“Is the Psych Hospital Scary?” Part 3: Timing

Please Note: This is NOT medical advice. If you have medical (including mental health) concerns, please contact the appropriate healthcare providers. If needed, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit their website to Chat with them and find resources. 

Well, well, well… After a few months of chaos, I (finally) find myself back on the blog! Not that the chaos is over, but here I am anyway. Never a dull moment!

I realized I never followed up from where we “put a bookmark” in our conversation in the “Is the Psych Hospital Scary?” series. Since 2 posts (Part 1 and Part 2) barely made it a series, I’m back for Part 3, and I plan to keep adding to it as I’m able.

So, it’s pretty common knowledge here in the US that if you break a bone, you head to the nearest hospital’s emergency room (ER). If you have a heart attack, you go to the ER. If you have a stroke, you go to the ER. If you are bleeding badly, you go to the ER. Pretty much any life-threatening (or even wellness-threatening) situation warrants a trip to the ER. It can be very scary, but timing is everything. If you get to the ER in time, they can help you. They can keep you from bleeding out, perform surgery, or do whatever is possible and needed.

"Is the Psych Hospital Scary?" Part 3: Timing
“Is the Psych Hospital Scary?” Part 3: Timing

Why is it, then, that when someone is in a life-threatening situation centered around mental illness, the solution can be vague or unclear? I’m not trying to point any fingers. I’m right there with you. The first time I was in a life-threatening situation because of mental illness, I didn’t know what to do. The people around me didn’t know what to do.

What seems so clear with physical emergencies (“Go to the ER!”) becomes some sort of choice or predicament. The timing can be very unclear. Even now, I sometimes find myself questioning what I should do when I’m in a mental health crisis. I find myself putting off the inevitable of getting help until one of the last possible moments of safety, which can create an even scarier situation for myself and others involved.

Unfortunately, many people get to the psych ward after taking a very un-safe route, trying to take their own lives. They may have had a bit of a trip to get to the psych unit, taking a detour through the ICU or other similar places. What if we made it clearer that people could go to the psych hospital before they take unsafe action?

The thing is, everyone has a time before they attempt suicide. What if, instead of waiting until someone tries to take their own life, we get them help before that? What if people viewed help for mental illness as a necessity like they do for physical emergencies?

I’m not here to answer those questions. I really don’t know what that would look like, either. Over the past decade or so, I have seen hospitals and professionals take positive steps toward helping people to get the help they need. If we keep fine-tuning this help and working on our timing, hopefully the ER/psych hospital will be seen as just as necessary a step as it is for physical illness. When it is known and understood, it becomes less scary. It becomes a safe and helpful option for all who need it, when they need it.

We Love “ABC See, Hear, Do 3”!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, it won’t change how much you pay for an item, but it may compensate me a bit to help me keep this blog running. I received this product for free. All opinions are my own.

Gadget has always been fascinated with letter sounds, and we spent plenty of time going through traditional alphabet books learning that “A is for apple.” While those books have their place, reading really came alive for Gadget when we started using the “ABC See, Hear, Do” series by Stefanie Hohl!

Before you dive into “ABC See, Hear, Do 3: Blended Ending Sounds,” you will want to learn the alphabet sounds from “ABC See, Hear, Do” (my review HERE and purchase HERE) and the blended beginning sounds from “ABC See, Hear, Do 2” (my review HERE and purchase HERE).

This third book in the series is a bit more advanced and is suggested for ages 4-7 by the author. In this book, we focus on adding ending blends to the other sounds we have learned in the first 2 books. It includes 15 two-letter endings and 2 three-letter endings. The book helps kids to learn to read another 51 words, from 4 to 5 letters in length.

Since the blend sounds learned in this book are from the ends of the animal names, Gadget has needed a bit more help and direction (although she is also at the lower end of the age range). Some of the hand motions are more intuitive than others. It does help that this book follows the same flow as the others, teaching kids to see the letters, make and hear the sound, and do the motion. They can then apply what they learned to some words on the accompanying page.

