Monday, August 29, 2011

Healing and recovery begin

Being in the new ward was where the healing and recovery began. Suddenly I found I was busy. It felt like I was in College. Each morning I was up and showered by 6:30am and off to breakfast before classes began. Some of the classes were light and educational. (In other words, boring and mandatory,..) But some were quite intense. Apparently we must peel off all the layers of our life. Like an onion. (Theres a lot of crying before it’s all done) before we can build ourselves back up again on a more solid foundation. These classes were hard work emotionally and I usually felt quite drained afterwards. I had no idea just how hard all this “getting better” was going to be.
It’s why I enjoyed my meal times so much. It was like “recess”. The cafeteria was a buzz of every patient from every ward in the whole hospital coming together. I’m a people watcher. And this place had a whole lot of variety of different folks to watch.
Our ward (Trillium 1) was usually the first in line. We joked amongst ourselves what gluttonous pigs we have become. Next to come are usually the H.A.B.S. This is the drug and alcohol addiction ward. There are a lot of tattoo’s and funky hairdo’s with this group. Then theres what I call “The Sticks”. (and I use this term affectionately having been an anorexia survivor myself,....) Girls from the Eating Disorder Unit. They keep to themselves. Huddled up at a table talking calories and exercise. I’ve never seen a stick actually eat anything more than salad and coffee. Some of these girls are so painfully thin they have to drive around the hospital on scooters because they’re too frail to walk for any length of time. And so it goes. All patients from all the wards getting together. It really is a mixed bunch.
I have been in Homewood now since August 4th. ~ 26 days ~  I’m not sure how long I will have to be here. I don’t mind really. I know it’s helping me to get well. And it’s not exactly a hardship. All meals made for you (No dishes!!) Hot tub, massages, work out room, bowling alley, crafts, miles of lovely trails to walk,…. And every night is like a slumber party in the patient lounge. We all sit in our jammies watching TV and having fun. In fact, I’m a little anxious about having to return home when the time comes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Step 2 ~ "Supported Care"

Down at the end of the hall were the ominous, locked double doors that separated the “Crisis Care” ward of T1, from the “Supportive Care” of T2.

This was the door to freedom.

Each time we heard the loud clunk of it opening, all the patients would look longingly at the people coming in and going out. Because the people moving through this door had something we all wanted ~ freedom.
After nearly a week of existing in the prison of T1, I was finally called to the nurses station and given the news that I had graduated to “Supportive Care” (Otherwise known as T2) It was late at night — 10:00pm. An unusual time for a patient transfer so it completely took me off guard. Suddenly, after days of pacing the halls and reciting the mantra in my head “I can’t wait to get out of here and move to T2,…” the time had finally come. I collected what few belongings I had and walked behind the nurse towards the doors. But in doing so, I found myself feeling a bit apprehensive. As boring and uncomfortable as T1 was, it had strangely become my bubble of security. Nothing was expected of me here so I had settled into a comfortable peace. No stress. Just a calm and quiet environment in which I was told to do nothing but heal.

But now I was taking my first steps to my next level of recovery. I felt a light stirring of fear. Fear of the start of my journey of taking responsibility. Hmmm,…. Now that it was here I wasn’t sure I was ready. But I put that all aside and dutifully picked up my bag and followed the nurse through the doors to what was commonly called “The Other Side” ~ Trillium 2.

With no personal grooming for nearly a week I probably looked a bit worse for wear. I certainly felt like I had been through a battle. So I was a bit embarrassed and a lot self-conscious as I passed through the doors walking straight into the patient lounge of 20 curious people. All eyes turned to me. I felt awkward. I kept my eyes averted as I followed the nurse to my new room.

My room was a double. My room-mate couldn’t have been more different from myself. A very young, strikingly beautiful Muslim girl. That took me by surprise although I don’t know why. I guess I was expecting a more middle-aged woman like the ones I had befriended in T1. It once again reminded me of how unbiased this disease of mental illness was. Not caring what age, gender, race or religion you were. It affected everybody from all walks of life. She gave me a shy hello before scurrying out leaving me alone in my new surroundings.

This ward allowed a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. I now had my own closet and drawers. (No more locked cupboard!) We were allowed everything but “sharps” now which meant I could keep everything I had except my razor. I unpacked what little I had and sat on my bed. I had been given my phone back so I plugged that in to charge it right away. I was anxious to text Michelle and Hayley. To finally have my life-line to the outside world was exhilarating to me.

T2 had a simple system of 5 privileges. When I first arrived I was at the first level. “Ward”. This meant that I was confined to this unit only. Meals were brought to me and eaten at the long wooden table in the lounge. I didn’t mind. It was a much more comfortable setting than T1. Leather chairs to relax in and a TV that wasn’t covered by a scratched up piece of Plexiglas.

The second level, which I received by my doctor the next day, was “Ward with Manor Patio”. This was what all the patients coming from T1 covet. To finally get to go outside! I could now go to the sidewalk at the front of the building which is where all the smokers hung out. Or I could go out back to a large patio. This is where I preferred to go as it was a no smoking zone and usually empty. We were allowed outside to either of these places for 15 minute intervals once per hour. We had to sign in and out when we used this privilege so our assigned nurse for the day always knew where you were.

