My Experience in A Psychiatric Hospital

I asked some of my friends what they thought of when they heard ‘psychiatric hospital’ and what they pictured. While I got some pretty accurate responses, some of them were a little distorted from my own experience.
“Patients freaking out, screaming, saying crazy things.”
“White walls and loneliness.”
“I think of the cliche movie psych ward. With the padded walls, straight jackets and such. I’m sure in the real world its a lot more realistic. Probably group therapy sessions and stuff.”
“Crazy person prison”
In my personal experience, it was mostly the opposite of that. There were many units in the hospital I went to, but I was with the functioning women who were essentially having a hard time wanting to live, performing daily tasks as simple as getting out of bed and basic hygiene. I won’t go into the details of where I was or how I got there, but it wasn’t good; it wasn’t me. I’m normally bubbly, out-going, witty, and sometimes loud with a contagious laugh. The woman who walked into the medical hospital and answered “yes” to the question “Have you had thoughts to harm yourself or anyone else?” was not me. The person who sat in the back of the ambulance, staring out the back window thinking, “Well, this is what it’s come to. This is my life.” feeling numb and hollow was not me. The person that walked out those doors three weeks later, smiling, glowing, and so excited to go home was absolutely me.
What happened in between was not what I was expecting. I was expecting to see what most people envision; metal beds, cold rooms, maybe some screaming here and there, mean nurses, and people drugged into oblivion, I saw the complete opposite. When I arrived the facilitator that walked me around had a soothing tone and aura. She was very empathetic and saw the fear and hurt in my eyes. She made sure I was comfortable, gave me my new gowns and let me sit down in the corner while everybody else did their group activity.
I observed people from all walks of life, different ages, races, and occupations; no two people were the same. There were women struggling with addiction, OCD, bipolar disorder, multiple personalities, anxiety, and depression. Some were there with babies and small children that attempted suicide because the darkness and the monsters in their heads blinded them. Despite their demons, those ladies will always be on my mind and in my heart because they accepted me and saw past my own. There was one, sweet, woman who stood out to me the most, she was short and a little older but cute as can be. She had a bad back so she usually had to use a wheelchair, we’ll call her Sally. Sally was admitted two days after me, but I wasn’t really talking to anybody so I didn’t get to know her for a few days. Once they got my medicine sorted out and I got a new pillow, I got a full night’s sleep for the first time in over two months. I woke up to the sound of one of the loudest facilitator’s and I was so excited because that meant it wasn’t the middle of the night. I walked out, saw that the clock said 6:30am, and my chest swelled up with happiness. I threw my fists straight up and yelled out, “I slept!” with one of the biggest smiles on my face. I walked like that, repeating my excitement, across the day-room into the kitchen. I called my dad to tell him the good news and he started crying and said, “You finally sound like yourself.”
While we were eating breakfast, Sally sat down next to me and told me she would stick by me all day so hopefully my ‘sleep dust’ would rub off on her and she’ll be able to sleep too. “This is a new you! I’ve never seen this Hope before! You’ve got a spark in your eyes, you’re smiling, laughing, and talking to people. You’ve been so quiet and reserved since I got here and you’re totally different right now.” Her voice and those words will always be in my heart. That entire day, we were joined at the hip, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. While we were outside on break, she told me her story, why she was here and I started crying. The only reason that she is still alive today is because the safety was on and her son called immediately to see if she was okay, I have never been so grateful for somebody in my life. This woman was a ray of sunshine but she had so much hurt in her eyes and it hurt me. After a minute of talking and hugging, I shared with Sally what a friend told me, we’ll call this friend Sara. Sara’s brother died of cancer when she was 21 years old; she basically watched him fight for his life and eventually be called home. One night while on Sara’s front porch a few days before I was admitted, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Don’t take what so many people fight for.” I shared that quite a few times while I was at the hospital and every single person responded with, “Huh, I never thought of it like that.” I’m hoping that Sara’s words of advice reached out to somebody, because it spoke to me.
My three week visit at the hospital was honestly a spiritual experience. There were people there that should not be alive, nooses broke, medication was thrown up, and safety switches were on. They would tell me what happened and my jaw would drop at every single one because every single person I met was a walking miracle. I will forever be grateful to that hospital and the people I met along the way, I will carry those stories with me forever. The amount of love and support I received in and outside of those walls is unfathomable.

“I feel like it would have saved my dad’s life if he {sought} help but I think he was too scared to be labeled.”

If you or anybody you know is showing warning signs of suicidal ideations, please don’t hesitate to tell somebody. This is not something to “wait out” or “hope it goes away”, because the only way that it will, outside of medication and therapy, is not what you want. Call 911, contact the suicide hotline, or go to the emergency room. Your brain is an organ that gets sick and needs help, you wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg, would you? Get help if you need to, don’t worry about the stigma; take care of yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

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