The People Behind the Doors of the ‘Mental Hospital'
The stereotypes of the psychiatric hospital rushed through my head when I heard the words, “You are detained under section two of the Mental Health Act.” I thought the psychiatric hospital was full of “crazy” people who were all abusive. I thought they were aliens who were scary, etc., etc. There was no way I was going to a psychiatric hospital when I only had a fear of food and had to recover from anorexia. I was not actually one of those “scary people in the mental hospital.”
I arrived shaking and worrying I might get something chucked at me. I entered and there were 17 girls, aged between 12 through 17. They were all welcoming. We sat down in community group, and I was introduced to them all. I start worrying that maybe all this was an act and there weren’t actually people calmly painting canvases to decorate the walls and playing “Mario Cart” on the Wii.
During my first evening in the psychiatric hospital, I sat crying on the phone to my parents, and a patient came and hugged me. I never thought a patient in a “mental hospital” would be kind enough to hug me. From that moment, I thought maybe the psychiatric hospital was not filled with“crazy people,” an idea that had been derived from all the stereotypes.
I spent four months at the psychiatric hospital and every day I received immense kindness and support from all the people there. I was placed on the eating disorders unit to recover from anorexia. However, I did often have social interaction with the generalized mental health unit in the hospital, too.
I never thought I would be able to make friends with people in the hospital. Yet, to this day, they are some of my closest friends. We all have a group chat where we talk about how well we are doing and about how there is life outside the hospital. I also never thought I would be arranging sleepovers and meeting up with the “crazy people,” but that’s happening, too.
I have received handwritten letters under my hospital bedroom doorstep from the patients who have self-harm scars all up their arms and across their legs. I have received so much love and positivity quotes from people who cannot feed themselves. I have laughed and had dance parties with people who, like me, are sectioned under the Mental Health Act because they cannot take care of themselves. I have gone on outings with people who have to take medication for their mental health conditions. I’ve had people write messages on the mirror, including the words, “You’re beautiful,” and “You have the most amazing body.” These are the same people who cannot even think to associate those words with themselves. I have had the most beautiful, happiest conversations with people who saw people who were invisible to others.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
I learned a lot from the psychiatric hospital. I learned more than how to recover from anorexia. I learned people with mental illness care so much for others. I had people stay up with me to help me stop crying about how much I missed my family. I had other patients tutor me in my studies when I was too sad to even open a textbook. I had patients crochet me a blanket and hold my hand and wipe my tears through meal times.
I met the most amazing people in the psychiatric hospital. People with mental health conditions are not scary. They are in fact the kindest people I know. And that is the one thing I wish I knew about people who live with mental health disorders.
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