My Time In The Psych Ward

My Time In The Psych Ward

It's not like the movies, sorry Winona Ryder.


Trigger warning: Self-harm, suicide, and inpatient hospitalization.

I was 16 the first time I was in a mental hospital. I was anxious, depressed, and severely suicidal. In retrospect, I probably should have been admitted a few weeks before I was, but I was hellbent against going to a hospital where I had the possibility of being labeled as "crazy." I was not crazy. I had this under control...or so I told myself. And besides, I had a job, more performances for my current show, and work to do before the upcoming school year. I simply didn't have time to be depressed.

Eventually, though, my depression became unmanageable and I had a mental break. One night after a performance of "Into The Woods", I began to cry uncontrollably in the backseat of my friend's car. I cried and started to shake and hyperventilate, and as my friend called my parents, all I could do was sit and accept the fact that I needed help. I needed help. I needed help. The following morning my parents took me to a mental health hospital for a psychological examination, and the next day I began outpatient therapy. That means that I would be in the hospital all day, but I would go home to sleep.

The hospital was a life-changer for me in the best way. I learned how to take care of myself while being able to have a life too. I was treated kindly and my brain was filled with stimulating new things and ideas. Don't get me wrong, it was still a hospital, but it helped me become myself again. I did well for a while. I was in therapy, taking my medication, and doing what I needed to do to take care of myself, but then I went to college. In college I stopped taking my medication regularly, I quit therapy and wasn't sleeping or eating well. I had friends and great classes, but I was not taking care of myself. I was in a new city with new people and no familiarities from home. Everything piled on top of each other and again, I broke. This time however it was more severe. This time I attempted to combat my depression once and for all with a bottle of pills and a razor blade. It didn't work.

I was taken to the E.R by ambulance where I was pumped with fluids, connected to an EKG, and downing bottles of charcoal soda. I cried and shook in pain and shock. There was a nice nurse who stroked my hair and played my favorite music and let me use her phone to call my mom, the hardest call I've ever had to make. After I was treated for my immediate physical trauma, I was evaluated by a psychologist who asked me questions such as "Have you had thoughts to harm yourself?" and "Have you ever felt suicidal?" "What do you think," I said. At least I've still got my wit. Within the next few hours, I was to be admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward for "intensive inpatient care." Okay, I thought. I've got this. I've done this before. I know what to expect. And that's when I learned that the psych ward of a hospital is not the same as a hospital specializing in mental health care.

After being wheeled into the bare common area of the psych ward on a wheelchair, I immediately began to notice some differences between the hospital and the psychiatric ward. First of all, the nurses station was closed off from the rest of the ward. There was a clear divide between patients and staff. Some of the patients were playing "Call of Duty" on a small game set and there was a man with the word "satanist" tatted across his fingers rocking in a plastic chair staring into nothingness. There was a middle-aged woman laughing while scribbling on coloring pages on top of a checkerboard table. And then there were two boys, both about my age playing a game of chess while cracking jokes to each other across the table.

I don't remember much of the first day. I think I slept a lot. The mattresses were hard and the blankets were thin and breathable. I slept with all my clothes on at night because it was so cold. I examined my room. It was big but very bare. Besides two blue plastic beds, two shelves, and a trash can, I was in a plain, unlock-able room. There was a bathroom connected to my room. The doors locked, surprising, although there were triangular slits on top of the doors so privacy was limited. I colored. I watched TV. I called my family. I couldn't write or read, two of my favorite things, because it was too taxing on my brain. I was still foggy from the day before and couldn't connect my thoughts. I talked to a few of the other patients, and quickly realized that I was known as "the girl with her shit together." Me. The girl who had just downed a bottle of pills. I was in a cuckoo's nest with mentally unstable adults and suicidal teenagers.

Meals were served at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m with one snack at 8 p.m. If you missed breakfast you waited until lunch to eat. No extra food was permitted. I explained to my mom that the psych ward felt like a holding cell. Meals were eaten mostly in silence, I couldn't go outside or even open a window, and during the five days I was in the hospital, I had only one therapy session that lasted for a half hour. I like to look at the bright side of situations, but when it came to this, I was drawing a blank. I was not getting treated for my mental health, the very reason I was in the hospital in the first place. The college boy's were my therapy. We debated over who had the toughest schedules and made jokes to compensate for our confusion and anger over our care (or lack-there-of).

Going to bed at night meant being woken up 20 minutes later, and waking up meant getting my vitals checked for the 10th time that day. I wished I could be back in the mental hospital, something I never thought I'd say. But I am glad I was kept safe at the very least. I am thankful for the nurse who slipped me an extra ice cream cup, the one with the salmon scrubs. The people there were doing their best, all of us were and all of us are.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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10 Bible Verses for Self Esteem

Sometimes you need to search for inner strength and find your own self worth.