For example, the page with the tiger teaches the “er” blended ending sound and includes the motion instructions, “Shake your fist in the air.” Corresponding words include “ever,” “never,” and “under.” Animal pictures from previous books and lessons are shown under each letter or blend as helpful reminders.

As Gadget continues on her reading journey, we are thrilled to have the “ABC See, Hear, Do” series as a guide for fun and effective learning!

Since these first three books, Stefanie Hohl has written 1 more: “ABC See, Hear, Do 4: Long Vowels”! She also has a coloring book, a book for writing practice, flashcards, and many more resources, all of which you can find on her blog. You can also find her books on Amazon. Check out her Instagram account and Twitter account which are full of fun and helpful ideas!

We Love “ABC See, Hear, Do 2”!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, it won’t change how much you pay for an item, but it may compensate me a bit to help me keep this blog running. I received this product for free. All opinions are my own.

Stefanie Hohl’s second book, “ABC See, Hear, Do 2: Blended Beginning Sounds,” is another big hit in our home! This is an excellent series to use to help your child learn to read. I will link to her other books and resources at the end of this post.

This second book builds on the foundation of alphabet sounds we learned in “ABC See, Hear, Do.” Check out my review of that first book HERE, and find it on Amazon HERE. To recap, the first book teaches the sound of each letter of the alphabet paired with an animal name beginning with that sound. It uses motions to keep kids engaged and help them remember. Gadget eagerly sat through the entire book when we got it at age 3, and it is recommended by the author for ages 2-6. The first book taught how to read 55 three-letter words. It used primarily uppercase letters, with some lowercase letters. If you haven’t done so already, check out that first book, “ABC See, Hear, Do,” to learn the foundation for the rest of the series.

In the second book, “ABC See, Hear, Do 2,” blended beginning sounds are added to teach 51 four-letter words! It teaches seventeen 2-letter blends.
This book uses primarily lowercase letters. The author recommends the book for ages 2-6. Like the first book, each sound is paired with an animal name beginning with that sound. A motion is included to help keep kids active and engaged. Gadget loves learning all the new motions and using them together to sound out words.

For example, the “br” beginning blend is taught with a brachiosaurus, and the instructions read, “Pretend you are cold and rub your arms.”

When the words are written out in the book, the picture of the animal is shown beneath each letter or blend. This helps to remind us of the sound and action. On the page accompanying “br,” we learn “brag,” “bran,” and “brim.”

In addition to learning how to read, this book has also provided great opportunities to talk about word meanings. Gadget knows words like “crab” and “frog,” and she is learning words like “grid” and “prod.”

This book is a great second step in teaching Gadget to read. Its format allows for various attention spans. We can focus on one blend, or we can review several. With such an intuitive and fun way to learn how to read, this book is a winner in our home!

Since these first two books, Stefanie Hohl has written 2 more: “ABC See, Hear, Do 3: Blended Ending Sounds” and “ABC See, Hear, Do 4: Long Vowels”! She also has a coloring book, a book for writing practice, flashcards, and many more resources, all of which you can find on her blog. You can also find her books on Amazon. Check out her Instagram account and Twitter account which are full of fun and helpful ideas!

Mental Health 101: Finding Your Healthcare Team

Please Note: This is NOT medical advice. If you have medical (including mental health) concerns, please contact the appropriate healthcare providers. If needed, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit their website to Chat with them and find resources. 

I still remember the first time I got up the guts to tell a psychiatrist (a doctor who can prescribe psych meds) that I thought I might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He asked me if I counted things or washed my hands a lot. I did not, so he said I didn’t have OCD and continued our appointment with the diagnosis I already had of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Spoiler Alert: I do have OCD, even though the first guy didn’t figure that out.

That doctor moved on to work in a different area, and at first I wondered how in the world I would find another psychiatrist. Turns out there are quite a few out there, and this was the first of what would become many transfers from one psych healthcare professional to another.

