Friday, January 24, 2014

Another moment in time, crisis point!

The following is my inner monologue about a very recent event in my life.  These are my thoughts and concerns, they are not meant to openly criticise others.  They are from my viewpoint as a person who suffers from mental illness.


So it happened, well almost happened.

Were it not for my family I would most likely be dead.

So what happened?  Tuesday 21 January was not a good day, which in itself was strange as the day before I had a win over my neighbour with regards our fence dispute.  So the two years of no fence and several months of extreme anxiety and depression were lessened on Monday.  Clearly though some level of distress over the encounter with the owner of the adjoining boundary must have still been in play regardless of a positive outcome.  Tuesday, well Tuesday was another matter.  I snapped, it only took a simple and in noxious event to push me over the edge.

I had just brought my wife home from her appointment with her own doctors.  I was distressed over her lack of progress and with my participation and my advice with her treatment and ailment being ignored.  I snapped with all reason having fled.  At no time did I harm or hurt any of my family. This was not part of my plan, my carefully devised plan, the plan I had made in the past in the knowledge of what I would do, it all went out the window with my reasoning when I snapped.

My children struggled to keep me from harming myself, while the wife phone 000 for help.  It came first in the form of two police cars and four officers, then the ambulance.  As I was resisting and refusing to let go of my source of suicide I was handcuffed and taken outside where I was interviewed.  I was not well and I don’t think I was doing much in answering the officers.  However they took off the cuffs when I asked them to do so.  So my watch was taken away from me, as well as mobile phone.  I was then bundled off into the ambulance and taken to the PA Hospital under an Emergency Examination Order (EEO).  During the ride my details were obtained and a few questions asked, though I can’t correctly recall what they were.

(I must point out at this stage that the Queensland Police were very polite and courteous. I was not threatened or harmed in any way.  I asked my family what happened after I was taken away and they told me that the Police were helpful and made them feel that they had done the right thing.)

So I arrive eventually at the PA Emergency Department, briefly processed and then packed off to the secured section for patients with Mental Illness.  My mental aberrations are MDD, PTSD and anxiety.  Yet for all my “madness” (and I use that word loosely) I am a sane and an extremely intelligent individual.  So being packed in with the truly afflicted was not an experience I would want to suffer again.  My anxiety which was previously dormant, soared and worsened as the day progressed. They were (my other inmates) placid and non-threatening.  I must have fallen into that category of harmless (like the planet earth in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, or perhaps mostly harmless).  So I think I arrived at about 10:30am and then the wait began, I remembered I had to suffer through Dr Phil and Judge Judy before I saw someone.  Being honest about your condition is perhaps not the brightest ploy to getting them to let you go home.  So after the first interview I was forgotten until about 4:30pm when I quizzed the nurses about my release.  Another hour or more on I saw a second doctor, who indicated that she did not think it was a good idea for me to go home and that they were “concerned about my welfare”.  What a wonderful open statement which they did not have to quantify and did not explain to me.  Another hour or so later I was advised I would not be allowed to return home.  This was when I lost it (again) suffering an increase in Anxiety, with levels hitting the roof upon this news.  I was threatening to the doctor who made the announcement, stating I would cost the hospital money as I wasted its time and resources dealing with a complaint against my incarceration.  Who would not be angry, I was.  My urge to suicide had been diminishing; the threat of being imprisoned against my will in an alien and unknown area pushed the suicide impulse back into activation mode.

So there I was, waiting for transfer to East Wing where those with Mental Illness are housed.  I was given tea (dinner or evening meal for those not of English heritage).  Rather nice, actually the lunch they provided was nice as well.  They were probably the most balanced meals I’ve eaten in several months.  At this time another patient was admitted that was in an even more belligerent mood than what I was feeling.  She made more verbal demands and abuse than I ever did.  So my time was whiled away with nothing to do except mentally catalogue the complaints I would take to the hospital after I was released.

Then at some point in the evening (they don’t seem very keen to have clocks on display in the hospital, I guess it’s to not let you know how long you’ve been waiting) I was escorted by two security guards to East Wing.  During this delightful walk I had to listen to these two individuals prattle on about boating and lightning strikes, handling and firing of firearms and the escorting nurse’s pain (back I think).

The East Wing; what can I say, the last place I would recommend to anyone who is sane.  OK maybe my definition of what is or isn’t sane is debatable, but I am for the most part eccentric.  I get taken in, shown my bed in a shared room with another patient.  Warning bells blazing at this stage, anxiety suffering patient placed into alien environment, how do you think you would feel – threatened.

I was then left to my own devices.  Suffering extreme paranoia as to who my “axe wielding” neighbour was (this is of course not the case, the hospital is not that negligent).  What few valuables I had on me were placed in a safe and locked.  Nothing else occurred.  I was check on every hour (though this could have been half hour as I had no way to track time) with a torch shone in my face.  Had I not already suffered this style of fate at New Farm Private Hospital I would have been rather put off by it all.  My “room” consisted of one pillow, one sheet, one “blanket” and a plastic covered mattress.  The bed was so narrow I could not get any rest.  My neighbour turned out to be a jack-in-the-box, wonderful I thought to myself - no sleep tonight.

