Why the need to ask?

I don’t quite get why people feel the need to ask the who/what/when/why of scars. Especially when there are a number of them, and let’s face it, aren’t my most attractive feature. I mean, I can kinda understand when there’s one recent wound, and people ask as a curiosity/sympathy/”are you okay” type thing. But when there’s a number of old scars…

A couple of OT friends noticed the scars on my legs and asked how I got them. I shrugged, said “I don’t know” and looked away. We then had a Counselling and Group Work tutorial in which our tutor briefly spoke about self harm, how it’s a way to cope and is not necessarily a suicide attempt. Straight after our tutorial one of the friends then asked me whether it’s from self harm. I ignored her and said nothing, while the other friend laughed and joked “We just had the tutorial so now you’re asking about self harm.”

Later on in the day my friend then took it upon herself to ask again, remarking that she doesn’t understand how I don’t know how I got them, that even if she fell, a person wouldn’t get that many scars. “Oh my gosh, why do you keep asking?” I asked in a light-heartedly exasperated way.

That night I received a text from my other friend which said that she thought it was quite immature for our two other friends to be joking about self harm like that, she noticed I looked uncomfortable and she was sorry I had to experience that. This is a friend who knows I have mental health issues so she could probably infer the scars are actually from self harm. I texted back that I appreciated her message and that I imagined our two friends joked about it because they didn’t realise what they were joking about was actually the truth.

Many of my scars have faded over the years and I’ve had a lot of time to get used to them so their questions about it don’t really bother me all that much as I just brush it off. I’m at the stage where though it’s not something I want to announce to everyone I know, it’s also not something I go to great lengths to hide any more. What I don’t understand though is why people are insistent on knowing how someone got their scars. I know what may seem obvious to me and others who have or know someone who has self harmed isn’t so obvious to them. But even if the scars aren’t from self harm, why do they probe so much curiosity? To me they’re just scars and not a big deal.

Content

It’s been over a week now that I’ve moved out, and I’m beginning to settle in and even enjoy my new found freedom and independence. At first there were bumps, as I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I missed my home, where I had spent the majority of my life. There were tears as I wondered whether I could really cope and even contemplated picking up and going back. But now I’m glad I took the initiative to escape a situation I did not want to be in.

Moving to a new area, I went to see a new GP close by. He issued me the scripts I asked for; Pristiq and Seroquel, with enough repeats to last six months. Prior to this I had still been having only a week’s worth of medication dispensed to me at a time. Though it may be a little deceitful of me not to disclose this to the GP, I was tired of having to go to the pharmacy every week. Besides, I haven’t overdosed in 9 months and if I really wanted to, I could anyway. And for the moment, I don’t. Things are going well. I’ve finally moved out. I passed all my units at uni and will be going into my third year of occupational therapy in 2013. I have friends, and I even have a boyfriend now. The guy I’d been dating has become my boyfriend, in fact my first at the age of 21. And I too am his first, at the age of 25. For now, I am rather content.

Stepping back from being unwell

I like periods of wellness. It’s….nice. It’s nice not to be plotting my own demise at every spare moment, it’s nice not to be curled up in a ball crying because I just can’t cope, it’s nice when there are things and activities I want to participate in and it’s nice when misery is not all that’s crowding my mind. It’s easier to want to be well when things are already pretty okay. It’s then not so hard to imagine what it may be like. In contrast, when things aren’t so great, it’s hard to see a way out, and harder to let go of mental illness. It starts to feel like a part of who you are, a part of who you always will be.

I feel less of a need to blog when I’m not consumed by sadness and also less of a need to read other people’s blogs. The opposite is true when I’m not so well. I feel drawn to reading about mental health issues, desperate to know I’m not alone. While it does serve that purpose, I suspect it can also become a perpetuating cycle where it isn’t exactly doing my mood any favours. And even when I am quite well, it can still be a danger.