I had that first psychiatrist when I was in my early 20’s. I didn’t get a diagnosis for any mental illness until I was in college. Looking back, we can see its early beginnings, but that’s a completely different post.

If you are new at the navigation of life with mental illness, try to keep the big picture in mind. You do not need to be stuck with a healthcare professional who doesn’t listen and/or doesn’t understand. Advocate for yourself so you can have a healthcare team that works for you. If your child is being diagnosed, advocate for them and for your family.

Your mental health professionals may change quite a bit over time. With college and moving, mine did. I have had some great people on my team and some who were not-so-great. I am grateful to say that I am happy with my team right now.

One of the things that helped me see if a professional was a good fit or not was having someone who knows me well go to appointments with me when possible. This second pair of eyes and ears has been helpful when I second-guess myself about how I see my providers. It also helps my providers to get another person’s input about how I’m doing.

The main thing I want you to remember is this: Don’t give up. If you aren’t being heard, find someone who hears you. This may take time, but they’re out there. You’re not in this alone.

Life-Changing Eczema Treatment

(This post is not sponsored, and it is not an advertisement for Dupixent. I just have had amazing results and want to share. If you have any questions, please contact your doctor.)

“What’s wrong with your skin?”

“Your skin looks really red!”

“Have you tried ________?” (Fill in the blank with the name of a lotion, soap, or diet.)

While all these comments, questions, and suggestions may come from a place of caring, it doesn’t mean they have been helpful. To answer your questions, my skin is red, dry, flaky, crusty, etc, because I have atopic dermatitis, a severe form of eczema. (I’ll spare you from the photos I took to keep track of progress.) Yes, I know how it looks. Yes, I have tried pretty much everything you can think of.

Then one day I had a game-changing experience. When I was at the dermatologist’s office, he said a new medication was coming, the first of its kind to specifically target atopic dermatitis. The medication’s name is Dupixent, and its form is injection. That appointment finally gave me hope for better skin. In May 2017, I got 2 shots to begin treatment. I’ve been getting shots ever since, and it has seriously changed my life.

Dupixent: Before and After Injecting

When people find out I have to give myself shots twice a month, they think it’s extreme. The thing is, when your skin gets as bad as mine was, you will go to great lengths to get relief. A shot every-other week is no problem!

I’ve been conscientious about my skin for as long as I can remember. Since starting Dupixent, I’ve finally had long-lasting relief. (Not sponsored!)

To all the doctors, scientists, and patients who helped to make Dupixent a reality: I can’t thank you enough! This has been life-changing.

To the people who are struggling with severe eczema/atopic dermatitis: At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I strongly suggest you talk with your doctor about Dupixent. I had felt like my case was hopeless, but it wasn’t. I was wary of the fact that it’s an injection, but the small amount of discomfort in giving myself shots is well worth the relief.

From someone with eczema to the people who care about someone with eczema: Thank you for caring. Thank you for loving me even when my skin looked gross. Thank you for remembering it isn’t contagious. Thank you for all the well-meant comments and suggestions. Thank you for encouraging me to keep going and keep hoping, even when times were tough.

Moments of Motherhood

How is it that being a parent can be so absolutely amazing and so… monotonous?

Raising a child is so all-encompassing… More than I could have ever been prepared for. Yet, maybe having no way to truly prepare makes it the best type of adventure.

It is an adventure that includes getting sneezed on and cleaning up poop. It is an adventure that includes endless hugs and kisses.

It’s so hard to get them to sleep, but when they are asleep they are still amazing. My mom used to tell me I was cutest/sweetest when I was asleep, and that my grandma had said the same about her. I know what they mean now. While I would never trade the wonderful waking moments of motherhood, there’s a special peace to watching your child sleep.

Sometimes I look back on the day and wonder what I did. I pray that each day I can set an example to my child that we are each loved just as we are.

