While my time at the Marion Center staved off the crisis I was in, my illness was still not under control. Six months later, in January 2013, my psychiatrist and I talked about my options. She wanted me to go to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. She made all the arrangements and, within a week, Jesse and I were making the nine hour drive to Mayo. I remember staring out the car window wanting desperately for this hospital stay to be the one that stopped the rapid cycling.
I very affectionately call Mayo the “Nut Hut”; it made me smile every time I thought about it and it made my friends and family laugh too. Laughter and humor play a big role in getting me through tough situations. If I can laugh about something, it will be ok.
Just like at the Marion Center, I made a real effort to spend time in the common area talking with other patients. The staff at both the Marion Center and Mayo encourage you to spend time with other patients because it’s healing to tell your story to other people. I was with a group of people that understood what I was going through and provided much-needed validation.
The group of patients that was in the hospital at the same time as me was a wonderful group of people. We each experienced the intense relief that comes with truthfully telling your story to someone else. There was one patient, a middle-aged man that was having a really tough time. He would shake and stutter from fear and panic. So me and the other patients would walk the halls of the hospital with him, make sure he came to all meals and check on him several times a day. It’s amazing the positive feelings you get from helping someone else.
The clinical team that visited me each morning was made up of the psychiatrist, a nurse, my social worker and various other staff. I would sit on my bed while they stood and asked me questions. How was I feeling compared to when I came in? Was I having any side effects from my medications? Did I still feel like hurting myself?
I had told the nurses that my tongue was moving of its own accord, seriously hoping this was a med side effect and not psychosis. It turned out that my blood work showed a toxic level of Lithium, one of the pillar meds for Bipolar Disorder treatment. So, over the next few days my Lithium dose was lowered and the weird tongue aerobics went away.
After my visit with the doctor and his/her team in the morning I would call Jesse and let him know what they said. We would talk about his upcoming day and my plans for the day. (Mayo provided six cordless phones to the patients to make phone calls because they understand how vital it is that you stay connected to your support system.) I usually called Jesse 2-3 times per day. He could hear the confidence building in my voice every day.
While the doctor’s made rounds, we had an opportunity to study/read before our classes started for the day. The nurses and social workers taught the classes on everything from self-esteem to resilience. We were usually given a bit of homework to complete for discussion at the next class. We were also to put to use the techniques we were learning for stress management and cognitive restructuring. Classes lasted all day.
We also got to take part in occupational and art therapy. Occupational therapy involved making a schedule for myself each day to keep me busy. I had trouble coming up with things to fill my time because my depressive symptoms had kept me at home and isolated. This was a major stressor for me as I felt guilty about having nothing to do while all my friends and family worked. Had I been being gentle with myself, I would have realized that I needed time to heal and rest and that it was ok not to have anything to do.
Another thing I enjoyed at Mayo was art therapy and visiting the art room where there were endless tubes of paint, brushes and other art supplies. My first trip to Mayo, I painted a dog. During my second trip, I made a spoon holder which proudly rests on my stove and reminds me of how far I’ve come. The occupational therapist played the radio during our time and I loved listening to music and painting away. I found this so helpful that I practice my own form of art therapy at home. I always have markers/colored pencils around to serve as a distraction when needed.
The week was over and, again, I didn’t feel like I had gotten on top of my problems. But I did feel better so it was time to go home. Jesse made the frosty trip to Minnesota to pick me up. We both felt hopeful, but I knew that my problems still weren’t solved.
Read the next installment, https://www.mentallyinteresting.com/Staying-at-the- Nut-Hut-Back-to-Mayo
Have you spent time in mental health facility? I want to hear about it! Please tell me about it in the Comments section below.
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