Being a Patient at a Psychiatric Hospital Is Not a 'Vacation'

Since 2013, I have been inpatient quite a few times. I have heard people say some use admits as a “vacation” for some “me time.” What I believe these people fail to realize is being inpatient is actually a lot of rules and work. In my experience, it’s privacy violations and personal space violations.

The intake after being medically cleared and transferred (which can take a day or two), is rather humiliating. We are made to strip down in front of nurses and have a full skin assessment. They document, question and analyze ever mark and scar. They take your bag with your belongings and sort through it (including your underwear) before they decide how many items of clothing you are allowed to have. Some places do not allow new patients to wear their own clothing for the first 24 hours — leaving you to walk around the unit in a hospital gown.

You are given strict rules, phone limits and a “lights out” bedtime. At lights out, they come in your room every 15 minutes or so and shine an unnecessarily bright flashlight in your face. During meals, you are given a spoon or a spork (plastic only) and the techs check your utensils. They receive your food intake and if you don’t have at least 80 percent of your food gone — no matter if it’s something you eat or not — they put “food refusal” in your chart.

Being inpatient requires more therapy sessions in one day than some of us have in two weeks. Group therapy happens usually three to five times daily, including Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In my experience, you have to attend these, even if your use of drinking or drugs is irrelevant to your present situation. Then you get individual therapy once or twice daily. They expect you to open up and spill your darkest demons — even if it’s your first visit.

All this — the humiliation, the strict rules, lights out, labels and way too much people time for me — this isn’t exactly my idea of a “vacation” or anything that semi-resembles “me time.” We go to get more intensive help. Both for medication and therapy. Yes, there are some people who may use a psych admit to escape their home life, but a majority of us, go for help.

We sometimes miss birthdays, school stuff, milestones and funerals. This is not something most of us would do without exhausting all options and coping mechanisms. It is something we sometimes regret as soon as we get there. But it’s something we sometimes need.

So… How is that a vacation?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Pablo_K.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

Two people on a date

Dating in the Midst of Multiple Mental Illnesses

I’ve always been horrible at dating. I’ve either dated people who abused me or guys I didn’t even like just so I wouldn’t be alone. But, throughout those relationships, I was living with multiple undiagnosed mental illnesses. Now at the age of 25, I’m starting to have a grasp on my illnesses and how to [...]
A woman sitting in a coffee shop

To You, My Ex-Psychologist

I wonder how you’re doing now. I’ve gotten through my first year as a nursing student. Are you proud of me yet? When I saw you for the first time I had not even gotten through the beginning levels yet. I’ve been thinking about you because I haven’t been having very good sessions with my [...]
Psychologist having session with her patient

What Is a Self-Care Checkup?

The need for regular physical exams is generally well accepted, but when was the last time you thought about getting a check-up for your emotional well-being? Emotional health (if one can even argue it is a separate category) is just as important as physical health. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S. annually, while 14.8 million Americans are diagnosed with major [...]
Illustration of a woman

To My Dearest Mentally Ill Brain: I Wouldn't Be Who I Am Without You

Bipolar, borderline, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety… call it what you want but this is my brain. Some may hate their mentally ill brain, but I feel utterly different. My mentally ill brain and my life are in a codependent relationship. We fight at times and some days my brain is the most abusive partner I [...]