semicolon: 10. Friday

Actually slept.  They had to wake me up.  I’m still insanely tired, but it’s just sleep deficit tired, and I know I can sleep it off over the next weeks.  Not so tired it hurts, like Thursday morning.  I want to go home to my own bed and wear belts again.  Oddly enough, that sounded almost like optimism and an ability to see that I have future days coming.

Girl and Old Man are both leaving today, and as the day wears on we hear of more.  Steve-O, Singer, and maybe Mama.  We also found out that Gangster was moved somewhere else last evening.  No more conversation pit outside my door every night!  Don’t know if he went home or somewhere else in the hospital.  As a result, the hallways last night felt very calm, though I didn’t quite understand why.  What this meant was that half of the unit would be leaving.  And considering that Mumbles stays in his room except for mealtimes, and I felt like Tank was going to be moving out or to another (maybe more secure?) unit, that left very few of the current crowd.  So no matter what, the shape of the room will be very different come Sunday morning, with quite a few new patients likely coming in Friday night and Saturday given the downsizing of the unit today.

Breakfast was jovial.  I still wasn’t really eating, but I ate more than usual.  I told bad jokes and the “fun group” looked a bit confused.  Apparently I was pretty darn flat up until today so they had no advanced warning about my horrible dad jokes.  I was also feeling my shoulders relaxing, dropping a bit more often.  I was in too bright a mood to feel the depression, the anxiety was less than a five, but dropping to maybe a two occasionally. I felt a bit like I could breathe again.

My suicidal ideation was crippled by yesterday’s learning session with the MD.  Knowing the biology of it just really took it’s teeth out.  Everyone was just brighter all around, except Spectrum who looked sad and jealous of everyone leaving.  She was a long hauler, and I felt bad about how happy people were about leaving.  But she must be somewhat used to it by now.  She just worked on her GDE/GED in the TV area.

Morning check-in was almost fun.  The usual passers passed, like Tank and Mumbles.  But even those not going home seemed to feed off the energy of the day.  The shift supervisor was nice, and the programming for the day was going to be very light and very fun.  The morning group was making cast iron skillet banana bread.  Everyone said it was a sign that this was going to be a good day.  And so far, it absolutely was!

After check-in I was hanging out in the TV area just writing in my journal, and I saw my case manager come in.  I caught up to her and we had a chat.  After my good night’s sleep, the discussions with the MD the previous day, and my concerns about just “hanging out” for the weekend, I had a new attitude and perspective.  She was very supportive, and said she would dig into the paperwork and MD’s discharge info, a PHP for after I get out, all sorts of useful things!

Morning group was fun.  I had a bit of confidence that I could go home that day, and the mood of so many people in the unit was one of optimism.  So how do you make skillet banana bread in a locked unit built to prevent you from hurting yourself?  Carefully, that’s how.  We were supervised by the OT therapist.  She had us in two groups.  My group did the first part while the other group mashed the bananas, then they combined our bowl with theirs and put it in the skillet and oven.  I was really happy to be doing something productive other than crosswords and sudoku.  We cleaned up the area and worked on creative arts while it cooked.  

I did a paint by sticker.  Little was across from me and apparently set up a free service of making magnetic bracelets.  She must have done half a dozen in twenty minutes.  As she finished one, someone else would ask if she could do one for them.  They were really nice.  While she worked away she would sing along to the music the therapist had brought in.  She not only had a beautiful voice,  but knew the words to most of the songs.  It was just a fairly calm time with a glint of delight.  

Later that morning I saw Little with her minder, and she said “Want to see something I do sometimes for fun?”  She proceeded to sit down on the base of her rolling IV stand, legs crossed – she fit perfectly, being so little.  She then pushed herself around by her hands, getting up speed and coasting along.  Kinda like those little scooters we had back in gym class.  Everyone thought it was hilarious.  Another sign of the good day.

Steve-O is doing laps.  I once asked him if he did the whole 17 laps, but he said he always lost count, so he just did it for a period of time and called it good.  Timing things is hard in the unit.  There are a few clocks in the public spaces, but given the fact that time feels “different” in such an intense yet boring environment, it’s often hard to tell how long you’ve been doing something.

I also realized Mumbles wasn’t dangerous – that the minders were for Gangster.  Tank is the last scary one.  And for some reason, only having one person on the unit that seems unpredictable and dangerous is easier than multiple folks like that.  Also, the fact that I’d be a senior member of the unit if so many people left, that it felt like it would have been easier just to watch the new people flow in.

Around noon, MD and her whole team, including my case manager, talked to me in my room.  My case manager had given the MD a heads up on my progress over the last night and my improved mood.  Had a good discussion with the MD, although she had one of her students give the backstory summary.  Poor student was so nervous, but she did just fine.  I have dealt with more than a few medical professionals who were just out of school, new at a job, or even just nervous.  I work hard to be very patient with them and thank them and tell them they’re doing a good job.  I love the looks of relief on their faces.  MD was clear that there is a good deal of work yet to do, and that it wasn’t going to be necessarily smooth sailing.  It’s likely to be two steps forward, one step back.  But keep an eye on the net gains and keep hope alive.  

