It’s been a long time and I am so excited to be writing again!
Not only have I missed you all, but I have missed the therapy that comes with writing and releasing everything. So much has happened since I last wrote a blog entry, and I am going to start sharing some of that!
Most recently, I just finished a two-month long outpatient mental health program and it was life changing. I’m wishing I would’ve kept my blog going during this process so I could talk about what happened each week and it would be fresh, but I didn’t. I’m going to do my best to recall some of the highlights and put them here! But first, let me start at the beginning.
At the end of August, I was in a very bad place, mentally. One of the darkest places I’ve ever been in. I was constantly thinking about suicide and I had such a strong desire to end my life. It was honestly just very scary. I was so depressed that I had completely stopped taking care of myself.
There were several trash bags piled in the kitchen, laundry wasn’t getting done, I had piles, and piles of clothes everywhere. The dishes in the sink were growing moldy, I was barely eating, and the showers were very irregular and few. I was constantly sleeping when I had the opportunity. This isn’t something I’m proud of, but I wanted to paint a picture of just how bad things had gotten. I was in a really bad place.
I had to be told not to sleep, to eat, to shower. I wasn’t really trusted to be alone. Had some things been different, I would’ve been admitted to an inpatient facility long before I admitted myself. The only reason I really went was because of my therapist. She told me that I could go myself, or she was going to make me go. That same day, I called my insurance to see if they would cover treatment at OS (for anonymity purposes, I’m going to refer to the hospital by its initials).
I was in luck – they said that that hospital was in network and once I hit the deductible, insurance would pay 80% of whatever else I owed. I was so glad that I was finally going to get help. I contacted OS and set up my assessment. Initially, I thought my assessment would be over the phone, but then I was told it would be in person. I was so nervous.
I got there a few minutes before my assessment to make sure I knew where to go. I had a friend FaceTime me while I was in the parking lot because I was so nervous that I wanted to leave. She stayed on the phone with me until I went in.
I walked inside and it was still – quiet. I made my way to the front desk, told them my name and why I was there. She had me sign in, and then take a seat to fill out some paperwork. Once I handed in the paperwork, I sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. She finally calls me over and takes my vitals. She was a nice lady with a plump body and a bit of a beard that I could see peeking from around her mask. I’m surprised she didn’t say that my heart rate was super high with how nervous I was. After she took my vitals, it was back to the waiting chair.
After several minutes, they called me back. I had to lock up my belongings, take off my watch, and was “wanded” with a metal detector. Apparently “wanded” is not a word, but I don’t know what else you would call it. Anyway, they took me back into the inpatient area and sat me in a room with more paperwork. There was no clock, everything was bolted to the wall, anything you could possibly use to injure yourself with was protected and unreachable. They don’t use regular paperclips; they use plastic clips. As I was filling out my papers, a new lady came in – a doctor. It was time for the actual assessment. I wanted to cry, I wanted to leave. I was scared and nervous and I felt like I was going to be admitted to inpatient against my will. Even so, there was a voice in my head reminding me to be honest. Completely honest about how I was feeling no matter what the consequences might be. My friend, Cat, made sure I knew that before I went in.
The doctor, Rosa, asked me a LOT of questions. Their favorite question at OS is ‘what brings you here?’ and my only answer was ‘I just really want to die.’ But, I never said that. I just said I was having a lot of “suicidal ideation.” That’s the fancy term for wanting to kill yourself. The next question is always ‘do you have a plan?’ to which I always responded with a resounding ‘no.’
We went through a lot of my history, the kinds of abuse and trauma I’ve endured, my history of drugs and alcohol (if I had a history), sexual history, eating disorders, self-harm, the works. They asked so many personal questions. I was as honest as I could be.
At the end of the assessment, she gave me her recommendation. She (unsurprisingly) recommended inpatient treatment. I said no. I didn’t want to go inpatient and because I didn’t have an actual plan to end my life, they couldn’t make me. She tried to convince me, but I didn’t see any way that I could go in without my parents finding out and that’s what I was trying to avoid. She told me that she was concerned about me going home and I assured her that I didn’t have anything in my home that I could hurt myself with. I truly didn’t.
