I once knew a woman who by her count had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, normally the same hospital, close to 20 times over a 5 year period. They knew her and she knew them and they hated it when she came. The nurses were sure that she had to be more than a little borderline since she argued with them so much.
No one at the hospital ever thought any thing they did was going to make a difference with her. If she had ever thought that it was going to help she had long since lost that notion. She could tell you what the therapists were going to say in group before it was even said. She would comfort new patients nervous about group by telling them not to worry “here is what is going to be said.” And I think she was normally right.
We talked once and she asked me why they kept on admitting her if no one thought it was going to help and I told her hospitals didn’t admit people because they could help them. They admitted them because they got paid and sometimes, particularly now days, it was hard to find enough paying customers to make a go of it.
She knew the side effects to every medication because at one time or another she had taken everyone of them. She had tried a couple of them more than once but wasn’t really sure the point of that.
Her cycle was normally about 3-4 months long. The insurance company would decide that she wasn’t a risk to herself and tell the hospital to let her go. She didn’t really have any friends or normally a place to go. A couple of times she went to group homes but she normally got kicked out of there because she was hard to get along with. She had been to most intensive outpatient programs and even finished a couple successfully. At one time she was involved with the biggest peer support program in the area but got kicked out of there for threatening to beat the hell out of other people in the program.
Normally she ended up homeless and living in her car. She would go to the parking lot of the hospital and try spending most of her time in the lounges and cafeteria. Someone would recognize her and she would tell them how desperate she felt and they would tell her to go to the ER before things got out of hand.
And she would start again.
She had a multitude of diagnoses. It depended on the favorite one of the most current psychiatrist.
She liked her current psychiatrist and thought she liked her.
Life sucked for her. She had no friends, no family. She had no job or hope of one. She was angry and sometimes obnoxious but who wouldn’t be. She was often desperate but she had every reason to be.
She was incredibly unhappy. The only real thing she had been taught to do was to go to the hospital. If you sat down and talked to her she came across as intelligent and well spoken. Sometimes she thought she had a severe mental illness and sometimes she thought it was all a bunch of crap. I don’t think she really knew what else to do.
A lot of people know that life has no cure and I think she probably knew that. It was just what she knew. It was a never ending song stuck on repeat and she didn’t know how to stop singing.
Later I found out that the hospital had finally told her she couldn’t come back. They finally decided they were part of the problem.
Last I had heard she had found another hospital.
I remember talking to one friend who had been committed when she was suicidal. I asked her about her experience. She told me it terrified her. I asked her what was the worst thing. “Everybody there thinks they are coming back. They think they are coming back and many already had multiple times. They thought I was naive for being hopeful.”
Psychiatric hospitals too often teach people they are psychiatric patients and little else. Intended or not that is the primary message of the culture for many people . It is an act of violence towards people who have only come seeking help.
I think the ship on psychiatric hospitalization sailed a long time ago for a lot of reasons. I don’t think it will ever be what it once was. I hope in the name of mental health reform we never allow it to all back again.