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The Safety I Found in My Psych Ward Stay for Bipolar Mania

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I remember walking into the general psychiatric unit in the hospital pajamas, without any of my belongings at all, with one nurse yelling across the nursing station “double certified” while they showed me to my room.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Luckily, I was granted a private room with my own bathroom because I was exposed to COVID-19 at work. I had to wear a mask 24/7, but it was completely worth it.

I remember that first night being taken care of by a registered nurse I actually went to school with. I thought it to be completely inappropriate for him to be my nurse, as I would never do that in my own practice, but I was too sick to complain. I remember begging him for the highest dose of my antipsychotic as possible, plus a sleep aid of some kind. I wanted to be knocked out cold. I hadn’t slept in days.

It all started at a comedy club.

The night prior, I participated in an amateur comedy night. I went to the show to support my family who was performing, but I ended up going on stage and doing a bit myself.

I got a standing ovation at the end.

This excitement sparked another level of mania that night. I didn’t sleep an ounce.

I don’t know how I was driving in the first place, but somehow I arrived at my counseling appointment the next day without getting into a car accident. I remember the sky was speaking to me and the roads were dancing. I remember being absolutely terrified, but it was the only way for me to get to my counseling appointment. I did not have the insight I should not have been driving.

Luckily, I had previously arranged for one of my friends to be there with me in the appointment, to take notes so I wouldn’t miss anything the counselor said. I have amazing friends.

While I was at the counseling appointment, my friend decided I needed to go to the hospital. They didn’t like me leveling up to a type of mania where I was having delusional speech and talking about getting restraining orders and that my army would come and “hunt him down.”

I was hysterical. Twenty out of 10 manic. Completely psychotic.

Once the doctor assessed me and realized I was too sick to leave the hospital, they certified me and admitted me into the psychiatric ward at the hospital. Which meant, I wasn’t allowed to leave, even if I wanted to.

So, while I was lying in bed that first night after getting all the pills from my nurse, I drifted off into the most peaceful sleep I had had in a long time.

I felt safe there.

I felt like I could make it my home for a while.

So, I did. I got comfy. I went to art classes and made cool stuff. I went to meditation classes and attended support groups. I talked to counselors, social workers, and nurses and had an amazing team looking after me.

It was an amazing experience. I stayed until I felt I was ready to come home. It took eight days and a lot of convincing to get the doctor to discharge me when he did. “One step forward, two steps back,” he warned me.

He could not have been more right. I relapsed into such intense mania when I got home, that I struggled to stay afloat. It took a few weeks of medication changes before I could call myself stable. It took months before I could return to work.

And I’d do it all over again, just how it happened. It’s these moments in life that teach us the biggest life lessons. It’s what drives us. It’s what gives us the power within ourselves. If we do not ever experience failure and significant loss, then how do we find eternal happiness?

Even though I just got out of the hospital, and my life is kind of in shambles, I am still the happiest I have been in my entire life. I know I can do this. I know I can come out of this ahead. I know I will be stronger because of this.

I believe in myself, and you should, too. Take the time to truly reflect on your episodes and build the insight you need to stay afloat. Work hard at maintaining your illness, and the days will get easier and easier.

You got this!

Unsplash image by Clayton Webb

Originally published: November 8, 2021
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