So, this is long. I'll break it into headings, to try to help.
The Terrible Psychiatrist
I'd been depressed throughout a good deal of my life, since my father died when I was 16, but I was managing pretty well at the time this story starts, which is around age 29. Life was good--I have a great marriage (my awesome husband once answered my question of 'why are you still with me?' (at a time when I was very depressed and doing just about nothing around the house) with, 'Because I know the real you, and I love you. Some day you'll feel better, and that's worth waiting for.' ♥) and a stable financial situation, etc. However, I have a few sleep disorders and very strange problems that are hard to quantify. Sometimes I say things backwards, or do actions backwards. I'll order Sprite (which I don't like) instead of Dr. Pepper (my favorite), but have intended, and heard myself say, Dr. Pepper. I'll hit the gas instead of the brake--disturbing stuff, at that level! So my Primary Care Physician sent me to see a psychiatrist to see if there was anything they could recognize as a problem.
The psychiatrist they sent me to (known now as Psychiatrist Guy) must have had some sort of a problem with a past patient committing suicide, I think, because his behavior was very strange--essentially, after asking me a bunch of questions throughout almost the whole session trying to pin down the odd brain/action disconnect, he asked me one final question, which I should never have answered. "Do you have any mental health issues?" I mentioned I'd been depressed in the past, and on hearing that, he told me he takes that very seriously, and wanted to meet with me once, maybe twice a week. I agreed, thinking it was about the thing I came to him for, and that it might be related to the depression--but once I went to the second session, I was getting some serious red flags. He spent the whole session trying to convince me that I needed to check myself into a mental institution, that I was a danger to others, and about to kill myself.
He had my husband come in for the third session, and basically browbeat us on how I was seriously a danger to myself and others (keep in mind--I wasn't severely depressed, at this point. All I'd done to indicate any problem whatsoever was answering his question truthfully that I had been depressed in the past). This guy was good at manipulating people; he ended up convincing us both that the disconnect problems I had gone to him for initially were a warning sign of severe depression and that I needed to get care soon or I would kill myself. We were so worried about this that we took me over to the nearby mental hospital that night.
Scary Intake Team, Continued Terrible First Psychiatrist
Basically the intake team didn't think I was a danger. At this point my husband and I were genuinely worried, but also didn't trust the Psychiatrist Guy at all, so we told them not to consult Psychiatrist guy and I signed and dated a note to the intake team saying that the first psychiatrist was NOT to be contacted or his opinion consulted in any way (we felt he was very biased, given his severe reaction). They called him anyway. After speaking with him, they told me I was to be admitted immediately.
We were understandably upset. We tried to explain to the intake psychiatrist (Intake Guy) that we felt that Psychiatrist Guy was exaggerating my symptoms, and pointed to the note (and my verbal requests) where we had forcefully requested them not to contact him. Intake Guy made no apology. During this conversation, Intake Guy was having me fill out paperwork, which turned out to be the consent form for admittance. He'd distracted me almost enough to sign it, but I caught myself after writing the first letter of my first name. I objected to the deception, and he took the form from me and disappeared behind a set of doors, where we weren't able to follow him. After a half hour, he came back, and told me that because I'd written anything at all in the line for my name, he COULD take it as my consent, even though I was telling him I did NOT want to consent--essentially committing me against my will on the pretext that I'd signed it with a J.
Intake Guy and my husband go into a side room for an hour and hash it out. There's yelling. When they come out, Intake Guy leaves us be for about 10 minutes and my husband tells me they're considering letting me leave if he signs a form stating that it's not the hospital's fault if I kill myself, it's MY HUSBAND'S fault. Sort of a 'against medical advice' that specifically puts blame on the person who signs it. Intake Guy comes back and says there's a phone call for my husband.
IT'S PSYCHIATRIST GUY. INTAKE GUY CALLED PSYCHIATRIST GUY. Psychiatrist Guy spends 20 minutes trying to persuade my husband I'm about to go postal and kill everyone we love. He tells my husband that people who are suicidal are manipulative, that I'll tell him I'm okay, and even act okay, but Psychiatrist Guy knows the signs, and I'm not safe. Basically Psychiatrist Guy takes mannerisms of mine from our brief meetings and twists them into ways to try to convince my husband that I've been manipulating him throughout our life together.
My husband comes back completely emotionally drained, and pretty terrified. He tells me what happened, and that he loves me very, very much, and he trusts me more than Psychiatrist Guy. He tells me if I really want to leave, he'll sign the paper and take me home, but he doesn't want to ever go through this again. I agree. We go home.
We Meet The Psych Hospital Retention Team
So if you leave 'against medical advice,' apparently you're assigned to a caseworker whose job it is to lie, cheat, and harass you until you come back. Remember when I mentioned that I had a sleep disorder? At the time, one facet of it was a circadian rhythm disorder, where I slept during the day instead of at night. The Retention Lady told me they'd let me sleep during the day if I went back. She told me there was a special ward for people with depression (as opposed to those who are sociopathic, for example). She essentially promised a ton of stuff she knew was a lie, until we decided that even though I wasn't as depressed as Psychiatrist Guy thought, a brief stay might help me. So we went back.
