Hopeful Stories From My Time in the Psych Ward
It was a Monday at the beginning of April. I had been dealing with suicidal ideation and self-harm for months. Wave after wave after wave would come each day. Due to my schizoaffective disorder, I was paranoid and seeing things. It didn’t matter what I ate, how much exercise I got, sleep I racked up, or therapy I received. My body was way too stressed out and spent.
I was coaxed into retreating to the crisis center. I thought it would be a short stay. I went in with a female guard. I got undressed and she searched me. Then, I got a gown and sat on the bed. Not soon after, the nurses came in and started taking vitals and asking questions of if I was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I wasn’t. They were understanding and reassuring I was in the right place. At some point soon, the attending came to look at my cuts and to do his own assessment on me. He was kind, and again, very reassuring.
It’s a little hazy but I know I waited for a while, and then either got an EKG done or saw the crisis center counselor. When I saw the counselor, I told her I felt nothing, but also the weight of everything on me. Again, I also showed her my cuts, and we started her question and answer repertoire. I started to realize a lot of these answers probably weren’t what she wanted to hear, just out of the sheer compassion she had for me. I was hoping I could make it home. I did not make it home. Coming in, I was hoping they would send me off to the partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs like before. I would attend the daily classes and be out of there in a month and a half.
However, it didn’t go that way.
That day in April, I was deemed enough of a risk to myself and was told I should be admitted into the behavioral health unit for five days. It didn’t feel real. All these years, I had avoided and wormed my way out of hospitalization. Why now? I just wanted to go home and see my daughter! They wouldn’t let me go, though. The counselor kept on telling me it was for my own safety. So, I sat there until they could bring me up to the behavioral health inpatient unit. While I waited, I also got a wonderful COVID-19 swab to make sure I was all good to go.
I remember so vividly when it was time to go upstairs. They got me into a wheelchair and whisked me away to the elevators. My heart was pounding and my stomach was churning. “What did you do?!” I asked myself. “You’re faking it and this is what you got us into!” I wasn’t faking it, though. I had been unwell for some time. For so long that when it began, I didn’t even mention it to anyone, or as frequently as it was happening. Over the span of a year, so much had happened, and my brain couldn’t handle anymore. It did need a break and some healing.
I was wheeled into my empty room, and that was unsettling at first. The nice nurse (and my favorite upon my stay there) searched me, and then helped me to get acclimated. I got put back on some non-psychotropic drugs I was supposed to have been taking (but don’t do what I did — take all your prescribed medicines as prescribed. It really makes you feel better). Luckily, I had stayed on my other medicines, so it made my impending medicine increase easier.
I looked down at a schedule for the day. It was almost time for one of the group therapy sessions. Luckily, I was able to get clothes pretty fast and not have to wear the gown to the first session. I remember being scared to even walk out of my room. The woman took me under her wing for the first hour I was there and showed me what was what. Then, she got to go home. That first day was the hardest and I spent a lot of time in my room. In the middle of the night, I heard other people arriving which happened to be some of my very favorite people on the unit, and I will never forget any of them.
The next few days blended together. I had a lot of people checking in on me (but I did do a lot of crying and had a lot going on). My outside psychiatrist was also up on the unit with me and she saw me every day, which made me feel a lot better. She’s such an amazing woman and without her, I would have never made it to 30. We did lots of walking around the unit, which broke up some of the monotony. We did a few puzzles which me and my two favorite people and I worked on together. There were snack times and late-night talks before “lights out.” Like real talks, talks about anything and everything. All while still working on the puzzle we had been at for the past two days.
There’s something about being up there for me. Being with individuals who get it! Who have been there, done that. I miss them all so much. There are rough days where I wish I could go back where there was so much understanding and support. Like from the residents and the staff. I feel lost some days just wishing someone “got it.” Not that I don’t love my daughter and I never want to spend that much time away from her again (yep, she’s taking me with her to college!), but it was sort of nice for five days to have like-minded individuals who truly understood mental health struggles. No, they couldn’t always identify with the fact I get paranoid and saw and heard things, but they understood so much more.
I had a good behavioral health unit stay, and I really know I’m lucky and not everyone has that experience. I am truly lucky. I’m lucky in the sense, too, I was even able to go and get the help I needed. Some people don’t have that option or can’t drop everything and go away for five days. I’m lucky I have friends and family who care about me and let me go and heal for five days. I’m thankful for the aftercare I received and my momma who watched my daughter every day for about a month and a half while I mentally worked on myself in partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
Though I’m still having a stressful time right now (isn’t everyone though, am I right?), I’m doing a lot better. The behavioral health inpatient and outpatient programs can really work. On the outside now, I see my therapist every few weeks. My psychiatrist had to go be exclusively at the hospital, so I don’t have her anymore, but I meet with my new psychiatrist in a few weeks and I hear she’s fantastic! She’s already somewhat helped me out on my medicines until I see her which is great! I try to do self-care, but I seem to promote it more than I can produce it for myself. That’s something I’m going to try to get better on. I’m not always coping well either, but my therapist and I are working on that together. I have a great support system, and without them I wouldn’t be here somewhat thriving like I am.
With my last words to you in this piece, if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone. Whether it’s a friend, family member, crisis center, emergency room, and crisis line, please reach out! I will leave some crisis numbers below. Your life is worth being alive for. Remember, your current situation isn’t your final destination.
National Hopeline Network
Text HOME to 741741
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