Narrative of a day in hospital

I wanted to reflect on what a day in hospital is like. In this blog post I draw on experiences I had during my most recent hospitalization for acute psychosis.

I wake up reluctantly. Most of the patients are preparing to go down to the cafeteria for breakfast, but I am on suicide precautions and won’t be allowed to go. I eat all of my meals on the adult general unit, not even allowed the opportunity to choose what I want. One of the cafeteria ladies chooses for me.

I lie in bed waiting for the sound of the breakfast cart, trying to catch another five minutes of sleep. Eventually it arrives and I get out of bed. Three thick slices of cold ham. I protest and ask the nurses to send up something different, but with my lactose intolerance ham is the only possible food. I am annoyed that the cafeteria has chosen today to remember my sensitivity to lactose; indeed, they forget most meals. I managed to get some eggs from one of the young girls on the unit. There are several of them and they all eat like birds.

I take my morning meds. The rest of the day is spent in a daze, only half-awake for “group” meetings. During free time I try in vain to sleep. I want to be asleep as much as possible because my thoughts are disturbing. There are fruit flies in my room and I know they contain tiny cameras. They are spying on me for the entity. If I turn the lights on, unbearable brightness floods the room. The entity monitors me through the lights. I keep the lights off. The entity implants suicidal thought after thought into my mind. Sometimes I can tell the difference between its thoughts and mine. Other times, most times, it tricks me.

Indeed, the suicidal thoughts include plans that are actionable even within the relative safety of the hospital. I have told no one about this yet, but I will today. I’m on day 2 of Zyprexa and as a result have some insight into how bad my suicidal thoughts are. I tell my doctor. As a precaution, and so that the “decision” of whether or not to act on my thoughts is taken away from me, she puts me on “one-to-one.” A staff member will henceforth monitor me at all times. My first watcher sits in the room with me, telling me how beautiful and amazing I am and how shocked he is that I’m having these thoughts. I feel uncomfortable.

Soon I am moved upstairs to the intensive ward. My new watcher is a woman who I’ve encountered on previous hospital stays. I don’t like her at all, but still she watches me sleep, eat, go to the bathroom, everything. I attend a group. I watch some television. Anything to pass the time. My watchers change throughout the day. With one of them I have a long conversation about family and school and life in general. The conversation is nice and easy.

Eventually it’s time for nighttime meds, then bed. I struggle to fall asleep. I have struggled with sleeping since starting Zyprexa. I can feel the meds seeping heavily into my system, and my heart beats quickly. My watcher continues to watch me in a chair next to my bed. When I awaken in the middle of the night, however, she is gone.

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Schizoaffective disorder

Over the past few weeks I went through an awful psychotic episode that landed me in hospital for a week. Without going into much detail, I felt like I was being monitored and controlled by an outside force, such that I began to believe I had to try to hurt/kill myself. I was hospitalized for my own safety.

While in hospital, my doctor switched out one med for another: zyprexa. So far it’s working out great! My delusions and hallucinations have mostly subsided and I’ve been able to return to school.

Another change was my diagnosis. Because I have episodes of psychosis without mood symptoms attached, my doctor diagnosed me with schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective means that I have a mood disorder (bipolar) and psychotic symptoms that occur even when I’m not manic or depressed. People tend to describe schizoaffective as a mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar, but at least in my case that’s misleading. It’s more like having bipolar but with more pronounced psychosis that happens before and/or after mood episodes end.

Anyway… hopefully soon I’ll write out a longer description of my schizoaffective symptoms. Is a hugely misunderstood diagnosis because so few people have it and there is little research.

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The past month has been rather rocky. My mood accelerated about three weeks ago into a brief manic episode. Fortunately my doctors and I caught it in time before I needed hospital.

Since then things haven’t quite gone back to normal. I don’t feel super comfortable talking about what’s been going on, but according to my doctors at least I’m having a psychotic episode. I don’t see it that way, of course.

All I’m trying to do is hang around until the end of the semester. I feel close to needing hospital, but I really don’t want to go. I want to see if I can ride this out. But I also want to be safe. We’ll see. I’ll try to update more frequently in case anyone is following.

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School is kicking into gear and I’m starting to feel the effects of its hyperdrive. To be totally honest, I am super committed to staying mentally well and have been finishing work early (is 9pm early?) and allowing myself to spend half of Saturday sleeping/DBSA meeting. But apart from that it’s work work WORK.

I have a ton of deadlines coming up for applications and I’m feeling the pressure. I need to sort out how to spend the summer back in the Middle East. I haven’t traveled internationally in 6 years… wow. Last trip was to the Middle East. I’m super nervous that I won’t get a grant. I’m even more nervous about how my mental health will hold up. I’ve been going strong mood-wise now for a month and a half. I think my last really good stretch was 2 months? So good but nothing to throw a party about yet. Let me get through a semester without needing the hospital. Then we can party.

I can do this. I can do this.

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Winter quarter beginning

On Tuesday Winter quarter starts. I am so very nervous! I’m taking two Arabic classes, even though I’m several months out of practice. I know the first few weeks will be like a crash course. I’m also TA-ing a course with a professor I haven’t even met. So many unknowns.

Mood-wise I’m doing okay. OCD-wise I’m not. My anxiety has been a little out of control, which is pretty normal for this time of year. Still, it has been hell worrying about every little thing under the sun.

I’m also worried about having an episode during this quarter. This time last year I had my worst ever manic episode.

Despite everything, I’m going to try to hang in there. I know I have better meds and better support than I did this time last year. I hope I can make it through the quarter without needing hospital.

Wish me luck!

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Modafinil, day 6

Day 6 of Modafinil and the energy and excitement I experienced early on has faded. It’s not waking me up anymore. So frustrating! I’m going to ask my psychiatrist tomorrow for a higher dose, but my guess is that he won’t go for it. I also have to report to him seeing what might visual hallucinations over the past few weeks, and I’m worried he’ll decide I’m unstable. I’m not, I think.

Anyway, wish me luck dealing with him tomorrow.

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Modafinil: success!

For the past 6-7 months I’ve been struggling with hypersomnia. My body seems to require 12+ hours of sleep per night, which is NOT feasible as a graduate student. I was so distressed by this that I starting messing with medication dosages, and this nearly lead to hospital.

I finally asked my psychiatrist for a stimulant and he prescribed me Modafinil. I’m only on day #3 but I feel amazing. I was only hoping that the stimulant would wake me up (it doesn’t really), but it’s mainly helped my mood and concentration. I’m cooking up project after project and I have energy and drive to follow through.

Of course, I’m going to have to be careful that I don’t get too high on this stuff. The last thing in the world that I need right now is a manic episode. But I’m hopeful. Nothing too out of the norm yet (apart from the need to have periodical dance parties in my kitchen…).

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