The Monotony Of Mental Illness

I am writing this blog as in inpatient in a psychiatric ward. I cringe as I type the words ‘psychiatric ward’ and the horrible images it incites. To be fair it’s a very plush psychiatric ward, and houses only low risk patients. So not full wall to wall padded cells and mattresses on the floor, like I imagined prior to my first admission. It is more like a hotel (it even has a gym!) with bonus sleeping pills and a TMS machine. The only difference from a hotel room mainly is that people come and check on you each hour during the night, and the taps in your bathroom are the sort you can’t hang yourself from. Also, the food probably isn’t as good as you’d get in a hotel. The above image is of my dinner. You be the judge.

I am just in for two days this time. I have found that a treatment called TMS has worked well for me in the past. TMS is a noninvasive treatment using a big magnet placed on top of your head to stimulate your brain to make endorphins (happy brain chemicals). It is only available to inpatients, hence my current admission. Though my current admission may just be for two days to get myself back on track after my mood has recently begun to drop, I have had admissions in the past for a great deal longer than two days.

Mental illness is for many people a chronic condition. Th term ‘chronic’ is medical jargon for ‘this shit never fully goes away’. The first thing I think when I notice my warning signs of not doing so well is ‘Seriously, this AGAIN? I do not have time for this shit!’ Of course the not having time for this shit is usually something that makes it worse because the more I panic about the toll it takes on myself and my family, the more I become consumed with guilt, self pity and frustration. All things which do not improve mental health.

Now that I am a parent taking the time I need to get better when I am unwell is even harder. The days of being able to have a month long hospital admission for a course of TMS are long gone. Looking back on them the opportunity to do them actually seems like a luxury. Not that it did at the time, but you know hindsight being what it is and all.

After years of dealing with anxiety and depression I have realised that they will always take up room in my life. I don’t want them to, but my not wanting them in my life doesn’t do anything but magnify the burden. So now I figure I just need to make room for them. I have been OK-ish with that for a few years now. Having a child and adding her to the equation has been a learning curve. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t upset me knowing that there will be times during her life where I need to take time out to get better and come into hospital. She comes in each day to visit me here, oblivious to her surroundings being any different to any other place she visits outside the home. She is a real fan amongst the nurses too, doesn’t hurt that the kid is a freakishly high level of adorable and likes to give everyone cuddles.

I worry sometimes what it will do to her watching me come in here as she grows up. If it will damage her, or somehow break her. I wonder if other mothers worry about breaking their children as often as I do (I think the answer to that is probably yes). But then I think that having a mother who gets professional help for her problems and faces that shit head on is probably less damaging that someone who denies they have a problem, or turns to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Or any number of other maladaptive behaviours that many people who don’t get help for their mental illness, or just emotional baggage in general. Perhaps seeing her mother being wise enough to know when she needs help and taking steps to get it is actually a really good behaviour to model for her.

Perhaps the part of myself I feared for so long would make me a horrible mother will actually be a source of strength and resilience I model for my daughter that helps her through life. I hope so. I really do.

While we are on the subject of putting a positive spin on things it turns out that the mashed potato in my hospital dinner was actually some of the best I have ever eaten. I think it was 80% butter bound by potato. Plus it was free (well, my insurance company paid for it) so I guess things aren’t as bad as I thought.

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