Diagnosis Isn’t The Cure

It was my therapist, we’ll call her Emmy, who diagnosed me, who also directed me to my first psychiatrist.  We’ll call him Dr. Shoemaker. I continued to see Emmy in conjunction with weekly visits to Dr. Shoemaker who started prescribing me medication.  The year was 2002.

Dr. Shoemaker was an interesting man, to say the least. Very tall, and at the time was at least 68 years old and wore large glasses that he would look at you through, with his big eyes. He always had a pen in his hand, would tilt his big balding head and rub his chin, while thinking of what he was about to say. I remember this like it was yesterday.  He would speak and sometimes it was crazy shit that came out.  Sometimes it was thought provoking. Sometimes it was both, and I would just think, “What the hell?” But all of the time it was truth spoken in love, with respect and compassion.

At my first appointment with Dr. Shoemaker the absolute first thing to come out of his mouth, was literally, “Laura, how many times do you want to be married?” and I thought, “what the frick?” but I was so caught off guard I could hardly be pissed off at this guy’s audacity. The answer was “once” and the answer is still, “once.”

therapy rocks

In the beginning he talked a lot about God, which I was not open to at all and I bluntly told him as much. I wasn’t much for tact (I’m barely better at it now–but at least now I try.  Mostly). I told him “you can talk about God if you want to, but I’m not going to.” Years later, I found in some notes I have, something he said and in hindsight it really cracked me up. “…But Christ forgot to tell us He was a psychiatrist.”  And if you believe Jesus came to heal the broken, it really makes sense.  Good word.

Dr. Shoemaker saw me through my first stay in a psychiatric hospital. A psychiatric hospital is nothing like you think. So stop it. No padded walls or straight jackets. More like a scaled back and luxury-free camp for adults. That doesn’t really make it sound appealing, but it’s not like it’s supposed to be a vacation. It’s a place to go, to be protected from the outside world and most importantly to be monitored closely on your medication.

I was smoking two packs a day in the hospital. Marlboro Menthol Lights.  It was like a life-line. A gross, disgusting and expensive life-line, but it was something minor in my day that I could make a schedule around; smoke breaks. I look at young women smoking now and find myself saying “she’s too good for that” and my mother always says “that’s what we said about you.”  Touche, mom.  I smoked for ten years and quit about five years ago.  One of the best decisions I ever made was to quit smoking.

Anyhow, actually the facility makes a schedule for you. It consist of group therapy sessions, private sessions with your doctor and/or therapist, family sessions can be arranged, as well as productive activities like crafts, games and sometimes physical activities like throwing a ball around (loose translation=sports).

“A Psychiatric hospital is more like a scaled back and luxury-free camp for adults”

When my parents dropped me off, the facility put me on suicide watch for the first twenty-four hours.  I wasn’t permitted to keep my portable CD player (oh yes, it was a Discman) because the headphone wires and the CD itself could potentially be made into something I could use to harm myself.  I was more upset about that than the whole situation.

The whole thing was traumatizing for my mother, I found this out several years down the road and I finally had to tell her to let go of that.  No more crying about it, because it was one of the best things for me and eventually it would become part of my story and part of who I am–and definitely part of my recovery.

And when I say they “dropped me off” it wasn’t like the left me at the curb. They came in with me and got me somewhat settled in. It was at night so most of the other patients were in their rooms. I was pretty scared to see what was in store the next morning.

Oh the people you’ll meet in a psychiatric hospital. I met men and women of all ages, with a huge range of issues. From pill-users, to attempted suicides with bandaged-up wrist with blood stains on them. It was sad. I met a trans-sexual called Kiki, who was there for severe identity issues. But there were some, like me, young women with bipolar disorder. All of us seeking the same thing; stability.  Or maybe, we were seeking just a little less crazy in our lives.  I’m not sure we all knew what we were seeking, at the time.

The best advice Emmy gave me was; to absolutely—without exception—have no contact with other patients after a hospital stay. I didn’t understand it at the time, but begrudgingly, I made it a point not to give out my phone number or even email address to others, as different discharge times would approach and we would say good bye to someone.  What self-control, I mean, where did that come from?  In subsequent visits to the hospital, I hadn’t followed Emmy’s advice and it never turned out to be a healthy friendship, to say the least.

Nothing good comes from a friendship started in the psych ward. I’m just sayin’.