And then the MD cleared me to go home.    She told me about a podcast she had done a few years back (link: The Mind Deconstructed) and I told her about this blog. She may even be reading this. (Hi! Thank you so much!)

My case manager was getting my logistics together – PHP, appointments, meds, etc.  It would likely be closer to dinner time.  Just as simple as all that.  My assigned nurse would work on the paperwork, too.  Of course there was a shift change, and when I realized the morning team was gone, I checked in with them.  I asked my new assigned nurse how it was going and she said it was all on track for a late afternoon discharge.  They didn’t have many details, but it looked like all I had to do was wait on my meds.  They were giving me some Trazodone to take home.  To be honest that seemed weird.  Handing a whole bottle of tranquilizers to someone who had attempted suicide with pills.  Apparently it takes a great deal of the med to overdose, and it has to be combined with another danger factor.  I didn’t look that up to make a plan, just to fill in the blanks in this piece.  It was strange to be doing that kind of research and not get the “If you need help..” banners all over the search results.

During the many hours I had to kill, I packed my stuff, which wasn’t more than some clothes, book, journal, and art.  I stacked it neatly on the bed and then only had a few hours – minus two minutes – to kill.  Back to the book, I guess.  I checked one last time late in the afternoon to see that paperwork was good to go, but the nurse said apparently the discharge paper hadn’t been signed yet.  I finally knew what would have been worse than not getting the discharge thumbs-up on Friday.  It was packing and anticipating getting out, then getting the rug pulled out from under me.  That would be far worse.

In the last hour they managed to pull it off, my meds had arrived, and we just had to wait until five, when my wife would pick me up.  Since the latest nurse was also gone, they had some trouble finding my personal items.  They checked everywhere.  Eventually they found them right where the nurse had said they would be.  Those shift changes are a killer.

They took me into the admissions/discharge room with the lockers, and gave me the remainder of my things.  The first thing I did was put on the belt.  I thought I might have lost some weight, and the jeans were not as hip hugging as they had been all week.  They gave me my “secured” items, which were my wallet and contents.  It was a sealed envelope with a marking to show it hadn’t been opened after it was filled on Monday.  My CPAP was in the room and I packed it up, as they had just sort of piled it all up in the case.  I turned on my phone and just put it in my pocket.  My week without technology was pretty peaceful from a certain point of view, and I wasn’t ready to be shackled by my phone.  I intended to use it much less, to read books more, craft more, and all of the other elements of The Good Life.

Unfortunately, when I did check my messages, all of my texts had the exact same friday afternoon timestamp, and would not open.  At all.  And I tried all.  I’m pretty bummed to have missed messages my family members may have sent me, or just missed messages at all.  Fresh start, though, so I guess it’s okay.

Finally the moment had arrived.  I was the fifth patient leaving that day, and it couldn’t have been soon enough.  One of the nurses led me through two layers of locked doors, past the entrance to one of the other five mental health wards, through a third door that I’m sure is locked at night, into a waiting area.  This is when I found out I had been on the third floor.  I knew it wasn’t the first floor, but time and space, including height, were a little wacky.  As the elevator doors closed I noticed a bulleting board for information, and photos of all the doctors.  I guess this is where visitors wait while they’re searching them and waiting for a minder to lead them in.

Going down we stopped on the second floor.  It was identical to the third, doctors and all.  I had assumed the doctors worked in more than one unit, but they must be in all five.  I did hear a nurse saying that they had a shift in one of the geriatric unit, and that meant it was going to be boring.  Apparently the old folks just sit and watch the fish tank, and there is rarely any interesting patient behavior.

On the first floor was another labyrinth of hallways, and the exit that had actually gotten me into the building.  I guess the ambulance doesn’t get a special entrance for a mental health unit transfer to a mental health unit.  I was so disoriented on the ambulance ride five days before that I had no idea where that entrance was located.  And here again, it took a couple turns and streets before I knew where I was.  I thought I knew all the interesting roads in the city, but this was a loop or two tucked back above the river, and I never knew it was there.

Wife was very happy to see me, very excited.  It was hot out.  I felt like I had been in the hospital for five weeks, not five days.  And apparently the world had continued on without me, as we ran smack into rush hour traffic almost immediately.  When I got home, I had a long, hot shower.  And then had another one.  I wanted to wash the smell off me – both the smell of my body and that unidentifiable mental health unit antiseptic smell.

We had a simple dinner, and a typical evening.  A bit of time on the porch, a bit of time watching TV, and then off to bed at a reasonable hour.  Part of the good life plan was going to bed and actually going to sleep.  It was nice to be back in my own bed.  I slept well.

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