I Was Hospitalized In A Psychiatric Ward. Here's What It's Like

6 Things I Learned From My Time Inside The Psych Ward

Sometimes our darkest moments have the most to teach us.

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Only the nurses were awake when I arrived at 4 a.m., shaky and exhausted. It had been a long night spent in the ER, and I just wanted to sleep. One of the nurses showed me to my room, a small space with a bed, a bathroom, and a large chair. The intake paperwork only took 20 minutes or so, and then they left me alone to rest.

The built-in radio by the window was mostly static, but if I tuned it just right, I could listen to Frank Sinatra on the '50s station. Something about that music playing softly in my hospital room made me feel safe. I watched the lights of downtown Cincinnati sparkle like fallen stars in the dark and could feel myself healing, as cheesy as that sounds.

I still felt uneasy by morning but made my way to breakfast anyway, then to group therapy, then to lunch, and so on. I kept my days full like that for the next week, going to every scheduled activity and therapy session. For the first time in a long time, I was putting real work into my recovery.

Here are some things I learned during my hospitalization.

1. Getting help is not a sign of weakness.

The EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance with me had a kind smile. He let me crack as many jokes as I wanted in my poor attempt to cope. I told him that I asked for help because I felt unsafe and wanted to start treatment again. I shared how afraid I was to be admitted to a hospital an hour from campus in a city I'd never even spent the night in before. I was scared that the doctors there wouldn't be able to help me. I dreaded the scissors at the nurse's station they'd soon use to cut the strings out of my favorite sweatpants. I was terrified that the state I was in would break my mom and dad's heart.

At the same time, those anxieties didn't hold a candle to the fact that I still needed help, and as scary as it was to ask for, I got it. That is a strength I didn't know I had. As we pulled up to the hospital, the EMT gave me a tiny package of cookies and told me that I was brave.

2. Friendship is a healing force.

The other patients, ranging in age from 18 to late 60s, were some of the most loving people I've ever met. There's always an air of comfort among those who understand you, a feeling of freedom to just exist as you are. We paced the hallways during the slow afternoon singing songs from "High School Musical." We made ice cream sundaes with snack pack Oreos and half-melted ice cream. We could cry with no questions asked besides "what do you need?"

There was no hiding, no stigma, no shame.

The oldest patient, a woman who lived to make other people laugh, treated me and the other college-aged girls like daughters. She told us jokes at breakfast and gave life advice at lunch. There was a mutual understanding between all of us there that we were not fighting this alone. To connect with others like that during such a lonely time is like breaking through the water's surface for a breath of fresh air. The way we bonded together like a makeshift family was unexpected and utterly beautiful.

3. A week without internet is good for the soul.

The moment I was admitted, my cell phone was shut off and put in a locker somewhere else on the floor. Without the internet and social media, the days felt a lot longer, conversations were more fulfilling, and I had less generalized anxiety about checking my accounts. I couldn't read any depressing news headlines, and I couldn't get left on read. There was no longer a tiny screen to filter the world through.

I found that time away from my phone provided me with a lot of opportunities to ground myself in the present. Instead of sitting on my phone at dinner, I could focus on the meal and the people I was sharing it with. I went to sleep much faster at night without an endless scroll of tweets to read. I know life without the internet is practically unheard of in the real world, but it was nice to be separated from my screen for a while.

4. There's nothing wrong with needing medication.

The stigma surrounding psychiatric medication had gotten to my head during the year leading up to my hospitalization. I thought if I stopped taking my pills, I could learn to manage and adjust to the world without needing them. Obviously, I was very wrong. During my stay, I had to change the way I thought about medication, working to perceive it as an aspect of my treatment instead of a punishment for being sick.

Adjusting back to my doses helped me to slowly feel like myself again. The brain is an organ like all the others, and sometimes the right chemicals aren't being made. It's nobody's fault, but it's still something to be managed. For some people, medication can help with that. Once I pushed past my own internalized resentment, I was able to utilize that resource and take control of my recovery.

