I'll Never Forget My Thanksgiving in the Psychiatric Hospital

I just spent a week in a psychiatric ward. I never saw myself in this kind of situation. I didn’t know how this could happen because I had the “perfect” parents, the “perfect” family, the “perfect” life.

No one told my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that.

It got way beyond the quirkiness people think it is, and that’s how I ended up giving up all of my privacy for seven days. It was nothing like you expected, but at the same time, exactly how you thought it would be. People’s shoes are held together by a little velcro strap because the were no strings on the psych ward, even shoelaces. I painted with watercolors and did puzzles and sat in circles talking about how much I liked triangles. I did not, however, wear a hospital gown and walk around like an over-medicated zombie. I wore yoga pants every day because they were comfortable and still made me feel presentable. I wore sweaters and cute little shirts with cardigans. When I did wear shoes, they were cute little brown ankle boots.

The ward is the only place I’ve ever been where you could openly ask someone what they were diagnosed with, which normalized everything that was going on in my head. The assumption on the ward was that you had attempted suicide at least once, but no one judged you for that. The idea of going to the hospital was one of the scariest thoughts imaginable. I was in college and had to leave before the semester was over without knowing if I could get any credit for the classes I had worked so hard in. I was completely cut off from the outside world. For a few hours a day, you could make calls on phones mounted on the wall — no privacy. There were visiting hours twice a day and at least one of my parents came to every one, bringing food because I was a picky eater. Near the end, it was really hard to see my parents leave when I had to stay. I wanted desperately to go home on Wednesday, or even Thursday morning, and be home for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t.

I absolutely love Thanksgiving, but not for the food. I eat very few of the “traditional” Thanksgiving foods so that wasn’t why it was so special. I wanted to be with family all day and play games and laugh and eat different pies for hours. I had to settle for a small meeting room at the hospital. My mom brought a Thanksgiving-themed table clothe, napkins, cups, even a pie she’d made. I ate turkey and this sweet potato thing that I absolutely love. My aunt sent me some brie cheese and this grilled bread and balsamic vinegar things to eat it with (she knows the way to my heart). I felt so loved. A friend I had made while in patient didn’t have any family there to celebrate with her — so I asked her if she would like to eat with me and my parents. It was a super simple Thanksgiving, we didn’t even have mashed potatoes, but she was really happy to eat it with us. Her prayer before we ate will always stick with me, no matter how old I get. She thanked God for the family she didn’t know she had. We had a great time; the stories of my friend’s life were amazing. After pumpkin pie, we played a game, Taboo to be exact.

You would probably be surprised by all the laughter in our little psych ward, but, as I had said before, psychiatric hospitals are nothing like you would expect. I think I went to sleep at like 8 p.m. because turkey makes you so tired, but that day was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. The next day, I was discharged back to the outside world, but I will never forget that Thanksgiving.

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