Hi everyone… it’s getting really cold here. I’m freezing my hands every time I go out with Mia and vape. Lately my blogs have been sporadic and a little all over the place. I’m sorry about that…but I guess it matches my current situation. Hopefully sharing these bits of life while in a mental health facility will bring some insight. It really does seem self-centred but I’m trying to share what I’m learning.
Misery Loves Company
I’ve met really kind people and made close friends with some of the patients. Two in particular but one doesn’t stay here anymore. She comes by to visit though which is really fun. I’m really close with one woman still here and we do so much together every day, including taking my car out to get art supplies and food for the group which the centre reimburses. It’s really wonderful to relate and bond over similar situations and just have fun and talk as friends do. We’ve been making Christmas cards…I’m knitting, we’ve cooked together, gone for walks with Mia…it’s fun. We can share things with each other that neither of us can with most others in our lives. It’s freeing, non-judgmental and mutually cathartic. She got friendship bracelets for us to remember each other and I’m pretty confident we’ll remain friends despite living far apart. I made her a 7 day sober chip along the lines of AA. We’ve been making each other smile and that’s the most beautiful part.
Being at a low point of your life really sucks … that’s an understatement … but you know what I’ve learned? The friends you discover on that same level of low-ness often make for the best and most honest ones. This is why I think the whole ‘misery loves company’ thing has a bad reputation. I’ve seen it interpreted as “people who are unhappy may get some consolation from knowing that others are unhappy too” (dictionary.com). What a simplistic and reductive view! If misery loves company it’s mainly because we feel better understood and heard by those feeling similarly. We aren’t judged from those in a position of joy who can’t / choose not to empathize. As for being comforted by knowing others are unhappy too, it’s not that we like it just that we feel less alone. It’s a lot easier to be happily alone than miserably alone, if you know what I mean … it’s something easily taken for granted.
I’m scared because my final exam for class is this Tuesday and I can’t seem to focus. My assigned crisis worker taught me a studying method that I’m testing out: It’s called Pomodoro. Basically you set a timer for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. You do that multiple times and then take a longer break of 30-60 minutes before continuing the 25-5 rule. The reasoning is that 25 minutes is a less intimidating time frame and it brings a sense of urgency to get as much done as possible. So far I’m appreciating the scheduled breaks but I end up making them way too long. It also seems that a mere 25 minutes is a lot for my current scrambled-egg brain. I really don’t like what that means for the exam!
The biggest immediate concern though is trying to contact a psychiatrist. At first we were just trying to reach my own (to no avail), but then we started calling the hospital to speak with the psychiatrist who strongly suspected that I have a ADD/ADHD. I would love to be followed by him instead. He’s super busy though so it’ll probably take time. Each day I anxiously call both with the help of amazing workers and pray for a call. When the window of possibility ends, a wave of depression sits in for the evening. It’s not a fun ‘schedule’ but it is what it is. Now we’re Friday so by tonight there won’t be any hope until Tuesday for my current psychiatrist and I don’t know the schedule of the one at Lakeshore Hospital. I hate feeling so out of control; so powerless and dependent. We just called again. We’re supposed to try again in an hour.
As time goes by I’m getting to know the staff better and better. (And they me.) My main worker is especially wonderful. He’s given me a lot of exercises to work on and it feels productive to go through things together for an hour each weekday. He’s also really helping me try to fix my psychiatrist issues and clearly cares so much. I feel comfortable with him and he does something that we’ve discovered I need a lot of; reassurances that I’m not a bad person. He frequently reminds me and makes me feel so validated and heard. We’re also able to joke a bit to lighten things up sometimes.
My nighttime worker is also wonderful; she’s always free to talk and I feel safe with her too. She is, like my main daytime worker, a profoundly kind person. We can also discuss some things I’m not really comfortable speaking about with my male worker which is really helpful too. She’s the one teaching me a new knitting pattern by the way and I was very excited to show her the snow shoes I’ve been knitting for Mia. (I’ll show you some pictures when they’re done.)
My weekend daytime worker is very sweet and a great listener. I feel heard and validated with her too and she brings up some very good points to think about and then work on. I was anxious and agitated the other day and it made me feel like self-harming…I went to see her and she helped me find something that would work to replace it. What ended up working was tearing up large pieces of thin paper. It was very satisfying and I got a bit of a dizzy rush and started giggling for no reason. I highly recommend you try it if you’re in the market for new coping techniques.
