I'd like to start off by saying this is not the happiest of articles. I'm writing this because I would like to be more open and honest about my mental health. I want to break stigmas about mental health and going to psych wards. This was a really hard experience to live through and to write about. While I may not discuss my time in the psych ward in the most favorable light, it's important to know that it was vital. My time there saved my life. If you're thinking of reaching out for help but you're afraid to, please do it. It'll suck for a while, but it is so very worth it.
When I was 16, I had a mental breakdown. I was immediately sent to a psych ward, though the process didn't feel immediate at the time. I spent hours sitting in my therapist's office while she called the psych ward, an ambulance company, my parents, the psych ward again, and so on. The cycle repeated itself until my parents were there and watching me break down in front of them, an ambulance was sent for, and the psych ward was willing to take me. My poor grandmother, who transported me back and forth to most of my therapy appointments, had no idea that I was doing so poor mentally. It was a shock for just about everyone but me.
The ambulance ride was only about forty five minutes, but my mom had taken my phone prior to that, she wasn't in the ambulance with me, and they'd strapped me down for the ride. I spent the entire time holding onto the cot for dear life when rounding bends, praying, and watching my mom's headlights follow the ambulance closely. Frankly put, it was miserable and my tailbone really hurt by the end of it. I thought that was the worst of it. It wasn't
We got to the psych ward at about nine thirty or so at night. I had to take off my Fitbit since it was an electronic and give it to my mom. I couldn't have shoes on as I was weighed and got my picture taken. The nurse had to take my temperature and blood pressure. She kept asking me if I felt violent. It was a fair question, considering she had no idea why I was being admitted, but it didn't make me feel any better.
There were six doors in the waiting room: a locking entrance door, a locked supply closet, a bathroom, a nurses' station, and two reception rooms. They kept asking my mom questions to get me signed in, then had to separate us to ask me the standard 'are you abused' questions. I'm not sure anyone answers those honestly, because I know I didn't. I smiled and said life was perfect. After an hour or so, my mother has answered all of their questions about my behaviors and medications. She had work the next day and she had to go. I clung to her and I begged her to stay. She kissed my forehead and said she'd see me soon and headed out.
I laid on vinyl chairs in that ugly waiting room for what felt like ages. I cried and watched Friends and to this day I still really hate that show. Both because my mom overwatched it when I was younger and this incident. I waited for a nurse to come and get me, then she took me back into the secured wing and I sat on a hard, wooden green bench. I waited and waited once more, until they made me go through an embarassing exam I will not be detailing. Think yearly checkup at your doctor's office but worse.
Eventually, it was around one in the morning, and I was taken back to meet my roommate, a young girl of fourteen who was...very eccentric to say the least. We were taught to be mindful of others in there, as they were suffering too. I had a very hard time with her as she was incredibly inappropriate. (A different story, but a day later, she was transferred into a higher security sector of the hospital/ward and I rarely saw her again.)
I was told to wait in the hall outside my room, so I did. I received a blanket, but no pillow. I was too frightened to ask for one. I went into the room and picked a bed, trying to lay down and sleep with my arm as a pillow. It worked, but only until I was woken up by a flashlight in my face. They had to do checks every fifteen minutes or so to make sure each patient was still breathing and each room had a motion sensor that turned on at night. Tossing and turning in your sleep triggered it. I couldn't fall back asleep with my arm-pillow after the flashlight incident. Feeling bold, I went to go to the nurse's station at the very front of the ward and ask for a pillow. Big mistake.
The moment I got up there, I was immediately rushed back to my room. They told me I was not to ask for anything. I wanted to cry and go home and never ask for help again in my life. The next day I was told that the night staff was super mean and Miss J, everyone's favorite staff lady, gave me a pillow and told me to stick my arm out of the room next time I needed anything.
Anyways, that was my experience being admitted into a psych ward for adolescents. I might make this into a series! It's hard to talk about it, but I think it's worth it if it helps even one person or makes someone feel seen. I just want anyone who's hurting to know I've been there. I see you. I feel you. You are not alone.
Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255