Once she conceded with the inpatient recommendation, she said the next step was what was called a Partial Hospitalization Program, PHP for short. She said it was the closest I would get to inpatient without actually going inpatient. My very next question was about how much it was going to cost. Could I even afford help? She told me that she was going to get a quote and she would be back.
I waited, and waited, and waited…
When she returned, she gave me a quote of $350 per DAY. The PHP was a 15 day program. We’re talking $5,250 before insurance and insurance was only going to pay 80%, PLUS, I hadn’t hit my deductible yet. There was no way I could afford that. I asked about payment options and if I could pay it out and she said they preferred for it all to be paid upfront. All of it. Out of pocket. After insurance, I was looking at about $1,500. I didn’t have that. There was no way. I told her I would think about it and that was that. I came back to the lobby, collected my things, and left. I was devastated. All this time I needed help and now I couldn’t get it. I FINALLY reached out, and I couldn’t even get the help I needed.
I sent a text to the friend I had been FaceTiming with in the parking lot and told her I couldn’t get help. I also sent a text to my T. I cried and cried and all I wanted to do was buy some blades and call it a night. Thankfully, my FaceTime friend didn’t let that happen. She kept calling and calling. I ignored her calls but responded to her texts until she made me answer the phone. She talked to me all night until she eventually gave me $1000 so I could get treatment. I know. She’s an angel.
Now that I knew I would be starting the program, I wasn’t sure what the next step really would be. Since my assessment was on a Friday night, I couldn’t get admitted until the next week and I couldn’t call outpatient until Monday.
Finally, Monday rolled around and I made the call. They told me to be there Wednesday at 9:30am. Wednesday came, I went in, and guess what… MORE PAPERWORK! Because I hadn’t done enough of that. All I did that day was fill out paperwork and then I left. It was really a waste of time, to be honest.
There was a very nice lady that talked to me while I was there. I only saw her that day because she normally doesn’t work in the daytime, but she was so kind and reassuring and she really helped me a lot. I told her I was very nervous about starting groups and that I had never done it before. She worked out a schedule with me for the next day where I would come in, do intake, and then be there for one group so I could get a feel for how it was. She held my shoulders and told me it was okay to be nervous. She said “I love to see it when you guys first come in and you’re nervous, and then, in a few days, you come in like you own the place and you’re all smiling and happy” and I told her that I didn’t think that would happen to me and she assured me it would. And… she wasn’t wrong.
The next day I came in and since that lady doesn’t normally work days, she wasn’t there. The other people didn’t know about the plan we had made the day before. I got checked in and had a seat. Yay, more waiting! I eventually got called back by a nurse to do vitals and more intake stuff. Honestly, it’s like these people never talk to each other. I had to answer the same questions with every professional that I saw.
Why are you here? What’s going on? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you self-harm? Do you have an eating disorder? Do you have a trauma in your past? Why do you do these things? Do you have a plan to hurt yourself?
They weren’t all specifically like that, but you get the gist. Same stuff over and over again. The nurse was very nice, though. I’ll give her that. After seeing the nurse, I saw my psychiatrist. I was really anxious about this one. My last psychiatrist was so terrible that I feared how this would go. But out came this small, young lady with the sweetest voice and most calming presence.
I adore her. She listened to every single thing I told her. My history with medication, why I stopped taking it, what I didn’t like, what didn’t work… everything. She actually HELPED me to find a solution and work out something that would benefit me. I found out later that even after I discharged from the program, I could continue to see her for my med management and I was so happy about that!
After meeting with her, I met with the intake therapist. She was also pretty nice. She wasn’t my favorite therapist or anything, but she wasn’t bad. She asked me those same questions again. I also had to make a safety plan with her. The only thing I really didn’t care for about her was that she didn’t seem concerned about something that I thought would be a HUGE red flag.
