My Time In The Psych Ward

My Time In The Psych Ward

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

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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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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

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


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Your Happiness Should Not Be Dependent On Others

Happy mind, happy life.

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As humans, we are always growing, evolving and changing. Whether you're 20 or 60, you're a different and more developed person than what you were two or three years ago. While we are growing and changing, we're looking for happiness. We're humans, that's what we do. We want to be happy and loved and needed. The question is why are we always looking for happiness when we can create it?

We often rely on others for our happiness. Usually, that's a significant other or a best friend. Maybe it's our parents. I believe that nothing lasts forever so when we rely on someone else for our happiness, we start to think we need that person. We can't live without them, they make us whole, blah blah blah. But what happens when you're boyfriend breaks up with you? You're best friend moves away or you're parents die? Now what? Life goes on no matter how much you relied on that person.

Stop looking for happiness in other people when you can create it yourself. You don't need your "amazing" boyfriend that's cheated on you two times now. You once lived without him. Just because you're best friend moved away doesn't mean you can't still be friends or create more friends and let's face it, death is inevitable and you're life will go on when your parents pass.

I have a proposition for you. Try building an empire within yourself. Find yourself, heal yourself and most importantly, love yourself. Be passionate about your life. Try new things, grow your friendships, meet new people, make memories, push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Have you ever done stuff on your own with no shame? Go to lunch by yourself, exercise, go shopping, the options are endless. Do what makes you happy. Whether that's having a relationship with God or The Universe. Maybe it's that donut that you don't need, but really want or spending your paycheck right after it goes into your bank account. Whatever it is, do it for you.

You don't need other people to make you happy. Worry about loving yourself, instead of loving the idea of other people loving you. Besides, it takes very little to make a happy life. Start by letting go of the past and focusing on your way of thinking.

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