I Was Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital. Here is my Experience
Three weeks in a psychiatric hospital, and the journey isn't finished...
By the fourth day in the clinic I had grown doubtful of my motivations, the motivations of the government. Why do I want to feel ‘better’? Why would the public system pay for a private stay so that I can feel ‘better’? I won’t lie, my writing had something to do with it… and, there it was again, atmosphere. I sat in an armchair facing the window as the sky turned lilac around the big public housing complex.
I kept myself busy reading magazines and newspapers, and then read something about homelessness, but — selfish me — I could only think about how the article could be translated into a discussion centred around mental health.
I wanted to write about it, but instead saw myself in a room exactly like the one I was sitting in, in a chair facing a window, in fifty, sixty years, wasting time until time runs out.
How was what I was doing, or anything else I could have been doing, different? How is anything not wasting time?
This is not madness, but it isn’t something better.
The mind is everything.
All I know from the past is in my memories. All I see in the future is from my imagination, my capacity to make more or less accurate predictions.
Both my General Practitioner (GP) and Occupational Therapist (OT) seem to think that logic can break the cycle of panic. I suppose I know what they mean. It also is researchable, studied. On the other hand, my imaginative, more emotional brain can carry out and worse sustain a panic attack. By imagining that my death is imminent, or similar scenarios.
However, what about the fact that logic and rationality are also at the basis of my illness. That the very logical things I think make me depressed and scared.
Being in the hospital/clinic helped. Especially when it all seemed to be getting worse, right smack in the middle of my admission process. Yet, sometimes, some nights, it felt like a waste. A waste of time, a waste of money, a waste of hope.
Mine isn’t the kind of ‘madness’ that makes you portray cats as electricity in paintings. It’s the madness of a Nietzschean nihilist who has no courage to stand on her own two feet as she sees the rest of the world collapsing into oblivion. When everything fundamental has been shaken. I am weak, and I am strong, but in the end… I feel it doesn’t even matter.
The most therapeutic thing I have experienced during my three week stay? It has been meeting people who shared — in some small ways — my life experiences. People who experienced trauma, depression, anxiety, and panic. People from all walks of life could, at the very least, find kinship with one another.
We talked, had meals together, and walks (those of us who were low-risk enough to be able to get out of the clinic for some hours every day). We shared survival skills. Not those you need to survive out in nature, but those you need in the jungle that is your own head.
Someone told me to try to write — amongst my dark-toned journaling — about gratitude. Thus, one night, awake under the dimmed reading light of my room I considered changing my mindset, even just a little bit. I kid you not, I have even considered finding out about Spirituality as a way of healing…but let’s talk about gratitude instead.
That night I wrote:
‘For what am I grateful today? For the power of language, and words such as ‘hope’. For having an open mind, for having known love. Love…Xing. My family; the kids; the cats. Even if at times I wonder if all this love will have meaning in the end, I am grateful. For love is comfort and adventure, and those are two of the strongest drivers in my life.’
As the days went by, I took more art classes, and psycho-education classes. On ACT, CBT, DBT, and self-compassion. Until, suddenly, I felt the need for poetry.
Alas, it was still difficult to write. Difficult to put together my feelings in a poem, difficult even to just journal; but for days I had accumulated a little list of words that I could use, call it a writer’s survival instinct…
With the weeks passing, participating in group therapy classes, and tweaking and increasing medications, the frequency of my panic attacks started going down. Even so, my mood was still unstable, and what’s more, home sickness was making its way into my mind. Still, I kept at it.
Now, gratitude prompts are great, but part of me still wasn’t ready for good feelings. After all, I had just started descending from the height of panic and anxiety… Getting — ever so slightly — away from the dark pit of depression and intrusive thoughts.
I recognise now, there truly is no hierarchy in suffering. Even though there are things like ‘escalation of care needed’, these things are deceiving. It’s just impossible to tell when one person is worse off than someone else is, especially when the sickness is invisible. With me, the pain was always more in my thoughts than in the shakiness of my body, or the speed of my heartbeats.
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