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

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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?

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Thinkstock photo via Pablo_K.

Originally published: July 3, 2017
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