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It's Hard to Admit, but Sometimes I Miss the Psych Ward

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I don’t know how to say it. I’m scared to admit the truth aloud. I’m afraid people won’t get it, and really, how can I expect anybody to understand?

I miss the hospital.

There, I said it. I miss it so much. I miss being a patient on the psych ward, and I feel nostalgic for all of my previous hospital stays.

Perhaps the reason I cling to these hospitalizations is because they were such an important part of my journey. I miss the good, the bad and everything in between. In hospital, people attended to my needs and took care of me 24/7, seven days a week. I felt nurtured, cared for and protected from the rest of the world.

Now that I’m back in the real world, I find it much harder to access the desired resources and support systems I desperately need. It’s hard for me to admit this, and as much I hated the fact I was on a locked ward, I was kind of grateful for it too. Even though I pretended to hate it, deep down I was relieved, since I was basically forced to relax and take care of my needs. In the hospital, I couldn’t leave, even if I wanted to. On the unit, I knew that I couldn’t get away with anything like self-harm, and as much as it was frustrating, it also made me feel safe. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own life anymore, but it wasn’t so bad that others chose for me, since in stark contrast, it felt like my brain was trying to kill me, anyway.

You may be burning to ask me, “But how the hell on earth can you miss such a place?”

It’s hard to explain. The answer has multiple layers, but it starts with this: for me, the hospital was a place of both trauma and healing.

Being certified, losing my freedom, rights and agency under the B.C. Mental Health Act? Not fun. Quite traumatizing, in fact.

And yet, in a way, I’m glad I was not able to leave the hospital. I hated being admitted, but I was secretly thankful for it. I knew deep down that the hospital was where I needed to be.

So when people ask me about my experience as a psych patient, I tell them that for every bad thing that happened in the hospital, I can also think of a good one. I hated the hospital, but I loved it all the same.

What may be surprising to some people and what is confusing to me as well, is that what I miss most is being angry. I miss complaining about how much I hated the hospital, the blue and grey walls, the locked unit and unlocked bathroom doors. I miss complaining about the food, the lack of privacy and other people invading my personal place. I miss rolling my eyes at the nurses and shaking my head at the other patients. I miss being exasperated with the doctors and the ER procedures. I miss making a fuss about having to wear yellow cotton pajamas, pieces of clothing that were not mine and yet today, I find myself missing the soft fabric on my skin. In the hospital, I protested and whined and wailed about not having access to my phone and laptop. In the past few days, I found myself missing being in an environment with so little stimuli and distractions.

In the hospital, I missed my bed at home, my duvet and fluffy pillows. I complained about the tight-fitted bed sheets and thin blankets, but months later, I found myself longing for them.

It’s hard to describe the conflicted set of emotions I felt following my discharge from the hospital, and that lingered for months after. The paradox is that even though I desperately miss it, I’m glad I’m not there.

For me, it’s simple: when I don’t want to be in the hospital, that’s when I need to be admitted. And when I want to be there, that’s how I know I don’t belong there anymore.

I feel bad for feeling nostalgic and missing the hospital. After all, shouldn’t I be glad to be out there?

I find it difficult to validate my feelings and allow myself to feel these confusing emotions. Every morning when I wake up, I tell myself that it’s OK to miss the hospital. I try to withhold judgment, ignore the voice inside my head that says, “You shouldn’t feel this way. You should be thankful you’re not there.” I tell myself that it’s OK to miss it, and at the same time make the wish to never return. I miss the hospital, yes. But that doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful to be out and about in my community, functioning like everyone else.

The most embarrassing and comforting part is that I know the hospital will always be there for me if I need it. I know it’s possible to return if I ever find myself in crisis again, and that thought alone makes me feel better.

One friend once told me that the hospital will teach you how to stay alive, but it won’t teach you how to live. She was right. It can protect you from imminent danger or harm, but it won’t help you accomplish your life goals or follow your dreams.

The hospital was both a safe haven and a place of trauma. In the hospital, I felt trapped, alone, afraid and stripped away from my agency. But I also felt safe and cared for by strangers.

I know the hospital was an important step in my journey. It was an experience to have, and a place to visit on my path towards healing. It was a shelter from the emotional storm I was going through. It made me feel protected and exposed, both at the same time.

Like any other experience, it can be cherished, but it can also lead to feelings of loss.

Now all I have to do is allow myself to grieve it, so I can move on.

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.

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Getty Images photo via ArisSu

Originally published: November 30, 2017
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