Over recent years, I have been admitted to the adult psychiatric unit a total of four times. My first admission was in 2014, the second was in 2016, the third was in 2018, and fourth time were this year; 2018-2019 (stay was from late December to early January). I am going to share my most recent hospitalization experience with you. This is not an attempt to obtain attention but rather an opportunity to educate others on how psychiatric hospitals function and assist their patients. I know that there are still people out there who automatically assume that all psychiatric patients are immediately put in a straight jacket and locked in a padded cell. I realize that stereotype has died down lately but I wanted to share anyway.
On December 27th, 2018, I was feeling very depressed. A certain event triggered this intense flood of emotions. I knew that I needed help so I made my way to the nearest hopsital that accepted my insurance. Before I arrived, however, I got a phone call from my father. He told me to turn around and come home immediately and questioned why I left. I told him why and he said: "You will be much safer at home than at any hospital". He didn't understand. Even so, I listened to him and came home. I didn’t want an argument to ensue. I was hoping that I could sleep off my negative emotions. I was wrong, though because I felt the same the next day if not worse. There was no improvement. I went to see my psychiatrist and she recommended that I go to the hospital. She talked with my parents and they all agreed. I came home, packed my things, and my mom drove me; dropping me off at the ER.
I told the receptionist what my reason for arriving was. They took my vitals and then I was escorted to a temporary room where they took blood to run lab work. I was then escorted to another room where they took my clothes and belongings away...except for my phone. The nurse forgot to take it. (For those of you who didn’t know, pretty much all psychiatric hospitals cease your cell phone early on). Because of the forgetfulness, I was able to talk to my friends through Facebook messenger to help keep me calm. (I had to hide my phone everytime I was checked on). A crisis intervention worker talked to me and asked me all sorts of questions. This was my fourth run there so I knew what was going to be asked. I told her that I had intent of suicide and a plan. She relayed all of the information to a psychiatrist to determine if I should be admitted or not. I was in that room for nearly eight hours. That's how long it took for things to be decided (that's typical, though because I once spent ten hours waiting).
I was told that the psychiatric unit was full and that I would have to be transported by ambulance to a sister hospital. The paramedics drove me there, which took about one hour (I still had my phone, mind you). I arrived at the new hospital and it was now rocking 6:00am. I was brought to their psychiatric floor and was passed onto a nurse that worked on that same floor.
She sat me down and went through the rules with me.
- Breakfast started at 7:30am
- Medications at 9:00am
- Group therapy at 10:00
- Lunch at 11:00am
- Group therapy again at 1:00pm
- Contraband check at 2:00pm
- Free time until 5:00pm (dinner)
- Visiting from 6:00pm-8:00pm
- Free time until 10:00pm (lights out)
Unlike the hospital I was originally brought to and had my first three stays at, this location didn't allow wearing of civilian clothing. Patients were required to wear light green scrubs. Of course, they were huge on me.
Side note: contraband checks took place randomly throughout the day. Ya know, looking for shanks and such.
The nurses were not that friendly. I tried to avoid contact with them. They were very slow when it came to needs/requests of a patient. I was having withdrawals from stopping my previous medications and I felt very sick. I told a nurse this and they didn't get me an antinausea medications until six hours later. I was careful to observe the other patient's requests and half of them were never fulfilled. Trash staff...
My mom called me every day. As the days went on, however, I felt more and more homesick.
My third or fourth day in, I broke down in my room, crying. I was very upset. I was given a sedative to settle down. I met with my assigned psychiatrist every day. He took me off all of my original medications with the exception of one and put me on all new ones.
He put me on seroquel 300mg, lexapro 10mg, and depakote 1,000mg (yes, 1,000).
