“It was a running joke between my selves,
The one I believed in and each of the others”
— Jim Carroll “A Child Growing Up with the Sun”
First off, I want to start by addressing the title of this blog, and yes, I am aware that some people may be offended by it. I, however, am not. Some may feel that it is an insult to mental health patients who are trying their best to cope with the world around them. As one of those mental health patients, I can say that some of us, like many people in difficult situations, enjoy gallows humor. There is a stigma associated with those who are hospitalized for mental health issues and some of us embrace the politically incorrect terms that help uphold that stigma and are able to laugh at them. Laughter is one of my key coping mechanisms, and nothing is sacred or off limits. This is all real and it’s all fair game.
I spent nearly three weeks in a PHP at Four Winds Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Katonah, New York. PHP stands for Partial Hospitalization Program. It is an alternative to inpatient care and has many more freedoms, such as being allowed to go home at the end of the day, being allowed to keep our cell phones, belts, and shoe laces. Some of us have suicidal thoughts, but lack the concrete plan or desire to follow through which would land us in an inpatient program. I never fully understood how much of a danger to myself I truly was until, during my intake meeting with my therapist, she suggested the possibility of going to the inpatient program. My plan was fairly complete; I just didn’t know exactly when I would kill myself. I had a how and where, but lacked a when. When she suggested going to the inpatient program, my first thought was “Holy shit, I must be completely crazy.” I knew that voluntary inpatient stays were supposed to be short term, but could wind up being a week or two, and I wanted no part of that. Luckily, my therapist believed me when I promised I would be there the next day to start the program, despite my penchant for staring longingly at sharp kitchen utensils.
I had decided, before I began the PHP, that I was tired of lying. I had lied to my friends, my wife, my co-workers, and my previous therapists and slowly realized this defeated any chance I had of getting better. In keeping with my new honesty policy, I followed through on what amounted to a forced pinky-swear and returned for the first day of therapy. The program ran from 9 am until 3 pm, five days a week. Whereas most people in therapy did one or two hour-long sessions a week, I would be doing 35 hours a week. By the time I was discharged from the program, I had completed nearly 91 hours of therapy in two and a half weeks. It did work. If I had not completed that program, and those 91 hours, I never would have survived to write about it.