Overall the West Island Crisis Centre is incredible. Not just because of the homey vibe, non-hospital like rooms, open kitchen, nice grounds and comfy living room. No…the best part is the people who’ve chosen to work here. Along with my therapist at John Abbott, these people are the very best I’ve ever been with! They all care deeply and it always shows. They’re available to help us whenever we need; even when they’re busy (which is a lot of the time), they make time for us. We are the opposite of numbers here and I know that’s partly to do with the smaller size of the organization but it goes far beyond that. I have never felt so helped and supported. They’re doing everything they can to make things easier, help me learn and arrange things outside of the centre for the future. I cannot recommend them enough; the only sad part is how there are only 8 rooms. That’s part of what makes this place so great but I wish centres like this one were everywhere so more people could experience such a level of support.
I’ve been around…twice at the Douglas and multiple times at the Ste-Agathe Hospital psych ward. I’ve also been to 3 CLSC’s and have dealt with a great number of social workers, therapists and psychiatrists. (I met one psychologist and she was fantastic but private.) Very few have had this level of care, empathy, compassion, kindness, availability and so much more. I’m incredibly grateful for this place and the people who work here. I wish all mental health professionals could learn from these wonderful workers. Not everyone will have a chance to be here and you might not even be in the same province or country, but I strongly recommend you find a smaller institution. The big ones are often cold, distant and very hospital-like. The majority of the staff unfortunately range from dismissive to having mild ‘God Complexes’ since they feel in such high demand and ‘too busy’ to really listen. Not everyone is like this but there’s a sadly high preponderance.
I have hope that a new generation of mental health providers are arriving into the field bringing with them a fresh perspective. I hope the greater openness of our time is reflected in how they think about their patients/clients. After all…a big part of the way we’re treated stems from the way they think of us. By the way I’m not saying all of the older generations are bad; no. I just think a new wave is emerging and it looks to be for the better. Of course the attitude they bring to their work has a great deal to do with what and how they’ve been taught. If success is based on memory and regurgitating textbook definitions and case studies…I’m extremely worried. I would generally prefer speaking with someone academically ‘less advanced/specialized’ but who has empathy, compassion and went into this to truly help others heal themselves. I would take that person over a straight-A, bureaucratic pill-pusher ANY DAY!
I guess part of what I’m getting at is to avoid a different sort of stigma/misconception that can occur from our side of the equation. (Yup, we can be guilty of it too.) When we’re seeking help or family / friends are searching for us, it might be tempting to work with the most ‘highly-educated’ professionals. The ones with long degrees after their name, who’ve attended prestigious schools perhaps, who have a leather couch and charge a kidney per hour … you get the idea. I just want to say that yes, qualifications are important and yes, sometimes you get what you pay for. (P.S. in terms of mental healthcare in Quebec I find what we pay for isn’t quality per se but rather quicker access to care.) The above is true though; training is important, specializations are needed, and so on. But I encourage you not to ever dismiss a counsellor, social worker, crisis worker, therapist, etc. In my opinion those who think true help only comes from psychologists and psychiatrists haven’t been around too much. In my experience less ‘prestigious’ and glamorized professionals tend to be more down-to-earth, friendly, open, eager to listen. I’ve met many who’ve really gone to bat for me … above and beyond … extra mile. Not because I was special, but because that’s who and how they want to be. Those are the people who bring hope and literally save lives. I don’t mean to put anyone down, I just want to make sure that this was said.
I wrote this intending to publish on Monday morning but now we’re Tuesday so I have some updates. I spoke with the new psychiatrist we’ve been desperately trying to contact! He won’t be able to take me on as a patient himself, but he works with many great practitioners seeing as he’s the head of Psychiatry. He said he’s going to do his best to find me someone in 48-72 hours who will do a new evaluation, prescribe stimulants for ADD/ADHD (not sure yet) and weed out the ridiculous chem-lab I’m on. I’m incredibly grateful! As for my current psychiatrist, I’m speaking with him tomorrow and I’m not letting him know that I’m switching. Not yet.
Another piece of good news is that with the help of my school therapist and my contact at the Access Centre, I was able to message our replacement teacher for the class. The final exam is today but I’m allowed to take it from here tomorrow due to the circumstances. I’m nervous but far less…I can’t imagine how badly it would’ve gone if I had to drive there, be around the others and try desperately to focus. Actually, I can imagine and I’m so thankful to not have to! It turns out that I’ll be doing it tomorrow at 2 p.m., right after an appointment with my current psychiatrist who didn’t get back to us for about 2 weeks. We’ll see what happens.
I feel like so much has happened without a chance to write it all down neatly and share it with you. Keeping up is so hard for me. I hope to put those pieces together soon but I’ll leave it there for now. I’m publishing this at night on Wednesday so I have the results of where I left off yesterday. In the interest though of actually publishing and keeping this blog from getting any longer, I’ll say goodnight and see you soon! I’m going to start writing the next post 😀