Psych Ward – Day 5 – Bedtime

Sleep would not come. Back to pacing. Up and down. Up and down. Back to bed. I repeated this pattern for hours (at times wondering if I really was crazy)

Sleep eluded me. Up and down. Up and down. I walked the full length of the hamster cage again and again and again watching the hour hand on the clock edge toward midnight. From one set of locked double doors past the men’s rooms on one side, around the curved employee desk, down the women’s rooms past my room by the other set of locked double doors. Back to bed. The bed was surprisingly comfortable for a three-inch mattress on a plastic bed frame bolted to the floor. Sleep would not come. Back to pacing. Up and down. Up and down. Back to bed. I repeated this pattern for hours (at times wondering if I really was crazy) and then finally surrendered.

I walked to the nurse’s station. “Hi Dana, what can I do for you?” It was the kind nurse, the new one – the one who didn’t give me the false smile that faded as soon as she turned away and the cheery Kindergarten teacher voice. No, this nurse was an angel.  “I need something to help me sleep.”

This request was rare for me. I hate taking medication. But this time, the benefit outweighed the risk.

I hadn’t slept well since admission. Who knows why? The psych ward brought with it a state of constant alertness. It could have been a side effect of the new medication. It could have been that I was missing my children. It could have been the fact that I was locked in what was essentially a large room with people with known anger issues, and I was sleeping in a room that didn’t lock with a complete stranger who snored like a chainsaw felling a forest. It could have been the knowledge that I was being watched and assessed constantly as they tracked how much I ate and how much I slept. Who knows?

She smiled, scanned my armband, and handed me a pill. I winced and asked her if she had 80 more back there. I was only kind of joking. It’s the kind of thing you are not supposed to say in the psych ward. She frowned, shook her head, and said, “I have them, but I’m not going to give them to you.” She cared. I could see that she cared. She leaned over the half door, looked straight into my eyes and then through them into my soul, and implored, “Dana, hold on to what is real.”

This woman was the first person that I met who was invested. Don’t get me wrong, most of the people who worked there were kind and dedicated to their jobs. But this woman was different. This nurse made eye contact and talked not like she was trying to pass the time, but like she was trying to help. I at once had a glimpse of what mental health care should or could look like if the perception were different. If instead of treating disorders, we treated people.

My eyes were dry, but inside I wept the tears I could not shed. I swallowed the pill. Back in bed, sleep came quickly. It was the sleep of the dead: dreamless and empty.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

The Forgotten

Before all of this happened, my greatest fear was losing control.

On my drive to church yesterday, I saw someone from the psych ward. This happens from time to time. Mostly, these are people who exist on the fringe of our society – the forgotten. For the past six months, I have had one foot firmly planted in their world and one in my own. But just when I start to forget my time at the hospital and step back into my life, the universe places someone in my path to remind me. I will admit that I still feel a twinge of embarrassment when I think of my hospitalization, but mostly I wonder about them, my fellow “inmates.” I wonder how their treatment is going. I wonder if they have been healed.

I wonder too if I will be healed – if my doctor and I will ever perfect the med regimen to get rid of all of the symptoms. I still wrestle with some of them daily and most days they win.

What if this is my new normal? What if I never have both feet planted back in the mental illness free world? What if I become one of the forgotten?

Before all of this happened, my greatest fear was losing control. So being thrown into a place where everything was controlled for me except for my meal plan for the next day cured me of that. Now my greatest fear is that I will forget: that compassion costs me nothing, that the circumstances people find themselves in are not always of their making, that people are not their illnesses, and that everyone I encounter has infinite value.

I don’t want to have both feet in my world if it means that I will forget.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

My Paper Chain of Woe

Sometimes we experience miserable chronic illnesses and as they drag on, we wonder if they are going to remain forever.

We have an amazing doctor. We have had a few miraculous experiences with her that lead me to believe that it is no coincidence that she is our doctor. Aside from those experiences, we just like her very much. She is plain spoken, intelligent, and she cares about her patients.

I recently got over a month long cold. When I was three weeks into my miserable upper respiratory infection, I took my child to the doctor for a check up. While I was there, I whined a bit about my cold, and I asked her in my most pathetic voice, “Am I going to be sick forever?” I will never forget the penetrating look that she gave me when she looked me in the eye and said firmly, “No.”

