By: Ava Johnson
April 25, 2021
Jamie Hoffman relapsed into a very dark, depressive state after the start of quarantine last summer. She searched for professional help where she ended up being misdiagnosed and forced into a mental hospital.
Mental health awareness has become a larger issue in today’s society, and Jamie’s experience helps show the importance of people getting proper diagnosis and treatment.
Jamie, a freshman at Colorado State University, has been struggling with her mental health for almost all of her life. She was clinically diagnosed with anxiety in third grade and then diagnosed with depression in seventh grade.
As a child “Jamie had an independent streak that others rarely saw except her close friends and family,” said Jamie’s mom, Nancy Hoffman.
Once she entered elementary school though Jamie had to quit soccer due to constantly feeling nauseated, and for the first time her mother wondered if she was struggling with anxiety.
It wasn’t until middle school when Jamie’s mental health got a lot worse and she got diagnosed with depression. She started having panic attacks and entering depressive moods making it impossible for her to leave the house.
“I had to drop out of school in seventh grade because my anxiety and depression had gotten so bad,” Jamie said.
Once she entered high school, she got a better grasp on these struggles that were completely consuming her.
“I knew she was getting better because she was happier, more herself, and more sociable and outgoing,” said Russ Hoffman, Jamie’s father.
As the coronavirus set foot into the United States and forced the nation into a lockdown Jamie’s mental illness relapsed, but this time unlike any time before.
“My mood completely changed, and I started having multiple panic attacks a day, and spiraling intrusive thoughts on harming myself,” Jamie said.
Jamie had now been clinically diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD. In the summer of 2020, each day became harder and harder for her. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, showering or eating seemed impossible she said.
One night though Jamie experienced something in her brain that had never happened before.
“I was lying in bed and I kept having these intrusive thoughts about harming myself,” Jamie said.
These thoughts was apart of Jamie’s OCD, and is categorized under a specific type called harm OCD. This type of OCD makes you overanalyze every thought you have and create more and more intrusive thoughts on harming yourself Jamie explained.
The next day her harm OCD continued to take over and her thoughts kept spiraling, leading to a panic attack that lasted longer than ever before.
“In that moment I would’ve done literally anything to make it go away,” she said.
Once her mother noticed how bad it had really gotten for her, she knew she had to seek professional help.
“We took her to the E.R. to get help and she was more than willing to go.” Nancy said.
She spent the night at the hospital and the next day she met with a psychiatrist who ended up misdiagnosing her. The psychiatrist interpreted Jamie’s intrusive thoughts as her being suicidal but actually these thoughts only formed from her harm OCD.
The psychiatrist told Jamie she should stay at another hospital for the next few days to make sure her mental health stabilized.
Jamie and her mother agreed after being told Jamie would be going to Denver Health, another regular hospital, and staying in a nice room with a TV where her mother could call or come visit.
Immediately after this session Jamie separated from her parents and was taken to the other hospital by herself in an ambulance.
“Right when I got through the door, they made me strip out of my clothes into a hospital gown and I had to give them all my personal belongings,” Jamie said.
Jamie was then put into a room by herself and immediately knew this was nothing like the room the psychiatrist was describing to her. She realized she was not at a regular hospital but a mental hospital.
“The room only had a twin bed, no TV, no books, no decorations, and a bathroom with no door,” Jamie said.
Jamie began to experience the worst anxiety she’s ever dealt with in her entire life with absolutely nothing to distract herself. The psychiatrist thought placing her in a mental hospital would help protect her because she perceived her as suicidal.
Jamie finally got to call her mom and “When I picked up the phone she sounded absolutely panicked,” Nancy said. Jamie explained to her mother that this place was nothing like they thought it was going to be.
In this moment Jamie’s heart dropped.
“I realized the psychiatrist placed me under a 72 hour involuntary hold and there was nothing I could do to get out of there,” Jamie said.
For the next 72 hours Jamie received no professional help and spent her time doing arts and crafts and meeting the other patients.
“I was under my involuntary hold on the weekend meaning there were no doctors or professionals there to help me, and there was absolutely nothing beneficial for me there,” Jamie said.
Once Jamie’s time was finally up, she thought she may actually do better because she was no longer imprisoned at a mental hospital. As she returned though the complete opposite happened.
“Her health got so much worse, she was thrown into her worse fear with no professional help for three days,” Nancy said.
After returning home Jamie entered an even darker state of mind, thankfully though her parents finally found a professional who provided her with the right treatment. She began going to exposure response therapy to help with her OCD.
“Exposure Response and Prevention Therapy basically is a treatment for people with OCD by slowly making themselves confront those intrusive thoughts,” Jamie said.
After receiving almost two months of ERP therapy and getting settled into her dorm at Colorado State University her mind started escaping that dark place.
Jamie still struggles with anxiety and depression but has finally received the correct tools to cope with it. Her story shows the importance of healthcare workers being properly educated because the care worker helping her mistreated her and ended up making her mental health so much worse.
“I hope Jamie’s experience can help to make sure no one else has to go through what she did and still to this day I’m fighting for her rights for being misdiagnosed and misinformed about where they were sending her,” Russ said.
Mental health has become a larger issue today due to the negative impacts of COVID-19. People must have the trust and confidence that they can go seek professional help and that they will actually receive the help they need.