11 Weeks Later

Some of you may have noticed my last blog was a bit out there, and then I disappeared for quite a while. Well, this is going to chronicle my last 11 weeks and how it has helped me turn back into a functioning human being, well for the most part. Mental illness is very time consuming, especially when things are not going quite right. This is why I collect disability as I would never be able to hold a job if I asked to take 11 weeks off for hospitalization and intensive group therapy, it just is not a reality. I feel sorry for those that do have jobs and have to deal with this, as I am sure that their employers may not be very accommodating to their needs. So, here is what I experienced over the past 11 weeks. Spoiler alert – the inpatient part is the best.

The day after I posted my last blog, the mixed mania got the best of me and Chris and I decided I needed to go for an assessment at the mental health facility I was last admitted to. After my assessment, they admitted me to the high functioning mental health unit. I got there late to start with so by the time I got to the unit, it was almost 3 am but the fun was not over. As soon as you enter a unit, you get what is called a “skin check,” which is a strip search where they document all your scars, tattoos and injuries while making sure you are not hiding any contraband in the process. As I had been through it before it really did not bother me, just the fact it takes too long because I have so many tattoos makes it a pain in the ass. After that and a million more of the same questions, I get to my assigned room and try not to wake my roommate up and try to get a few hours of sleep as wakeup is every day at 730am when they announce it is time for yoga.

I like yoga, do not get me wrong, but at 730am I like nothing and no one, especially with a Doxepin hangover. I usually went back to sleep until they announced breakfast at 815am, which I wanted no part of either but used the opportunity to take a shower while everyone else was down in the dining hall. The first smoke break was at 915am so it usually timed out pretty well that I was out of the shower, dressed and had a cup of coffee ready to go when they yelled for a smoke break. Yes, the place I was at allows five 15-minute smoke breaks a day for patients. Guess they figure you are stressed out enough and taking your cigarettes away is not going to help that.

The rest of the day is standard, group therapy, group recreation therapy, group music therapy, group art therapy, lunch, dinner, exercise, visiting hour, smoke breaks, and some personal time scattered throughout the day. You are strongly encouraged to participate in all the groups, which I did attempt to do, but being there 15 days they started to repeat so I found other things to do. For some groups, meals, and exercise you got to leave the unit so I tried my best to participate in all of those. Damn, I almost forgot the most important times of the day, MEDICATION TIME! The nurses were cool and hunted you down with your meds if they needed to. They always made sure you had everything you were supposed to have, especially at bedtime.

My first roomie, Vladia, was cool. She was funny as hell too. She must have been on some hellacious sleep meds because she did all kinds of fucked up shit in her sleep. She would roll out of the bed, undress and use her pants as a pillow, be sleeping upside down, all kinds of weirdness. She was a good roommate though, we would chat at night before we went to sleep like two teenagers at a sleepover. She was there before me so of course, I only had her as a roomie for a few days, and then I was moved anyway because the room had a bit of an ant problem they were trying to resolve. I did not mind being moved, the room was hot as hell and I was being moved to the coldest room in the place.

My new roomie was cool, but a little meticulous. Why did they have to stick me in a room with someone with OCD who is a germophobe? And of course, my legs were swollen because I cannot keep them up all the time when in inpatient and my heel splits and bleeds on the floor. She literally flipped the fuck out as if I had Ebola, AIDS, the bubonic plague, and every other horrible disease you can possibly think of. Mind you, she stepped on the tiny spot with shoes and socks on. So of course, out of the kindness of my heart, I offer up a vein for a blood test to ease her mind. That was a mistake. They stuck me six times trying to get a vein. I do a better job myself, how do I know, because I have stuck myself and I can get a vein on the first try. Everything ended up okay, but they really made a bigger deal out of it than they should have.

My stay was not without incident of course. My last few hospitalizations have had some type of fight or violence started by me or I was a part of. This time I did not start it but was definitely an instigating part of it. It all started over the one phone we had use of for 24 patients. We tried to make a list and keep it fair, but some people refused to follow the list, so of course, it caused arguments. A fellow patient Melissa, lost her temper with the person on the phone as she was standing next to me, he threatened to beat her ass, I am bigger and of course, wanted to protect her and all hell broke loose. CODE VIOLET, CODE VIOLET, CODE VIOLET!!! That is the hospital code for a fight on the unit. Melissa was physically dragged to the other side of the unit by two patient care assistants, two more got in my face and made me go right with her and two more took the person on the phone to the other side. They separated us all the rest of the evening. The best part was, this all happened during the visiting hour. It was a busy visiting hour too.

It is not often there are out of control patients on the unit either but there were a few while I was there because the unit they should have been on was full. For those that truly cannot control their behavior, I feel sorry for, but for those being assholes on purpose, they can just fuck off in the other direction. We had an older woman that spent one whole night screaming at the top of her lungs how she is suing everyone and how everyone there was crazy but her, etc. etc. I think they shipped her out after the 72-hour hold just to get rid of her and her bullshit. Apparently, she said something to get herself put in there so she had no one to blame but herself at that point.

My last roommate came in as a transfer from another facility with what looked like a broken nose and a black eye from there. I really felt sorry for her because the woman screaming just freaked her out even more. She definitely did not need that after being at the place she was at. She was okay after a while and we got along good, no blood testing required.

