My Nightmare Experience In An Adolescent Psychiatric Unit In The Early 80s
My Formative Years
My earliest memories of my time spent in an adolescent psychiatric unit was in 1981. I had been experiencing mental health problems for many years. I would like to add that I was in the care of social services, from the age of 3 years.
Before I go in to the wrong doing of the psychiatric unit that I attended at the age of 15 years, I think it important to explain my journey to this point.
I have only a handful of memories, which are not good ones, of my infant life with my abusive parents. I only have a few memories of my mother because she died of an overdose of prescribed medication and alcohol, after recently being released from a psychiatric' unit, Storthes Hall, in Huddersfield. At that time my dad was serving two years in prison for assaulting her.
I never had a stable home life and spent many unhappy periods of my life in children's homes, foster care and then when I got older I was put into an assessment unit at the age of 12. This was an establishment that held young people in care in a semi secure unit, in order to assess their behaviour and potential to succeed in the community. As I had tried several foster carers to no avail, and one or 2 children's homes, it was thought that an assessment center was appropriate for me.
This establishment was a very frightening place to me. I had never presented difficult or aggressive behavior. Social Services felt that I could not fit in to any other establishment I.E foster care or children's homes, which were the only options it seemed for children in the care of local authorities during this era. I fast realized that the young people that I was residing with did indeed have a 'certain' kind of background. Examples were children not going to school, badly (aggressively behaving children) children that refused to attend school etc. I did not know why I belonged here. The answer I obtained from social services was that "they did not know what else to do with me". So after the required period of time! I was assessed, and discussed within a case conference. Generally, I was learnt to believe, girls in my position were almost, always sent to a place called 'Needlewood' this was a secure unit until a resident reached the age of 16 years. I was very frightened at this prospect.
However, during my conference meeting it was alleged that I had the academic ability to attend a private boarding school, to be paid for by social services. I was certainly relieved at this outcome. However, It took social services 9 months to find a private school to accept me. During this time my self esteem suffered. They eventually secured me a place to reside at 'Hunmanby Hall Boarding school for girls on the east coast of Yorkshire.I felt honoured but yet hesitant. How would I fit in with privileged, wealthy girls. I myself coming from such a dysfunctional background. My studies appeared to show good grades. At the time I had an undiagnosed somatoform disorder which began to become the most apparent issue and cause of distress in my day to day world.
I did seek help from the on site medical staff, who supported me the best they could. However, after a suicide attempt I was referred to a psychiatrist from York. I was admitted in August 1981 to an adolescent unit attached to the main hospital. To my surprise it was a normal looking house. The staff wore normal clothes. I had expected to be lying in bed on a hospital ward revising for my up and coming O'Levels. Several little things occurred within an hour of me arriving that were beginning to cause me concern and to be honest panic. A girl ran in to the waiting area where I was waiting with my social worker. The girl ran through screaming convinced that an airplane was chasing her firing a gun. She settled underneath my chair. I asked the staff if I could ring my sister. She replied that I was allowed one call out and one call in per week. I think I was fast realizing what hospital I was in.
I then refused my tea. I wasn't being awkward I was a vegetarian at the time and was not offered another option. I was sent to my room. I tried all the windows on route only to find that they only opened 6 inches. I was by then frightened. I went to my room and sat with my back to the door trying to make sense of my situation. The two elderly, motherly woman pushed the door open. I was crying and pleading with them to understand that I was not meant to be there and added that there was nothing wrong with me. They approached me cautiously with arms outstretched, as if I was going to attack them. The next thing I remember was having the jumper I was wearing being pulled over my head. I did not realize that I was not banging on a wall out of fear and frustration but a window. I had temporarily knocked myself and created a gash on my arm. My psychiatrist arrived shortly after. She squeezed my open wound (roughly) and put sutches over it. The staff were instructed to take away my belongings and place me in a cell like room at the top of the stairs.
I had 24 hour watch over me from this point. I vividly remember getting upset, crying then pleading with the staff on watch, to no avail. They did not even acknowledge me. I would then get angry, through fear of not having answers to why, or how long I would be there, what was wrong with me so bad that had me ending up in this place. Then it became a regular occurrence for 5 members of staff to march up the stairs, in attempt to restrain me. I fought as best I could. As I said I was frightened and honestly though there was a conspiracy against me and thought that I would never leave the place. I would like to state at this point that I was 15 years of age. I wore only a nightdress. Most of the nursing staff were male!!! They inevitably would succeed in restraining me which led to my arms being held up my back, hands pressing my body down then my night dress would be lifted and a needle would be administered in my bottom. Within seconds I would be asleep. I would sleep for what felt like days. I have vague recollections of being spoon fed whilst still under the influence. I had so many of these episodes that I could not lay on my back because my bottom was black. I couldn't lay on my right side because of the bandage on my arm.
My Dad came to visit. He gave me the written permission I needed to smoke. He promised me, during his visit, that he would reverse his car up the drive, of the hospital, bundle me in it and escape. This adventure did not occur, in fact I did not see me Dad for quite a while after his visit. Maybe, he felt powerless in controlling his own Childs future, I do not know. I do know that I did not see him again during my residence in the psychiatric unit.
One day during my most desperate and frightened moments. I prayed to god for help. The very next day, A very young handsome male nurse was assigned to my watch. I insisted that I needed a bath. He said that I could if I did not lock the bathroom door. I agreed to this which enabled me to maintain some form of dignity and control. From this time on I was allowed downstairs in my nightdress, initially. I attended several house meetings in which I clearly stated that the support that they had offered was not helpful to me and my problem.
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