My second day in the clink, I was sent through the rounds of meeting personally with a medical doctor, a leisure therapist, and an occupational therapist. The OT glowered at me at the of our interview: “I’ve seen people leave this place too soon, and they just end up back here in a week.” Madame, no matter how I feel, I’m not setting a toenail near this place again, ever! Count on it.
I was even more eager to see the psychiatrist who would be my ticket home, so I went to the nurses’ station and asked meekly: ”I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be pushy, but I was wondering if I was scheduled to meet with the psychiatrist today?” I was told I was going to be seen shortly. I thanked the nurse on duty and left.
Well, I did not see the psychiatrist. I saw a nurse practitioner psychiatrist. Her manner and appearance was that of a liberal ex-nun. After introductions, I quietly explained my desire and reasons for wanting to be discharged. She became very abrupt and said, “Well, we can talk about that more after you’ve answered my questions.” My hopes sank. Her tone was all disapproval and control. But, naturally, I complied.
We went through the same medical history I had gone through at least four times prior to this in-take and would have to go through twice more. At the end, she told me: “Well, I can’t say we’ll release you today for sure. Maybe tomorrow, but I can’t promise today.” And, then, with the gravitas of patronizing superiority: “We take depression in pregnancy very seriously.” I angrily thought: “But do you care about the effects of sleep deprivation in pregnancy?!”
Later that day, I met with a very kind young man who was a social worker. Husband and I both talked to him separately and were each left with the impression that he was the only one we talked to from that place who seemed intelligent, personable and reasonable. When he interviewed me, he talked to me as though I were a real person and understood my plight. He was astounded that they had ever admitted me and was determined to have me released as soon as possible.
He tried as hard as he could to get me released that evening. But he ran up against the nurse practitioner who related reports that I had been “pushy” and moody throughout the day. The “pushy” really got me because it was a word *I* used when politely asking when I would meet the psychiatrist. As for “moody,” I’m not sure upon what they were basing that judgment, but is it really abnormal for a nauseous, sleep deprived, pregnant woman to be moody? Really? For nearly an hour, he argued with her and lost. He brought me an extra mattress and pillow and apologies for not succeeding despite his best efforts. Bless him! His thoughtfulness and kindness alone made the verdict bearable.
But I worried about how in the heck I was going to pull off “normal” with another sleepless night. Fortunately, I did conk out for two or three hours that night. The kind social worker checked in to me in the morning to see how I fared. He was confident I would be released that day.
And, I was indeed given permission to leave after a five-minute conversation with the psychiatrist, who was very kind and understanding. He actually expressed great empathy at my having to have this experience during pregnancy.
None of the medical personnel, including another nurse practitioner psychiatrist and a psychologist with whom I followed up could believe I had been admitted. They simply did not understand it based upon my medical history, background, and social situation. It was clear to them that this was a pregnancy/hormonal, and not life-related, reaction.
My husband had asked the social worker why I had been admitted. It turns out that in my initial interview with the in-take nurse I shook my head “yes” to a leading question. “Any thoughts of suicide or hurting other people?” Definitely not. And, then compassionately: “You might not mind if you died, but you’re not planning to do anything about it, right?” I nodded and consequently sealed my fate. For Pete’s sake! Christians don’t fear death, we know Heaven is without suffering, but that doesn’t mean we’re gonna off ourselves when we’re struggling!
Now, this series was not so much intended to be about me, or to make you feel bad for me. Honestly. I’m fine now. The medication is working well. I’m sleeping at night, and I’m only nauseous in the mornings from the pregnancy.
My point is to help illustrate the state of health care for those suffering from depression. My husband reminded me that mental health facilities of the past would have made this place seem like a paradise. I will grant that. I also know if you have the money, you can pay for better private care. I will also grant that some of the dehumanizing policies may have been grounded in very practical purposes and that limited funding keeps salaries low and the quality of support staff middling (at best).
However, it is my firm belief based upon my experience that true health and healing from depression depends upon true compassion and Christ-like love. One does not heal with group therapy sessions, doing crafts with tissue paper, or sharing feelings about what a “poem” means, or sharing your deepest, darkest shame and sorrow with a group of complete strangers caught up in their own suffering.
Love heals and restores. Faith heals and restores. Truth heals and restores. Being treated according to your personal dignity heals and restores. We desperately need Catholic facilities and religious to tend to depressed and mentally ill patients in need of care. I don’t believe the secular world and its methods of addressing psychological needs can offer all that patients truly need.