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4 Things I Learned During My Stay on a Psych Ward

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Mental illness can suck. The conglomeration of pain, distressing symptoms, diagnoses, medications, ER visits and hospital stays makes for a heck of a fight for someone battling a mental illness.

It can sometimes be a daily struggle to will myself to get through the day. And while everyone around me seems to be gliding through life gracefully with huge smiles, it can feel like I am carrying a 1000-pound weight on my back.

What happens when this weight becomes too much to bear? For me, it meant being involuntarily admitted to the psych ward for stabilization.

What have I learned? So much. It has been life-changing and life-saving.

1. The plethora of horror stories and stigma associated with a psych ward are not true.

When the doctor told me I’d be admitted to the hospital because I was mentally sick, I was horrified. “The psych ward? No way.” But when I arrived, the nurses welcomed me with encouragement and care. I was terrified, sick, worried and stressed and the nurses put all of my fears at ease. During my stay in the psych unit, I found hope, health, healing and restoration for my mind. Every single horror story and rumor I heard over the years did not hold true. I found friends, new hobbies, a good self-care routine and developed healthy eating habits. Does any of that sound horrifying? Not at all.

2.  If you’re sick, you’re sick, no matter what unit you’re admitted to.

If a patient with chest pain arrived at the ER, it would be malpractice for a doctor to turn them away without getting them help. Likewise, it would be wrong for a doctor to turn a mentally sick patient away without getting them help. Even if I don’t need an IV or an oxygen mask, I do need assessment, observation, treatment and stabilization just like a patient with a physical ailment. If a doctor suggests being admitted to the unit to get well, I need to trust their judgment and expertise in my moment of sickness. It’s OK to not be OK! As the doctor told me, “Lola, how about you surrender power and let the professionals take over and get you well.”

3.  Remission is real and possible.

For the longest time, I fought against being admitted simply because of the stigma associated with such, and the detriments I thought it would have on my day to day life. The truth is, I had no quality of life, fighting through each day in the state I was in. For six months I was so unwell I couldn’t take on any responsibilities. Even though being admitted to hospital stalled my life, it created an abundant, full and fulfilling life afterward because I received the help I needed. Now I’m in remission, I never thought I’d get to this stable place. I never thought I’d go through a day without wanting to die. I never thought I could go back to school. I never thought I could smile again without forcing it. So while my life was paused for four weeks, now it’s resumed in full capacity.

4. You are not, “Good, thanks:” Be honest!

For the first while on the unit, I kept telling the nurses I was, “Good, thanks.” What good can covering up the truth do? My inability to express my true feelings only resulted in a slower recovery process.

I encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to not be ashamed of being admitted to the hospital. Psychiatric hospitals and units were created because people were in need of them, and it’s OK for you to be the person who needs it.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Julia Caeser.

Originally published: April 6, 2017
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