Next week, I will be returning to FV in the inpatient unit for the first time in over 2 years. This time around is much different. I won’t be a patient there now (and hopefully never, ever again), but I will be completing the majority of my mental health clinical hours.
My anxiety has gotten pretty high over this. I’m worrying like crazy and trying to calm that down. After plenty of talking with some staff from IOP/friends I do feel a little better. I think what I need most is to write out some intentions so I can hold myself accountable.
What I will do
- Act “normal.” What I mean by this is pretend that I’m just a nursing student and not a patient. At this point, it has been over 2 years since my one week inpatient stay and 3 for my PHP experience. I feel well removed from those situations and I fully believe I won’t suddenly revert to feeling like a patient once I am back in that place.
- Cover up my scars – for obvious reasons. This will also protect me from looking like someone who suffers from mental illness. While my professor knows I have a history with mental health (no details there), the patients I interact with are not going to have a clue. I want to keep it this way.
- Eat in the cafeteria. Gah this kills me. More than anything, food brings up the most negative reaction from things that occurred at FV. I can still picture the trays, being forced to eat things I didn’t necessarily like, those stupid desserts every.single.lunch, the staff “offering” Ensure if you didn’t eat every single bite. I realize this is going to be different. Instead of a room with just ED patients, I’ll be in the cafeteria with other staff. I will not be watched like a hawk. I get real choices to get whatever sounds best. It will be a struggle for many reasons, but I hope that I’ll realize that eating there will be a good thing.
- Avoid VH aka Dr. VanDouchebag. If there is one person who I would absolutely avoid FV again for, it would be him. He is the ED psychiatrist aka the guy who threatened me with inpatient, told me i would be tubed, and basically was the most frustrating hardass to work with. I will never be more thrilled that never having to see him again. Even if it was as a student instead, I just don’t wish to interact with him in any way. If only I could nonchalantly tell my prof being on his service isn’t an option, ha!
What I will stay away from
- Telling my professor about my eating disorder. Maybe this seems counterintuitive. To me, it’s not. I don’t wish to be treated differently because of my past. I hope to have an experience there that will help me learn the most. I think her knowing about the ED would cause her to keep me off of 1-2 units out of 5, which would definitely hinder my experience.
- Disclosing of my history at FV. I think this would be just as harmful, if not more, than talking about my eating disorder. I have a feeling she wouldn’t feel so comfortable with me doing clinicals there. (Fun fact: I specifically chose this site so I could experience the hospital from a different light)
- Ask to change placement in the hospital. I don’t want special treatment and asking to change where I am assigned to would do just that. Dr. C is especially concerned with this. After needing it last year with missing classes, she doesn’t want a repeat. She believes it would negatively affect my nursing experience. There is no good reasons for that to happen, except…
- Let my recovery be jeopardized. If it becomes absolutely necessary, I will reach out. I can’t see that happening at this point, given I’ve been in treatment for a million hours this year and am completely used to hearing potentially triggering things. In the minute chance it does occur, I will find some sort of excuse before I would actually disclose personal information. No clinical experience would be worth slipping backwards in recovery, especially considering all the hard work I’ve put in.
- Say hi to staff (unless alone/away from my prof and fellow students). There is one staff member I particularly love. She has worked during IOP as well and was there during the time I got accepted into nursing <3. I would absolutely love to update her and chat for a bit. I do plan on this if at all possible. On the other hand, I’m thankful for HIPAA and the fact that any staff who remember me cannot say a word. It will fully be my choice to acknowledge that past relationship or not.
- Tell any fellow patients from my time there that I remember them. Unfortunately, these relationships aren’t really protected by anything. If someone recognizes me they have all the rights in the world to ask me about how I’m doing, say hi, etc. This one somewhat freaks me out. While I definitely care about them, talking to them for reasons other than a therapeutic one would clearly let on that I was a patient once too. I really hope to protect that information and not be the broken/unstable student.
- Provide care for anyone I have talked to outside of treatment. I mostly doubt this would happen. I am not in contact with 90% of those I was at FV with. The ones I do still talk to are not there currently. Even if they became patients again I would probably see it first on Facebook or something. Still, I am prepared for the slight chance of this happening. I wouldn’t even have to disclose why or how I know them here, just that I do and therefore cannot be involved with their care. If there is a case of recognizing them without seeing them outside of treatment, that wouldn’t need to be avoided unless they would be uncomfortable with it.
- Let my adviser (who isn’t the prof for clinicals) know about my treatment and struggles the past year. She is aware of my eating disorder and the fact that I went to residential. The last time I mentioned it was right after, so around a year and a half ago. I’ve considered talking about IOP, the semester from hell last spring, and the fact that I spent the vast majority of my summer in treatment. While this has been a significant part of my story, it really shouldn’t affect anything if she isn’t aware (at least I’m telling myself that). I can imagine Dr. C’s disapproval if I asked her advice on the subject. She would call that special treatment that would follow me through the next 2 years.
I’ll admit, I am uncertain about some of these rules I’ve made for myself. It bothers me that I can’t predict the future of what will happen the next month and a half. It could go fine, but it may also mean everything I’ve set up will be challenged. All I want is to get the very most out of my time at FV. I’m trying to believe in myself and my ability to make returning to the psychiatric hospital a nonissue.