Days Like This

Days like this aren’t really good, but they (thankfully) aren’t really bad, either.

They aren’t what I expected I would be achieving at this point in life when I looked forward 10 years ago, but I would never change the most important details of my current life. I used to be the over-achiever, the perfectionist. I got good grades and was involved in extracurricular activities. I spoke at a couple of my graduation ceremonies. I looked like I had everything lined up, ready to conquer and accomplish.

Life doesn’t always go like we plan. You can spend years earning a degree only to have mental and/or physical illness stop you in your tracks.

Days like this, I have to remember that I’m not in a competition with anyone else. I’m not running a race. I don’t have to look outwardly successful to be inwardly joyful.

Days like this, I love every moment Gadget peeks her head in to tell me, “I love you, Mommy!” It makes me melt just typing it.

Days like this, I am grateful for the progress I’m making on a crochet project. It’s for Garnet, so I’m not going to write much about it now, but maybe I’ll give you a peek after I’m done and after she has received it.

Days like this, I watch shows like “Project Runway” in marathon form. I am grateful that on days like this I can let my brain chill for awhile.

Days like this, I don’t have an accomplishment to prove my worth, so I’m trying to be content with myself as I am, as cheesy as it sounds. I just know it’s what I’m trying to live with on a day like this.

“Do your best, then move on.”

I’m not sure what to call this post yet. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the blog. You see, I have this thing about perfection. I know it’s not possible, but perfectionism can be quite overwhelming. It brought challenges when I was trying to write essays in school. It still gets to me, as evidenced by lack of blogging.

I thought of what to call the blog post. You’ve probably read it by now. It’s up there.^ (That’s an arrow.)

I had a professor in undergrad who saw my perfectionism. He is a Biology professor, and he saw how it affected me, from the classroom to homework to the lab. It was especially evident in the lab when we had big projects that required whatever time I deemed necessary outside of typical lab hours. I worked too long and too hard. Through many conversations, my professor would remind me, “Do your best, then move on” or “Do your best, then walk away.” I would usually respond with something like, “But how do you know if it’s your best?” or “But I can always do more!” He patiently reminded me of it, time after time. Over the years, more professors, mentors, and influential people in my life have reminded me of the same thing. While they probably felt like they were talking to a brick wall at the time, it was actually sinking in.

I tell the same thing to Gadget now. She’s in preschool, and I hope and pray she lets it sink in before perfectionism pulls her down.

I don’t want perfectionism to stop me from writing this blog. I won’t let perfectionism stop me. I have a feeling that whoever is reading this doesn’t mind if I have a mistake in my grammar or spelling. I will have mistakes. I am human. I understand when other people make mistakes, but it’s hard having that same grace for myself. I’m working on it, though.

To all the perfectionists out there: I get it. To anyone (perfectionist or not) struggling right now: I’m pulling for you. You’ve got this. Keep going, one moment at a time.

“Do your best, then move on.”

Thank You to the Mental Health Professionals of the Hospital

Please Note: This is NOT medical advice. If you have medical (including mental health) concerns, please contact the appropriate healthcare providers. If needed, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit their website to Chat with them and find resources. 

To the Mental Health Professionals from my recent hospital stay,

You recently worked with me again after I had to return to the hospital for another week in the psych ward, less than a month after I was discharged from my past visit. Thank you for how well you treated me. I hope that the things I noticed you doing can be used to encourage other people working in the field of mental health to treat people with such respect. Specifically, thank you for 3 things: Thank you for recognizing I was in a crisis, treating me like a human, and treating me as an adult.

