The Psychiatric Unit Visits (Pt. 1)
Why I Went to the Psych Ward for the First Time
Hello loves and welcome back to day 34. I realized from my last post that the wrong day was in there, but that’s okay. We’re back on track! I’m so sorry there was not a post for last week. I like posting more often because I feel more active and connected with you all. My mental health Instagram has gotten Lacey Sturm’s (from Flyleaf) attention! This is incredible.
I noticed a lot of you like it when I share more personal stories and not just, “Do this to overcome your battles.” So we’re going to take a break from that and just turn this into a little story time. Each story has a lesson anyway, so we’ll be able to learn something from this! Are you ready?
TRIGGER WARNING: Please be cautious before continuing to read. Thank you.
Why I Went to the Psych Ward for the First Time
It was my junior year of high school. I had been going to therapy for about four years. I had dealt with a lot of family and friend issues. I remember always being in an argument with someone. I was always so unhappy. That school year, I was raped for the first time. I was forced to go to school with my rapist. A student at my school had recently passed away from cystic fibrosis. Even though I didn’t know him personally, each day as I attended school, it always felt like I was walking through a funeral.
I was battling some major inner demons and I just couldn’t take it anymore. We didn’t have money to see a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a primary care physician. So my family doctor prescribed me Prozac (an SSRI). I had such a negative reaction to it that I wasn’t myself anymore. I wasn’t just depressed. I wasn’t just drowning. I wasn’t just at rock bottom. I lost 30 pounds in less than a month, mind you I was already underweight. Each day it felt like I was pregnant and my only symptom was morning sickness. I had suicidal thoughts before, but now I was acting on it.
My doctor made the mistake and instead of prescribing me a month subscription, she supplied me with enough to make it through three months. I took them all at once, along with many other pills. I told my music teacher and she had to contact the counseling office. The school said I had to go to a mental hospital. I had to be cleared and okay to go back to school.
By this time, I was the age of 17. So I was on an adolescent unit. I was only allowed to talk to the girls among the ages of 14 to 17. Most of us were in there for suicide attempts, depression, and self-harm. So most of our groups revolved around how to accept compliments, how to compliment other people, what our triggers are, coping skills, and support systems.
Each day we were woken up around 5 AM because it was our unit’s time to shower. After we cleaned ourselves, we were allowed to go back to sleep until 7 AM Once we were woken up for the day, we were to go to our day room until the staff members told us to line up so we could go down to the cafeteria for breakfast. Sure between that time we had morning meds for those who needed them. We would come back to our day room after we ate and we would be given a worksheet to work on that honestly took only like five minutes, we’d go over it, and then draw or play cards until group. Repeat this process for lunch and dinner. Only two days out of the week we had visitation for an hour which was held in the cafeteria.
So that was your day. You wake up early to try to fall back asleep. You only get to see your room, the hallway, the cafeteria, the day room, and the bathroom. And only one day room had a window to the outside and so did the cafeteria. Needless to say, it was very boring. You were trapped in a room all day with a bunch of girls all going crazy because “they were menstruating.” If that even was an excuse.
Half of the girls didn’t get along, especially when they combined the girls from both of the day rooms for an activity or group. I remember when I first got there, the physician onsite had asked me if I liked guys, girls, or both.
When I answered, “both.”
He told me, “You’re not attracted to both. You’re just attracted to STDs.”
Wow, I’m really trying to not make this as horrible as it sounds. I made some friends. And I did learn a lot. But you know what, it also gave me a week to clear mind mind, but also keep me safe from my destructive thoughts. I still have all of the worksheets and I’m 20 now. I still look back at the lists of coping skills they gave us. I still look at the notes people wrote to me, thanking me for telling my story. I had my medications adjusted to ones that actually made me feel better and not want to kill myself. I was able to talk to the staff members if I ever had any issues. I was allowed to step out into the hall for a minute if I needed to. We had one staff member that used to tell us amazing stories she had written right before they sent us to bed. I had three meals a day, which most of them weren’t bad for hospital food. Plus they gave me snacks throughout the day because they were concerned about my weight.
But here was my problem, this first time I went, I didn’t give my medications a good enough chance to work. But you also have to work with your medications as well, they don’t cure everything. So I was released after eight days. I went home for about a week, but I was still actively trying to hurt myself. I told my therapist and she contacted my dad and told him I needed to go back. So I went back for another nine days. And I was okay for about three years after that.
So my story to you is, yeah sure there are ups and downs to being hospitalized on a psych unit, but if you really think you or a loved one needs to go, try it out. Some are obviously better than others, so do some research. It kept me safe and I learned a lot. You can too. I wish you all the best and I love each and every one of you. Stay strong.