Adolescent Psych Ward
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Adolescent Psych Ward

Life inside an acute crisis unit.

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Adolescent Psych Ward

It was as if I was in a dream, everything was in a cloud, and I was looking down on the world. I was strapped down in an ambulance, and I could hear the sirens. I remember talking to the EMT, him asking why death was so seductive to me, and me being vague not necessarily knowing the answer. Only about a day ago I was in the ER, believing I was dying, but weirdly everything felt normal. I was calm, a calm only felt after a near-death experience. I had surrendered myself fully to the situation I was in. We pulled up and they rolled me into the main lobby. I felt crazy looking around, strapped down, everybody seemed to be staring at me. My memory blacks out, my parents come and sign me in, and I step onto the unit. I was told there were padded rooms, and I immediately headed for them, I sat down and tried to cry but couldn't.

I saw other patients wandering around, one kept looking I. She was a short girl with brown hair who seemed almost to be drooling on herself. Again my memory blacks out and the next thing I remember is being in bed, alone in a 5' by 10' room. It felt too large for me. A few rooms down I could hear screams, shrill and loud. I could hear staff came down, and the screams stopped. It was then eerily silent, honestly, I was screaming on the inside, when I heard them I felt a connection with that person and in a way an admiration that they were brave enough to break the silence. I later learned that the "screamer" was autistic and schizophrenic, and this bravery was the only way they could cry for help.

I woke up to a knock on my door, a staff hid and then when I came to my door jumped out at me. This made me stay in my room for another hour, too scared to leave. Another patient kept peeking in, the same one that had been looking at me in the "safe room." I waved, but something seemed off. She had a glazed look on her face, and when she spoke, it sounded like it had come from far away. I finally got the courage to leave my room, and went down to the dining area. People were eating breakfast and some were talking. At that time there were roughly 24 kids on the unit. All in different states of mental clarity. I was immediately aware of somewhat of an odd social dynamic. There was a main clique, talking amongst themselves, having there own table, acting semi normal, expect for the loud expletive once in a while. Everybody else seemed scattered, I immediately knew if my time were to be safe, I would have to act careful around the inner clique. I skipped breakfast, which became a common theme for my meals on the unit. The staff seemed to be oblivious of my diagnosis of Anorexia. The day was confusing, but followed a schedule: we would either go to a classroom, while our “teams” pulled us out, while in reality no schoolwork was done; it was more of a holding pen for part of the day. We would play cards or whisper and try to top each other in our stories of unhealthy behaviors.

I met with my team that day: a younger looking psychiatrist, who my dad later told me graduated Harvard, and a social worker a women in her mid thirty’s. I didn't trust them, hell I didn't trust myself, and figured if I told all of the staff that yes, I was having suicidal idealization but I didn’t want to act, I would be able to get out of there within the week. They obviously saw through it and I was there for little over 2 weeks. My memories after the first few days become jumbled and everything seems to be strewn together, a few things stand out though. I remember talking with staff a lot, making some connections. I began to create my own clique, my best friend there being a girl a year older then me who struggled bipolar personality disorder. We would talk all day long about everything, and for the first time I opened up to someone face to face, telling her everything about me, and she returned the vulnerability. We would pace up and down the main hall for hours, and stay up late at night playing chess which was mostly an excuse to stay up later and talk.

She introduced me to my favorite staff member, who would let us stay up when it was his shift. He was kind and compassionate. He would take us outside to the playground and talk openly about suicide and drugs with us. He told us his childhood was hard, and he would've ended up here if he was our age. For the first time in awhile I felt love for people outside of my family, especially for this girl and the staff member. He looked after us both, telling us our case profiles, and opening up an honest dialogue about my illness. Honestly he was the first person to see the good in me, and work to make me see it too. We saw many people come and go. Because it was a crisis unit people were there only for a few days. Agitation became a daily thing for me, and although I was lying to staff sometimes I would yell at them, then go into my room and listen to them discuss me. There was a sort of underground society, letters were passed around, couples would time staff, and kiss when nobody was looking and I heard stories of sex and drugs on the unit as well.

The screaming in the night continued and most nights I would cry myself to sleep. I decided I was going to try to hang myself with my bedsheets, but I told staff so they took them away. I worked out everyday and didn't eat, I had pictures of my family on my wall and I would meditate and just look at them, wishing I had never been put in a place like this. The therapy in the days was mostly superficial, the staff not wanting to destabilize us. We would do a two daily check ins, and as I did this I began to know everybody individually. I had my clique that I felt safe in, but I also learned other people's stories as well. One girl tried to cut herself in half with a razor, while another was their for repeated shoplifting. Everybody there at one point or another had tried to commit suicide, and it was odd listening to these stories in such a depersonalized way. Sometimes we would compete with these story’s, and honestly I took pride in winning sometimes.

About a week and a half in a girl came, and I immediately had a crush on her, she approached at first and asked what eating disorder treatment was like. I told her I had only experienced treatment at the intensive outpatient level, but it was fine and helped me out. We talked a little day to day for about a week, and oddly my feelings for her didn't change, it seemed pretty normal. Then one night when I was pacing with my best friend there, I saw her try to hang herself. The staff tackled her and the whole unit was filled with her screaming, “let me die.” At that moment I repressed my feelings for her, and kept walking, there was a moment where I could have intervened, but instead me and friends kept walking and went to a table and with remorse felt the emotions that came. To this day I regret not interfering, but at the same time I understood it wasn’t my place. It jotted me back to where I was, the screaming at night seemed more real, the talk during the day was horrible and the staff seemed against me.

I became close to an autistic kid my age, who was there because he was hearing voices. I saw my brother in him and did my best to look out for him, making him think past where he was. One day he told me my brother must be lucky to have me, this almost made me cry, because at the time I felt like exactly the opposite. My last few days came, and a feeling of hope came that I was moving on, but at the same time I felt let down, I was comfortable on the unit now and I didn't want to leave. It came to a point that amongst the chaos I felt safe. I think this came to a fear of coming closer to my family, due to my OCD being revolved around them. The day I left was exciting and sad, and like waking up I was gone from the place that I felt like I had dreamed. Some nights I think of that place, trying to understand it, trying to understand how it effected me and how I act because I was there. But I think with things like that sometimes there is no meaning, “it just is.”

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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