Getting back to any sort of normality after my hospitalisation did not feel like an option. It felt surreal to go from hospital to pandemic. It was like entering a new world.

TW: Overdose

@RelapseRover‘s #MadCovidDiaries – 27.5.2020

Life after hospital in Covid times

A week before lockdown I was discharged from hospital after a two month admission. On the day of my discharge all the patients got a letter from the hospital managers explaining that due to this thing called Covid they may have to take precautions to keep everyone safe. At that time leave was still permitted but they said they may have to review that. Just a week later all leave was stopped and staff donned PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I had no idea we were entering a global pandemic as I’d been totally cut off from everything, too ill to engage with anything that was happening in the world. In hospital I asked on a couple of occasions if there was anything going on in the news but the staff didn’t mention Covid. Maybe at that point people didn’t realise what we were heading into?

The admission had not helped – I was getting worse in hospital. I had been assessed for a section 3 on two occasions. The psychiatrist there diagnosed Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) despite my protestations and was keen for me to be put on a section 3 because he thought that I needed more long term hospital treatment. Up until that point, after 8 admissions and 3 community psychiatrists in 3 years the conclusion from all was diagnoses of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. I was, and still am gutted about the EUPD diagnosis which I had avoided up until this point.

In hospital I had worked on a sort of discharge plan which consisted of finding activities to fill my time to add some structure and routine in my life. I had planned on volunteering at the local foodbank and cattery. A week after discharge though everything stopped and we were in the midst of a global pandemic. Getting back to any sort of normality after my hospitalisation did not feel like an option. It felt surreal to go from hospital to pandemic. It was like entering a new world. I would have to make a new kind of routine that involved staying in the house alone for months as others were experiencing. I had my driving licence taken away from me while I was in hospital so I was grounded in more than one sense.

I had a further brief hospitalisation in the midst of lockdown following an overdose where I was swabbed for Covid as standard (apparently as I don’t remember), which came back negative. All the staff were masked up and a follow-up with the crisis team was done in a socially distanced way with them PPE’d up in the family room on the ward. One of the crisis team clinicians was kind enough to pop his head round the door of my room to introduce himself before he wore the mask so I could see his face first which I appreciated. I still don’t know if lockdown was a contributing factor to this overdose or whether it would have happened anyway.

My care-coordinator had ceremoniously dumped me while I was in the hospital so I had a new one on discharge. We met once face-to-face before she had to go into isolation due to her son and partner experiencing Covid symptoms. She was working from home so we still had telephone appointments and have recently started doing video calls. It has been strange developing a therapeutic relationship over the phone. All the cues I usually use to gauge the person and their intent and meaning are missing. Luckily I think she is very good which has helped but it has been difficult to work in this way during my recovery. I have an initial telephone appointment with a new psychiatrist this week and again, this will feel odd.

My new care-coordinator says to let go of the new ‘diagnosis’ I have been given and focus on the symptoms I am experiencing and how to work on them. I don’t know. I hate the EUPD diagnosis for all the reasons that have been well documented; the stigma, the changed perceptions about presentation, the unsympathetic treatment of individuals with this diagnosis. I worry that I will now be treated differently because of this sinkhole diagnosis. I’m going to ask the new psychiatrist for a full diagnostic assessment in a future appointment which has never been done with me (despite so many admissions) so I’ll see what he says. I imagine this will be on the phone too if it happens.

Unpicking the reasons for another relapse, grappling with this new ‘diagnosis’ and engaging in recovery from the relapse has been difficult in these times of Covid. Finding new ways of working with my clinical team and finding my way out of a dark hole has been a challenge. On the other hand, I have felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow humans who have all been experiencing lockdown and the horrific effects of Covid. I am doing much the same as I would be doing post relapse anyway. Others are also experiencing this so it gives me a sense of normalisation in times that have been far from normal. Lockdown is easing and as I recover life becomes more settled. All the while, the fear of a second peak of Covid and the fear of relapsing run in tandem.

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