A common side effect of the medications often prescribed to inpatients in a psychiatric ward is lowered blood pressure; therefore, it was hospital protocol for patients to have their blood pressure taken periodically, including throughout the night.
Due to the heavy dosage I was given during my first few days, my blood pressure was taken hourly throughout the night. It may sound really annoying, but I did not mind too much because whatever medication I was taking allowed me to either fall back to sleep immediately or sleep entirely through these check-ups. I must say, though, all of my “treatment” during my hospitalization, including these blood pressure checks, only added to my feelings of having lost control of my life and having gone plumb crazy.
Consistent with what I had been told earlier, I was awakened later that day to meet my team of healthcare professionals. It was in this initial meeting that I was introduced to the psychiatrist who would become my doctor for the remainder of college and the first few years following graduation.
During this meeting, I learned what to expect on a daily basis in terms of the various therapy sessions (individual and group) and medical appointments I was expected to attend. For what felt like the billionth time, I was asked to share my recollection of my assault and details regarding my emotional experience during the immediate aftermath. The psychiatrist was also interested in learning about my mental history prior to my assault.
I guess because I previously had been treated for anxiety/depression and had a family history of mental illness, the label of “bipolar mood disorder” became the most viable explanation for my condition in the eyes of the psychiatrist; it wouldn’t be until last year, over nine years later, that I would hear the term “post traumatic stress syndrome” in relation to my experience.
This meeting, like all of the meetings I would attend with medical doctors, was held in a different part of the psychiatric wing of the hospital. If I remember correctly, inpatients were required to be transported in a wheelchair to these sessions as well, but I could be mistaken. I do know for certain that we had to be escorted and buzzed back into the inpatient hall.
Upon reentering the inpatient area, I saw that a new patient had arrived – in handcuffs. He was surrounded by a group of different professionals and was making quite a fuss. I had wanted to call my roommate to bring some belongings over, but that would have required me to squeeze by the commotion. I decided to wait until after the ruckus had subsided to place my call.
When I no longer heard the man yelling, I walked into the hallway to place my phone call. The man was actually still there, but he was sitting in a chair against the wall with his head slumped over asleep. I never learned the story behind him, but seeing him in the hallway that day was the last time I saw him. Perhaps he was admitted to a different section of the psych unit, or maybe he was there for questioning to determine competency for criminal charges. Who knows…
I placed the call to my roommate, and she kindly brought over some of my clothes and toiletries. I felt embarrassed that she had to stand in front of the surveillance cameras to be buzzed in through the locked hall and then hand over my bag while they searched through my belongings for anything with which I could harm myself. My razor, which she had thoughtfully packed for shaving, was removed and later given back to me when I was released the following week. I have absolutely no recollection of what I told her in regards to my hospitalization, but I do vividly remember her awkwardly standing at my door and asking if everything was okay.
I then called my parents. I had briefly spoken to them the night before upon signing all of the admittance paperwork. I don’t remember too much about these phone conversations, mainly just the feelings that went along them. I do know that my parents asked if I wanted them to fly up, and I remember being adamant that I preferred they remain at home. To my left was a man sleeping in handcuffs, and to my right was a woman frantically walking around talking to herself in a hushed voice; I did not want my parents to see me in this environment because I thought it would only amplify their worrying and raise further questions regarding what led to my hospitalization. I was not yet ready to disclose any information to them regarding my assault because I still couldn’t wrap my head around it – or what the hell was going on in my head and life, for that matter.