I was one of the lucky patients who was given the level 3 privilege after only 4 days. (It’s usually 2 weeks before any patient receives this,… I must have been a good girl!) This was “House”. Now I could go anywhere inside the hospital unaccompanied by staff. I loved this new privilege. I enjoyed meandering aimlessly through all the many halls. It was at this level that I discovered just how big and beautiful this hospital was. I never tired of exploring it.

Now I was allowed to go to the cafeteria for all my meals. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was here. All the patients would come to the cafe at the designated meal times of 7:30am,…. 11:30am,… and 4:30pm,… like dutiful cows to the trough. Meal times are a big deal here. In a sequestered world where there’s not a lot to do looking forward to meals was a good pass-time. We all clock-watched so we’d never be late for one.

And finally Thursday I was given level 4 privilege of “Grounds”. Grounds was the best. Now I was permitted to walk around the hospital grounds. Acres and acres of lovely gardens and forest. I spent a lot of my spare time outside after that. I had discovered this little get-away. Hidden behind our ward was this magnificent veranda. With peeling paint and lovely old features I claimed it as my own. I spent hours there snuggled up in a big muskoka chair reading or writing in my mandatory journal. I had to admit, It almost felt like a vacation.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


“The hospital was on a hill outside of town the way hospitals are in movies about the insane. Our hospital was famous and had housed many great poets and singers. Did the hospital specialize in poets and singers or was it that poets and singers specialized in madness”                                                                                                                                                                                                             – Susanna Kaysen ~ ”Girl, Interrupted”

August 4th 2011  — I entered Homewood
A world-renowned hospital for the criminally insane (just kidding,…)  Homewood health Centre. A psychiatric hospital,… A big, rambling, slightly creepy old place. Steeped in history the labyrinth of halls and stairs and wings, told many a tale of human suffering, recovery and health. Built in stages over 128 years, It’s a maze of deep slanting corridors, crooked wings sticking out of halls that never seem to end. A rambling puzzle. Sectioned into different wards. All geared to different psychiatric conditions. Mental illness,… addiction,…eating disorders,… Locked doors separating each.And each ward a small community. I often wonder how many people have roamed these halls over the 128 year lifespan of this majestic building. (If only these walls could talk,… what stories they could tell,…)
When I first arrived I was taken to Trillium 1. (T1) A ward geared to patients in crisis. Most of us arrived from hospitals from all across Canada. By ambulance,…by police,…by taxi’s. (One celebrity even arrived by private plane a week before me!) all having suffered a mental breakdown of some degree. I was admitted as a prescription meds overdose. This ward was not fun. Here,.. you are not allowed belts, strings or cords. They are removed from all your clothes by the nurse when you first arrive. Hair dryers, flat irons and make-up are not allowed either. After 3 days of no personal grooming I had begun to resemble Gene Simmons!
I spent three tedious, mind-numbingly boring days on this ward. With only a TV to keep me occupied. I had brought a book but it was a hard cover — not allowed. It’s considered a weapon. (We may try to bash each other up-side the head???) So it was confiscated. So I sat on a hard plastic chair watching mundane TV shows. Hour after hour, the whole time I was there. I am now wondering if at some time boredom was used as an ancient medieval torture as it nearly drove me mad!!
The ceiling light was never shut off in your room. Sleep alluded me night after night as it frustratingly glared down at me. Nurses checked I was still alive and kicking every hour.
For the first few days I suffered from withdrawals. After years and years of many different meds fed to my system my body now started to rebel when my blood stream cleared. Sweats, nausea and other not-so-pretty symptoms claimed my body. I tried to endure it stoically (and drug free) but it wasn’t a fun time at all. I was relieved when it was finally over. Now — 12 days later — I feel so clear. Life is now in sharp focus and vivid colours.
When I was finally deemed “de-toxed” I was upgraded to the Trillium 2 ward (T2)
(will continue next entry,…)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Missing In Action.....

I have been missing in action. I checked myself into hospital I will be there for the next month or so. I look forward to writing on here again when I get back home. Wish me well in my recovery....... (as I hope all of you are well)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

frustrated with the system

Had a really bad few days. Sunday night I took an OD. But, I woke up Tuesday morning. Because I live alone there wasn't anyone to call 911 (yeah). When I did wake up I was really shaky and wobbly. Still am. But worst was punishing myself for not being successful I started cutting instead.
There is absolutely no doubt that I need help.But the wheels run very, very slowly. I went for my assessment at the psych centre where she took down as much info as she could (through my charts and what I told her) and then she directs me on to who would be the best care for me. She agreed I needed to have an immediate appointment. But... the best she could do was NOVEMBER 29th. That's an immediate appointment????? That's 4 months away.
I just don't know what to do. I'm struggling so hard to fight myself back to health but I don't seem to be moving forward.