesses. You are expected to follow the schedule, eat, and participate even if you don't feel like it. On Meyer 4 where I was, there are two groups of illnesses which are affective disorders and eating disorders. The unit has 22 beds and it's very difficult to get on this unit. They always have a waiting list. I had to wait a day or two before they would take me on this particular visit. This was really hard on my husband because of the degree of my suicidal state. He watched over me very carefully until I was able to be admitted. Once there, I felt extremely sad, especially when my husband had to leave. He visited me during visiting hours as much as possible. The staff was very nice and allowed him to come a bit early and stay a bit late sometimes as long as it didn't interfere with the groups. They do this for people who live far away.

Gradually, either through a good cocktail of meds or ECT, I come out of my state. It's not easy and it's not a quick fix. I usually spend about 4-6 or more weeks when I have to be hospitalized. I thank God that I have some kind of medical insurance to help defray some of the costs. I can't say that I'm always "even" when I leave, I'm better but not at my very best and am out of immediate danger.



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