I have been committed to a psychiatric ward four times. Each committment was voluntary. I have Bipolar Type I disorder so this isn’t that unusual (I want to make up a T-Shirt that says: “Bipolar people swing both ways”). The first time was 2 1/2 years when I was committed for being so depressed that I could not even wake up or function. The next time was a year later when I was committed for being suicidal and depressed. Time number three was in June was in Louisiana when I was in the middle of my out of control manic thrill-seeking 11,000 mile driving trip around the U.S. Number four was only three weeks ago when I was committed for extreme mania once again. That last time was at Harvard Medical School’s psychiatric research hospital so I got some doctors that actually knew what they were doing. My treatment seems to have worked and I should be fine from now on otherwise I wouldn’t be posting this.
It is kind of sad actually. I really enjoyed each experience. You don’t have to worry about much and you get to meet some really, um, interesting people. Each time was at a different hospital so I got to see different appoaches to treatment and different levels of care. All hospitals are certainly not created equal.
You can share your experiences if you are open about them or you can ask me questions if you want.
Twice, actually. Officially voluntary both times, but not very. (I was pressured into signing something I didn’t understand the consequences of and then wasn’t allowed to leave / change my mind).
The first time in was described in detail in this thread but to recap the essential part of the process:
After that, it’s hard to believe I’d be stupid enough to do it a second time, huh? Yeah, that’s what I think, too. Horribly fucking embarrassing. Well, I had parents promising me that the horrible Place #1 was some kind of snake pit leftover from earlier times, that this wonderful Place #2 was all modern, the staff dressed in street clothes and there were no bars in the windows and staff would address you by first name and not pull all that locked-warn institutional crappe on me; they were all modern and would look into my diet and examine the firing patterns in my brain and they would not try to drug me up, they were specifically anti-drug. So, jackass that I am, I signed the damn thing.
• Staff wore street clothes but they had keys and we didn’t; they got to leave at the end of their shifts and we stayed in the Place.
• Absence of bars on windows was due to modern fancy heavy-gauge grillwork screens in the windows that enabled them to look like ordinary suburban windows but you weren’t going to climb out through them; and they still had locks on the doors. And they would not let me leave when I said this place was not for me.
• Lots of staff contact all right: it was an intensive-therapy behavior-mod tank. Reward and punishment, deliberately orchestrated peer approval / disapproval stuff (ranking and voting, with staff holding the trump cards).
• They were officially opposed to drugging us up but made an exception in my case when I didn’t respond to their reward-and-punishment behavior mod stuff and continued to hold my own opinions and maintain my dislike for coercion.
It was in this second bin that I was formally diagnosed paranoid schizzy (I got manic dep in the first one, I often condense the two stories into one). And I got out by taking a table knife and disassembling the tongue thingie in a locked double-door (where two doors come together and lock into each other and one has a tongue holding it into the ceiling) and then hitch-hiking out.
That’s the one. I was there today doing an intake interview for an experimental study for Bipolar Disorder. When I was leaving McLean from inpatient treatment, one of the psychiatrists pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to be in the study because I am “Such a textbook case of Bipolar Type I disorder”. I was so flattered. Anyway, the interview took almost 5 hours total and I will be pissed if I don’t get in.
McLean is such a pretty hospital. It would seem just like a little New England college if it weren’t for all those crazy people walking around. Not that I know anything about that.
Once, for about a week. This was only like 2 months ago. My chronic pain from my migraines made me extremly depressed and suicidal, so while they changed my meds I was on the adolecent unit to help my depression. We had Group, no shoes with laces, belts, earrings, etc. Everything was so structured and timed. My normal life was never like that, it was so weird. And the food was TERRIBLE. Never again.
Just once. December, 2002. For a bout of suicidal depression/near nervous breakdown. Just for three days, so that everyone was sure that I wouldn’t try and off myself with a highway flare, or anything.
