Will You Help? Deb’s “Saved My Life” Experience

Hi, Everyone!

You know how hard I’ve struggled with bipolar disorder and suicidal visions for the last 4 and 1/2 years. You’ve been by my side with prayers and thoughts and cards for hospitalization after hospitalization. You’ve been my rock on Facebook and my blog and Face-to-Face. And still you saw how I struggled mightily.

Thanks to a month at La Paloma Treatment Center in Memphis, TN, I can say proudly that I am stable and can say a strong “NO” to suicidal visions. You know I haven’t been able to do that!

While there I also worked through grief that was keeping me in a spiral of depression, and now I am eager to take on life again. I can return to the church that has stood by me, and I can move forward in a life with endless possibilities.

I have gotten my life back. Hooray!
I even have a Mission Statement for my life: To live compassionately in the world in ways that bring equality and justice through kindness, intelligence and humor.

And there is a price. I owe over $8,000 to La Paloma, what my insurance would not cover. Would you help me start my life anew by helping me with these medical expenses? Every little bit counts!


Residential Treatment Transformations

Much of my suffering has been assuaged by my time in residential treatment. The first step was taking suicide off the table as an action I would take. First, I could only do that on a trial basis, to see what that would feel like. After a day, I felt so much freer and open that I decided to make the decision permanent. No more struggling over whether I would do it or not. No more torture when the suicidal visions show up, as I’m sure they will from time to time (as they did while I was there, at various frequencies). They are just a feature of the illness.

gut instinctThis was not an easy decision, and I needed the whole month to let the choice sink in deeply from my head, through my heart, and into my gut. I still waffled with the decision to the end and even a little bit now that I’m home. But I remind myself of my mantra that recalls the feelings of openness and freedom that I experienced: Not an Option. Never Gonna Happen.

The second step I was able to take while in treatment had to do with the intense grief, pain, and haunting I have felt with churchy things and worship and religion in general. I discovered there was so very much overlap between that grief and the grief I feel for my marriage since separating 17 months ago. I had quite a while when churchy things didn’t bother me, but it had started up again several months ago.

As it turned out, both griefs circled around being in The Caretaker role, one I learned from childhood and identified closely with being a woman. Also, just as important, both griefs mourned the hypomania and mania that characterized most of my young adult life before we found bipolar after the brain crash of 2010. My professional life and personal life only knew that mood state as normal, and I again had associated it with who I am at a deepest level, including that of being a woman.

One of the things I was able to do was to say about churchy things that I will use comparable skills again, in some form, probably in ways I can’t imagine, and therefore churchy things don’t have to be a trigger for grief and pain and haunting anymore. I can attend church for the community and service that I’m looking for and talk about it with authority and without deep sadness (other than the deep sadness for all the churches who just don’t “get it”).

The insight about The Caregiver and the hypomania also calmed the grief about my marriage. The grief is more about me and less about him. And then when I think of him, it doesn’t have to hurt or be a trigger. It’s just a thought followed by a feeling, for myself.

So, mostly, I learned to manage my thoughts better in ways that specifically dealt with my anxiety and depression and grief and suicidal visions. I think it was the time with my individual therapist rather than the intense groups that helped the most. I think the intense groups helped my decisions to settle into my being instead of being superficial changes. I already have a pantheon of the coping skills they taught – skills which I haven’t had to use all the time anymore.

The true test will be as time goes on and these things cycle around. Will my convictions stay solid? Will I still be working on myself and letting the grief go? I certainly hope so, especially considering how much I will be paying for the opportunity to come to these conclusions.

What It Is Like Getting Residential Treatment

First, residential treatment is regimented. Every day has a predictable schedule. The topic changes from day to day, but the time, place, and the composition of the groups in each slot doesn’t change. Meals are at the same time 7 days a week. Meditation and Check-In are at the same time every day. The health form you fill out is the same every day. Your place in the medication line is the same every day, morning and night.

Second, residential treatment is intense. Topics include Trauma, Grief and Loss, various forms of Behavioral Therapies, Medical seminars, Mental Health seminars, Life Skills seminars, Relapse Prevention seminars. Each day has 5-6 seminars of various intensity and topics. Fortunately each day there is an opportunity to express and not just take in. Sometimes this is only at evening check-in, or maybe with your therapist, or in art group (more intense than you might think since creative arts often bring out deep knowing).

Third, residential treatment is communal. You live in a dorm-like atmosphere with 20+ women (or men, if you are on that floor, and transgender clients are on the floor where he or she and the staff feel will be most comfortable). You see everyone as soon as you wake up, talk in the med line, sit in groups and classes all day, come together at morning meditation and at evening check-in. You can choose to isolate in your room, and some have, but you lose out on the support and learning of sharing this intense and regimented experience together. When else will you have the opportunity to process what just happened with someone who knows  your story from long ago and from yesterday? You share yourself and gain the riches of others heaped back in return.

Residential, Continued

Looks like I have a discharge date finally – Sunday. I feel ready, even though I’m still working on lots of good things. I hope this stay and all the work that started here and will continue when I get home will keep me out of the psych hospital except on rare occasion, in the future, or never.

Meanwhile I injured my knee while exercising here. Then on Saturday, something in the knee snapped audibly. A trip to urgent care didn’t give any answers. Resting it and staying off of it as much as possible is the only thing that seems to be working. Steroids, NSAIDs, ice, ace bandage – all unhelpful considering there is no swelling. Maybe the steroids helped if there was something with the ligaments or tendons. Just hope it’s not serious and I can get back to exercising soon. My body misses it!

Looking forward to being home and seeing my friends and kitties!

Residential, Part Three – Making Progress

Work continues each day in group and individual therapy, rebuilding a life that had disintegrated to a point that I spent A QUARTER of 2014 in a psych unit. Yeah, that’s a lot. First there was the medwash and 58 days last winter, then the rapid cycling of the last half of the year. And the month-long delusion in December.

One of the major movements I’ve made is that I’ve taken suicide off the table. It is no longer a trump card. No matter how obsessive the thoughts have gotten while I’m here, I’m not tempted by implements and I use a mantra every time I have visions. My hope is that this decision is as permanent as I hope it is. I hope insurance gives me my last 2 weeks to solidify this decision and increase health so that I won’t be in the psych unit anymore.

Residential, Part Two

Still plugging away at the hours of group and individual therapy every day. There is a little more space from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, but there are still groups and there is always the homework your individual therapist gives you to do.

I’m doing well and progressing rapidly. My insurance is not happy and I may not get my full 30 days, however necessary my therapist, psychiatrist and I think and feel. Next review is Monday. Might be home next week if they stop paying. A real shame since I’m doing so well in this intense environment.

I hear I missed a good blizzard in my area by being here. Kinda bummed about that since I love snow. :(

Thinking of all of you and glad for the cards and good thoughts. Keep ‘em coming! Check with Barb for the address.


Hi All! Haven’t talked about my bipolar roller coaster lately because I am in a residential treatment facility working on interrupting the cycle of obsessive suicidal thoughts. I’m safe but awfully plagued by them, even here. My therapist here is good and I’m getting an overabundance of therapy – all good.

I’m sure this will make a good chapter in my book. Hoping for a good outcome. I might drop a line from time to time, or I’ll see you on the other side in a few weeks.