Sunday, February 17, 2008

my hospital trips a few years ago

I am still reading, Crazy, an interesting book about mental health treatment, hospitals, and jails in particular. This brought my thoughts back to my own hospitalizations, and I realized that I probably never wrote about all of them here, or anywhere else. So I thought I would delve into that a little bit.

When I lived in Virginia, I was hospitalized several times, at three different hospitals. This was between 2000 and 2003. I was not yet showing all the signs of Schizophrenia, so I was diagnosed with bunch of other illnesses, including Dissociative Identity Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (the most insulting), and Bipolar Disorder. Back then I was really delusional regarding the opic of sexual abuse, and I thought I had been through a lot of thigns in my childhood, that, likely never happened. I was having trouble still with anorexia at times, chronic depression, and self mutliation. Plus I was manic a lot and didn't know it, and engagd in dangerous behaviors because of it.

The best hospital I was in was called Dominion Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, because they had an art therapy group in an art room with all kinds of great projects to do, and other therapies like an eating disorders group. In other words, we were kept busy. But I want to jump forward because since I was not properly diagnosed yet during any of those hospitalizations, they are not the relevent ones to this blog.

My first big psychotic break happened in 2003-2004. I thought I was being followed all around Alexandria, Virginia, where I lived, and Washington D.C. which is nearby. I was seeing things like colors that matched everywhere, and following secret messages I was picking up from strangers in places like libraries, and running all the time from the people who were following me. I had no stable place to live, and was living out of motel rooms. I was following messages in song lyrics as well, and this all culminated in me taking a trip to NYC on a train from DC because somebody who worked for Amtrak said something that made me think I was supposed to go there. At 3 AM. Alone. With nowhere to go in NYC.

I ended up getting there after an adventure of a trip, and because I thought the world was ending, I got hysterical in NYC, and I thought, because this was my delusional thinking...that people were being taken to concentration camps. I tried to leave the city the next day, and the trains were all not running. I am not sure now if the trains were really not running or if this was something I hallucinated as well. There were military people in the train sttaion, which scared me. I wanted to escape, but I did not know what to do. So I got on a commuter train to New Jersey, which I thought I was sneaking on, and hoped no one would recognize that I was different, because at this point I was also seeing people looking like aliens, and noticing name badges on people which I thought I was supposed to have to be allowed to stay out of the camps.

I ended up overdosing to kill myself, and the next afternoon some men in suits came into the hotel room where I did this and took me, and I don't remember much after that for a few days. I had taken a lot of pills.

When I woke up, my arms and legs were strapped down to a bed in four-point restraints. I was covered in some kind of liquid (never figured that out), and I did not know where I was since I had no recollection of the past few days. Nobody explained to me what had happened, as far as I remember.

I had a cut on my leg that I was told was self-inflicted. I believe I had stitches there. I was scared.

I remember looking at my roommate, a naked black woman, and asking her how long she had been there. She said, "Forty years". I was disturbed by that (of course she was also disturbed and wasn't making logical sense but I was not sure what wsa real at the time)

I remember when they said they were taking me to a different hospital, somewhere else in New Jersey, I did not know where it was or why, and I wanted to know.

I remember I got on the phone and called NAMI and the Department of Human Services, begging for help because I thought I was unfairly locked inside a horrible place, and due to my delusions, I thought people were being tortured in the hospital, including me.

I remember following this doctor down the hallway saying, "please, don't send me to another place, I don't even know where I am right now. Where are you sending me?" And he walked away and ignored me.

I remember being strapped down to a gurney, for the transfer, and being restrained (arms, legs) for the trip which took 45 minutes and I was completely terrified.
Since I thought hospitals were torture chambers, I tried to think of some way to escape, but couldn't come up with one. I did keep some money hidden on my person just in case an opportunity came up.

