How The Ontario Mental Health System Let Me Down — Again

Alternatively titled: I busted out of the mental hospital yesterday “AMA” and now I want to tell you about it. 

It’s been a while since I posted here, but today I’m frustrated with the mental health system in Ontario, Canada and I thought it’d be a good time to update you on what’s going on in my life.

Let me back up for a second to 2013, it was the first time my parents took me to the hospital for suicidal thoughts. The nurses then didn’t take me seriously at the time; they blamed the entire incident on my family, and because I was only fifteen at the time, the best ‘solution’ they could offer me was to send me to foster care, if I wanted that, and I didn’t. I chose to stay home, knowing full well that my family was not to blame for my breakdown. We went back to the hospital a few days later and they still refused to help me. They gave me Ativan to stop the nightmares and they sent me home, again.

My mom did 24 hour watch with me for days; I slept on Mom and Dad’s bedroom floor and tried to pray and will myself through the darkness. It’s truly only by the grace of God that my parents and I made it through that incident with only a few mental scratches.

Fast forward to the present.

I had a pretty bad episode this past Saturday and my mom convinced me to go to the hospital. [Shoutout to both of my parents for being the bomb dot com, by the way!]

Despite me telling the intake nurses and the emergency psychiatrist that, YES, I wanted to die, and YES, I had a plan, they really did not want to take me. They hmm-ed and haa-ed and tried to convince me to just wait until Monday and see a psychiatrist, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it until Monday, so I fought with the nurses and another psychiatrist until they put me on a form 1. That’s 72 hours of inpatient “care”.

But it wasn’t.

When I signed myself in, I was told there would be counselling and they’d help me deal with my dermatillomania (skin picking) AND we’d try medication as well, so hopefully I’d get my stuff sorted out, or at least be on the way to getting it sorted out, by the time I got out of the hospital.

Well, here’s what actually happened:

I slept, a lot. I barely ate for five days (to be fair, they offered me ‘food’ but it was extremely questionable, and most of the time I’d just rather NOT eat!) and I only saw my doctor twice when he was supposed to come every day.

Oh, and after the 72 hours were up and my form expired, I was considered a voluntary patient, but I wasn’t allowed to go home! But I’ll write more on that in a minute.

There was no counselling, no help with my dermatillomania — I actually honestly think I picked MORE in the hospital than I do on a regular basis because I was so stressed out and BORED! — and while I did try medication, it didn’t go well.

I’m sorta allergic to everything, so I wasn’t surprised when I was allergic to the Cipralex they gave me on the second day I was there. It made me break out in hives and I was basically like, “Nope, not doing that again!” So the next day (if you’re keeping track with me, this is day three of my stay in the hospitHELL now) they tried me on Zoloft, and I had an even worse reaction; bigger hives, way more itchy. It was so bad my arms and shoulders looked like I had a sunburn and yet, it took them two hours of me scratching myself like a flea riddled dog to requisition a Benadryl. The fourth day, the doctor didn’t come see me at all but he prescribed Wellbutrin and at that point I was fed up and said, “Screw it, I don’t want to take another medication because my reactions have been getting worse. I just want to go home.” Maybe you think that’s stupid and I should’ve kept playing medication roulette until I found something that worked or killed me, but for me, it wasn’t worth it. So I asked my nurse for other options and she said she’d get me a list of outpatient care programs.

Do you think I got that list? No.

As for going home, this is where things get interesting. I already mentioned that after 72 hours — which they said was noon on Wednesday (though I don’t understand WHY because I checked in somewhere around nine pm on Saturday night, but anyway!) — I was considered a ‘voluntary patient’ but my employer said I would need a note from my doctor to return to work, so in order to go home I would have to see my doctor. As I said before, he didn’t come see me at all on Wednesday even though he had been at the hospital and I had inquired with a nurse about when he was coming to see multiple times that morning. So he didn’t give me a note, or the referrals I would need for outpatient care on Wednesday, and the nurses told me later that the doctor “didn’t know I wanted to go home” so he didn’t make it a priority to come see me, but I could be assured he’d come see me early Thursday morning, so I should “sit tight and suffer a little longer” so my visit wouldn’t be a total waste.

The typical morning routine in the hospital is a nurse knocks and announces the arrival of “food” at 7:45am, and if you go down to “breakfast” they leave you alone until you get back, but otherwise you’re bombarded for the next fifteen minutes with people coming in to check your vitals and then the doctor typically visits, if he’s going to, then you can go back to sleep or do whatever you want to.

My nurse on Wednesday night told me she was going to leave a sticky note on the board for them to wake me up at 7am instead of the usual time, so I would definitely be awake and ready for the doctor when he came in.

Thursday morning came and surprise, surprise, they didn’t wake me up until 7:45am when “food” arrived. That was fine, I could get over that. I chose not to go for breakfast because 1) the food is beyond gross and 2) I thought I’d be getting out soon and I could grab something at a coffee shop on my way out. Wrong! 

I’ll spare you from the long story of how I spent the NINE HOURS waiting for that doctor yesterday before they finally told me he wasn’t coming in and that I’d have to wait ANOTHER day for the doctor. I said NO WAY! So I signed myself out “against medical advice” because the doctor couldn’t be bothered to see me and the nurses kept yanking me around, telling me he was coming in and then he never showed up.

It’s interesting to me that it was considered “against medical advice” when I had barely seen a doctor at all, not to mention I was “voluntary” at that point, but I guess because I hadn’t been formally discharged they considered it “AMA”. Though it’s hard to get discharged when the doctor never comes in!

Thankfully they DID let my dad pick up the doctor’s note today (even though my nurse on Wednesday night told me they COULDN’T DO THAT) after work, but still I got no referrals, no counselling, no help with my skin picking, no help at all. Just a five day “vacation from life” that felt more like a jail sentence.

I fought to get in to the hospital and fought to get out, and had no help in between.

That’s pretty screwed up, if you ask me. Something in our system needs to change, and soon.