Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital helps patients manage their mental health at many stages of life, from childhood and adolescence to retirement and beyond.
Recently, a patient in the senior intensive outpatient program shared their experience in this first-person story. They agreed to allow Sharp Health News to share their words, in the hopes of inspiring other older adults in need of help to seek care.
I am calling my time in the senior intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital an adventure.
It was exciting, uncertain, and I didn’t know how I would end up.
You see, my mental health struggle began as a teenager. I experienced an emotional breakdown when a very close friend of mine was killed by a drunk driver.
That experience led me to be hospitalized for a year in a state mental hospital, where I received several electroconvulsive treatments (ECT) to help relieve my symptoms and I was seeing a psychiatrist.
After that experience, I thought I handled things pretty well during the rest of my teenage years and early adult life.
I maintained exemplary work history as a barber and kept my anxiety in check, even with the responsibilities and stresses of my job.
Now, let us fast-forward to that grand time of retirement. I retired at the age of 68.
Even though I looked forward to retirement all my life — just waiting for that day I would not have to go to work anymore — I was not emotionally prepared.
The structure of going to my job and interacting with customers on a daily basis was changing. My anxiety level started to go up, but I did not have a job or purpose to distract from the anxiety.
Additionally, I suffered from multiple injuries from a biking accident and later came down with viral meningitis.
I lost 40 pounds during this period and was extremely weak. It took a year for me to get back to my normal level of vitality and endurance.
At this point, I lost the battle of control with anxiety. It was so severe, I was sure I was having another breakdown. I was afraid I was going to do something to myself to stop the pain.
Thankfully, I was referred to Sharp Mesa Vista by a mental health nurse who came to visit me at home during my period of rehabilitation from my injuries.
I met with Sharp Mesa Vista caregivers at the hospital in January 2016 and decided the senior intensive outpatient program was the best fit for me.
Just knowing I was going into a program where I would get help seemed to calm me some, although the idea of group therapy was scary. I have always been a private person and have never talked openly about secrets, my problems or myself to strangers. I think in the beginning, my fear held me back from really letting go and trusting the group.
It took me six months before I started to see positive changes in my attitude and behaviors. A major breakthrough for me was learning the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
In the program, I learned I had no control over situations and emotions; I could, however, change my thoughts, which had the power to change how I was feeling and how I reacted to situations.
So, here I am at the other end of the senior intensive outpatient program.
I was told at the start I would get the help I needed and that I would get well and feel better. Thankfully, almost two years later, I am glad to say that has become my reality. I am a much calmer person today and enjoy life a lot more.
My future plans are to learn American Sign Language to keep my brain sharp, and continue reading and studying my papers and notes from the Sharp Mesa Vista program.
I feel very confident that I will be able to maintain my level of recovery and will stay well as I move through the rest of my life.
Learn more about older adult services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.
For the news media: To talk with Caroline Atterton about the senior intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.