Needing to prove how awful I feel is something I struggle with, and wanting to compete for who’s the sickest is something I feel compelled to do. It can then become quite triggering for me when I read or hear about how unwell someone is. When someone is in hospital. When someone’s attempted suicide. When someone’s lost X amount of weight and now has a BMI of an average 12 year old. When someone has friends, family, partners, relatives, professionals all worried about them. When someone’s self harmed to the point of needing stitches. I found out through Facebook my room mate when I was inpatient at H Clinic almost exactly a year ago is currently back in hospital for her eating disorder. And even though I really don’t like H Clinic, it’s still somewhat triggering to read about it all on Facebook.

Knowing this, sometimes it can be good to take a step back from it all. Participate in other aspects of my life- aspects which don’t involve being sick with mental health issues.

Met K

I met with K, the replacement psychologist for I, this afternoon. She acknowledged that yes, she is temporary while the psychologist I am meant to be seeing is away, so I may not want to go into the deep stuff when I won’t have the opportunity to get to trust her and see her for a longer period of time. And so we talked about general and some rather light hearted stuff. Stuff which included my cultural background, what I do when I’m not studying, where I did my prac placements, countries I’ve visited and would like to visit, and my cute little Maltese-shihtzu puppy. She also explained that when people are discharged from hospital they usually offer a psychiatrist appointment as follow up. “Psychiatrists can have some helpful things,” she said, which I struggled not to laugh at, but was told that ultimately it’s my choice whether I go or not. I see her again in a fortnight.

Later on in the afternoon I called to cancel the psychiatrist appointment meant for next Wednesday. “What’s the reason for cancelling?” I was asked by the receptionist. “Ummm….” I stalled, not expecting to have been asked. “Just so I can put it in the computer,” I was told. “Umm…I just don’t need to see him,” I answered. It’s not the principle of seeing a psychiatrist I object to, it’s that I’ve met him once and felt uncomfortable and he’s not someone I’m able to talk to. There have been a couple of psychiatrists I’ve found okay and would more willingly attend an appointment with. Unfortunately he isn’t one of them. While I was at A St to see K today, I saw that my psychiatrist whilst I was in hospital in October/November last year is now one of the outpatient psychiatrists at A St. See he was okay, why couldn’t I have been allocated to him? Instead I get allocated to the one I don’t feel comfortable with. Sigh.

Dr L provided me with new scripts today and typed up a letter, instructing me to hand it to the pharmacist. The contents of the letter basically asked the pharmacist to only dispense my medications weekly. That’s a big assumption to make, that I’d willingly hand over the letter to the pharmacist myself. Was very tempted to just not do so- how would Dr L know? In the end I did. I’d like to say it was my integrity and honesty, but really, it’s just me being afraid of the consequences I may have to face if I don’t and I’m found out. “It’s a good excuse to go shopping!” remarked Dr L of the weekly trips I will now have to make to this shopping centre. Except hey, I don’t have spare money to spend on frivolous things after spending $123 on Pristiq and Seroquel today. Yay!

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with M for lunch whom I first met when we were both inpatient in Oct/Nov. A social meet up with a friend? Well that’s something new. According to my diary records, it’s only been since February that I haven’t met up with friends. It feels a lot longer than that though 😦

4th year students

If all had gone smoothly at Uni, if I’d stuck to one degree and managed to pass everything, I’d be in fourth year right now. But alas, I’d failed, switched from pharmacy to OT and therefore am only in second year. What it means though is that people from primary and high school, people I started Uni with are now in fourth year. And for many, as it will be for me too, fourth year is placement year.

Yesterday a couple of med students had a chat with me. Fourth year med students. There’s only one medical school in my city and I have a couple of friends who study med. One of which is a good friend from primary school whom I still meet up with every once in a while. She had visited me last year in hospital too. And so I asked them whether they knew my two friends. They did. Upon finding out which high school I attended, they asked me if I knew one of their med colleagues who also went to my high school. I confirmed I did. Luckily for me, they didn’t go into any deep stuff regarding my mental health issues, apart from asking me what meds I’m on. Whether it’s because of the mutual friends thing I’m not sure, but I’m glad anyway.

