Discount Psych Ward

I’m not afraid of going to a psych ward for help. I’ve been there before, and I know it’s thoroughly undramatic compared with the way it’s portrayed in the media. The downside to going there is the same for me as the downside to going anywhere else: it’s expensive, and I wouldn’t be around to help my family. Especially my daughter.

It’s the money first, really, since stays in the ward tend to be pretty short these days. You need to be an immediate danger to yourself or others to go in for any length of time. I could qualify, if I shared some of my inner landscape with admissions people–but I know myself, and I know I don’t really qualify. Not yet.

I’m in the gray area–messed up enough to be potentially at risk but not messed up enough to be in immediate danger. The gray area’s an uncomfortable place to be, and a hard place to explain to those around me. But the gray area’s also a place of opportunity–if I take it seriously, and get others to do the same, I have a chance to stay out of the hospital.

I call my attempts the Discount Psych Ward. And I’m not trying to make
Iight of treatment–if you have to go, you have to! But for me, arranging a DPW can sometimes work long enough to get me through the worst part of an episode.

I knew I needed one when I saw my therapist last week. I talked with him about some of what I’d been doing or thinking, and one thing I confessed to him was how much I’ve been thinking of cutting myself. I have a weird thing about cutting–you see, I’ve never actually done it. I just think about it. But not being able to stop hurting myself with food has me so frustrated that I’ve been wondering if cutting could be a viable, noncaloric way of acting out.

So I told him about how I’d been contemplating what sites on my body would be best, and whether razor blades are the best or should I try to get a scalpel, and do drugstores even sell plain razor blades any more. And because he knows me well, he didn’t freak out (very much.) He just wanted to know if I’ve been in touch with the psychiatrist lately and what my plan was for taking care of myself in the short term. So we agreed that I’d carry out this DPW scheme I’ve used a few times before.

The DPW requires the help of my family, and that’s the tough part. Each member of my family has a tough and stressful life lately, and asking them to put all that aside and focus on me feels so selfish. I have to keep remembering that it’s in their best interests as well to keep me out of the hospital.

So I asked my husband to stay home all weekend, and I explained to my daughter about what was going on. I’m always worried about asking things of her–during my psychology education I heard the term “parentified child” so often I hated the idea that my conditions affected her. But there are times, especially now that she is a teenager, when honesty is the best policy.

The rules: my food needed to be controlled, because the inconsistent/destructive behaviors I’ve been doing were definitely making my symptoms worse. All attempts to return to healthy status quo had failed within a couple of days lately, so being in the DPW was also meant to help me through the difficult first few days of that. Other than not eating anything off my plan and not doing anything harmful to myself, I was to have no responsibilities. I was to spend little or no time alone, even during the times when I would normally retreat to my room to be anxious by myself.

It went pretty well. We played a lot of video games. I hyperventilated a lot. My daughter did her schoolwork without much help or drama, a much appreciated contribution. I prowled through the house, hungry, and complained at great length about how hungry I was. I did not try to be mature. When my husband and I were alone, I talked more frankly than usual about my dark thoughts.

He went back to work on Monday, but I can tell that both of them are still making an effort to check in with me and not stress me out too much. I’m doing better than last week, and still sticking to the food plan. I’m grateful to have a family to help me combat my isolation, and I’m aware that not everyone like me has this. I would be foolish–and ungrateful–if I let my pride keep me from using it.

I don’t know how the coming days or weeks will go. I may end up needing a higher level of care, a level I haven’t needed since before Not This Song began. I hope not, but if it does happen it won’t be a failure, nor will it negate everything good I have written and experienced.

2 responses to “Discount Psych Ward

  1. I love the idea of a Discount Psych Ward. Great plan. I wish you the best, whether you are able to make due with the Discount Psych Ward, or whether you need the Expensive Psych Ward. Good for you that you are taking steps to take care of yourself. Bravo.

  2. You are so brave. Thank you for being so honest. Sounds like you have a great support network.

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