On one day my GP, who is also my best friend, confessed that she was hesitating for long time whether she had to become a psychiatrist, or a general practitioner, and finally opted for the latter. But she has never abandoned the old love of psychiatry because she works twice a week in a mental institution. That was the first time when I heard of the psychiatric clinic in Gauting.
Well, since I’m also a journalist, have been translating articles on psychological topics for years, I started to interested in the thing. I turned to my physician friend for help and she finally arranged to participate in the psychiatric institute programs in January 2009. I was ready for the challenge and after the permission of my GP my name was put on a waiting list for a vacant bed. When everything had come together I was got a phonecall that I could go there. When I arrived in Gauting it was a very cold, gloomy January morning. At the entrance door I was admitted through an electric gate, then, I just could go on accompanied by a nurse from the grade. Then the C grade doctor, a young woman, (perhaps freshly graduated), interviewed me whether I am taking a sedative, antidepressant etc, so if yes then I had to give them to the nurse, who may return only when it is necessary. I reassured her that I do not live in any drugs, and I do not have any medicine with me then I was allowed to go to my room.
The nurce introduced me a 3-beds room, what I would share with two young female patients. A 35-year-old and another one in her early twenties. Well, I’ll stay with them for three days-I thought-. First I surveyed the scene: the bed was comfortable, the room was spacious, the bathroom was clean and quite large. At the kitchen free tea, coffee, biscuits were available to the patients any time.
Then Dr KH was interested in “my pathologycal past,” so that she inquired me privatly and jotted down everything. Then she handed me a schedule, which included the so-called Ergotherapy treatment programs, such as, sports, music, ceramics, drawing, etc. At the same time I was handed a green card, which meant I was freely to leave the building whenever I want, or I could go home to sleep and I could come back, anyway, the most important thing was that I should always show my card at the main entrance. I unpacked my things, and got acquaintanced to the room mates. The 35-year-old woman looked very weak. She had suffered from insomnia already for one and a half years. She was a kind, intelligent woman, as it turned out later, married and had an 8 year-old girl. Before her problem started she had worked as a bank clerk. She had a red card, which meant that she was not allowed to leave the building just only accompanied by a greencard person, because due to her insomnia accident can happen and the institution is responsible for it.
The other girl, was admitted to the clinic at the request of her mother. She was strange and frenzy, her rages started a year ago after the death of her father. I think that in spite of the favorable external look she was in much worse state than the lady with insomnia. Her mood swings were really scarry.
After arranging my things, blood was taken (for what reason!?), then I checked the schedule and chose a program something called Chee Kong, just because it started the earliest. The C grade nurse informed me that the therapy rooms and other places are located on the ground floor. I had only few minutes to catch the gym course so I ran like a “crazy” and entered into the small room, where a middle-aged Asian woman had already begun the training. She wore a traditional pink silk dress. When I looked around I perceived that all ages were represented in the room, but what I also noticed that many of the participants were foreigners, Turks, Arabic, Asian, young and old as well. The therapy lasted for 60 minutes, consisted different patterns of movement. To be honest I did not enjoy it, firstly because I missed the music, secondly to freeze in various postures didn’t replace for a good pilate or other body styling. But perhaps I felt that way because I have been a member of a sport’s club for four years. After lunch we went for a walk with my roommate who was struggling with the sleep disturbance, and after being checked out at the entrance door we had been given the permission to leave. Susanna, that was the name of the young woman, started to talk about how her insomnia started it all:
About two years ago she and her husband took part in a trip to the Caribbean Sea, without their child so in the beginning it was like a second honeymoon. All well was and good, except for the nights, because for their bad luck the engine were placed next to their room. Well Susanna couldn’t sleep the entire maritime journey. When she returned to Munich, she was even more exhausted than before the holiday but she had not yet thought about her life that came trough. The sleepless nights and weary days and her life became more and more miserable. Morning she was captured by the anxiety, the fear of the coming evening. And so it was going like that for a couple of months and she started to develop problems in the autonomic nervous system, fast pulse, cold feet and arms, weight loss, memory loss, loss of appetite, until one day, she collapsed at her workplace. She was taken to the hospital where she had been sedated medically, later she was sent to an other insitute where doctors wanted her to give up the drugs. Since in the Gauting institute psychiatrists and psychologists are available to the patients, I asked her- „Have they already begun to implement the therapy?” She responded quietly –„Yes I get once every 2 weeks!- Holy God, I exlaimed. I think you need a therapy every day, at least until it turns out what did cause your disturbed sleep?- The poor woman just nodded, -Yes, yes, I should do something”.
The way back I was wondering what could have happened to her in the ship in the Caribbean, what trauma hit her? I am not a Dr Jung nor Freud, but I studied 2 and a half years of psychology in college and I had learned that there is an exploitation therapy, with it is possible to help people. Since Susanna was an introverted type, I could imagine that if she went through in some trauma, such as her husband cheated on her, or she was raped, or other horrors happened, instead of talking about it, she would respond to it with punishing her body and soul. But what kind of husband she has who could leave her wither away!