5. Recovery isn't a choice you make one time.

I had to choose recovery every morning I woke up in the hospital. Going to therapy, taking my medications, and practicing self-care took energy and effort. Breaking unhealthy patterns and relearning how to manage a chronic illness is difficult, and on some days, it felt nearly impossible. With encouragement and patience from my treatment team, it became more natural each day.

I also learned that recovery is not linear.

There will be times when I'm thriving and others when I'm definitely not. The ups and downs of life make no exception for me, even when those dips and highs become extreme in ways that disrupt my life. I kept forgetting that I do have a choice, that I've always had a choice, to keep going and striving towards a healthier state. My problems won't be gone, they'll just be a little easier to carry.

6. There is a time to leave.

On my last day, I was hesitant to leave. In the hospital, you are protected from the world and its chaos. A week staying inpatient wasn't going to fix all my problems, and I knew I'd have to go back to school and finish the semester. I had to return to my life. This would be the starting point to a brand new treatment plan for me. Of course I was worried I'd make the same mistakes again, but a stronger part of me felt ready to face both the good and bad times ahead. I left the ward with a collection of new coping mechanisms and a newfound hope for the future of my mental health.

I am grateful for the beautiful stories and lessons that were born from the dark, and I will never forget my time there, the people I grew to love, nor the single stretching hallway that we made into a home.

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An Open Letter From The Plus-Size Girl

It's OK not to be perfect. Life is more fun that way.

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To whoever is reading this,

My entire life has been a juggling match between my weight and the world. Since I was a young girl every single doctor my family took me to, told me I needed to lose weight. The searing pain of those words still stabs me in the side to this day. I have walked past stores like Hollister and American Eagle since I was 13.

Being plus-size means watching girls the same age as you or older walk into a store that sells the cutest, in style clothing and you having to walk into a store that sells clothes that are very out of style for a young girl. Being plus-size means being picked last in gym class, even if you love sports.

Being plus-size means feeling like you have to suck it in in pictures so you don't look as big next to your friends. Being plus-size means constantly thinking people are staring at you, even if they aren't.

The number on the scale haunts me. Every single time I think about the number I cringe.

Can I just say how going shopping is an absolute nightmare? If you haven't noticed, in almost every store (that even has plus sizes to begin with) plus-size clothing is closed off and secluded from the rest of the store. For example, Forever 21, There are walls around every side of the plus "department."

Macy's plus department is in the basement, all the way in the back corner. We get it that we are not what society wants us to look like but throwing us in a corner isn't going to change the statistics in America today. That being that 67% of American women are plus-size.

My life is a double-digit number being carved into my jiggly arms and thunder thighs. It is me constantly wanting to dress cute but turning to running shorts and a gigantic sweatshirt instead so that people don't judge me on my size.

It is time that the American society stops making plus size look like a curse. It will never be a curse. If every person was the same size, what would be the point of uniqueness? I will never despise who I am because while I was growing up multiple people told me that I needed to be a size 6 in order for a guy to fall in love with me. I will never hate myself for getting dressed up and being confident.

To all the girls reading this who may be plus-size,

It's OK! You're beautiful and lovable. If you want to buy that crop top, buy it. Life is too short to hide behind a baggy T-shirt. We are just as gorgeous as the girls that we envy. Be the one to change the opinion of the world. Fat rolls don't need to be embarrassing. Your stretch marks are beautiful. Don't ever let the world tell you not to eat that cheeseburger either.

In the end, this earthly life is temporary. We are on this earth for a blink of an eye. Don't let anything stand in your way. Wear the bikini, the crop top, and the short shorts. Post the sassy selfie you've had on your phone for 6 months and you won't post because you have a double chin or your head looks "too big." Who cares. BE YOU and love yourself while you're at it.

I'll start.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Hockmeyer

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Burnout Doesn't Make You Successful, It Makes You Neglect Self-Care And Mental Health

It's time to stop wearing exhaustion as a badge of honor.

