Some people have asked me what it was like to spend two weeks in a psychiatric hospital. Well, to be honest the whole experience was very surreal. I was seen by a psychiatrist within twenty minutes and was admitted within an hour. A psychiatric nurse came to the interview room and said he’d show me to my bedroom. As we were walking, he was explaining where everything was. “Follow me through the double doors”, he said. No member of the public was allowed beyond this point because of confidentiality, he explained. I still find this a little odd to be honest. We’re all about being open about mental illness, but the general public can’t go beyond a certain point in case they see the patients. I can understand it on one hand but on the other it doesn’t do much for the stigma of mental illness. When a visitor comes to see you, you must come out to them and go into one of the visiting rooms.
Anyway, I was getting my guided tour. “The nurses day station is on the right. Just knock if you need anything. To the left is the ladies wing, to the right is the men’s wing. Straight ahead are the two tv rooms. Follow me and I’ll show you to your room. Ok, here we are. You have a room to yourself with an ensuite bathroom. The night nurses station is just across the hall if you need anything. Any questions?”
My head was spinning at this stage. Any questions, I thought. ‘Ya, I’ve a few alright. What the f**k am I doing here? Why do I feel like this? What did I do to deserve this? Why me?’ The nurse was so empathetic. He explained that I had just been through a very traumatic experience and I was mentally and physically shattered. He gave me something to help me sleep (Xanax I think) and said he’d be back later for a chat.
He did come back later that evening and he reassured me that I was in the right place, and they would do everything they could to help me get better. These words meant absolutely nothing to me at the start. I didn’t need to get better, I needed someone to sort out my money problems. Of course this wasn’t true, what I needed was help with my coping skills. You see, there isn’t a person in this world who hasn’t a problem or a worry. It’s how we deal with them that matters.
One thing you are encouraged to do is get up at 8 O’ clock every morning for breakfast. Speaking of food, I was quite surprised as to how healthy the food was. There were therapy classes every day and I was advised to take part in as many as possible. I didn’t really fancy the thought of art therapy or baking therapy, but the one I really enjoyed was relaxation therapy. It’s something that I have kept up to this day. I hope I’m not portraying the hospital as a holiday camp because I can assure you it’s not. There’s a lot of time spent on your own with your own thoughts. This is extremely difficult at first, but it becomes a lot more manageable as time passes.
One of the things that struck me while in hospital was the variety of people there. There was a guy who liked to take all of his clothes off and run up and down the corridor. There was a young girl who had a troubled childhood and was bipolar and suffered from anxiety, depression and o.c.d. There was a college graduate whose mind wasn’t his own because he smoked too much hash. There was a nurse, an occupational therapist, a teacher, a chef, a carpenter, young people, old people. Like most other illnesses, mental illness isn’t ageist, sexist, elitist or racist.
After about a week it was suggested that maybe I would be ready to go home. At first I was happy with this, but as the time came closer I began to panic. I remember the psychiatrist asking me what I thought about being in hospital and I told him it was like a big blanket around me and I felt safe. After a long conversation it was suggested that I would stay for another while.
One of the hardest things about mental illness is that it’s a very selfish illness. When I say it’s selfish, I mean the person has to be selfish. You have to stop thinking and worrying about those you love the most and start concentrating and thinking about making yourself better. A good analogy is that of an air steward explaining that if the oxygen masks drop down, you must put yours on before you can look after anyone else. It’s a very difficult thing thing to do- put yourself first, knowing that your actions are hurting all of those around you.
It was a difficult time in my life, but I’ll always be glad that I rang my GP. I’ll always be glad that she referred me to the acute mental health service and I’ll never forget the kindness and care shown to me whilst in hospital. My experience (and it’s only my experience I can speak about) is that I received and still am receiving the best possible care that I could have imagined, and for that I am truly grateful.
You can read more from Micheal on his own blog here
Written by Michael Cronin
There is so much help and support out there like The Samaritans for example. You can contact them here
Follow me on social media
One thought on “What’s Psychiatric Hospital Like?”
Thank you for sharing your experience and shedding light on what it’s really like to be in a psychiatric hospital. It’s important for people to know that mental illness doesn’t discriminate and that there is treatment available.
founder of balance thy life https://balancethylife.com