Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Flashback

Had my first ever PTSD type flashback while in the hospital. It's part of why I was so hysterical during those first few days. I've never experienced such an event before and I hope I never do again. It was frightening beyond words.

There weren't enough beds available on the geriatric unit, so they had some of those patients bunking on ours. Bunking means they slept in our unit at night, but spent the day on the geriatric unit. Unfortunately, I had to share a room with a rather old, very senile woman that was involuntarily admitted after getting violent with the staff at the nursing home she lives in.

At first I felt sorry for the poor woman. I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like. At times she was lucid, but for the most part she didn't have a clue where she was or why she was even there. That sympathy quickly vanished when I woke up at 5 am the second morning I was there to find her hovering over me. She is lucky I was paralyzed by fear or I probably would have killed her.

The hovering over me in silence is what triggered the flashback. I've always been fairly sure that I had never repressed any memories of abuse, but apparently I was wrong. When I woke to find this woman looking down at me, I was taken back to my childhood, around the age of six or seven. My mother had gotten on this strange, spiteful streak of hovering over us in the middle of the night, waiting for us to sense her presence and wake up. As soon as we did, she'd yank us from our beds, drag us into the living room and beat the crap out of us, for no reason whatsoever.

The first couple of times it was unexpected. After that, it became difficult to go to sleep at all. I learned pretty quickly how to pretend I was deep in sleep in order to avoid the wrath that was looming over me night after night. Just as suddenly as the nightly beatings started, they stopped a couple of months later.

Logic told me that this frail old woman couldn't really hurt me in the hospital, but I couldn't separate her from the memory of my mother. I was so traumatized by the flashback that I asked for her to be moved to another room. I wanted her transferred to the unit she was supposed to be on, but there were still no beds available. Even with her in another room, I didn't feel safe. She wasn't very lucid but for some reason she remembered my name and I knew that she would come look for me, thinking that she was still sharing a room with me.

I didn't trust the staff to keep her from coming to my room, so I refused to take my meds that night or turn out the lights. I'm glad I didn't because sure enough, at around 11:30 pm, she flipped out. Yelling about how she didn't belong in the room they were trying to put her in. That she belonged with me, clearly saying my name several times. As I sat shaking and crying in my room, she appeared in the doorway, with no staff behind her. She kept asking me if the empty bed next to mine was hers. Finally someone came and tried to escort her away, but she wigged out even worse. Insisting that she didn't need to be in the hospital, that they couldn't keep her there. They eventually got her into her bed down the hall, but had to sedated her.

I was clearly an emotional wreck and the staff knew exactly why, but no one did a thing. It was as if my safety, my needs, didn't matter. They treated me as if I was overreacting. I'm sorry, but I'd never had a flashback like that and didn't know how to cope with it. Shouldn't staff, especially in a mental hospital, be a bit more compassionate and understanding?? All they did was aggravate the situation further by giving me a new roommate at around 2 am, forcing me to turn off the light. Given my obvious distress, they could have put the new girl in one of the other rooms. There were 3 other female beds open.

I ended up sitting out in the hall, crying the entire night. Afraid to sleep because that woman was still on the unit. Occasionally, as they were doing rounds, they'd ask if I wanted to go to bed yet. Each time it was like a slap in the face.

I've never had such a bad experience in the hospital, at least not that I can remember. I was tempted to ask for a transfer to another one, but didn't for two reasons...1) the one I was at is the closest to home and that made it easier for my daugther & parents to visit and 2) because I didn't think running away from my problem was going to help solve it.

I eventually did find someone willing to help me deal with the severe anxiety and emotions I was struggling with. Dr. B, the therapist that runs the art therapy group in the afternoons and a relaxation group in the morning was a big help to me. She came up during her lunch hour and spent that whole time talking with me. Last time I was inpatient, I had a triggering event happen during one of her groups that left me with a bad impression of her, but I was able to put aside that borderline "she's all bad because my last interaction with her was negative" ideology.

Wish she could be my full time therapist. I can actually talk to her cuz I get the impression that she truly cares. That she has a better understanding of what it really feels like to be mentally ill, more so than most other mental health professionals.

4 Comments:

Blogger Polar Bear said...

Sorry you had to experience that, Sid. When I lived in Canada, I remember I always had to share room with other patients. It's amazing that here in NZ, most mental units (I think all of them that I have ever been in) have single bed rooms only. I can't imagine sharing a room with someone else when I am unwell. I think it's pretty cruel to put unwell people together like that.

3:50 PM, November 21, 2007  
Blogger anna said...

I'm sorry you had to go thru that Sid.

Happy Thanksgiving.

9:37 AM, November 22, 2007  
Anonymous Borderline Crazy said...

JFC! YES, you would think that mental health docs/nurses would be able to handle that situation better than that. I think someone off the STREET would handle it better. I'm not surprised, though. I've had such bad experiences in hospitals that I have flashbacks about THEM. Anyway, I'm really sorry you had to go through that. And I'm glad you went to the hospital instead of doing something drastic and permanent.

9:52 AM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Dr. Deb said...

PTSD flashbacks are extremely unnerving...and to have had one in the hospital must have made it all the more frightening.

8:51 PM, November 23, 2007  

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