Behind bars

That’s what it felt like when I was institutionalized in November and December of 2014. I felt like I had been imprisoned behind bars. My first assumption was that this is what it must feel like to be in jail. I spent just about 7 weeks at the Mental Health Foundation St.Maarten.  I was released on December 19th 2014. Though, my whole experience there was not completely negative.

First of all, I had to be taken to Sint Maarten from Saba on a helicopter. You can imagine, that while being delusional, I had fears of flying on a helicopter, though, I had already flown in a helicopter once before. This time it was not at all a fun experience, though in hind sight it was not a bad experience. All I could think of at that time , over and over in my head was, “will this helicopter go down because there is no way they can glide a helicopter if it has engine trouble” for the whole 20 minute helicopter ride.

The first day I was put in a room by myself. This room was akin to a solitary confinement cell, in my mind. It had a bed in it, a video camera mounted from the ceiling and a huge metal door with a small window on the metal door. After a while, being in this room by myself, the doctor came to check on me. I was allowed to sleep outside the “solitary confinement” room on the first night. I got up the next morning and I showered. I had a cold shower so then I thought I was in the army barracks or at least that’s how I felt at that time.

Later on, I was moved to a room that I shared with other female mental health patients. Every morning, we were woken up at 7 AM to check our blood pressure. At times, I felt so bad that I could hardly stand up. I would lay back down on the bed because my blood pressure was so low because of the heavy medication that I was on. After the nurses checked our blood pressure, I usually went back to sleep until after 10 AM. Some days I tried to get up to have breakfast because this was at a set time but this was very difficult for me because I was so drugged at the time.

Some days we would have an exercise class together and I would look forward to moments like this when I could be outside the confines of the Mental Health Foundation. There was a television and a computer room inside which also had books that you could read. Unfortunately, I did not make use of this room so often because I couldn’t concentrate through the time it took to watch a movie. I only used this room, mostly when I had visitors which thankfully I did have.

Structure and routine throughout the day are very important to mental health patients and this was established at the Mental Health Foundation. We would have lunch always at 12 PM and would join in prayer before we sat down to our lunchtime meal. Lunch was always a warm meal.

After 10 AM, when I woke up, I would try to make it to the crafts room which was filled with Arts & Crafts materials. This room was only open in the mornings which I thought was a pity because I was so drowsy in the mornings that I was almost incapable of doing anything. Though, when the medicine had not quite began to work, I felt like I was back in my childhood as a Scout making arts and crafts. I did do some small paintings but I didn’t have quite the patience to make the painting the way I wanted it to turn out in my mind though this seems to be a consistent problem of mine when I am painting.

In the afternoons, between 1PM and 3PM, we were put to rest. Sometimes, I would go online, on my phone, to check  Facebook. I missed home (the island of Saba) so much during this time. I missed my husband and my dog. From 3PM onwards, it was trying to find things to do, which usually meant I was playing dominoes or I was pacing up and down, experiencing a little akathisia, that is restlessness, outside the ward, but still in an enclosed area, behind bars, metal doors,  an alarm system and video cameras; At one point I became so frustrated that I actually pushed in the heavy metal door and set off the alarm system . For me, inside the institution was all about killing time until I could see my husband the next time, who came to visit me quite often,  under the circumstances, usually on the weekends.

While, I was institutionalized, I had EMDR therapy, which I will explain more about in a month as I am going to write a monthly blog from now on.











“The good, the bad and the ugly”

So back to Zyprexa (Olanzapine) – my friend in getting me stabilized but whilst still my worst enemy…this antipsychotic caused constipation. To combat this side effect, I got smart the second time I was put on Zyprexa,  I drank prune juice and ate lots of apples for its fiber content to help my digestive system along. Nowadays, I use 5 mg lactulose syrup, nightly, to help me stay regular because Abilify also tends to slow down the digestive tract. Yes, I just did discuss “shit!” But only in an effort to help those who may have similar problems to mine. So, stay healthy by eating your fruits.

Zyprexa, also had the tendency to knock me out meaning that I slept from around 9PM until 9AM the next morning and that was only on 5 mg. The only good thing I can say about Zyprexa, is that it did not seem to affect my cognitive functioning much as I was able to pass Astronomy on it, and that was a pretty difficult class. I am working on my Associate’s degree in Science of Business, online, with Columbia Southern University.

Haldol, another drug that is infamous in the treatment of psychotic disorders, depending on whose perspective you take, the doctors’ or the patient, is a drug that works great in treating and preventing psychosis, but for the patient, well at least me in this case, it made me feel like a zombie. Haldol is one of the older antipsychotics, so doctors prefer to use it because it is evidenced that it works. I wasn’t much aware of the side effects of this drug when I was put on it because I was still experiencing psychosis; During my third psychotic episode, I was experiencing delusions, a symptom of schizophrenia.

So while I was institutionalized, a nurse whispered in my ear that “I would get out of there (St.Maarten Mental Health Foundation) a lot faster if I took an injection form of the drugs”. Though, I hate injections, I decided to go with the advice and get a needle clapped in my buttocks with Clopixol (zuclopenthixol). This was while I was still on Zyprexa and Promethazine. Eventually, I came off Zyprexa in April of 2015 without gaining anymore weight because I exercised and ate healthy after learning from my previous experience on this medication. I came off Promethazine too, after having gotten sick in October of 2014. Promethazine is an antihistamine drug used as a counteractive drug to the extrapyramidal side effects of antipsychotics. As far as I knew, I didn’t have any allergies at the moment, I was only “allergic” to antipsychotics…so why was I on an antihistamine drug? It’s also used as a weak antipsychotic.

So you can imagine that I felt over drugged at that time.  I was on 200mg of Clopixol injections, every 4 weeks for 7 months and the remainder of the year 2015, I was switched to Fluanxol (flupentixol), which is purportedly less sedative than Clopixol, though I couldn’t tell much difference between the two. Clopixol, just like Fluanxol, is a typical antipsychotic from the thioxanthene class, therefore from the older generation of antipsychotic medications which blocks dopamine – the happy chemical in your brains which, when you’ve got too much of it,  it causes psychosis :-(.

I am now on Abilify, since August 2015 and will have to be on it for another year, minimally, if I don’t relapse, according to my psychiatrist. So it will be another year of fighting the fatigue that comes along with this medication, although, this medication is the better of the lot. It is an antipsychotic from the atypical class of antipsychotics, meaning the second generation of antipsychotics. And, the fun thing  about this medication is that, according to Steve Balt (n.d. ),

it doesn’t block dopamine (specifically, dopamine D2) or serotonin (specifically, 5-HT1A) receptors.  Rather, it’s a partial agonist at those receptors.  It can activate those receptors, but not to the full biological effect.  In lay terms, then, it can both enhance dopamine and serotonin signaling where those transmitters are deficient, and inhibit signaling where they’re in excess. (para 4)

Steve Balt is a Medical Doctor in the field of psychiatry, who writes a blog, but has also suffered and is in recovery from severe mental illness. So you see, there are those of us that can function, and function on a  high level in main stream society. Therefore, I say, there are those “sticking it to stigma” on a daily basis, so there is hope.


Balt, S. (n.d.). How Abilify Works and Why It Matters. Retrieved from