After 15 days of medication changes and additions, the doctor felt it was safe to send me home only if I started their PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) the next day, which I did. PHP is six hours a day, five days a week of group therapy with an hour for lunch. It is a lot like being inpatient but you get to go home and sleep. They also keep a close eye on everyone in case they think you need to go back to inpatient. It is a lot like inpatient with DBT and CBT sessions and art therapy once a week. We also watched the movie Inside Out. If you have never seen it, it is good for a kid’s movie. After three weeks of PHP, you go to five weeks of IOP.

IOP is Intensive Outpatient Therapy, which is three hours a day, four days a week. IOP is a lot different because of the counselors. Ours was a trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist and introduced us to a variety of different techniques to manage stress and anxiety. As soon as I get my psychiatrist and therapist situation figured out, I am going to look into this type of therapy more and see if I can benefit from it better than just the DBT and CBT.

So, where am I after 11 weeks of all that? I feel really good! I went out for the first time by myself with a group of Facebook friends I had never met in real life before and had a great time, I am inspired to write again, I am ready to dive into any and all Satany projects I can, I just want to do things. It is a fucking shame it took 11 weeks but mental illness is no joke my friends. It will steal large amounts of your life, fuck it up, and not give it back. If you struggle with mental illness, do something at the first sign of trouble, do not wait as I did, maybe you will not lose 11 weeks of your spring and summer as I did.

When a Maxi Pad is a Luxury

I read an article posted in a Facebook group recently and felt compelled to do a little research on the subject. As you may have figured out from the title, the topic was feminine hygiene products. Even though the last time I bought a box of tampons was 2003, I myself took for granted how easy it is to just go to a store, spend a few dollars, and walk out with a box of pads or tampons if someone I know needed them. Anyone can walk in a store and buy them, can they not? The answer is no. For women who are incarcerated, homeless, or impoverished or in a mental facility, these items may not be available at all. Now imagine being a woman and not have access to feminine hygiene products each month. What you are imagining is a reality for too many women in this country and it should not be.

Feminine Hygiene Products during Incarceration

In Europe, access to feminine hygiene products is a basic human right but this is not the case in the United States. In 2017, legislation was passed to provide free menstrual products to women in prison. That is fine but the problem is, most prisons do not provide these products or charge for them and the rules are not being enforced. Another problem is women only account for five percent of Federal prisoners; the other 95 percent are in state and local jails where the legislation does not even apply. These women may or not have any access to feminine hygiene products at all or only a limited number, at a cost, depending on the number of female prisoners on any given day.

Only four states and New York City have legislation that provides feminine hygiene products to women a no charge. For women in the other 46 states, access to these products varies from being limited to being available at a cost to being given out at the discretion of prison guards. Local jails obviously have their own issues, and in most cases is probably having no products available at all.

The health risks for women without access to proper feminine hygiene products can be deadly. If women are forced to improvise by using toilet paper for other items for tampons or items other than toilet paper to wipe themselves can lead to irritated tissues that can open up to bacterial infections. Women without access to proper products are also susceptible to potentially lethal problems such as sepsis and toxic shock.

Feminine Hygiene amongst the Homeless and Poor

Periods can be uncomfortable enough, but for homeless women and poor women who do not have access to menstrual products, that time of the month is even worse. Imagine having to use a washcloth, sock or used pad instead of having clean, proper feminine hygiene items. While the average cost for sanitary products is $7 per month, there are those that must use the $7 to feed their family, not buy pads, or tampons. When poor or homeless teenage girls do not have these items, they may not be able to go to school for a week, which can lead to a continuation of the cycle of poverty. Women may have to miss work, which puts a further strain on their economic situation.

Most homeless shelters have limited budgets and in most cases, feminine hygiene products are just a small part, if any, of this budget. If a homeless shelter is lucky enough, they receive donations of these products from businesses or individuals who understand how important these items are. Recently, I contacted a local women’s shelter to ask if I could do a feminine product drive for them and they actually asked if I could wait a few months because they actually did not have enough room for more. It would be nice if every homeless shelter had this problem.

Feminine Hygiene in Mental Health Facilities

While many mental health units are in or attached to hospitals, that does not mean they have access to feminine products like those that the hospital itself does. Most are closed units that have their own allocation of supplies and menstrual products never seem to be high on the list. I remember many women asking for products and being told it was all they were allowed. They also complained about the quality of the products, as more were needed than better ones. If you are lucky enough to be in a private hospital, this usually is not the case. The Mighty author Juliette Virzi even listed feminine products as one of 13 Gift Ideas for a Friend Who’s in the Psychiatric Hospital in October of 2017.

After reading the article and doing some research, this is a much bigger issue than people would think. Feminine hygiene is one of those things you do not think about unless you need of these products, or find women are mistreated when it comes to them. The responses from some men to women not receiving free products in prison were appalling. Sorry, but men control their bodily fluids. They do not look like they are dying with blood everywhere. (Well let us hope not.) Maybe this is why some men have no concept what it is like to be sick, miserable, and bleeding everywhere for days. This withholding of feminine products just demeans women, even more, leaving them at the mercy of others and unfortunately many without any mercy to give.