Mt. Diabolo Medical Center ran it, I think. Nice place, really. Very modern. The staff was nice, and the other patients weren’t “freakshowy.” (I think most of them were in for depression, actually.)
As far as I know, we were in the “minimum security” section—no big obvious barred doors, or anything. 'Looked more like a holiday inn than Arkham.
Boring as hell, though. And the portions at meals were a bit small.
Evil Ex-Roommate was once committed. This was a number of years before he became a roommate in the first place. Essentially, he ran away from home, and his parents (who were themselves severely mentally disturbed in a variety of creative ways) lied to the police that he was insane.
He turned himself in, expecting to end up in a group home; instead, they brought him to the Allan Memorial Institute, a hospital located in a marvellously gothic mansion named Ravenscrag, built by a dour Scottish robber baron on the slope of Mount Royal and thought to be haunted by the ghost of his abused young wife. It was also where the CIA’s MKULTRA psychiatric experiments took place in the 50s and 60s. (Charming, yes?)
This was on Friday, and he had to stay over the weekend. In the meantime he got the full treatment (he surreptitiously spat out the drugs), though we were able to visit him. (He celebrated a birthday in there.) They wrote “Believes in witchcraft” on his chart, in reference to his religion. Finally, his own psychiatrist was able to be contacted and inform the relevant authorities that he was not actually insane; he was released forthwith.
The most ironic thing about the whole affair is that this was several years before he actually did go crazy.
Well, if they had known where I was, and that location had still been local (i.e., if I’d escaped and was hanging out with a friend in the same city or nearby suburbs), they probably would have had the police pick me up and bring me back.
Aside from that, realistically? I doubt the police would spend much time issuing an all-points bulletin for an escaped mental patient at large somewhere in the state. Being out, and functioning adequately well while out to avoid triggering new interventionist attention, would indicate that maybe you don’t need to be in, and if you do attract interventionist attention you’ll end up back in the bin anyway, so why bother?
Institutionally and bureaucratically, the mental hygiene laws and procedures on involuntarism are neither machiavellian plots to steal and pickle the brains of interesting folks nor compassionate measures to do everything possible to provide treatment for those who need it, but instead are your usual clumsy institutional and bureaucratic broad-brushstroke convenience-driven procrustean things. If you are disruptive and/or inconvenient you can end up in the looney bin and they don’t much care if maybe you would function OK if they let you out (unless bed space is an issue or your insurance is running out), but if it would be more inconvenient to bring you in or keep you in, the path of least resistance is to forget you exist.
This could all change if certain parties get their way and a national psychiatric registry is created. If it becomes sufficiently convenient to put your name on a nationwide hotlist, and to put most folks on involuntary outpatient commitment and only run them in if/when they don’t show up to get their monthly prolixin shots, it could become considerably more like the criminal justice system, where escaping means they’ll always be looking for you.
Well, if my doc and I can’t figure out the right combination of meds for me pretty soon, I might have no choice but to commit myself. (Hey, no matter how bad that is, it beats suicide/turning into a lone gunman on a killing spree.)
Don’t be scared to do it. I actually enjoyed the hospital every time I was committed although I was pretty nervous the first time. One thing to be wary of is that hospital quality varies wildly. I have heard stories from some patients that committed themselves to a nightmare. If there is a good hospital across the state that takes you insurance, don’t hesitate to go there. It is not as though you are going to care what city you are in while you are there. Hopefully, your current doctor is affiliated with a good facility. They can fix things in a week in an inpatient setting that would take months of appointment as an outpatient. If you are ever feeling truly suicidal just go there and they will take you that instant.
Oh, I’m not afraid of going in, much better for me to be in a padded room with no sharp objects than the alternative of me slitting my wrists or clubbing a cow-irker to death (not that he doesn’t deserve it, mind you…). Right now the meds have got things damped down where I have control over my behavior, but at times that control takes all of my energy. (Nothing quite like being in the middle of a panic attack, with your heart racing a mile a minute and your mind calmly suggesting that suicide would solve your problems, let me tell you.)