When I first arrived on the ward, I saw who I presumed to be a student or admin staff. She looked a little familiar, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. It was only later when I saw her walking alongside the pharmacist that I realised. She’s a pharmacy student. Here on her rotation. And I had attempted the first year of pharmacy at Uni with her. In the ten or so days I’ve been here, I haven’t seen much of her around. Today though, she was in the nurses station doing work. After some consideration, I decided to speak to my nurse about making sure she did not read or have access to my file. I mean, even I dread to know and am too afraid to ever want to find out what’s been written about me. Let alone a former fellow student who may know me and does know some of my friends.

Sigh. How did this happen that all these people I studied with and were equal with are now in these positions of power?!

Isolation and loneliness

I know that isolation is not conducive for good mental health. I know that social relationships and interactions are important components of human occupation- I should as an OT student. I know it in theory and I know it from past experience. But I still become trapped in the confines of my bedroom, growing increasingly lonely as a result. Uni’s out, exams are over and for the past couple of weeks I’ve been mainly stuck at home. Loneliness is pushing me further into the grasps of depression. And I don’t know how to fix it.

‘Leave the house & have lunch with someone!’ tweeted M, whom I met during my most recent hospitalisation. Which is all well and good, except, LOL I don’t actually have anyone to have lunch with.

Earlier in the week I viewed some photos posted on Facebook and Twitter. Photos of three of my pharmacy friends at a get together. Without me. Awesome. It’s especially awesome given these pharmacy friends are the only ones I go out with to hang out. Two of them have also recently acquired boyfriends, meaning all four of them are now in a relationship. Except me. Fuelling the thought that they’re also now going to be too busy spending time with their boyfriends to bother with me and I’m going to be left forever alone. Friendless and boyfriendless.

In hospital I recall the Clinical Nurse Specialist responsible for conducting a number of the groups voicing his concern that I’d return home upon discharge, spend all my energy getting through my exams, then after that spend all my time alone at home with a resultant drop in mood. He suggested that even though I didn’t get all that much from groups, coming along as an outpatient anyway just to get out of the house and for something to do. On the day of my discharge, he again asked if I wanted to continue attending groups. Knowing he knows I’m not the biggest fan of group, I laughed and declined with a “Mmm, no thanks!” “Well I had to ask,” he replied good humouredly. I thought I’d be fine with the stress of exams behind me. How could he, someone who’d known me only for a few weeks, get his hypothesis so right, yet me knowing me my whole life, still get it so wrong?

Pharmacy students visiting psych hospitals

My third year pharmacy friends have been visiting hospitals this semester as part of their course prac requirements. Today L attended G Hospital, the largest public psychiatric hospital in the state. Afterwards she tweeted,

L: [G Hospital]…not scary at all. Just hell smelly ><

N, another pharmacy friend, then tweeted back to L and asked:

N: Hahaha. Why smelly?

The conversation then continued on from there:

L: idno just a really nauseating smell in the wards…:s are u gng there?

N: Oh ok. Nope, [Children’s Hospital] today, then [H Private Hospital (I’ve been a psych IP here…)] and [Public Hospital (Been a psych IP here too…)]. I miss out. 😦

L: haha it wasn’t tht special…I was expecting it to b way creepier!

N: Haha. I’m still interested, D said he got to see someone with bipolarism.

L: awwhh I got to see nothinnnng. Just couple of ppl wandering around normally 😦

N:  Oh ok lol, guess it depends on luck + the particular week day what you get to see.

Watching this conversation unfold on my timeline…really I just wanted to scream with frustration.

Why were you expecting it to be creepy, L? It’s just a hospital. A place where people who are ill can obtain treatment. What about when you came to visit me when I was inpatient in the psychiatric clinic then? Was that creepy for you? Granted, it was a private hospital and the patients there are generally not as unwell as those in G Hospital. But still.

And oh my goodness N, your friend saw someone with bipolar disorder, or ‘bipolarism’ as you say? And what, people with bipolar are such freaks of nature that you find it so fascinating that someone actually set eyes on this person?! Guess what, chances are you’ve seen someone with bipolar too! People with bipolar and other mental illnesses walk among you every day. At uni, in shopping centres, in your suburb…

L, why are you so disappointed that you only saw a couple of people walking around normally? What did you expect, everyone to be tearing their hair out, screaming and drooling everywhere, running around madly and climbing off the walls or something? It may surprise you, but yes, people with mental illness do actually walk around just like everybody else.

