The next couple of days were filled with cereal, Papier-mâché, and sanitizing wipes.
I tried so hard to fight the feeling of similarity to the others in ward.
I was lucky to have the room to myself until another person was admitted.
I slept terribly the first night there. My feet hung off of the short twin bed, hospital blankets were anything but warm, and the pillows weren’t from Bed Bath and Beyond. I was woken around 6 am by a nurse who kindly knocked on my door and asked if she could take my vitals (as if I had a choice). I was kind to everyone there – especially the employees. I suppose it would have been nice to know the house rules upon arriving. Being woken up by a nurse as a first timer in a psych ward was kind of alarming. As the day went on, I became more aquainted with the individuals who shared the space. I met an older gentleman who knew every answer to Cards Against Humanity, and could answer any multiplication question I threw at him. I would get so frustrated that he couldn’t get an answer wrong, and he loved every second of my spiteful behavior. He also made beautiful origami and would color them with the one pen they allowed him to have. He talked a lot about his history/battle with alcoholism and his multiple personalities. It was so strange to me – here was this crazy person who was one of the smartest people I had ever met, telling me about how he barely made ends meet. It didn’t seem fair to me. A statement I heard from an inspiring Young Scholar Alumi yesterday was: “it’s not fair that individuals with potential are deprived of opportunities just because of their background.” That is especially true of this man in his early 40’s – who honestly probably developed his mental instability from a lack of help that he recieved (i’m obviously assuming here and realize there are so many factors that play a role in how ones life unfolds).
Kate, the younger woman who let me sit with her during dinner was also unique. She suffered from depression and was extremely suicidal. This wasn’t her first visit to the ward, nor was anyone else here for the first time either, just mine. She had this beautiful black hair that looked like silk. She talked a lot about her broken relationships with men and how much she missed having her makeup (they didn’t allow you to have many things in the ward). She was so welcoming and it was easy to vent to her. She liked listening to other peoples problems because she liked not feeling alone. Her and I shared a special bond. My mom had brought me a few personal items, some of them including makeup. I found her sitting by the phone one night crying. She had just broken up with her boyfriend. I walked up to her and handed her my eyeliner and told her not to tell anyone. That eyeliner meant more to her than it ever did to me. I was fortunate enough to have had a mother who came to visit everyday and bring me eyeliner, she didn’t have that.
Call me Boston.
B was my favorite individual in the ward. He walked around with ripped rocks, a smelly-now-yellow t-shirt, and hair that hasn’t been cut or washed in weeks. He constantly talked, he talked so much that he shoved his hand in his mouth when he knew people wanted him to be quiet. Everything he said made sense though, it’s just that no one was listening to him. When I striked up conversations with him he would talk about how he played air guitar for a band and how love made him sad. He asked me a never ending listen of questions and called me amanda like the banana. During a conversation about suicide, B actually stayed quiet in the background. Once Kate mentioned how they wouldn’t let us have razors in the ward because we would all try to commit suicide, B jumped up, took his hand out of his mouth and said, what don’t they get? We’re not suicidal – we’re all just looking for love. HOW GENIUS. B is right, people contemplate suicide because of their emotions. This isn’t the last thing B would say that would cause my brain to rattle.
During that day a nurse came over (a military veteran with a veteran figure) and asked us if we would like to go outside. When he said the word outside it was as if he had just told us the winning numbers to the NY Lottery. Everyone lined up to this corner steel door that I hadn’t even noticed. The nurse unlocked the door and all I could see was fence. This outside area was about the size of an average basement. There was some grass and a couple of picnic tables. I truly appreciated the meaning of fresh air at that point. There was nothing beautiful to look at until you looked up and saw the blue sky. It was at that moment that I appreciated the little things in life. I was so happy to be there that it didn’t matter that I was fenced in, within a part of the hospital parking lot.
B enjoyed his time outside more than anyone else. While others were laying on the picnic tables and catching the few rays of sunlight that they could, he took his socks off and walked around in the mud. He told me he enjoyed the feeling of the mud between his toes. I totally understood why. B was covered in mud by the time we had to head back inside. The male nurse forced him to take a shower (he hated bathing) and stood in front of the bathroom door until he did. That night B became extremely anxious. He had wounds on both of his arms from taking a fire torch to them the night before he was admitted into the ward. He became so anxious he dug both wounds until they bled. It made me wonder- did he become anxious because he was exposed to something he missed (the outside)? The nurse said that’s just the way he acted. I still can’t believe this.
During the week a therapist would spend one hour doing a group session. This meant that everyone in the ward was allowed to participate in this one hour discussion.
Let’s take a second to understand what I just said, we can use an equation.
60 mins/(1 Therapist + ~20 patients)= HOW THE HECK IS ANYONE STUPPOSE TO BENEFIT FROM THIS.
The group discussion was a disaster. You had one woman trying to sync at least 10 different personalities together to create a smooth sound. That’s not how it worked. What typically happened was one dominant personality would take over the conversation and talk for the majority of the hour. This wasn’t helping anyone. We were all issued coloring books and computer paper with drawn on lines, and sent to our rooms. I’m so sorry for my language but WTF?!
This was suppose to be the golden child of the family. I’m not saying this therapist wasn’t a good one but the set up was far from a good set up. And that’s all folks – thats all that they provided. THAT’S THERE MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM/THE WAY TO A BETTER YOU/THE BEST CARE PROVIDED. A coloring book and medications!
This isn’t good enough, It CANNOT be good enough. WE need to do something about this. Which means you, the person who is relating to everything I have said – YOU need to get angry with me. YOU need to step back and realize you are worth more than the mental health system is offering. YOU need to use your experience with mental health to create small changes and I’m here to do it with you.
I mentioned medications. Have you guys ever seen Orange is the New Black, when they all line up for their medications or for the commissary? When I saw everyone lining up for their medications that’s the first thing I thought about. Why was I referring my stay here to that of a jail? That is not okay. It’s not okay for me, a young adult suffering depression, to be in an environment that reminded me of a jail.
My next blog will be more about the setup of the ward. You never want to go there, I promise you.