(Credit: MoreISO via iStock)
Why does it matter if the setup in a psych ward and a jail are the same, and why am I being so sensitive about it? Because people in the ward aren’t there for criminal activity. Why treat the two groups the same? People serve time in jail for crimes, whereas patients in a psychiatric ward are there as a safety precaution to protect themselves and get better. Let me tell you, that environment wasn’t making me better.
My time alone in my room came to an end fairly quickly. A middle-aged woman was checked in and made herself at home on her side of the room. She didn’t bring much with her, just some toiletries and a couple of sweatpants. She was extremely anxious and depressed, you could see it on her face. She had multiple children (I can’t recall how many exactly) and had just moved back to Upstate NY from a place where winter didn’t exist (I can’t remember from where exactly). She was obviously suffering from seasonal depression and an overwhelming lifestyle. She was strange, for sure- but not because she was suffering from anxiety and depression. Through conversation I learned more about her personality. She was an unorganized mother who had a few of her priorities backwards (in my mind) and was involved in drugs (she told me this for a fact). I’m not a professional but I felt as though all of her habits were trial failures/ways to cope with her mental instability. It really is a vicious cycle, this mental health thing.
One night while she couldn’t sleep, she kept me up with her talk about the green walls. She hated the color of the walls and they drove her crazy. Come to find out, jails were/some still-are painted that same shade of green as a calming effect, something you can learn about in psychology.
There were flowers on the top border of the walls, she always complained about how they looked like drugged up unicorns (she was funny). She said something that I agreed with though. All of this money from her insurance was being poured into her stay there, and the least they could do is give the walls a fresh coat of paint. I was learning quickly that not a lot money was going into the mental health system….
My weekdays in the ward were steady – but then Saturday came rolling around..
Do you recall me talking about the one hour group discussions that happened during the week? Yeah, those didn’t happen during the weekend.
Nothing happened during the weekend except medications.
I quickly noticed that certain individuals had a hard time maintaining mental stability when there was nothing to occupy them or when there was nothing for them to look forward to. It became so bad that chaos started unravel, for example: random screaming and people walking around nude. So obviously I sat in my room and tried to figure out what could be done about this.
The next thing I knew I was in the charge nurses office with what I thought was a brilliant idea.
Why not have a talent show? You have staff just sitting around watching us and at least 10 patients who love to sing, write, act, tell jokes. It would occupy the patients for at least an hour and keep everyone busy.
The charge nurse quickly turned me away, treating me like a crazy person.
According to the staff there was enough to do such as: color in the coloring books, play the games that are too old for you to understand, or use the stationary bike – ya know the one that’s broken and you have to hold the handles up as you pedal. Once you get bored with all of those activities, you could always eat cereal or read the books-the ones with the torn out pages.
This was a joke…. anyone and everyone was bound to go actual crazy in a place like this.
I became so depressed over the fact that I couldn’t help anyone here, so as always I promised myself, I would find a way.
That’s the point when I decided was going to write a book revealing the truths behind mental health: The stigmas, the experiences, the relationships, and everything else.
I spent most of my time preparing for school presentations, talking to B, and eating frosted flakes. While no one was looking I also sanitized everything. During the duration of my stay I didn’t see any staff clean certain things such as the pay phone we all used. By we, I mean people like B who had his hand in his mouth for most of the day. I was scared to let the staff see me obsess over hygiene because ya know, they might have thought that I was crazy…
** Just some small details
When admitted: you don’t get to keep your phone
You use a payphone which takes quarters, or people could call you for free (every time the phone rang everyone got excited).
If you kept leftovers in the fridge, B would eat them
The shower pressure was so great that your skin felt as though it was going to peel right off of your bones
All in all, you learn to appreciate the small luxuries in your life.
**Stay tuned for my release day and learn why I went back to the ward the same day I left.**