Herding Kittens

Outpatient Mental Health Clinic Pt. 1

A sort of chaos pervades this place. It underscores the fact that lumping people with varying mental illnesses together at what is likely to be their lowest point is like herding kittens.

Only these kittens are blind from birth, hit by a car and have managed to survive. They start new patients as early as possible which means new people are coming in every day, shell-shocked, withdrawn and hopeless. And every day veterans leave, mostly with a renewed confidence and readiness to grapple with their mental illness and the world.

It’s my first day there and 30 people have wedged themselves in a classroom with a big square table in the middle. I find an empty spot because having just met with my therapist Beth, I am tardy. Thus begins the confusion. I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I have been given a binder with some information in it. I scour it but but find nothing particularly helpful. A young female patient leads a discussion, impassioned about defending the rights of another patient to verbalize his problems in group. She’s pissed off. The patients bicker as I sit there, balancing my binder on my knee and writing a name placard for myself in magic marker.

Group ends. They break up our day into four groups, separated by lunch. We chill for about fifteen minutes, me taking in my neighboring patients. Many of them look pretty normal–no crazed bride of Frankenstein hair, nobody forced us to wear jumpers or remove our shoes. It feels kind of like a self-help seminar in which some of the participants are visibly upset because they have likely suffered a pretty shitty night (like me) and are confused as to what this is about (like me).

Nobody forced me to come here. I plan on getting better, even though I know my disorder will never go poof. As far as the vast majority of the psychiatric community is concerned, bipolar disorder nests inside the brain– organic, genetic and permanent, although not degenerative like its cousin schizophrenia.

Most of the people here have been hospitalized for major depressive disorder or anxiety disorder, others have Borderline Personality disorder or PTSD or some amalgam. CBT can help alleviate anxiety, it can help draw someone out of a major depressive disorder, negotiate the mind-traps of Borderline and PTSD but I am highly dubious that it will help my bipolar disorder.

Only a handful of bipolars are patients here. But while I think it can help me manage some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety that are associated with BP, I am hoping it will help with my brand new diagnosis of PTSD (sort of a “duh” moment for me).

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5 thoughts on “Herding Kittens

  1. I remember those first days of outpatient. Scary, confusing. Felt awkward and out of place. It ended up being a place of life changing insight for me.

  2. Pingback: Mixed States Weekly: ‘High Tension Lines’ | Eccentric States

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