Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Like This Now: My Experience Doing a Second Mental Health Adult Partial Hospital Program

Just short of eight years ago, I decided to stop writing things down in my journal all the time and instead to post my journal to the Internet so that the entire world would have access to my Brain. Seems reasonable enough, right?

In the time since, I had no idea that I would end up writing about Cancer, Death, and Mental Illness. I've experienced countless groans and sucking-through-the-teeth noises from family members and friends alike with that oh-so-familiar look that says, "Are you going to write about this in your blog?"

When you are a Writer, and you are a Non-Fiction Memoir-type writer like I am, it can be challenging to ignore those groans and proceed with Courage under the fire of less, shall we say, public souls. Over the years I have learned to accept that, in my Midwestern, Norwegian culture, I will receive more teeth-sucking noises and less Ooos and Ahhs about my writing. Also I learned early on that, as an Artist, Critique comes with the territory of splattering your guts on the canvas.

But, what are the gains? Well, the most obvious gain is selfish. I get eight years of my life on the Internet, searchable by all, but, most importantly, searchable by Me. I have many times gone back into the many posts of my now-deceased Father, for example, and I've re-read what I felt when he first became a quadriplegic. In the Love category, I have the luxury of re-reading the gory bits of my own charred heart and lungs in my Epic Love Adventures. But, I think the most important thing for me has been the ability to revisit my Younger self, and therefore my Younger Brain, starting at Age 28. 

This blog is lightly peppered with evidence of a woman who has managed a Mental Health condition for what feels like seven lifetimes, and it is times like these when I feel very fortunate to have the luxury of perspective. Not Your perspective, nor my Mother's perspective, or even God's perspective. Just my own.

Tomorrow I will successfully discharge from an intensive 15-day program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis Minnesota. I've been going to the hospital everyday (except weekends) since November 21st. This experience has been one of the most exhausting, terrifying, enlightening, funny, insightful, and traumatic experiences of my Adult Mental Health journey.

The reason for the negative words in the above paragraph are as follows: Not only was I born in this hospital, I was also diagnosed in this hospital. As mentioned in previous posts, I spent the Summer of 2004 at Abbott learning all about my interesting Brain. And, though my body was often there, in the bed, in the chair, in the group, my conscious mind was not.

This time, though, on the mat, in the chair, in the cafeteria, my conscious mind has been present throughout. And many times, due to the pain of reliving past traumas and terrors, I did not want it to be. I have a deep and inexplainable trust for my psychiatrist whom I've seen for five years. When I begged and pleaded that she change her mind about me going to the Abbott program this November, she gently refused to give in. Somehow, she must have mysteriously known how badly I needed this program.

What I gained was this: Information. Brand new information about previously vacant vocabulary words like these: Boundaries, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, Gaslighting.

You see, even though I was super disappointed to discover that there would be no Occupational Therapy, no Arts n' Crafts, no Yoga, no this and that and simply just Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I got in my car (literally) on the second or third day of my 15-day program and I decided to leave. After all, I was not on a 72-hour hold, and as the nice psychiatric nurse reminded me, I was here as a voluntary adult. 

Instead of driving my car out of the hospital parking ramp, though, I just sat there in the driver's seat and enjoyed a nice mild panic attack. I looked across the top of the buildings to the top floor of the in-patient psychiatric ward where I have hazy memories of strumming a classical guitar and writing songs at 6:30 AM in the morning while caught in the thick of a psychiatric Mania. I just sat there, in my nice SUV, looking at that top floor, and remembering what it had felt like 13 years ago to gleefully accept that I would escape and run in front of a truck, or cheek all my pills once a nurse was not looking.

Here's the interesting thing: I never did run in front of that truck, and I never did cheek my pills, and now, present day, I never left the program and instead I decided to finish it.

It has not been easy for me, not at all. Even as I write this on the eve of my discharge, anxiety can creep in about Group Therapy tomorrow. I am haunted by the idea that my memories will never leave me, no matter what I do.

So, instead, here I am. Writing them out to You, my Dear Reader, ever loyal, most always silent. All I can say is this: If you clean a fish and then shove the guts inside a wet blanket on your boat, those guts will eventually start to stink. But if you clean a fish, and then lay those guts out to dry in the cold hard sunshine, they may not stink quite as much. Regardless, there will always be fish guts. No, I do not fish.

A Deep and Profound Thank You to the wise and caring staff at the Abbott Northwestern Mental Health Adult Partial Hospital Program. My only hope for you is that you someday use a Brand Consultant like me and find yourselves a shorter Name.

Most affectionately,
Susan M. Andersen
aka, Susan B. Agony


  1. omg, the fish guts analogy! and your raw, real, humorous, honest writing! Thank you for sharing it! - Hannah F.

    1. Thank you for reading, Hannah.
      ❤️πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ‘ΈπŸΌ 12.13.17