Diagnosis isn’t the cure…and this was only the beginning.  It was at least two hospital stays later and a couple of years down that road, until I would really find some stability…

More to come,

Hang in there,

Mrs Bipolarity


Filed under Mrs Bipolarity, Uncategorized

20 responses to “Diagnosis Isn’t The Cure

  1. Cheryl Gahm

    Really,  really good!  All spiffed up and ready for people to read and understand a bit more about mental issues:)

    YOU ROCK!!!

    Love you


  2. There was no one I had anything in common with when I was in a psych ward, but why can’t you make friends with people there if there is something in common?

    • Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we were all bff’s, sharing secrets and braiding each others hair. lol. We were all effed up and all mentally unhealthy. I couldn’t offer myself as a good friend and vise versa. I think people may bond over the struggles we all faces, but that needed to stay in the group therapy room. When you’re at the bottom of your pit–which is often where you are when you’re inpatient, it’s not the best time to be making friends–or other types of relationships either.

      The times that I did keep in touch afterwards turned out to be abusive and unhealthy. It’s not like two bipolar people can’t be friends, but two very messed up, unstable, angry, people might not be the ideal mix, especially when they’re at the end of their ropes and/or stuck in a pit. I truly believe friendships formed in the psych ward don’t turn out well. As a general rule, I mean, maybe there’s an exception to the rule…but I haven’t found it.:)

      Thanks for asking for more information on that.:)

  3. OK, Mrs., it’s your turn to be the victim on “Breaking the Silence of Stigma/Voices of Mental Illness,” if you so desire. I would love to have you. Send me an email, would you?

    Great post! Jesus as psychiatrist. Well, the beard works, but needs glasses…heh….

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, or this part of it.:)

  5. My very last hospital stay put me in a very unique ward, with women only, and only women who’d been victims of trauma or abuse. I’d totally agree with your stipulation of not befriending the people you meet in the psych ward, as a general rule, but I befriended several of those girls, and we’re still pretty close to this day. So you’re right, it can happen, but I’d be willing to bet it’s not very often that a friendship on the inside works like a friendship on the outside.

  6. I have actually been in a psych hospital before. 4th grade. 2 weeks or a month, I can’t remember. I had pretty bad emotional issues, damage, whatever you want to call it. I don’t have a diagnosis of bipolar now, but back then, I was labeled everything from ADD to Bipolar to other things. I think they were just trying to find an answer as to why I was so emotional draining. Um… sexual abuse from a babysitter, parent’s divorce, physical abuse from my stepmom… the list goes on and so, as you can see, I was a bit damaged. Anyhow, great post! I love how you’re sharing your story.:)

  7. Thank-you for sharing your story! You’re so right. It’s not the cure – only the beginning, and it’s a journey. All of our journeys are so different. I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I do have generalized depression and anxiety as well as Sensory Processing Disorder, which at one time they tried to group as OCD, ADD, and Borderline Personality Disorder all in one before realizing I was just an adult living with a disorder they think only kids can have. When it goes undiagnosed into adulthood it starts to look like a variety of disorders (because I had to learn to cope somehow, so I developed “quirks”) when it is really just Sensory Processing Disorder. Ah yes, a journey indeed! I applaud you for sharing your story!

    • Thank YOU for sharing! And thank you so much for your support, I’m so humbled.

    • It’s so interesting that people seem to forget that disorders that are commonly diagnosed in childhood don’t magically disappear when that child grows up. For instance, I am an Asperger’s adult who was not diagnosed as a child. Your Sensory Processing Disorder was probably present when you were a child, and now you’re grown up and you still have it! All we hear about is “autistic children, ” etc. What do they think happens when we grow up????

      • Yes, exactly! Our oldest is on the Autism Spectrum, and our younger two have Sensory Processing Disorder, and THAT is actually what gave them their “Ah ha!” moment. You’re right – it’s not something we just outgrow. I think there is just a stigma because many get an incorrect diagnosis as children, so it appears that they “outgrow it.”

  8. You are so right, Laura – diagnosis is just the beginning. Because of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and other movies about psychiatric hospitals, we have a skewed view of what they are like.

    I’ve never been hospitalized for my mental illness, but sometimes I wonder if that would have helped my progress. I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist for 10 years, and it took a long time for me to get the right diagnosis and medication. We’re just now talking about stopping, although I would still see her periodically so she can monitor my medication.

    It is wonderfully brave of you to share your story, and I am looking forward to the next installment.

  9. It’s been eight years since my last hospital stay, yet I can relate to everything you said. I was going through psychosis at the time, and it was very traumatic. I’d say all my hospital stays were traumatic (not because of the hospital, but because of the state I was in). I am so grateful for every day I can stay sane and normal. Thanks for your story!

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