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When an Involuntary Hospitalization Leaves You With Trauma

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I’m silent on the ride back from the hospital. I don’t know what to feel. I should be happy I’m finally out of there — and I am — but I also have all these other emotions running through my head I can’t possibly feel all at once. Anger at what happened to me in there, frustration at my lack of ability to do anything about it, fear that at any moment someone will say there has been a mistake and I must go back.

I spent five days in a mental health hospital, involuntarily committed. It was my definition of hell. That Thursday I had received some bad news and knowing that my mental health hadn’t been the best lately, the person on the other end of the phone sent the cops the second he hung up. I went to walk to school and the cops spotted and followed me. They said they needed to talk to me. They asked if I was having thoughts of harming myself and since I was, I decided to be honest. Needless to say, they took me away to the hospital in handcuffs. After an arduous day at the hospital where I spent most of the day blind because they took my glasses from me and they had to give me a shot to calm me, I was strapped to a cot and driven to the nearest psych ward. Something I found out several days later was that they had no room in the appropriate psych ward for me. They stuck me in the acute unit, where the patients were more high need.

When I arrived, they took my jewelry and laces. All my other belongings a had already been stripped from me at the hospital, including my phone. They then checked my entire body for self-inflicted injuries. They went over patient rights and tried to get me to sign some papers, I refused most of them. They showed me my room then they let me wander the small hallway that composed the unit.

After that I was left to languish. I wasn’t allowed any of my medication. They utter lack of control frustrated me beyond belief and the thoughts of hurting myself were building. After another refusal for meds, something snapped and I started smashing my head into a wall. An assistant came over and asked if I would like to color instead and sent me to a room with a desk. I wasn’t feeling coloring and started slamming my head into the desk for nearly two hours. No one stopped me. Not even when I broke the skin on my forehead. I wanted control of my life back, but the one time I needed it taken from me in there, no one helped me.

The next day, doctors, psychologists and designated examiners came to question me. No therapy, just questions. There were some half-hearted, rushed attempts at group therapy but nothing that was truly helpful. The food was barely edible and I still felt on edge. The next two days were the weekend, so we didn’t have anybody come for us, more languishing. Monday, my fifth day, a therapist came to see me, again, not for therapy, just to evaluate. I felt like I was the only one who cared about me getting better. She actually tried to advocate for me though and realized that whatever my mental state was when I was brought in, that was no longer the case. Five hours after she talked to me, I walked out of there.

While I was in the ward, the staff shined a light in your face at night every 15 minutes to make sure you are still alive. I didn’t like that. It was the root cause of much of my rudeness to the workers. In addition, some patients had 24-hour, one-on-one aid and watch on them. The problem with that was the aid was not always the most vigilant. One man requiring such aid decided to sexually harass me and his aid did nothing to stop him until I spoke up. The next day I was not facing him, and he got away long enough to come up behind me and sexually assault me. And what consequences could they give him? He was so far removed from reality that it wouldn’t matter but also, he was already in hell on earth.

The worst part is I still had to exist in the same quarters as him, knowing I couldn’t lock my doors at night. I barely slept that week.

But it is over now, so shouldn’t I just put the whole experience behind me? Maybe, but I don’t know how to do that yet. I can’t help but dwell on it. I still believe I didn’t belong there because I wasn’t quite far gone enough that I wasn’t keeping myself safe, but hardly anyone else agrees. I am sure I will recover from the trauma of the psych ward though I’m sure they aren’t all like this, but I can’t help but think it shouldn’t have happened all.

Getty image via xavigm

Originally published: July 16, 2019
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