On the safety plan, I had to write down if I had weapons and if they were secured, if I had blades and if they were secured, and if I had access to excessive medication, which I did. I told her that I was glad to see that on the list because people always ask about guns and blades but no one ever asks about medication and I’ve thought about overdosing. I asked what I needed to write in the box if that was something I had access to and she asked if it was a threat. I was confused because I had JUST told her that I thought about taking them. Then she asked why I had it and I told her it was left over from before and she asked why I still had it. I didn’t know. Then she kind of brushed it off and said it was fine. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember that it made me feel stupid and like she wasn’t concerned.
Now, I know that didn’t paint a great picture of her, but she really wasn’t bad. She just wasn’t the warmest therapist I met while I was attending the program. She would later fill in for one of my groups and she was nice then, too.
After the intake, I had another person I had to see – another nurse. She may have been a doctor, I’m really not sure. All I know is that I did NOT like her. Not at all. She seemed super rushed, she made me feel like I was bothering her, she didn’t make me feel comfortable, and she was all around a pretty unfriendly person with no sense of personal space. During her questions, she came over to me and grabbed my wrist to look for self-harm cuts and scars. That’s when I told her that I primarily self-harm on my thighs. Had she thought to ask, she would’ve known that.
I didn’t want her to see them anyway. Had she been more gentle and seemed like she actually cared, it may have been a different story, but she didn’t.
After those very uncomfortable five minutes, I was told that I could leave. As nervous as I was about starting groups, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to attend any that day. I really wanted to meet my therapist and see what she was like. But, like I said, the lady from the day before wasn’t there so they didn’t know what we planned. I was okay with leaving – I knew I would be starting groups bright and early the next day.
The day had finally come. It was Friday, September 4th, and I was starting groups. I was beyond nervous. I got there a few minutes before 9am, got signed in, and was in line to get my temperature taken when I hear someone say “Alright, Tina’s group, let’s go!” and I froze. That was my group. Her name isn’t really Tina but, again, for anonymity purposes, that’s what we are going to call her. I looked at her and took in the sight. My psychiatrist was absolutely correct in the way she described her, and I was terrified.
Tina is a 5’11 woman with brown hair right past her shoulders with the underside shaved off. She was a bit heavier set and had on jeans and an American flag tank top. She wore thick bands on her wrists - I guess they were bracelets. She was, as my pdoc said, boisterous. I was worried.
I told her that I was supposed to be in her group, but I still had to get my temperature taken and she waited for me. As we started walking to group, I got pulled aside by my pdoc. I don’t remember what she told me. I think she was telling me that she filled a prescription for me, which I already knew because I picked it up the day before. I told her my group was gone and I didn’t know where to go, so she walked me there.
There weren’t any seats “in the back” as I had hoped. They were kind of all in the open. The room was square with chairs lined along the back and side walls, a small table in the middle of the room with 2 chairs next to it, and a desk at the from where Tina sat. I did the best I could and chose a corner seat as far away from everyone as I could possibly be. My plan was to be invisible – I was only going to observe.
As I’m waiting for group to start, a short, heavy, dark-haired woman comes in with a unicorn backpack and sunglasses. She looks at me, and then just stands there. Tina asks her what’s wrong, but I already knew. I was in her seat. So much for being invisible. I decided to just get up and move. I would suffer so everyone else would be fine. Tina did thank me, but the dark-haired woman did not. Now I was even more on edge and ready to leave, but the day was just getting started.
The first thing we do is check-in. Every morning, first thing. Tina had a piece of paper that she gave all of us with different emotions on it. She said that on our first day when she asked how we were doing, we could say ‘okay, fine, good’ or something generic. After that, she wanted us to get in the habit of using better words that would accurately describe how we were feeling because nine times out of ten, when someone says they’re ‘fine’, they’re not fine.