A lot happened in the hospital (including a literally psychotic roommate who tried to get me locked in the literal padded room, but we'll leave that out), but the gist of it was that, yeah, Retention Lady lied through her teeth. Pretty much nothing helped me there except the booklet for Dialectic Behavior Therapy, which I worked on by myself, and probably could have gotten my hands on without having checked myself into the mental ward.
The way psych hospitals work with voluntary admission is that you must give them three days' notice if you want to leave. Since I gave them notice the second the charge nurse said to me 'Oh, honey. There's no fucking way we're going to let you sleep during the day. Whoever told you that is an asshole,' I just basically had to endure long enough for their in-house psychiatrist (Ward Psychiatrist) to give me the OK.
Ward Psychiatrist refused to do so unless I promised to do outpatient therapy, which, fair enough. He told me they'd have varying options for different problems and personality types. Wanna guess if he was right?
Outpatient 'Therapy,' or How I Got A Terrible 'Therapist' Fired
I think I was told about 5 or 6 times that the outpatient program I was being required to attend was NOT a group therapy situation.
It was a group therapy situation.
Basically the setup met three days a week, three hours at a time, for a group therapy thing. The way the group was SUPPOSED to go was this: 10-20 minutes of 'recap' where the Group Therapists talk to everyone about how their time between meetings went. Then an hour and a half to teach us Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), and the rest of the time (including 5 minute breaks here and there) for discussion on how we can and will apply what we learned.
The actual setup was 2 and a half hours of 'recap' time, and maybe 10 minutes if we were lucky of DBT. Every single member was required to spend at least 5-10 minutes talking about themselves (I have a great deal of problem with this. I'm good one on one, but I have privacy issues when I feel required to share personal information. I'm great at electing to share it, I should add, but being required to is onerous--and even more so when I feel required to listen to other people's personal information in a group setting. It's none of my business, and the group wasn't even supposed to include hours' worth of sharing!
After a few weeks of this, and of my keeping my mouth shut at my increasing distress at being required to attend something that wasn't being run properly or helping me at all, the Group Therapist finally asked me to share what seemed to cause me so much distress. She had to tease it out of me (because I didn't want to make anyone feel bad about the situation--it wasn't their fault), but I finally admitted how frustrated I was with the meagre offerings of DBT they were giving us, instead of what the 'curriculum' was. Here's where it got really bad.
Group Therapist: So what I'm hearing you say is that you want more skills, yes? So why don't you try limiting your sharing time so we can get to it faster? Stop talking.
Me: Did you just tell me to shut up?
Group Therapist: Yes, yes I did.
Me: *leaves in an angry huff*
Seriously? Seriously?! When I'd calmed down, I contacted the other folks in charge of the meetings (there's a Group Psychiatrist, an Individual Therapist, and the Group Therapist), and expressed my extreme displeasure in an actual calm and rational manner (still proud of that). Individual Therapist asked if I'd be willing to meet with Group Therapist, and hinted that if I'd be able to do that, she might be able to get Group Psychiatrist to sign off on letting me leave the group (you weren't allowed to stop attending without their say-so. You / your insurance would be charged for the time whether you attended or not). I've blocked out most of that meeting, but I do remember staying rational (very proud of that, too), expressing my hurt feelings at something that is very unprofessional, and hearing non-apologies from the Group Therapist. I also spoke about how extremely out of the normal range of healthy therapy the group itself was (they were at LEAST 20 people over capacity. It was supposed to be a 15 person group, but it was 35 people at its largest), and how unhelpful that was for its purpose. After the meeting, I was told that yes, I could leave, and the Individual Therapist admitted to me that I had been right about finding group therapy unhelpful in the first place (something I told her in our first mandated meeting). It had actually made me worse.
Thank Goodness Not Everyone Is Terrible At Their Jobs
I want to close this looonggg post saying that after I left the outpatient therapy group, I looked for someone who could teach me DBT one on one. This person was fantastic, and tailored her therapy to me specifically. Generally she required her patients to also attend a group therapy for DBT, but waived that once she heard about my troubles. She helped me deal with all of the residual CRAP I went through in a wonderful way, leading to me improving my life significantly (becoming that healthy me my husband knew I could be) to the point where now, nearly three years later, I have an associate's degree, a 2 year old daughter, and am 16 weeks pregnant. When I went to her she asked me what I wanted most in the world. I told her I wanted to go back to college and start a family. I found out months later that within a few weeks of my leaving the outpatient therapy group, the groups were completely discontinued from that location, and the Group Therapist was fired.
If you made it through all that, AWESOME. If you didn't, here's a TL;DR for outside the cut:
TL;DR (no kidding!): Going to a psychiatrist for non mental health issues leads to me committed to a mental hospital for a few days, required to attend group therapy where the therapist in charge ran the group completely contrary to the established format, and told me to shut up in the group for daring to point this out after being asked to share my concerns.