Scraps of Memories: 5150 and Obessive Compulsive Disorder
One night in August 2006, for reasons I’d rather not divulge at the moment, I was confined under California Welfare and Institutions Code 5150, (Involuntary Psychiatric Hold) for 72 hours. Once I took a moment to stop thinking about what had brought me to the Emergency Room that night, and subsequently what got me admitted to a psychiatric health facility, my surroundings frightened me. I didn’t have my own clothes at first. I wasn’t allowed to use a pen, I had to borrow a tiny stub of a pencil from the front desk and request that it be sharpened every few minutes just so I could write my thoughts down on paper. I had to share a room at one point with this woman who had bouts of flatulence in her sleep. A facility employee had to accompany you to a shower room and stand outside, and theoretically was supposed to keep people from walking in, since you there weren’t locks on the doors. I recall taking a shower and someone walking in on the tail end of me getting dressed, I wasn’t exposed but could have easily been.
I knew that the facility employees were monitoring pretty much everything I did, including noting my attendance or absence to group sessions, the level of appetite I had during meal times and what I chose to do during our “free time.” These were all factors that would impact how quickly or how slowly the process of getting me released would be. Despite knowing the participation criteria, I was initially really unmotivated to take part in group activities because I did have a bit of a defeatist “what’s the f*cking point?” attitude coupled with the “everyone else here is 10 times crazier than I am.” When the end of the 72 hours were almost over, I remember being anxious to get out, smoke a cigarette, buy copious amounts of pens, be in my own room again, with my own clothes, spend time with family and friends etc. But I still felt a lot of the emotions that brought me there in the first place, still felt like a terrible person, wrapped in a shroud of guilt that felt like it could never fully be removed…I’m not sure if staying longer would’ve had a positive or negative effect on me. But as much as I’d like to say the experience was more helpful than harmful, I’m not entirely sure.
A few months following my 5150 incident, the doctor who chose to hospitalize me had since become my therapist and he informed me that my mental illness had a name: obsessive compulsive disorder. At first, I was shocked at my diagnosis since I’m admittedly a messy person, which clearly did not match the image often portrayed in the media of the typical person effected with obsessive compulsive disorder, usually someone who is unnaturally preoccupied with cleanliness and extremely afraid of germs. Additionally, TV shows and films that feature characters afflicted with OCD often don’t mention that not only is there more than one subtype of OCD (i.e. hoarders, checkers, washers etc.) but also a person’s OCD can manifest in different ways and change over time. However, I think a commonality that all OCD sufferers share is that their “brain chatter” is constantly in overdrive and a lot of compulsions, whether obvious and overt or discrete and covert, are done in an attempt to, at least momentarily, silence that brain chatter.
I’ve spent the last 10 years worried about how my actions would effect my soon to be ex-husband, his family, and since my son was born, how my actions would effect my son, but when it came to considering how my actions would effect myself, it always seemed to take a backseat to how my actions would effect the rest of the world. Before meeting my husband, I always had some sort of parent/guardian figure making decisions for me. My aunt and my mother are two very different people in terms of disposition, perspectives and general approaches to life but they were raised by the same parents, are both arguably mentally ill, albeit in two very different ways and both severely criticized what little choices I was allowed to make. My dysfunctional relationships with my aunt and my mother, have unfortunately influenced and shaped my emotional terrain. I’m not a doctor but I think my OCD originates from my internal struggle between wanting to have control over my life while simultaneously avoiding making decisions or exercising control in fear of making the “wrong” decisions.
I realized I'm not sure if this post has a purpose beyond reflecting upon my experiences...