Colds come and go. They are miserable for a time but then they are gone so completely that it is hard to remember what it was even like to be sick.

Sometimes we experience miserable chronic illnesses and as they drag on, we wonder if they are going to remain forever. There is no timeline on these things. Oh, how I wish there were. But in the face of an interminable illness, it is hard not to wonder when it will end.

Part of what makes depression so hard is that I can’t help but keep score. I have built my paper chain of woe, link by link and day by day and I carry all of them with me everywhere I go.

But slowly I am learning to let go of each day as it passes. Good or bad it is gone and I cannot get it back.

Perhaps I really will be sick forever, I am hopeful that I won’t. But regardless of what my future holds, my burden will be lighter if I only bear the cares of one day at a time.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

Crazy Pills

Please don’t be afraid.

Disclaimer: If you are considering starting or currently taking prescribed psychiatric medications, please READ TO THE END. Also, I’m not a doctor. This is personal opinion, not medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you feel you may need help.


Every day I think about going off my medication. Every. Single. Day. That’s crazy. I know it is. I won’t do it. And yet this very real, very strong temptation is ever present.

There are a number of reason why it is hard to stay on antidepressants. These don’t all apply in my case, but I’ve had a number of people ask why it is so tempting not to adhere to the recommended dosage schedule, so here are some pros and cons to taking antidepressants:

THE CONS

It’s a pain.

As with any daily medication, it becomes so routine that it is easy to forget. And as your brain chemistry normalizes after you have been taking them for a while, and you start to feel normal, it becomes hard to remember why you ever started taking them in the first place. You’re healed, right?

Negative side effects.

Each medication comes with a comprehensive list of possible side effects ranging from barely noticeable to bad. These effects vary from medication to medication, from person to person, and from dose to dose. You may have several, or you may not have any. Sometimes you have to weigh the positive against the potential negative and choose which one you can live with. My choice was life or death, so it was an easy choice for me. But there are a ton of options out there so if one medication doesn’t work, there are plenty more to try.

It makes you feel weak.

There is this thing about your brain that you cannot control or fix on your own. That is a difficult thing to accept. You feel like your mind has betrayed you. The part of you that defines you is malfunctioning and you have to rely on medication to balance you out.

It is different (not necessarily harder) than physical disorders because all of the other organs feel like ancillaries to the “headquarter” of the brain. They are all important, but the brain is what defines who you are. If it doesn’t work, if it breaks, then who are you?

You worry people will think you are crazy.

Or broken. Or both. Mental health disorders are still not very well understood. They’re just not. I mean it makes sense that you can have a chemical imbalance in your brain that would affect how it functions. Your brain is an organ just like any other organ. But the concept of not having complete control over every aspect of the mind is a terrifying possibility.

I think many people are afraid to acknowledge the reality of mental disorders because these disorders do not discriminate. That means that anyone could develop one at any time. It’s easier to discount them as a fraud because then you never have to worry about having one. But it also makes getting treatment more difficult because of the perceptions of others.

You are afraid of the unknown.

As bad as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia and other mental health disorders are, when you have lived with them for as long as many of us have, they become your normal. It is human nature to prefer the known to the unknown. And it is terrifying to imagine yourself or your life being different.

What if the medication just masks the real me? What if it changes my personality? What if people like the medicated me way more than the non-medicated me? Which one is the real me? What if antidepressants make me a zombie? 

THE PROS

When you find the right ones they really do help. 

I let fear prevent me from taking medication for my depression for far too long. I wish that I hadn’t. I wish that I had those years back. I wish that I could have been as balanced as I am now. I wish that I had some of the confidence that I have now. If you are considering going to a doctor and seeking out medication, please don’t be afraid. It may take some time to find the right medication, but I can honestly say that it’s worth it.

I need them.

I may wish that I didn’t, but my brain needs medication to work right. I hate taking medication in general, but when I’m sick (which I am) and my body needs it (which it does), then I do it.

They make you stronger.