Sadly, these are students in their second last year at uni, in which after they graduate, will be eligible to become fully fledged pharmacists. A couple of years off being regarded as a health professional, and they still have such misconceptions about what people with mental illness look like and how they behave.

I really wanted to respond to their tweets and question them on their beliefs. But instead, I held back. I guess I don’t want to be seen as that one who’s always pulling people up on things, who’s always being too intense and over-sensitive. Then there’s also the awkward factor in reminding people that yes, I am one of them, the people you talk about who are or have been hospitalised for their mental illness.

It’s bizarre…

…how small the world really is.

In this post, C commented that she thought she knew who my psychiatrist was. Later on we DMed each other on Twitter and I asked who she thought my pdoc was. She got it right on the first go. Apparently she came to my blog through a comment I made on another blog. I’m amazed at the coincidence of her finding my blog and having been inpatient at The H Clinic too where I was, though she was on the Eating Disorders Program. The reason she knows Dr T is because a couple of her friends have her. Apparently they find Dr T okay. Guess it’s just me then. Haha.

It gets even better too.

I searched her email address on Facebook and it turns out we have a couple of friends in common, two people I worked with at H Prison Pharmacy. I noticed C’s surname is the same as one of our mutual friends M. And then it clicked.

At work I used to bring a small salad for lunch. M noticed this and asked my aunt (who also works at the pharmacy) to warn me against eating so little. I guess M felt it’s not in her place to do so herself. And so my aunt told me of M’s relative who was very skinny, ate very little, ended up in hospital for months with weakened bones or something or rather and as a consequence fell behind at Uni. All this to warn me and scare me into eating more. Or something. I guess.

How extremely bizarre that many months later, by chance I’d meet online the very person M and my aunt were warning me not to become.

I haven’t told C of my discovery in our DMs. I’d imagine it’s not exactly thrilling to be used as an example of how NOT to end up. And besides, I don’t want to risk having my identity revealed to people I know in real life. But just…wow. My city and the internet feels really tiny sometimes. Gotta be careful online!

Coping with hospital

Twelve days now I’ve been here at H Clinic. I just feel drained. A couple of days ago I couldn’t handle the urge to self harm anymore. I managed to break off the blade of a sharpener. Made a cut on my arm. It’s not that deep, but deeper than the other cuts I’ve done on my arm in the past. Stupid stupid me. What happened to my resolve to never do it on such an obvious place as my arm?

Yesterday I was tempted to self discharge. Found it difficult to cope with being here in the clinic. This feeling was predominantly set off by a comment made by another patient in group.

I shake my leg repetitively when anxious. It’s just something I do to try to reduce that tension I’m feeling. Being in group isn’t the easiest at the best of times, and the fact that I was meeting with the Uni’s disability counsellor later in the day didn’t help my anxiety at all. And so, while in group, the woman sitting next to me made the comment to the entire room that she doesn’t like people shaking their legs. She even went so far as to use her folder to hold up to her face to shield me from her vision at one point. Another woman then put it out to the group that this is a mental health clinic and you do see a lot of [leg shaking] here. I was almost in tears and ready to leave the room right then. But I stayed until the end and as soon as group ended I bolted from the room and bawled.

I already have anxiety and social anxiety so having that comment made didn’t help at all. It served to make me insecure about what others and especially her think about me and apprehensive about attending groups.

I was dismayed to find the girl coming in whom I would next be sharing a room with has an eating disorder. I’ve spoken to her and she’s lovely, but two people with eating issues sharing a room? Really?! I walked out of the bathroom last night to hear her and the nurse talking about eating and purging. Couldn’t handle it so I walked out. I walk into the room again, I find her in the bathroom and I’m suspicious she’s been purging. Come today, and this time it’s me who’s throwing up the contents of my stomach down the toilet bowl. While my eating issues now are not nearly as bad as they used to be, I still do occasionally find myself purging what I’ve eaten. Which has happened three times in the twelve days I’ve been in hospital. So I don’t think it’s very good for either of us to be sharing the room, despite my not being on the ED program to seek treatment for it unlike her.

