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I Didn’t Expect Life to Be This Hard After the Psych Ward

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Two months ago, I tried to take my own life. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and detained in a psychiatric hospital for assessment and treatment against my will. Last week, I came home from the eight-week admission, sat on my sofa, and waited for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

Life on the ward had been so structured and mostly revolved around small, manageable chunks. I found that life was now the opposite: completely unstructured and impossibly difficult. Nothing would happen unless I made it happen. A typical day on the ward consisted of the following:

Be woken up at 8:30 a.m. for meds.

Get dressed, attend the ward meeting at 9:15. Attend group sessions or distraction activities until midday. On Wednesdays, see my consultant for multi-disciplinary review.

Go for lunch.

Go for a walk into town, or attend more distraction and diversional sessions.

Dinner at 5 p.m.

More meds after dinner.

Spend the evening either occupying myself in my room with books or Netflix, or sat in the communal areas chatting to patients and staff.

Nighttime meds.



Add in extra doses of medication when needed, a few meltdowns and a fair amount of insomnia, and that was day-to-day life. Staff were on hand 24/7 if the thoughts in my head got too much.

I didn’t realize how many decisions you have to make in ordinary, day-to-day life. I got home in the afternoon I was discharged and spent a few hours sat in my living room, feeling mostly numb and empty, waiting for the realization to hit. And boy, did it hit. All of a sudden, I’d collapsed into a sobbing mess. I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction. I found myself frozen and overwhelmed by these choices.

Which room should I sit in?

What should I do to occupy my time in that room? How long should I spend on each activity? My old life suddenly seemed alien. Self-harm and suicide methods simply kept in unlocked drawers and cupboards. The lack of 20-odd other people in my living space 24/7. No one shining a torch through my bedroom door all through the night to ensure I continued to be alive.

If I want the support of a professional, I now have to seek them out. No more pressing a buzzer on my wall when the flashbacks and intrusive thoughts get too much. All the things I could use to hurt myself no longer kept under lock and key. No careful assessment and close supervision if I want to use something I could use to harm myself; I can just grab them. The decision to be safe is no longer being made for me. I have to continually choose to keep myself safe.

Luckily, my husband hadn’t been quite as naïve as I had. He’d expected this. Where I’d imagined I’d just fall into my old life, my old routines, he anticipated that probably wouldn’t be the case. I hadn’t seen just how different life in the ward was. My husband calmed me and soothed me through the sobbing session. He came up with a novel way for me to choose how I spent my newfound freedom. He got me to think of some activities or tasks I could do and assign each of them a number, one to six. Then, roll a dice, and do whatever the dice decides. Simple, yet perfect solution.

A week after being discharged, I’m still adjusting to normal life. One of the hardest things is realizing that my recovery is nowhere near complete. Just because I’ve been deemed as safe to be out of hospital doesn’t mean I’m all better. I’m relying heavily on my loved ones right now to get me through each day. Compared to the superb support I had from the staff on the psych ward, I’ve found the aftercare to be frustratingly lacking.

But I am improving, slowly, each day, in fits and bursts and small relapses; overall, things are getting brighter. Day by day, I’m learning to be the person I was before my illness changed me into someone neither myself nor my loved ones recognized. I’m learning how to live my life again.

Photo by Hannah Gullixson on Unsplash

Originally published: June 20, 2019
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