When I think about involuntary hospitalization, I feel vaguely violated. I can’t run this blog through a filter. Here goes. It was sudden, and it wasn’t my choice. I was deceived before the police showed up and slapped the handcuffs on. It was personal and not. It hurt, it bewildered and shocked. At the least, I’m now watchful over my mental health and careful about who I confide in. It was a hell of a ride.
Don’t I learn anything? I was alone, having been divorced because he didn’t want to be married to someone with Bipolar disorder. That’s a quote. I had moved back home. Ouch. Don’t I learn? Moving from state to state I’d had several shrinks.
The phone rang. Usually it was me calling others, lonely and in need. It was Douglas from Florida, from the 80’s in LA. He invited me to come visit. I flew out. I moved out. A month went by. I knew I needed a new psychiatrist. I got a referral from a local pharmacy. 300.00 in cash, no insurance accepted.
Insert: By this point, I’m picking and choosing from what the last three doctors had given me like it was a menu. On my first visit with this ‘supershrink’ I’m honest with him and he goes: “Get off of everything.” How do I do that?
2nd visit two weeks later: His nurses tell me up front that they need my keys and to move my car. The money changes hands. The next thing I know, the police show up and lock me in a holding cell at the police station. I’m handcuffed for two hours on a gleaming steel table. I scream and yell that I’ve gotta go and finally pee my pants. It’s explained to me that I have been “Baker Acted” because I’m a danger to myself and/or others. Is it a 72-hour hold or 72-year-old? My three roommates are all shrill, screaming, senior citizens with dementia. Are they incontinent or are they acting out in anger? I never figured it out.
There were no programs, no central relaxing area, merely a dining room, a hall and our four patient bedrooms. Just another holding cell, I thought.
The second day a doctor showed up and I saw a famous actor in him. (Richard Dreyfuss) He was cynical, wise and compassionate. I’ve always liked good doctors and smart people.
“This is some kind of mistake, I don’t belong in here! You’ve got to get me out of here,” and more rambling.
“Allison, I think I know what’s wrong. Just relax, stay here for a few days, I’ll get you on some medication and you will feel a lot better and you’ll be released.”
I believed him. For the first time I knew my bipolar disorder had met its’ match. He was right. I had been on some of the right stuff and some of the wrong.
I asked for something to read and was handed 3 big hunky Reader’s Digests. I made a quick meal of them. After five days, I took a taxi home to my new rental condo.
I still see Dr ______ after fifteen years. No more Baker Acting. Continuity of care is of comfort to me. I have had antidepressant burnout six times since. He’s fished me out of the canal every time. There have been side effect and rough patches and referrals to intensive outpatient therapy in order to help me stay out of the hospital. Dr. _________ stopped doing hospitals a few years ago, citing “administration hassles” as his reason.
I haven’t wanted to lose my continuity of care. My fear is of a doctor rewriting my entire protocol and me ending up on planet Mars. But now, Dr. __________works with a doc at a local hospital and I will have that contact if I have to go in.
This hasn’t been easy but it hasn’t been as disruptive and disturbing as losing all my choices to the one-size-fits-all rules and regulations that institutions have to have in order to keep a large group of mentally people safe in the same time and space. Ouch! Yes, sometimes I bite. But not all the time.
As you might imagine, Dr. _________and I collaborate. He shares information on medications and research freely with me. He doesn’t give orders. We decide together. I’ve seen other psychiatrists for second opinions and have a good idea of who else is out there and how they think. One doctor (who is the head of