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Nowadays, millennials and generation Z'ers are more involved in the workforce and starting their careers sooner than later. One of the factors of this may be the fact that technology that has become increasingly more accessible over the years, and with that came the rise of social media platforms. These give us an insight into the lives of others that we necessarily don't need to know about or wouldn't have known about without them posting it on the platform.

Some people post every aspect of their careers and doing this can make us feel like we're behind, that we aren't moving fast enough in the game of life and that if we aren't thriving with thousands of followers, set our Instagram accounts to a business format or use stories to promote our skills that we may feel aren't as good as someone else, that we are failing. So what do we do? We take on everything possible.

"We" in this case could just mean me since this is something I do often. I've since limited my Instagram stalking but months ago, I would spend hours a day scrolling through my feed aimlessly doing nothing productive. All I would get out of my scrolling binge is feelings of dissatisfaction with myself, and my work ethic.

"This person just got their dream internship and they're only a sophomore."

"Wow, they made their first short film in high school and its nominated??"

"She's 23 and already has her own web series."

These are all thoughts that go through my head and their success does inspire me at times- but what did it take for them to get to that point? Perhaps endless working. Taking on more jobs and tasks than humanly possible. And yet, they're doing it.

"If they can do it, so can I," is my mentality as I undergo as many things as possible for me to try to catch up to the success of my peers. I've been working since I was 17 and my first job was in retail. From then on I've undergone countless of jobs in various fields- administrative jobs through a temp agency that I'm still involved in, freelance gigs through my township to hone my production skills, as well as a part-time job at a movie theater just because I need more money for better equipment so that I could have a web series at 23 myself- all of these on top of going to school full-time.

To many people, this may seem like a lot. To others, it may be the tip of the iceberg. I know some people who work AND go to school full-time, on top of outside responsibilities such as maybe family obligations, or trying to maintain a social life or the most important and often underrated things: self-care. I have learned the importance of self-care recently and I realized that it isn't something that you just have the time for on your schedule- you have to make the time. Now on top of my regular duties, I had self duties to attend to. This was something I was never used to so I still struggle to find time for myself. But lately, my body has been reminding me whether I like it or not, to take a break.

I thought it was just feeling "tired," but this was a whole new level of tiredness. It's a complete shut-down, like performing a force shutdown on a computer or laptop. That's what I relate it to. This feeling of intense exhaustion to the point of near collapse is called burnout. I have heard the term before, but didn't really know what it meant until I experienced it. It got to a point in which I had to go to the hospital. The burnout was not the only cause of my hospitalization, I had mental and physical health conditions that were not attended to prior to it. However, because of the burnout, I realized that I was doing too much and I was not okay.

I just kept going. Despite my body feeling as if it was hanging by a thread, that I could fall asleep for days at any moment, I ignored all the signs of exhaustion and kept going. It took drastic circumstances for me to take the actions necessary to get my life back on track and we as young adults and innovators shouldn't have to get to such a drastic point to realize that we need a break. Just because we're doing the most, doesn't mean we are at peak productivity.

In fact, studies show that if we do take 5-15 minute breaks in between our assignments, whether school-related or personal, we'll be more alert and productive. Plus, our performance quality will increase too. It's not always about just getting the job done, but doing that job/task at the best of our ability.

Sometimes we feel as if we need a life vacation... a break from the hustle, from people in general. I remember feeling like this a few days ago. I love keeping myself busy but I had once again given myself too much to do and not enough time to take breaks. And this doesn't just go for things related to advancing in my career. I was extremely socially exhausted in this case. By my third day of socialization, I had just wanted to go to my room, curl up under the covers, and escape into the world of Hulu, Youtube or Netflix.

That was the only activity I had the energy for... until I fell asleep by force of my body's exhaustion. I think that's what a lot of us in this generation tend to do as well. We think if we are tired beyond belief or have only gotten to eat one meal a day, then we're working hard, giving 110% and we're gonna get ahead of the game. But really all we're doing is setting ourselves up for a huge collapse that may set us even further back than we think. It's time to stop wearing exhaustion as a badge of honor. Instead, we need to use it as an indicator of when to pause, take a breath and live instead of merely exist in the busy world around us.

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