One of the places I get most depressed in is a medical hospital. Over the years since I have had my three children I have been in hospitals many times for various reasons.
Two years ago I was in and out of hospital for six months before having an operation for a small bowel total obstruction. Every time I had to go to the hospital I would get depressed exponentially to the point where each time I had a needle or my IV resited (many times because I have fat hands and tiny veins) I would have pinpricks behind my eyes and when the nurse left the room tears would slowly roll down my cheeks. While I knew it was more situational rather than clinical depression, it still felt bad and it still hurt.
I really feel for those poor children diagnosed with long-term illnesses who spend far more time than me in the hospital and have a far worse prognosis. I can only imagine what they go through. My heart goes out to each and every child in the Universe.
With my hospital melancholia came graphic nightmares which exacerbated and compounded the depression I was feeling. I recall being in the hospital having my first-born child twenty years ago and having a really lucid dream about Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.” I woke up crying and the nurses had to ring my husband who came in and comforted me.
At a later hospital stay I had a long, very vivid dream I had murdered my parents, went on the run, got caught and put in jail. My head loves playing mind games with itself.
My last stay in hospital was a long one. I was very depressed and had no one to talk to. The nurses were extremely busy and had no time to chat. I tried to talk to one nurse who helped me walk up and down the corridor post operation, but she literally ignored me. Even when I asked her direct questions she pretended not to hear and I felt stupid and invisible. In hindsight perhaps I should have made a complaint, but would it fall on equally deaf ears? On the hospital information guide it said I could see a psychologist, however that information was not worth the paper it was written on, as my request seemed to fall through the cracks.
The hospital chaplain made a surprise visit, sharply pulling open the closed curtains surrounding my bed. I was standing there naked (getting changed) as this man of cloth asked me if I wanted to talk with him. I, not surprisingly, declined. I did have my family who were very supportive but they were not always available to visit on demand, because of course, life did go on while I was in hospital. I was able to text message my therapist who asked if she could ring me, and she did. Although the physical care I received was beyond reproach, the psychological care I received from them left a lot to be desired.
I don’t think I am unusual in feeling hospital depression and I am reasonably sure I am not a pouting, sulky, self-indulgent Princess who simply loves undivided attention from total strangers. I was very ill and terrified of dying which was a real possibility as I had a high temperature post operation. If I had not had the operation I would have died. Existential issues were at the forefront of my mind. I needed to talk about death. I would have loved to talk to the Chaplain but he had barged in on me when I was unclothed and vulnerable, the psychologist never appeared and I was surrounded by equally sick and scared women.
It was one of these wonderful and caring women who made a profound difference. She had been in and out of hospital with bowel issues and had learned to surround herself with teddy bears and soft toys. She gave me the most colourful dinosaur I had ever seen and I slept with it that night and cried myself to sleep. It’s not a hard stretch to realize I had regressed and was withdrawing into myself. The other women in my ward, the ones who were recovering and able to talk, helped me so much with dealing with life and death issues. It would appear that one can always rely on the comfort of strangers.
We all helped each other and we even helped the lady who was organizing her daughter’s wedding (and life) from her mobile phone. Even if every time it would ring (which was constantly) it played Dancing Queen at an ear-splitting level. I forgave her when she very quickly caught an infection, ended up with an extremely high temperature and was quiet and almost comatose after that.
I left my depression at the hospital when I was discharged and I was back to my old self quickly. Acceptance of the knowledge I would get depressed helped. Knowing I could leave it behind and get on with life enabled me to work through it. But at the end of the day I just wish that hospitals would recognize the importance of psychological as well as physical care.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 4, 2010)
Mental Disorders 101 (August 4, 2010)
Occupational Therapy and Mental Health | News in Mind (December 28, 2012)
All About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy | Hypnotherapy Session (January 15, 2014)
Last reviewed: 3 Aug 2010