The second hospital I was at in New Jersey was very strange. Looking back on this time is a bit like remembering a bad LSD trip, I guess, and I'm not all that clear one what was really going on, but I remember quite a bit. I was given injections of something, which was probably Haldol, and I had a bad reaction to one of the medications I was given. I woke up covered in red welts, from some kind of allergy attack. I thought I had been beaten up and gang-raped in my sleep, because that was part of my delusional thought process at that time.

Again, I called the Department of Human Services for help. The sent me some paper work by FedEx at the hospital, and I filled it out and returned it. Later the woman I spoke with their yelled at me because the hospital told her that I was making up lies about the things that were happening to me there.

I remember I refused to sign most of the paperwork when I was admitted, but I was admitted anyway...I had a hearing, with a judge, during which I said, "It's like Alice in Wonderland here", and some professional laughed. I thought my mom was in the next room listening through a recording device. She was actually in Florida. I thought a lot of delusional things.

I remember this one patient who wsa locked inside the quiet room, and she screamed bloody, horrible screms for hours on end. And I begged the staff to let her out.
I remember hearing so many hallucinated voices I laid on my bed and screamed and cried, saying, "I AM NOT A PUPPET! I WILL NOT DO WHAT YOU SAY! I AM NOT A PUPPET!"
The voices were there all the time then.

I remember being convinced that when they released me from the hospital, which I did not think was a hospital, that I would be sent to a concentration camp and killed. I remember hoping the medication, which I was sure was poison, would just kill me before I got to be sent to the camp. I remember having trouble breathing, because of a bad reaction to my medication, and thinking they were going to kill me and calling 911 and going to a hospital where I was given oxygen and Ativan.

I remember that no doctor ever sat down with me and told me my diagnosis, and that I never knew why they thought I needed to be there.

I remember the day I was discharged, seeing my mother's face metamorphose into Hitler's face, in front of my eyes, when she came from Florida to pick me up. And I was discharged while being completely psychotic. I escaped from the car, on the New Jersey Turnpike, I believe, while the car was moving, and I ran to a motel on the side of the interstate, yelling things that made no sense. My mom had to call the paramedics to pick me up again, and when they asked me my name and age, I told them my childhood name and address and believed I was telling them the truth.

Then came the third New Jersey hospital. At this one, I actually did escape at one point. I thought I was being poisoned and gang raped every night. Who would NOT try to escape that? I just walked right out the front door one day on the way to the cafeteria. The trouble was, I did not know where I was or who to call, since I don't know anybody in New Jersey, so I called the police, and reported that I had been held captive in torture chamber, and I wanted my stuff back and I needed a way to get home.

Of course, the police just called the hospital, and someone from the hospital came across the street, found me, grabbed me by the arm, and basically dragged me back to the hospital. I remember I felt badly because he said I could have gotten him fired from his job for what I did.

At that hospital, the doctor assigned to me said that, unless a family member came to get me (again) from where my famiy lived, Florida, I woudl be sent to a state hospital in New Jersey for long-term care.

I will probably come back and add to this later.


  1. Schizophrenia is so difficult to diagnose because it can have so many different symptoms. That had to be an extremely scary time in your life. It's a good sign that you can look back at it and see it for what it was.

    Take care,

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience in the hospitals. I'm sorry for all the pain you went through there due to the delusions. I was only in a hospital psyche ward once and I checked myself in. My father came all the way from Florida the very next day and got me out. I just remember being extremely paranoid and in a lot of pain. I vaguely remember talking to "God" and telling him that this was some terrible mistake, that I was innocent, but I didn't really talk to anyone else.

    I just heard about the book you are reading on the NAMI Schizophrenia message board. Let us know what you thought of it when you're finished with it. I read halfway through a book called MAD IN AMERICA: BAD SCIENCE, BAD MEDICINE, AND THE ENDURING MISTREATMENTOF THE MENTALLY ILL by Robert Whitaker. I should finish it (I have a bad habit of reading only part way through books, even good books). You may want to read it sometime.

    How are you doing lately? Please keep writing.



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