We all get those days that we just don't feel good enough for anything. Everything is going wrong. For me, I go to the bible to read the words of God. His personal dialog for us is filled with encouragement, hope, and lessons we can learn from. Here are my top ten verses that are uplifting and impacting when at the lowest of lows:

1. Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

2. Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall.

3. Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

4. Psalm 28:76

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

5. 1 Corinthians 25:10

By the grace of God, I am what I am.

6. Romans 5:8

I loved you at your darkest.

7. Psalm 62:5-6

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.

8. 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

9. 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not ours, but God's.

Cover Image Credit: chinadaily

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Fight And Flight, How I Conquer My Emotional Battles

In times of high threat and peril, science says our innate response usually follows one of two paths: fight or flight.


Like almost any other concept related to humans, the idea of "fight or flight" boils down to either/or, one over the other, choice A or choice B. This seems logical, as science also says we can't actually multitask as humans. We may think we can manage multiple tasks simultaneously, but we're inevitably occupied by one thing at a time. Now, depending on each person, the response to any given situation might vary. Someone might feel courageous enough to stay and "fight," while someone else may deem it wiser to make like a bird and take "flight."

Regardless, this concept revolves around a definitive choice, a choice of just one response, not both.

While I agree with this concept as it is, I've come to think that, in some areas of life, we can manage both. We can fight, but we can also take flight. Although fight or flight generally refers to physical threats/obstacles, I think the fight and flight apply on an emotional/mental front.

This past weekend was quite a whirlwind, blowing my emotions in all kinds of directions, which is really what prompted me to think about my emotional response to the weekend as a whole. As a bit of important background, I'm not a crier by nature. I just don't cry in public/ in front of others. Don't get me wrong, I don't see anything wrong with crying in public. It's a perfectly human response. No book, movie, song, or the like has ever moved me to tears. (Well actually, the movie "The Last Song" with Miley Cyrus did cause a stream of tears, but that's literally one out of a decade.)

Enough about that for now, though, I'll make mention of it again later.

I think this past weekend's deluge was an unassuming foreboding of the flood of emotions that came pouring in on Sunday. The day began like any other Mother's Day, we opened gifts with my mother before heading to my aunt's for a family lunch. Only once we arrived, I was informed that my other aunt, who's like a second mom to me, lost her beloved Shih Tzu of 14 years, Coco. We all knew that Coco's time was likely limited, but it still seemed sudden. I was a bit rocked by the news, but ultimately knew she had given life a run for its money. After all, I like to joke that if I come back, it'd ideally be as a house dog.

Needless to say, the suddenness of it all wouldn't really hit me till later that afternoon.

Fast-forwarding to the evening, we decided visiting my other grandmother would be a nice gesture on Mother's Day. Although she was still out and about, my house-ridden grandfather was there, and so we decided it'd be nice to stay and visit with him. A bit more background, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago, so we've unfortunately watched him slowly decline since the diagnosis. As such, this is where things went on a steep downhill slide. We arrived mid-nap, which subsequently meant waking him from his nap to visit. In hindsight, it seemed like a very poor choice, as when he awoke he seemed completely disoriented and largely still asleep.

It was as if his eyes were awake, but most everything else about his body remained asleep.

We stayed only but 12 or 15 minutes, as it didn't prove useful to stick around any longer. Enter the flight of my emotions. I've known my grandfather wouldn't be the same every single time I visited. I've dreaded but prepared for the time when he wouldn't remember us, or wouldn't be able to communicate with us the same. As much as I thought I'd be unphased when it happened, I wasn't. At the time, I tried to shuffle through other thoughts. I tried to jump to the upcoming things for the week and what I needed to take care of next. I wanted my mind to float off till my emotions wouldn't be so strong.

That's where I believe the flight response happens for me. When I'm face to face with an emotion-laden experience, whether it's sadness, frustration, or whatever, I try to shift my thoughts away from what's stirring them up. My mind takes flight. Maybe, that's why I don't cry in public. I don't allow my mind to focus long enough to conjure up a physical response.

My mind never stays in flight for long, though. I wouldn't say I'm scared of the emotions, rather I just need them to calm down or settle before I can pick them apart. I tend to process my feelings internally, but they never go unchecked or un-analyzed. That's why, even though I typically don't show my emotions in public, my throat still tightens up and my eyes still become glassy behind closed doors.

Nevertheless, this is where the fight response shows up. Except, I wouldn't say this is so much a fight, even if the situation can be a sort of emotional battle. It's more of a coming-to-terms. I know that I can't outrun my feelings, and I don't ever intend to. At some point, I let them catch up to me, and then the sorting process can begin. It's usually not that tumultuous like a real fight would be, but it doesn't mean that the emotions don't present a challenge at times.


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