So I changed my blog’s appearance. I kind of like the new look, but I don’t like how you have to scroll all the way down to see the archives widget and stuff. Maybe I’ll change it back. Or maybe I just need someone else’s opinion on the matter.
Anyway, I thought I would write a little about my experience in a psychiatric ward. I had been having a really low downswing, and during one of my weekly visits with my psychologist, she noticed that I was feeling particularly despondent. She asked whether I had any thoughts of self-harm, and I admitted that I was forming a plan involving my car. My psychologist remained calm the entire time, but she refused to let me drive myself home, and called in my parents, who drove me to the hospital.
The nearby hospital is a very large campus, and very new, having just finished construction the previous year. I was taken through the ER to an emergency psychiatric room, which was very much like a typical hospital room except that save for the bed and equipment it was empty (not even a trash can) and the door had a pane of glass which they could observe me through as well as a lock. The lock, I admit, was intimidating, but they did not feel the need to lock me in. The psychiatric ward of this hospital was full, and after a small wait while the arrangements were made, I was transferred to a hospital two hours away. Throughout this entire process I admit I was reluctant, but I didn’t feel up to fighting, so I just went with it.
I arrived very late at night at the hospital where I was to stay. I filled out some paperwork, and then the security guard took me up to the secure psychiatric ward. I remember that his key was necessary to make the elevator take us there. When I got there, most of the other patients were asleep. I signed some more paperwork, including a form which made me agree not to take out my ear piercings and use them as weapons or else they would be removed. Then I had to change into appropriate clothing (the uniform at the hospital here was simple purple scrubs) and remove my socks and shoes (the laces were potentially dangerous), and in their stead I had to wear these big gray socks. Then I was allowed to go to my room.
Each room had two beds, a simple desk, a metal-bar-reinforced window and a bathroom, with toilets that had a strange flush mechanism and that flushed really loud. The doors to the rooms, to my surprise, could actually be shut, though as I later found out it didn’t matter; people came and went into the rooms often. The doors, of course, could not be locked. I sat down on my bed, the mattress of which was really hard, and fell asleep, just an exhausted and fearful mental patient staring at the ceiling. A few hours later I was awakened by noise entering my room, and being half-asleep I only half-registered that I had gained a roommate.
The next morning I woke up to a nurse standing beside me with a needle and calling my name. That, in my opinion, is enough to make anyone wide awake. She explained that she needed blood samples, and after she took them, I fell back asleep. Since I had come in so late, they let me sleep in, something which I was grateful for as I drowsily listened to sound of nurses waking up the other patients for their morning showers. Eventually, I did get up, but my roommate stayed asleep for basically the rest of the day; I didn’t really get to know her until the day after.
I fell into the routine of things pretty quickly. My favorite part of the day was group therapy. I liked listening to others’ problems and helping them talk things over. I was considered a model patient by the psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses; I was not resentful or rebellious as I knew these things would only extend my stay, and I did want out. I liked my roommate and we got along well. She was a few years younger than me, but alas, she was the rebellious type. She was still there, in fact, when I was discharged. I told her goodbye and good luck, and gave her my number.
It was nice being around so many other people who knew what I was going through. There were others there who heard voices or who had nearly committed suicide or had one of several other kinds of mental disorder-related problems. And we all knew this, and we did not regard each other as crazy. I mean, a suicidally depressed guy taught me to play pool in the recreation room. I played chess with a different guy who was there on court-order for bringing a gun to school and intending to use it, and air hockey with a girl who cut herself severely. We all, obviously, had problems to overcome. So in that way it was kind of nice, just being able to be open about my problems.
I still wanted to get out at some point, though. As I mentioned earlier, it was a secure ward, and to go through any of the doors at the ends of the hallways, one had to have a key, so in other words, at any given moment we were locked in. We had to live according to a schedule, and after an hour of television, we had to go to bed fairly early on weeknights (though we were allowed a movie on Fridays and Saturdays) and we had to wake up pretty early. Toward the end of my stay, I actually started to half-seriously form a plan of escape, which involved hiding in the gurney they brought our lunch trays in, waiting until it came to a stop somewhere, likely the kitchen down on the first floor, and climbing out at an opportune moment. Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten very far, not having my car there (“Excuse me, I’m an escaped mental patient, can you give me a ride?”) And also of course, I would never have actually tried to execute this plan. Well, probably never.
Anyway, I was pretty happy when the hospital made its decision to discharge me. In my opinion, though, my stay there was beneficial, and it really did help me. Even if the other benefits hadn’t been there, it was good to be around people who understood.