What The Movies Don't Show You About The Psychiatric Unit
I remember repeatedly telling my friends I did not want to go to the psychiatric hospital for months.
I was terrified and I did not want to be labeled as “crazy.” Every time someone asked if they should call the police, I said “no.” Who would?
After attempting suicide, I found myself in the emergency room being evaluated by a psychiatrist, and he told me I had two choices: voluntarily or involuntarily check in, where I would then be forced to check in to inpatient. I decided to go so I could have more control over the process. I was dehydrated and, to say the least I was mentally on another planet. Everything seemed like a blur. I was asked to remove my clothing and valuables and change into scrubs, and to place everything into a plastic bag. It was around 1 p.m., and after almost nine hours (seemed like forever), I got into a wheelchair and a nurse pushed me into the elevator and brought me to the top level of the hospital (4th floor).As I went through the double doors that were locked from both the inside and outside, I saw patients in a common area watching TV.
I was then brought to a room with one of the medical assistants and he took my vitals. And, as I began to process what was happening to me, I cried like a baby. I thought to myself, “What did I sign up for?” I was escorted to my room, asked the nurse to leave the light on and the door open, and then I cried myself to sleep. The next morning when I got up, I noticed the blue walls, a door that led to a toilet, a sink, a locked window with no view and my roommate sleeping. I did not eat or leave my room because I was scared.
I’ve never been so scared in my life. All I could think about was the psychiatric units in the movies. I thought someone was going to attack me. There were check-ins every 15 minutes by the staff, and you are assigned a social worker, nurse and psychiatrist. You get three meals each day and a snack. You have to ask to take a shower and wash your clothes. I said to myself, “I must be dreaming or I am in jail.” My social worker suggested I go into the day room and participate in therapy. At this point, I was willing to try anything because I wanted to go home. And to my surprise, it was nothing like the movies. I walked into a therapy session of emotional bingo. As I listened to the patients talk, I shared their hurt and pain. They shared stories of abuse, grief and untreated childhood traumas.
I decided to go to another session later in the day — music therapy. We listened to music and did arts and crafts, and even though I felt out of place in the unit, it was so relaxing.I met entrepreneurs, overworked-mothers, people with college degrees and a former police officer; people like me and you. The movies do not show you the psychiatric unit can be a calm and peaceful place. Where I was, it allowed people with mental illness to become stable and begin to work on his or her issues through medication, therapy, writing, reading and resting. The staff was kind, and really wanted to see me succeed.
During my stay, I made amazing connections and started new friendships. It is a great feeling when you meet someone who identifies with you, and does not judge you. My old medication stopped working so I was given new medication, and within a few hours my suicidal thoughts stopped. I took an active roll in creating my treatment plan in order to have an effective recovery process.
After I was discharged, I was placed in a partial hospitalization; I stayed at the hospital for six hours, five days a week, but I was able to go home. I thought I did not belong. I have a master’s degree, I started my own company and two organizations, I have people who look up to me and love me, I have my own apartment, and I drive my own car. Mental illness has nothing to do with your educational, professional or socio-economic background; sometimes it is genetic or simply life, or maybe a combination of the two.
Please understand anyone can have a mental breakdown — anyone can have a mental illness. Let’s have an honest discussion and help end the stigma about mental illness.