The night dragged on, with only my memories and an impaired mind to keep me company.  Morning finally rolled on, feeling exhausted from lack of rest.  A male nurse came by and chatted to me about the usual things, for instance - are you still feeling suicidal.  No was my response, I am suffering increased Anxiety from being trapped in a place where I should not be.  It was then I found out I was “imprisoned” on an unendorsed Involuntary Treatment Order (ITO).  The word unendorsed gave me hope that I would be able to get out before it became a permanent ITO.

Time dragged on.  At some point before midday I saw the Registrar, I permitted his two medical students to attend as part of their training (don’t have problems in people learning), and of course the nurse was there, probably in the case of the patient becoming violent.  Then I argued my case for release.  I won’t bore you with my defence as it would probably take another page to discuss.  In the end it was still a case of, we are concerned about your welfare.   I think that my intelligent and measured approach provided some degree of latitude to at least have them entertain the thought of letting me go.  I was advised that I would be told sometime that day what the result would be.

I returned to my little alcove and was left with my delightful company of anxiety and paranoia.  During this time I had to listen to the other inmates, all of which did nothing to calm me or make me feel any safer.  There was a change in shift, a different Registrar and nursing staff.  The new nurse spoke to me about “going home today”.  What can I say, my relief was wonderful, and however it was tinged with doubt, as I know my hopes were dashed yesterday about being able to go home.  Eventually I spoke to the Registrar and after another round of question and answers he deemed me safe to return home.

My experience from this incident has left an indelible mark on my psyche, what was a really minor breakdown, had escalated into high drama.  This marks my fourth attempt to suicide.  Each has been initiated by a triggering event (linked with PTSD) all my well planned “plans” were for naught as that irrational and hard-wired (conditioned) mind took over.  Because I became irrational my careful and peaceful attempt of suicide did not happen.  Will there be a fifth time?  I cannot say, I live with my suicidal thoughts each and every day.  While I never actively initiate them, they are there to remind me of just how unpleasant and despairing my life is.  There is no magical cure for the mentally ill, unlike some physical illnesses; mental illness never goes away once it has set in.  I’ve lived with it in one form or another since I was born.  I have to thank my mother for her treatment of me that made me how I am today.  Most of me I’m happy with, it’s the parts that have been damaged beyond repair that make life miserable and without hope.  Of course the way other people treat people with Mental Illness also contributes to a feeling of ostracism and social stigma. As I have said I live with my illness as best I can, my physical illness is easy to treat compared to that of the mind.

Some notes from my stay:

  • The Mental Health Act is powerful.  I’m going to spend the next few days/weeks/months reading it so that next time (if there is one) I will be better informed as to my rights.
  • Those incarcerated in the section of East Wing have communal dining.  No accommodation is made for those whose mental illness which restricts them from socialising or being exposed to others.  Those suffering anxiety or phobias will know what I mean.
  • There does not appear to be an appeal system to question a doctor’s diagnosis.  Nor does it/did it appear that I would be/am advised of my rights while being appraised.
  • For the duration of my stay I had no shower, change of clothes or was provided with any form of toiletry kit to maintain some level of hygiene.  I was slightly rancid when I left. 
  • No information was readily provided.  I could have made an issue of a number of matters while being detained, but in the end I wanted to get out and home to the safety of my house and family.  I viewed that had I become a problem my release may not happen.
  • No one checked the cutlery from the meal I eat.  While they were only plastic, they can still be used to inflict harm on self or others.
  • While being escorted to the secured facilities, I could have done a runner quite easily.  Only one of the guards was “fit” enough to give chase.  While some barriers were in place to stop casual jumpers, a determined and crazed individual could have leapt from at least one point of the journey.
  • Financial consideration that would affect others in my family was of no consequence when determining if I would be allowed to go home.  By incarcerating me I would be costing my family money, as they would have to catch taxi’s or buses to get to and from work.  So a plea along this line, as the Registrar said, does not concern them, they are only concerned about the welfare of the patient.  This was no comfort to me at all.
  • For some time my anxiety has been under control.  Being detained drove that illness back to the forefront and became a debilitating illness.  I pointed out on multiple occasions that my detainment was activating another illness that was not an issue to my ability to function.  I wonder where the phrase “physicians do no harm” was.  I now have to deal with the after affects of anxiety and how that will affect my ability to function in society.

I would like to thank the friends that matter who made contact with me via facebook when I told them of my plight.  Please be aware that my publishing this online is not an attempt of attention seeking or for people to feel sorry for me.  I have written this to show anyone out there just what being processed under the Mental Health Act is like.  It was scary; it was anxiety provoking and ultimately saps any self esteem from you that you may have had upon being admitted.

To the many vultures circling me, waiting for the chance to pick over my treasure horde, I say to you “tough”.  I was highly amused when one individual who misheard that I had suicided had raced over to score some bargains.  Halfway here he realised I was still alive and his words were, “bastard, why didn’t you have the decency to die, I just wasted good petrol trying to get to your place!”.  Of course it was meant in good humour, but the vultures remain, patiently waiting their time to strike.

1 comment:

  1. Having worked on the other side here in Britain I can say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The trouble for the authorities is that if a person commits suicide someone has to take the blame. The result of that is that you get the treatment you observe, as everyone is risk aversive.

    The kind of skill required to manage MDD, PTSD and high anxiety states is beyond the capability of most staff, including the doctors whose main fall back position is medication.

    One final thing I will say is that you have survived and that you have a wife and children, and these things are achievements in their own right, and once dead you will no longer be able to enjoy them. As I use to say, dead people make for very boring conversations.