I noticed an improvement right away. I felt better. The psychiatrist told me that I was the worst case of self injury he had ever seen. My wounds had to be documented with photos to ensure I didn't hurt myself again during my stay. I had to strip down for that and it was super embarrassing. Like I said before, I was put in the only room with cameras and no doors (the light peaked in at night so it was hard to sleep). And in case you didn't know, the beds in the psych ward are not comfortable. The blankets have the texture of a beach towel, the bed sheets are some sort of plastic, and the pillows are tiny (I only need one pillow to sleep so that was okay). Not only did they not allow for regular clothes, but also my face wash because it contains alcohol (they don't want patients getting intoxicated by consuming things with alcohol). My face felt so...not clean. I refused to shower there because the shower was obviously not cleaned regularly. All they did was spray some Lysol in between each shower.
I went five days without showering. I know that's gross but I'd rather not shower than use one that was used by strangers with God only knows what bacteria they are spreading.
My dad actually came to visit me one day. This was surprising because he was not happy that I was admitted. When he came to see me, he was supportive and happy to see me. It was nice even though he only stayed for 45 minutes. A friend offered to see me but I didn't want anyone to see me without makeup (my dad was the exception because he sees me like that all of the time at home).
My bathroom was incredibly small (as they usually are) but mine was especially small. I barely had any room to put my tooth brush down on the sink. I had the option to put it on the floor or the toilet seat. Oh, about the sink, you had to keep constant pressure on a button for the water to flow. It made brushing my teeth very difficult. They seriously make these rooms as safe as possible.
I wish I could have taken photos but they finally snatched my phone once I initially arrived. I can't believe it took them so long to realize that they forgot to take it.
I usually make friends when I'm on that floor but most of the patients were older men. I talked to them a little bit not much. We did watch the movie Cast Away together though. Everyone had to agree on a channel, by the way. You couldn't just watch whatever you wanted.
I met some interesting people...
There was a woman who had a broken ankle and she was confined to a wheelchair. She had immense anger issues. One day, she blew up on a nurse because she couldn't find her shampoo. She shouted at her, cussed at her, spit on her, and threatened to hurt her. Security had to be called in to cease her. It was funny but it was also crazy.
Oh, I forgot to mention, remember when I said that I arrived at 6:00am & that breakfast was at 7:00am? Yeah, I didn't get to sleep. I went straight into the day.
When I took my new medication, I crashed like a train. I had never felt so tired; not in my life. I barely made it to my room. I was so sedated the next day. My speech was slurred, my vision was blurry, I walked slow, my reaction time was altered, I forgot where I was, and I had no appetite. I was so out of it that I could not function. Taking new antipsychotics can seriously fuck you up. I wanted to sleep but I was forced to eat and attend group therapy. I was upset. They didn't understand how fatigued I was. Thankfully, the sedation wore off by the next day. My body got used to the medicines pretty quick. Remember when I mentioned depikote? Yeah, that is a serious medication. It's usually only given to people who are in bad, bad shape mentally (it can also be used to treat seizures). It can also cause liver damage so I had to get my liver values checked evert other day.
I don't know if any of you remember this about me but I tend to faint when I have my blood taken. A phlebotomist came to take my blood one morning and as soon as he pulled the needle out of my vein, my vision went blank, I felt hot, and my hands had that prickly feeling when a part of your body falls asleep. I could barely speak but I managed to ask for some water. The man said he would get me some but guess what? I didn't get any. I had to wait until I was back to normal to get some. This hospital was so neglectful. A patient had fainted right in front of a staff member and nothing was done about it (I was already in a bed to begin with so that was good 👍)
The food was actually pretty decent and you had a lot of options from a menu. Hahaha, I was excited to eat everyday!
I was discharged on January 5th, 2019...I believe.
Psychiatric units are only meant to stabilize you; not necessarily treat. So I was still pretty unhinged at this time. As part of my discharge plan, I was forced to attend an outpatient group therapy program Monday-Friday from 8:30am-3:00pm to become mentally healthy again. This was used to actually treat me. I did that for about a month until I was seen as stable enough to be discharged.
Today, I am in a much better position. I have a brand new, positive outlook on life. I have more motivation than ever. I plan on continuing to improve my life by attending regular therapy.
Not everyone who goes to a psychiatric hospital is insane. Sometimes, people just need to be put in a safe place until intense emotions subside. They will probably never go to another hospital again!
My hope is that the negative stigma behind mental health issues will eventually disappear.