In the afternoon I participated in an other ergotherapy, a dance lession. The evening meal was distributed at 5 pm, and then you could follow again by your choice of programs. The TV was out of another room, but I did not enroll for watching at, so at 8 pm I entered my room. I saw Susanna lying in her bed and turning over magazines. She looked worn out. Whenever we started conversation she always returned to her sleeping disturbances. It seemed that she was not really present in the room, only her thin body, because every thought of hers revolved around the fear of the night. Then her husband called her on the phone. After the conversation she made a sad remark that she had not seen her daughter for weeks, but finally she came into the conclusion it was a better way, because when her daughter visited her she felt estranged from her.
Around eleven o’clock the lights died out in the hallway. I tried to fall asleep, but the new impressions occupied my thought too much so finally I succeeded around one o’clock. The next day I was tired, but Susanna woke up with a fresh face and said that after our conversation she took an upbeat mood and slept relatively well. Might I am a better therapist than those who are working here?
But the young girl, Kathrine’s rage started again, she kicked her bed, cursed her mother, and then when she started screaming, I decided to take an act. Who knows what is going on in her mind, she might attack me with a pillow and suffocate me, or stab with a knife. I hope that the doctors are aware of her condition. In order to prevent a tragedy I called the doctor who was on duty and reported what was going on. She came running, and when she saw Kathrien, sent us out of the room. What did she do with her, it remains a secret, but at the breakfast Kathrien was grinning like she won the jackpot. She was a Lisbeth Salander kind of girl, from the Millennium’s wild, but basically not obnoxious. Perhaps at the threshold of adulthood she suffered some trauma, such as the death of her father. Or her mother brought home a new man? Who knows?
The second day passed in the same way: with gym, walking, talking to the doctor (she dealt with us individually for 10 minutes), and then she proposed to us diligently don’t forget to collect points for the activities. As if that would help resolve the emotional troubles! I was fuming. But I was glad for Susanna who had finally got an appointment for medical treatment.
In the afternoon I went for a walk again and I met a nice, middle-aged woman called Eve. She lived near the clinic, but usually slept in here because of her husband worked in India, and her adult son lived in Switzerland, so the nearly 60 year-old woman was left all alone in a large family house. The menopause hit her with a rather severe depression and for already five years she had better or worse phases. In the past she owned a decoration shop in downtown Munich, but she closed it 2 years ago and since then she found herself in a kind of vacuum. “But why don’t you join to India to your husband, I asked her?” Then you wouldn’t be so alone. -It turned out that she had already tried to live there, but her husband was working all day, (which of course is completely normal), so there she was alone as well. Her only companion was a househelp who did the shopping, but she left the country also because of the poor standard of living. I would rather suffer from the depression than live over there-she added.
The third day had sat in, the last one (I would be lying if I said that, I felt sorry). I looked for an interesting program, and I had found the music therapy. When I went downstair there was only one guy who subscribed to the program, a tall, handsome Mediterranean looking man, with oily brown skin, grayish-black hair. I was surprized by the poor attendance, because it’s well known that, how music lovers the Germans were, but this time anyone else did not seem interested in music. The teacher, Charlotte was a vivid, middle-aged woman. First we tried out African musical instruments in terms of the sound, then she handed out us a printed sheet of music, an American gospel. She made a presentation first then it was our turns. My partner started to sing with his wonderful bass voice, I followed him with my mezzosoprano’s, and the teacher was accompanied us on the piano. Becuse of the emotions tears were coming out. When the music therapy was over, my partner approached me and curiously asked what nationality I was. When I said that I am Hungarian, he laughed loudly and continued the conversation in Hungarian. It turned out that he had lived for 30 years in Munich and was a restaurant owner, but when just several years ago was diagnosed with liver cancer, he closed his restaurant, and moved back to Hungary. In Tápiószőllő (a little village near Budapest) he bought a house, opened a small restaurant and ever since he had been living there with a German friend. But once every year he is back here for detoxification. We switched emails then I checked out from the institute and returned home.
And now I’m sitting at home front of my computer and trying to process, assemble, evaluate the experiences.
Studying at home the institute’s website I figured out that since it was founded in 1956, had gone many changings. In a nutshell: the first seat of the clinic was located in a mountain road in Gauting but in 2001 the Psychiatry Clinic center moved to the city. The hospital building was completely renovated so it became a modern, architecturally appealing hospital, which clearly stands out from the existing standard Psychiatry.
Since 2004, the hospital has an outpatient department, which also acts as an emergency ambulance and patients can come and go 24 hours, so can work round the clock care..
Both the department heads and staff are committed to providing the patient an atmosphere of security and safety that makes it easier for them to engage with doctors and therapists. Their aim to try to reduce or even eliminate drug treatments, and just turn to them when drugs are absolutely necessary.