Category Archives: group therapy

Psych Hospitals – The Not So Scary Truth

Don’t take me!  I don’t want to go.  I’m not going!!!

Going to a psychiatric hospital can be incredibly scary.  There are a lot of horror stories about them.  And for the most part, in today’s society, the horror stories are not true.  I say “for the most part” because I know that for some people, they have had bad things happen to them.  But, in general, most facilities are safe places, where people can go and get the care they needed.  They are not strapped down for hours and hours, stabbed with needles, and/or drugged up and drooling on a couch.

As I have mentioned a few times on here before, I have a little bit of experience with psychiatric hospitalizations. 17 different hospitalizations to be exact – at 7 different facilities. 

  • 1 in Texas
  • 4 in Indiana
  • 2 in Florida

Out of all of these facilities, I would say I had bad experiences at 2 of them, and out of those 2, only one of those was a really horrible experience, and I would say I would absolutely never want to be admitted to that hospital again.  Despite that, I know people that have been admitted to that hospital, and have had completely different experiences than me – so I don’t know, perception of how I compared it to the other hospitals I went to maybe?

All of these hospitalizations ranged in time differences – from as short as 3 days to one as long as 6 months at a state hospital (that hospital was probably the best hospital I was ever at). 

The reason why I really am writing this, is because far to often people talk about their bad experiences at the psych hospital.  No one really talks about how much it might have helped them. This tends to scare people off from actually going and getting help when they need it.  They are scared they might lose their kids, or they will never get out, they will be restrained and tied to a bed, they will be treated bad. 

This isn’t true though.  I can’t promise every hospital is going to be amazing.  It isn’t a 5 star hotel, and some hospitals are newer and better than others.  But it is a safe place if you are in danger of hurting yourself or others.  It is a place for you to get help.  Unless there is abuse or neglect of your kids where they are in immediate danger, they wont take away your kids if you have someone to watch them while you are there – you will get them back (per every situation I have ever encountered with people that have had kids).  You might be there 1 day (unless you are under a 72 hour hold), or you might be there a month – but that is between you and the doctor and how you feel you are doing.  If you are not a danger to yourself or others though, they cannot keep you in there against your will. 

I know it might not seem like the hospitals helped me at all, considering I was in and out of them so much.  But they did!  They saved my life.  If it wasn’t for them, I would be dead.  I would go on and off my medication, I was non compliant.  I didn’t think I needed help.  I didn’t know how to accept the help.  Every time I went in I hated life and wanted to die – or had actually attempted suicide.  They would bring me back to reality, get me back on my meds.  Get me into the group therapy there, the techs would talk to me, the psychiatrist would talk to me.  I relearned how to use my coping skills.  I got stabilized.  For the time being anyway.  For me, it took more than an acute care hospital – it took the state hospital.  For most, it doesn’t take that though.  But for me, that state hospital literally saved me from destruction. 

I spent 6 months there and I was scared to go.  When they told me I was being committed I was scared.  Yet, I didn’t even think much of it at the same time.  I was so over hospitals and assumed I would kill myself no matter what it didn’t phase me.  In the end, after 6 months, I was a new person.  Yes, I still struggle, but I think about how much time and effort everyone put into teaching me how to live again, not just survive in life but actually live.  The psychiatrist, nurse, medical doctors, therapists, psychologists, techs, recreational therapists – it was amazing how much everyone cared. 

People at psych hospitals do care.  It is a not a gloomy place where patients are catatonic and drugged up, tied to chairs and beds.  Groups take place, patients make friends, support is given. I still have friends from some of my hospitalizations in the acute care hospitals and friends from the state hospital.  And we keep in touch more often than other friends because they understand me much better.

If you need help, reach out.  Take it.  It is there.  Don’t be scared.

Lack of Mental Health Resources

There is such a lack of mental health services and even if there are resources available access to them is quite hard.  For example, I live in a larger city (Tampa, FL), and there are quite a few psychiatrists and therapists around.  Many of them do not accept insurance at all (only self pay), many only take a few insurance plans, and those that do accept most insurance plans have long waiting periods to even get an appointment (3-6 months to get an intake).

What are you supposed to do when you need medication but you cannot get in to see your doctor?  Go to a hospital?  You aren’t suicidal and you don’t have insurance – but the only way to get your medication is by getting admitted to a psych hospital?  And in some areas, they do not even have enough psychiatric beds in hospitals even if you are suicidal, so they simply send you home when you are in danger (sadly, this does happen).

I was lucky enough to live in a town in Indiana for 6 years where I obtained great services.  I unfortunately was not functioning well enough to get much help from them, but they provided therapy 2x a week, case management 3x a week, psychiatry 1x a month, a clubhouse that was open 7:30am-3pm, and on call services 24 hours a day.  They had their own hospital affiliated with their clinic.  When I had insurance they accepted it.  When I didn’t have insurance they worked with me for a reduced rate ($11/apt).   This was completely unavailable when I moved to Florida though.  I left the state hospital in Indiana and moved to Florida with absolutely no services for the most part.  I had a 3 month wait for the psychiatrist (luckily it was set up while I was still in the hospital, but I still had 1 month after I moved here).  This office was horrible though.  My appointment would be at 1pm, but I wouldn’t see the psychiatrist til 5 or 6pm.  And this was a regular occurrence – I wouldn’t actually see the psychiatrist until 4-6 hours after my schedule appointment time.  I couldn’t handle it and finally scheduled an appointment with another psychiatrist, but it took a 3 month weight, and of course, this one didn’t take my insurance so I am self pay.