This morning I was still feeling fragile and found myself getting a bit emotional in art therapy. The afternoon was an improvement, as a friend came to visit, we went for a stroll and sat down to smoothies at a cafe.

Dr T came for a quick round today in the middle of my 5:30pm dinner and says she will be in to see me again tomorrow. My Pristiq has been increased to 100mg as of two days ago. Meanwhile I’m still unsure as to when I’ll be discharged. Fourteen days does seem rather long to have not slept in my own bed and eaten my mother’s home cooked meals. Hospital food has really lost its appeal to me.

Family meeting

Family meeting occurred this afternoon between my parents, Dr T and I. I’m left so freakin’ peeved. It’s not what was actually said, though being talked about as if you weren’t there is always uncomfortable. No, it was more Dr T’s suggestion to my mother. She suggested that my mother take care of my medications, give it to me each morning and make sure I’m taking it. She did acknowledge that it doesn’t stop me from going out and purchasing my own medicines, stashing it and taking an overdose. She could tell I wans’t keen on the idea at all. But that still didn’t stop her from suggesting it. So flipping angry. I do take my medication each morning, no more, no less. Okay, well, unless I feel the urge to overdose. But otherwise, I do and had been taking it as prescribed. ARGH. I so do not appreciate being treated in such a condescending manner, for eff’s sake, I can look after my own medication. I am an adult. Furthermore, if I really wanted to die, I wouldn’t take SSRIs, SNRIs or benzos. The angry, childish part of me wants to take another OD of medications not prescribed to me, just to prove that I can and they can’t stop me. Gdjshnjsjfjkdfndhfafhj. Massively pissed off.

Other things said included my father mentioning that this [my ODing] has happened four times already. Couldn’t help smirking a little. Forth? Try tenth. Dr T also mentioned the delay in getting me admitted, as I didn’t used to have private health insurance, she didn’t realise I now do and how the public wards, such as the one I was on last time, are a bit different as they don’t admit you for very long. What she neglected to mention that as well as not admitting you for very long, public wards are well…absolute holes. As another patient said to me this morning, “They [the other patients] just don’t understand how easy it is here compared to public wards.” We swapped stories and experiences. I’ve found that the majority of patients here have not been admitted to public psychiatric wards before and have only ever been at private clinics. Lucky them.

My parents enquired as to how long I’d be likely to need medication, and how much longer I’d be an inpatient here. Dr T replied at least a year, possibly two in regards to the medication, and at least another week as an inpatient. Another week? Bah. A little bit over being an inpatient here, or as another patient so aptly put it, being ‘incarcerated’. Had a mighty laugh at that description when a patient utilised it in group. “Well no, voluntarilly,” the psychologist running the group protested.

Friends I made in the first University course attempted came to visit for the first time. Though at the beginning a bit awkward, especially when I was questioned as to how I ended up here in the first place, it was nice catching up and having a chat.

I’ve obtained day leave tomorrow to attend Uni, on the condition that I be dropped off and picked up by my parents. Dr T has written me a letter to hand in as part of my request for an extention;

Re: Ms BtF

DOB: 01/11/1991

This is to state that Ms BtF is under my care and currently an inpatient at H Clinic for further treatment for her depression and anxiety. She has had a severe relapse of this in the preceding 4-6 weeks, eventually needing admission on 06/05/2011 as an acute admission. I would be grateful if the University could take into account her illness and provide an extension period to complete assignments due to mitigating factors above.

Thank you,

Dr T

Wow, I’m so thrilled to be handing in a letter containing the phrases ‘severe relapse’ and ‘acute admission.’ Makes me sound a bit of a nut case. Still, I suppose that could work to my advantage in being granted extensions. Not so much in proving I am a competent OT student though. Heh.