My Mental Hospital Story

I had a conversation with the woman with PTSD. She checked herself in voluntarily while I was on a hold. She told me to never feel embarrassed about checking yourself in somewhere when you start to sense trouble. 

At the end of my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. And, I didn’t want to believe it until midway into my sophomore year, I was strapped to a gurney on my way to Mclean Hospital in Belmont, MA. 

What started out as extreme suicidal agitation, turned into a florid mania in a few days that confused and frightened my Resident Advisor and other students—not to mention the dean of students. 

I was rollerblading around Boston at night, talking loud and fast in the dining hall and student union, having rendezvous with older men, and spending a lot of money on those credit cards they sell to students—I had six. 

As the ambulance door slammed in front of me, I realized I must be really sick. 

When I arrived at Mclean, a few days later, I received a call from the Dean of Students. She told me that many famous writers had been where I was and she already told the campus newspaper staff that I had gone home with the flu. 

I was extremely manic and anxious, and this revelation didn’t dissuade it. They were giving me powerful anti-psychotics and sedatives to bring me down. As scared as I was of discrimination back on campus, I was groggy and delusional. 

I got to know my fellow floormates. One girl was bulimic. Another had multiple personalities. Another had PTSD. Another older woman had schizoaffective disorder. They had all had multiple hospitalizations. I was on my second. 

When I’m manic, I don’t eat because I don’t feel I need food. My parents brought me Boston Market meal and the nurses left it in the dayroom refrigerator. I left it untouched. The bulimic girl ate it and later purged. 

I watched the girl with multiple personalities break into another person. They watched me singing and dancing, running around the ward full of energy, announcing my crazy delusions and grandiose plans.

I had a conversation with the woman with PTSD. She checked herself in voluntarily while I was on a hold. She told me to never feel embarrassed about checking yourself in somewhere when you start to sense trouble. 

I spent a day in four-point leather restraints for refusing medication. When I got a little bit clearer and less delusional, I was allowed walking privileges with the other patients on the sprawling grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The cold walks in the middle of January shocked my senses and were the beginning of my use of the outdoors in my recovery. 

I was discharged 8 days later and went back to campus at the reservation of my doctors. I had an appointment with a therapist, Dr. R, a psychopharmacologist, Dr. D, and lots of scripts to fill at the campus CVS. My best friend worked there and I was a bit embarrassed about filling them there. But I only went there when she was off work. 

Rumors abounded campus. Some students on the newspaper staff where I was one of the editors alluded to where I had been. The days of campus advocacy had not begun in the late nineties. 

I tried to do my work and stay off-campus. What did I do? I got myself a bipolar boyfriend. 

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