Labels & Mental Illness

If you haven't spoken to me, you probably don't yet know that I've spent four days on a 5150 hold at Alhambra Hospital (a psych ward) in the LA area. The previous evening, I had arrived voluntarily at UCLA medical center, where it took me over three hours to speak to the psychiatrist. I know they're busy, but I was in the midst of a manic episode, and could have really used at least an Ativan to calm me down.

Alas, after speaking with the psychiatrist, he decided to detain me at the hospital. Four very large, possibly professional sports retiree, security guards surrounded me. I started to panic: I didn't have time for this; I just want to speak to a psychiatrist privately; you're violating my fourth amendment right... My pleas were only fuel to the fire.

They escorted me into a nearby room, where I was instructed to remove all of my clothing, don a hospital gown, and injected with some kind of depressant: they wouldn't tell me what it was, and I did not consent to the injection. Then they plied me with an Ativan, which I had really needed 3 to 6 hours prior. Mumbling assertions of a lawsuit, I drifted out of consciousness in scrubs on a hospital cot.

I woke up in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar place. Still groggy from the medication, I wandered out to the nurse's desk. I won't go into too much detail here, because I've already written my experience at Alhambra Hospital up. There's a green Mead Composition book scrawled with golf pencil chicken-scratch that chronicles my experience there. I will be posting the images soon, so stay tuned if you're into this shit.

I did not consciously speak with a psychiatrist until about 48 hrs after I awoke in the ward. They told me that I had met with a psychiatrist on entry, although I had no recollection of it due to the medication they gave me at UCLA. I had to call the Patient's Rights Hotline (listed on the back of a handbook given to every patient) before the doctor deigned to see me.

He informed me that he'd diagnosed me with bipolar I, and that I was to take the medication prescribed to me: Zyprexa 5mg before bed. Zpyrexa is an antipsychotic with a whole host of side effects and terrible withdrawal. I consented to take my medication, even though it makes me tired, sluggish, and on the brink of depression again.

I'd like to draw a metaphor here between a fashion label and a mental health diagnosis. Trying to accurately diagnose a mental illness is extremely difficult: if you believe you can do so, I'll ask you if you've just matched some symptoms from WebMD, or if you've actually received an MD or Ph.  D in the matter. People go to school for many years in order to make a proper diagnosis, just like many (although not all) fashion designers also attend University and Masters Degree programs.

So if we look at my diagnosis as a label, some of the veneer starts to rub off. In fashion, a label tells you a bit about the product. Certain labels tell you what's appropriate to wear at different events. You might not want to wear your $10,000 Armani suit to your cousin's birthday party; it just isn't appropriate. On the other hand, you're not going to want to wear that Champion wife beater stuffed in your sock drawer to a business meeting. Again, labels inform the wearer of the appropriate actions to take with the garment.

Similarly, mental health diagnoses help outsiders to understand what a patient is going through; how his or her mind may be working. Unfortunately, diagnoses are far less rigid than a brand. I've seen three separate psychiatrists, and as I'm writing this I'm waiting to see another. All three have given me different diagnoses. It's a tough racket.

As a side note, I'm not sure why I had to pay a $75 copay for an appointment that I'm (loosely) obligated to attend. I'm lucky in that I can (sort of) afford it, but others who need this kind of help likely can't afford a random charge like that.

I'm continuing writing after the appointment now, sitting in Charlie Hong Kong on my laptop listening to "wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'..." That shrink thinks that the manic episode was brought on by drug use (just a microdose and a bit of powder), and I tend to agree with her. Is it bad if you're attracted to your psychiatrist? I have a girlfriend.

I was on my way to Yoga, but decided that I probably need to eat something other than one poached egg and a couple small slices of country loaf from Tartine Manufactory. Anyway, this is all to affirm the old adage: "Don't judge a book by its cover."

The cover might give you some insight to the book, but don't assume you've read it simply by reading the jacket. "All of my love... all of my love, for you" plays over the speakers, and my rice bowl has arrived. Signing off. Keep up or catch up (tm).