went to see my friend in the psych ward today. forgot just how rigid the rules there are. as i was leaving the house, i remembered to bring him some stuff — two books (including the book i inadvertently “stole” from the psych ward nearly nine years ago), a pen/journal, a daily AA meditation book, and some AA grapevine magazines. i made sure to tell his girlfriend (also a friend of mine) to tell other people that they wouldn’t be “overwhelming” him to come and visit. there’s nothing better than visitors in the psych ward.
for those of you who are LOST fans, the best way that i could describe it would be to say that your friends and family become your “constant.” they are the things that anchor you to your reality, the outside world, the things that are “normal.” the way things were and are before you became manic-depressive or before things got “broken.” besides, they only give you an hour and a half, so how much can it really be?
but when we went in, i had to give the nurse all the things i brought so she could look over them before she brought them in to give to andy. and i know there’s got to be a million reasons why they do it, but i just was so irritated. like “fuck off. he’s my friend. i love him. i know what i can give him. i’m not going to give him anything bad.” and it turns out she couldn’t even give him the journal because “of the spiral.” really? is this jail?
again, i get it. he could get psychotic, someone else could get psychotic and then they’re slashing and cutting with this spiral from a notebook. but it still felt shitty. that’s the stuff people don’t realize. i’ve never been to jail, but being “in an institution” is close enough. your personal rights are taken away and it’s not like you’ve committed any crime. that’s the worst part. when you go to jail, it’s because you’ve ostensibly committed and been convicted of doing something illegal; something harmful toward society. in a psych ward, all the crime you’ve committed is getting sick.
it was one of the things that hurt the most about having my friends drift away from me at this time. i couldn’t see outside of myself; couldn’t see the behaviors i was doing that were affecting them or causing them any pain, and so i just couldn’t understand why i was being “punished” for something that was already punishment enough in my mind. when i was telling my friend’s girlfriend about my experience with visitors, though, i did realize this — my one visitor when i was inpatient was my ex-boyfriend. he and i would go on to have a very sad, rocky, volatile and hurtful ending. but, at that moment, he truly was a friend to me. he came, visited me, brought me things (clothes, books). he stayed and visited, even though i know for a fact that he hated hospitals and lots of general situations brought him great anxiety. i had a great sense of gratitude for him today, and i wish i could just reach out and tell him that.
i also got to see the flip side of caring for someone who doesn’t have the best judgment. one of my obsessions when i am in a bad spot is that my friends hate me and that they are all talking about me behind my back. that paranoia can still creep in today when i am in a mixed episode or really depressed. now, when i was in the psych ward, the paranoia that people were talking about me really was a fear founded in fact — people *were* talking about me. but now going through this with my friend, i can see that people were just trying to figure out what the best things to do were. what the best ways to handle things were. i can only imagine they were doing things hoping to find my best interest, despite any personal problems they may have had with me at the time.
lastly, i can definitely see the big picture on this one. all the years of trial and error on meds and doctors and losing jobs and struggling to make heads or tails of my manic-depression have finally come to bear some fruit. i am finally getting to see how i can be of use to people — i had a couple of other people get in contact with me about similar issues this week as well. i can say with certainty that it was all worth the various stages of struggle if it means i have been able to help out people who are going through these things for the first time.
one of the things we talked about in our visit was starting a meeting for people who had mood disorders and were also recovering from alcoholism. i have thought about starting a meeting like that for years. looks like it’s finally time. i rebel against the rules of a psych ward. i rebel against the idea that i might still be manic-depressive. i rebel against the work i have to do to make changes in my life. but at the end of the day, i see pretty clearly what the “work i have to do” is. i just need to show up and do it.