There are just far too few mental healthcare professionals today.  They are one of the lowest paid specialties in the medical field.  With the high cost of medical school, few people choose to go into the field.  In many areas, there are only private practices as well and not community mental health clinics.  Private practice clinics do not offer many of the services that a community mental health clinic can offer such as case managers, medication management, and most importantly a reduced/sliding scale fee that many people may need.

More attention needs to be focused on increasing resources geared towards mental health.  Not simply just creating awareness, but actually doing something about it.  Fixing the system.  Adding more healthcare providers.  Getting people more inspired to go into the field.  Adding more psychiatric nurse practioner programs to help aid reducing the time patients have to wait to see someone.  Increasing funding for hospitals so that patients are not turned away.  If someone goes to a hospital for help, they should not be told that they cannot get it.

This lack of mental health resources needs to be addressed.

 

Denial and Learning Acceptance

Last night at my NAMI support group meeting we started talking about how many of us were in denial when we were first diagnosed.  It made me think about when I was first diagnosed.

In one way, I was very relieved.  My whole life I had been suffering with immense emotional pain.  I had been severely depressed and had suicidal thoughts since I was about 10 years old.  I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what and I didn’t want to be different, especially as a kid and teenager.  So when I finally got my diagnosis, it was a huge relief – it was a medical issue, there was a name for it, I could take medicine!

But then – it hit me.  There WAS something wrong with me, I had to take medicine for it, people thought that “people like me” were not normal and that we could just snap out of it – not that it was a medical problem. I didn’t want people to judge me.  I was already judging me.  What would others think of me?  I didn’t want to take medications for the rest of me life.

Denial caused me a lot of harm.  I would start the medication and I would stop the medication.  I would start it and then just not want to take it.  I hate taking meds, so that would be one reason.  Then I would just end up back in the hospital.  Or, I would start the medication and it would actually make me feel better!!! And so I would quit taking it, because of course, I thought I didn’t need it anymore – I was fine, why was I on meds in the first place?  Then, the downhill spiral would occur once I was off and I was back in the hospital.  For me, meds are needed.  As I have mentioned in some posts before, not everyone needs them and some can function fine without them.  But for me, I need them, so when I was in denial, and felt I didn’t need the meds, it just caused my mental illness to get completely out of control.

It wasn’t until I hit completely rock bottom.  It wasn’t after my first suicide attempt, my second suicide attempt, or even my 7th or 8th suicide attempt.  It was after I was finally admitted to the state hospital, and 3 months into that admission when they decided to get the court order to extend the commitment another 3 months because I was not progressing, that I realized I did have a problem.  I realized I NEEDED to accept that I had mental illness.  I needed to learn about my bipolar, my PTSD, my borderline personality disorder.  I am still learning about all of them.  I needed to learn to cope with them.  I needed to learn to take my medications as prescribed and not be more own doctor.

When we are first diagnosed, it can be a relief but it can also be scary.  Education and a good support system is the best thing we can do and have.  It is hard to accept our illnesses at first, especially when there is a stigma attached to it.  I have learned to open up to those around me, even if they are not willing to accept the diagnosis.  I will continue to educate those around me as much or as little as they are open and willing to learn.  Just as I slowly had to open up my own mind to learning, those around us will do the same.  Attending the NAMI support groups and the MHA support groups really helped me to gain the acceptance, support, understanding, and education about my illness.  With the help of others with mental illness as well as my long term hospitalization, I have really come to terms with what I will, most likely, be dealing with the rest of my life.  But, I know I will be able to face it head on, and I am ready for it now!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Having PTSD has made my life extremely hard. Waking up from nightmares, going into panic attacks in the middle of the day, suddenly having a flashback, having horrible social anxiety as if people can just tell about my past and are judging me, guilt about things that happened, and even the awful thoughts about suicide.

While many tend to relate PTSD to veterans that have come back from war, often PTSD is related to other traumas that civilians have experienced – such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, natural disasters, or violent crime (anything that might have caused physical harm or the threat of physical harm).

There are three stages of PTSD. You can experience one stage at a time or multiple stages at a time:

1: Re-experiencing
-Nightmares
-Flashbacks

2. Avoidance
-Staying away from places, events, things that are reminders
-Numbing your emotions
-Having trouble remembering the event

3. Hyperarousal
-Being easily startled
-Being on edge

I did not understand how I easily got through life from 8th grade – 12th grade without having any problems despite being sexually abused and then suddenly fell apart after my rape and other issues in college. Upon talking to my therapist I realized I had been in the avoidance stage at those times and so I had numbed myself and avoided things that reminded me of the situation so I wouldn’t have to face it.

Children will deal with PTSD in similar stages, but they will also have slightly different symptoms as well. Bedwetting, acting out, and being clingy might also occur.

There are different treatments for PTSD:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Talk Therapy

Group Therapy

Family Therapy

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I currently am working with a therapist at a crisis center that specialized in trauma therapy. We are doing talk therapy at the moment, but focusing on different techniques to help me process through the trauma – rewind techniques, collages, etc. I couldn’t talk at first, but slowly as I have begun to trust her more, I have opened up more. It has been extremely hard, but I know that it is for the best.

As easy as it might be to try and forget that it never happened, eventually the trauma might come up and haunt you eventually. Some people can work through it on their own, but many cannot. It is always good to work with a trained professional and talk through it with them. Let them help you process through your thoughts and feelings about what happened and how you are dealing with it. Having a good support system will also help you out a lot. I did not have therapy as a child and I avoided talking about my traumas with anyone until I completely broke down. Twelve years after my first trauma and 8 years after my second trauma, I am finally facing them. Even though it has been incredibly hard, I know it is the best decision I have ever made because it is going to pay off in the long run for my mental health.