My week on the Psych Ward
What me crazy?
Our thoughts about mental hospitals range from One Flew Over the CooCoo's nest, to straightjackets to bland white rooms with nothing in them.
What the ward looked like -
When I was admitted to a psych ward it was quite new. There were about 20 rooms each of them private. In each room was a private bathroom. You could not lock doors. There was a rule that no one could enter another's room, even if invited. The room had a twin bed, a three drawer dresser and a chair. All were securely bolted to the floor. There was a wardrobe in your room, but it was locked up and you didn't have the key. This is where they put my purse, hoodie with a string around the neck and shoelaces. I also had a view of a fenced in yard with a high chain link fence. All of the rooms were on one side of a long hallway. In the middle was the nursing station. They had a telephone that I was allowed to use whenever I wanted. Across from the nurses was a dining room. Several 4 top tables. There was no eating in your room. You had a menu and made choices on your meals. I am no judge of how the food was, because I wasn't eating much then. Next to the dining area was a television and a few cushioned chairs. No one ever agreed on what to watch on tv. Most didn't watch. Opposite the patient bedrooms there were 2 small group rooms. These were for most everything. A psychiatrist also had an office on the floor. We had security come through on a regular basis. It was actually pretty quiet.
What were the other patients like?
It was quite a mix. We had 2 drug addicts coming down, 3 iinappropriately placed Alzheimer patients, a few eating disorders, a few with anxiety and panic and those of us who attempted to take our life, and were unsuccessful.
The first time I saw the group I immediately thought, I don't belong here with these crazy people. They even looked crazy. No grooming, some in hospital gowns, and plain old awful.
Of course the first time I saw myself in the mirror, I realized I was one of them. My hair hadn't been brushed or washed in days, I had the same dirty clothes on forever, the black circles under my eyes looked like I had been beaten even though I had not. I couldn't remember the number of hours I had been awake.
I joked with a friend on the phone that I would have happy hour stories for the rest of my life. Of course once I realized their pain and suffering, there was no place for funny.
Our first appointment lasted about 5 minutes. He asked me some vague questions and then dismissed me. This is what scared me most. After having been admitted the fear of leaving feeling the exact same way was life threatening for me. They put me on Ambien, I still didn't sleep.
The Therapy Team
We had nurses to give out medication, and talk to a patient at length once a day. We had an Occupational Therapist who was pretty much a joke. We had someone who had us exercise if we wanted to. Food Service, and housekeepers. No therapists of any type other than the one Psychiatrist. We had a Chaplin visit. For some reason I was drawn to him. He seemed genuinely interested in me, and knew what I felt from personal experience. I saw him every time he was around. At least I knew one person understood me.
A typical day.
8:00 breakfast. You go to the dining room and fill out the menu for the next three meals. Then you eat. They record the percentage eaten and also count the silverware when it is returned.
Shower time - The only water was iced cold. You had to decide if showering was worth the agony it caused. It also came out shooting in little razorlike streams that hurt. I only showered every other day. You got the shampoo from the nurse in a little cup. No shaving, no tweezers, and a breakaway hook on the door. The door also has a triangle cut out, and no lock. You really can't do anything bad. All plumbing is behind the walls.
Groups were offered throughout the day. Varied from coloring book? to trying to make goals for ourselves. I felt the staff to skirt any major issues like abuse, suicide, rape etc.
So all in all our day was a combo of meals and groups. Visitors were allowed, but had to come onto the unit. I really didn't want my kids to see it, but they wouldn't budge on the rule. So only my husband and a friend came.
I absolutely did need to be in a hospital, until my meds became regulated again. If I was outpatient I know I would have been successful. Many people think that trying to kill yourself is an attempt at drama or cause for concern, but don't think they meant to actually die. I planned my suicide very clearly over a period of weeks. On that very day I knew exactly where I was going to go, and how I was going to do it. Even though I was out of state, my tags were sited, and I was brought in. '
I couldn't wait to get back to my home. I acted so normal so I could be discharged. I did find a way on the unit how I could have ended my life. After I was discharged from the facility I discussed it with the staff.
I was never scared for my physical self because of the other patients. I enjoyed talking privately to patients who wouldn't talk to anyone else, and I do find myself wondering how they are doing now.