The questions were the same every day during check-in for every person. When she got to me, she started with “how are you doing today?” to which I responded “nervous.” She told me that was totally understandable and asked how many other people were nervous on their first day and everyone raised their hands. I knew that would happen.
The next question she asks is how many hours of sleep you got the night before, and then she asks how your appetite has been. Then she asks if you’re having any suicidal or homicidal thoughts. I learned the hard way that if you answer ‘yes’ to that question, you get to stay on break and have a chat. After that, she’ll ask you to rate your depression and anxiety on a scale of 0-10, 0 being none at all, and 10 being the worst you could possibly imagine.
During the check-in, she asks other question too so she can get a picture of what’s going on. I can’t really give examples because it’s confidential, but she would say things like ‘what’s going on?’ and ‘why do you feel that way?’ or ‘do you want to share what happened?’ and things like that. As intimidated as I was when I first met Tina, I really grew to have a love for her. She’s hands down one of the best therapists I have ever met.
The PHP program was four hours long, five days a week. The first session was 9:00am-9:45am, then we had a 15-minute break. The next session was 10:00am-10:45am and then another break, and so on until 1:00pm. I also had medication management appointments once per week. Needless to say, this was an intense program.
Some of the days seemed to drag on, others went by too fast. PHP was a lot of talk therapy. Sometimes our check-in would take up to three groups to get through. Those days, I got pretty antsy. Being on new medication didn’t help either.
If you’ve never been on psychotropics before, you may not totally understand how I was feeling. It seems I have a common reaction with ALL of these types of medicines. It’s like an uncomfortable restlessness and it’s really awful. I finally decided to look it up on Google one day and I found out that it had a name! It’s called Akathisia. Upon further investigation, I found out that there was a drug to combat this specific side effect from psychotropics! Why had I never heard of this before?? I immediately told my psychiatrist what I had found. I told her that I knew I wasn’t a doctor, but if there was any hope of me staying on this medication, we needed to fix this side effect. She sent in the prescription and voila! I was feeling better. I could finally tolerate all the medication flooding my system.
I made it through PHP and although I was sad to leave Tina, I did feel like I was ready for the next step. We said our goodbyes, I did my discharge, and I moved on to the Intensive Outpatient Program, also known as IOP.
I’m not going to lie, I was VERY skeptical of my IOP therapist when I met her. She was quiet, soft, and very, VERY, different from Tina. Her name was Kara. I had seen her around the building when I was doing PHP and always wondered how she was as a therapist. Now, I was about to find out.
She was a hard person to get to know. I didn’t understand why she would laugh at inappropriate times or why she didn’t seem to care as much as Tina did. I didn’t like that our groups felt a lot like school. But I wasn’t leaving this soon – I wasn’t ready.
After some time, I got to understand Kara and I really grew to be quite fond of her. The IOP was probably my favorite program out of the two. We did ALL KINDS of different therapy. We did art therapy, talk therapy, CBT, DBT, and my group was so supportive. I’m so thankful for the time I had in that program.
I really can’t say too much about what happened during groups because of the confidentiality policy. I CAN say that I made some true friend there and I’m still friends with them now! In fact, I have a fun story about one of the girls there. But… maybe I should save that for another blog. This one is getting pretty lengthy.
After I discharged from the IOP, I decided to continue seeing my psychiatrist at OS with the med management program. I have had two appointments with her since discharging and she is still so wonderful.
I finally got to see my regular therapist today. I only saw her once while I was in treatment and this was my fist time to see her since discharging, so it was nice to see her. We did some processing which was hard and has got me feeling very tired as I type this out. I foresee a good night’s rest in the near future!
All in all, I want to say that my time at OS was needed and helped me more than I ever could’ve imagined! I’m so thankful for my time there and everything it taught me. If you’re thinking about seeking professional help, I strongly encourage you to do so. It saved my life.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this! I hope you’re all doing well, and I am happy to be back. If you need anything at all, please reach out to me any time!
More updates soon,