Thank you for recognizing I was in a crisis: 

  • Thanks to my outpatient therapist for taking a phone call and helping Garnet and me figure out that I needed to go to the hospital. I was experiencing so many racing thoughts and emotions, I couldn’t figure out what to do. I couldn’t even figure out if I was hungry for breakfast that day. I appreciate your help figuring out I needed to go to the ER, even if it was just for an evaluation (which *spoiler alert* turned into a hospital admission).
  • Thank you for seating me to the side in the waiting room of the emergency department. My senses were already overloaded, and it was helpful to be a little separated from the chaos of the ER.
  • Thank you for taking me seriously. In the past, some professionals haven’t taken me seriously about my suicidal thoughts when they find out I haven’t attempted suicide before. I realize the statistics are different for people with past attempts, but everyone who attempted had a time before they attempted. Thank you for helping me before I did something harmful. Thank you for helping to keep me safe.
  • Thank you for helping me make decisions. I appreciate the balance you found between including me in decisions and helping me to make them. Being there voluntarily, I’m grateful I had a say in things. My judgement and logic were clouded by anxiety and severe depression, though. Thank you for your help in making decisions ranging from my admission to my discharge.
  • Thank you for being mindful of your questions. In the past, I’ve had experiences in which professionals have asked about and talked about suicide over and over. I came there for help and safety, and I didn’t want to have to repeat myself or keep talking about suicide. Thank you for keeping those topics and questions to a minimum, asking only as professionally necessary.

Thank you for treating me like a human:

  • Thank you for letting me know what you were going to do while I was in the ER and for asking my permission as much as possible. You let me know we were heading for a room in the ER that wouldn’t have medical equipment like the others. It wasn’t a fun place to be, but I knew I was there for my safety. Thank you for leaving the door open. Thank you for making sure I was okay with having my blood drawn. Thank you for caring about how I felt and how your actions affected me.
  • Thank you for the smooth transition from the ER to the psych unit. It was late at night, and even though I had been there before I was still very anxious. Thank you for making sure I had enough to eat and drink. Thank you for talking with me instead of at me. Thank you for washing the clothes I had worn to the ER (while I was wearing scrubs) so they would be clean and fresh for the next day.
  • Thank you for your knowledgeable use of medications. Unlike some portrayals in the media, I was never medicated to the point of being zombie-like. I wasn’t even close to that. Thanks to the psychiatrists for using medications helpful to my situation that would be sustainable after I went home. Thanks to the nurses for making me aware of the medications and doses I was receiving. This was helpful for the transition home, where I am in charge of my own medications.
  • Thank you for your meaningful interactions throughout the day while I was in the psych unit. Some of you came to the meetings and group check-ins. Some of you ate with us. Some of you did arts and crafts with us. You found times to have important and helpful conversations.

Thank you for treating me as an adult: 

  • I was so depressed when I got there that I didn’t feel like taking care of myself very well. Instead of treating me like a child and telling me when I had to do things like shower and eat, you let me choose for myself as an adult. You gathered towels, soap, and shampoo for me when I was ready to take a shower. You held extra meals back for people who missed meal times. As I recovered, I was increasingly motivated to take care of myself.
  • Thank you for letting me be in charge of my sleep schedule. At first I thought you would make everyone go to bed at a certain time. Then I realized that you left it up to each person. You dimmed the lights and offered night medications, but you ultimately left my bedtime up to me. I was able to watch TV and wind down until a time similar to when I go to sleep at home. You came into the room to take vitals in the mornings, but you didn’t force me out of bed. Thank you for letting me make these choices as I do at home.
  • Thank you for letting me choose how to spend my day. While choices in the psych ward are limited, you let me make as many of the choices as possible. You didn’t force me to go to meetings and groups, but you invited me every time. The focus of each group was age-appropriate for us as adults. I attended as many of the groups as possible because that’s how I am, but everyone was able to make their own choice.

By doing these things, you helped with the progress of my recovery, and you helped to equip me for my discharge and life outside the psych ward. While I hope that I won’t have to come back, especially not anytime soon, I know you are there to help me stay safe and help with acute stabilization as needed. Thank you for recognizing I was in a crisis, treating me like a human, and treating me as an adult. Thank you for helping me to realize I really do want to be alive.