Being on medication has had the opposite effect that I thought it would. I was afraid that it would change my personality. But if anything, I feel more like myself, more at home in my skin than I did before I started taking them. I can’t guarantee that that will be the case for everyone, but I can offer the hope that it is possible.

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels

If you are hurting, please don’t let fear stop you from asking for the help you need. It will get better.

If you are in crisis, please call 911 (US) or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255. If you are in another country, please call the corresponding emergency number for your country.

As with all of my posts, please share this if you think it might help someone you know.

Try Again Tomorrow

Some days are rough.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Some days are rough. Medication is wonderful, but some days are rough. Some days I still just ache to pull the covers back over my head and try again tomorrow. Some days depression blurs my vision of the joy around me.

Today was a rough day.

But today, I made my husband laugh so hard he couldn’t breathe.

Some days are rough. But when you pay attention, there are moments of brilliant beauty to behold as well.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

Inspiration Will Have to Wait

Inspiration Will Have to Wait

I was looking around today for Inspiration. I searched the nooks and crannies of my mind and I came up empty. But here are a few things that I did encounter. I found Insecurity. He is always hanging around. He hung up an anti-inspirational poster on the wall saying, “You can’t do it.” So original. He is a jerk, but I can’t seem to get rid of him; he is one of my oldest companions.

I found Fear cowering in a corner hiding from Anger who has been running rampant in there for the last several months. I mean, Fear is annoying enough. He hangs around whispering every possible thing that could go wrong and he has started bringing his friend Anxiety around to afflict me as well. But Anger, when he gets going, is almost impossible to defuse. He stalks like a panther waiting to devour all of the other emotions. He will destroy me if I let him.

Faith is starving. I don’t think she is getting anywhere near enough food. I should do something about that. Maybe this weekend. Hope is gasping for breath. She and Faith are twins. When one suffers, they both suffer. I am trying not to let Fear or Anger destroy them. I am trying, but between restraining Anger, blocking out Fear, dodging Anxiety, and enduring Insecurity, my resources are exhausted. Inspiration will have to wait.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

 

A Mighty Oak

She was quiet and strong and permanent.

Fall is acorn season. Thousands of acorns descend from a few mighty oaks in my father-in-law’s backyard. I have a two-year-old and for her it is as though toys are falling freely from the heavens. She is enraptured. She might be part squirrel.

I consider these little seeds. They are so abundant. The squirrels devour most of them, but some when placed in a fortuitous environment become their own trees, growing, blossoming and creating thousands of acorns of their own.

My mother-in-law was a mighty oak. She was quiet and strong and permanent. The rough winds of adversity bent several of her branches. But still she stood strong, deep roots anchored firmly in the rich earth.

Her children and grandchildren loved to spend time in her shade. They are an abundance of acorns, eight children, thirty-two grandchildren some scattered further than the rest. Each one is a new life beginning to take root and grow into beautiful trees of their own.

Last month, Alzheimer’s disease felled the mighty oak. This disease ravaged the remainder or her, what was left over from the personality, and the memories it had already stolen.

I watched Alzheimer’s strip nearly everything away. It stole her humor. It stole her laughter. It stole her hope. It stole her relationships. It stripped her down to her most basic nature. And it left kindness. It left gratitude. It left love. It stole what it could, and left behind what it could not.

Life has a way of doing that: taking everything away from us that it possibly can and exposing our core selves.

Some days, on my really dark days, I feel like everything good that I used to be is slowly being taken from me. It is an agonizing process, as I watch all of these balloons that were keeping me afloat pop one by one. My depression is slowly carving away all of the things that used to hold me together.

Some days I just want to surrender.

It is excruciating to experience, but instructive to watch. All that I thought I was is being peeled away, and I am having to learn to love the woman who is left behind – whoever she is. I have to love her. I have to love her unconditionally even on the days when I feel like all of the things that made her worthy are gone.

But there is hope. There is always hope. Even on the dark days. Hope that even though parts of me are falling away, the woman who is left behind will be wise, and powerful, and beautiful, not despite her trials, but because of them. There is hope that one day I will be a strong and mighty oak like my mother-in-law, with love and kindness and gratitude at my core and an abundance of acorns gathered in my shade.

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels