The first time I was admitted to a psychiatric unit I was 15. The closest unit was 1600km away. I was a long way from home and only had my Dad for immediate support. I was scared and had no idea what was in store. This admission was the first of many, spanning over a period of 5 years.
Once I turned 18 I was admitted to an adult unit, a unit that was a lot more daunting than the adolescent one that I was used to. The adolescent unit seemed more like a boarding school, relaxed and mainly full of teens with eating disorders. Psychosis didn’t seem to be very common.
The adult unit had a mixture of people, it was a public ward and so many of the patients were there under an Involuntary Treatment Order. They were at their most sick, at mercy of a doctor whose job it was to keep them safe. The ward was locked, unless your doctor gave you permission, you couldn’t leave. I tried when I was there involuntarily but no amount of kicking helped.
Where the adolescent unit felt like a boarding school, the adult one felt like a prison. To the uninitiated it was scary, the rest of us ignored the most sick, doing things that helped to pass the time. The last time I was admitted, the patients were still able to smoke on the grounds, this is now forbidden, a move that frustrated both patients and staff. When the days were long, sometimes a shared smoke was what got you through the day.
The funds are low for a public ward, the staff turnover high. There is no organised groups, patients are expected to amuse themselves, usually with a pool table or puzzles that had too many pieces missing. A psychiatric ward is no place for the sane. The night can be filled with screams, unless you have been prescribed a sedative, to forget the place you’re in.
It’s been almost 6 years since my last admission. The psychiatric unit used to be my safe place, I would relax into the routine, knowing that if I wanted to hurt myself that I would have to actively seek out the means. I was a regular and not in a good way. I knew that the unit had nothing more to offer me than a safe place to land, yet still I found myself coming back, time and time again.
Sometimes I find myself thinking that I would love to go back to that safe feeling, to check out of life again. Then I remember the nights of being scared, knowing that the coping mechanisms that I have come to rely on for the last six years wouldn’t be allowed there. I have come to realise that I have started to do this on my own, that the words of the nurses who gave a shit were true. I can do this.
Linking up with Jess for IBOT
You have obviously come a long way. You should be very proud of yourself.
Very powerful and honest. And I’m glad you can do this.
Yes, very powerful post.
We are usually stronger than we ever think possible.
You can do this …
Yes, you can do this. you ARE doing this. I have a dear friend in a psych hospital at the moment, down Sydney way. I wish I could be there, wish there was something I could do to help, but she knows this is something she has to do for her and her family, and she has to do it on her own – CAN do it on her own. But gosh, until you figure out how, it is a very hard road. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your story. x Aroha (for #teamIBOT)
And you know you’ve got your son who believes in you too – you are doing it, those nice nurses were right. x
Very strong and powerful post!
You are right, you can do this. You are doing it.
It seems you’ve come a long way Tegan, and yes YOU did it! The fact that you’re brave and generous enough to share your story will surely help someone with their own struggle. x
This is a great post Tegan, I really love your honesty. It is great that you can see that to be back in the place would mean to loose all the coping mechanism your have developed. Thanks for sharing xx
It takes real courage to write so honestly. Am moved.
Nurses are fantastic people aren’t they. I truly don’t know how they do it day in day out. 6 years must feel like a life time for you Tegan. As always your honesty truly adds to my respect of you and the journey you have had this far.
A good nurse, and a supportive nurse in particular, are worth their weight in gold.
Such an honest, raw post that had the power to bring tears to my eyes. Take care sweetie xx
Gosh Tegan you’ve experienced so much! I know you can do this and I bet your blog has been a fantastic outlet to reflect and post on these matters that many prefer to keep hidden. Thank you lovely for this post.
You sure can. Seems you’ve found a new safe place. Thanks for such an open and honest post.
You can do it on your own! You have a beautiful little boy to give you inspiration and a community online that is barracking for you. I hope there is other support out there for you, but the biggest and most effective way to beat this is within you.
You seriously can do this and are doing this! I admire you, Tegan. You have come so far. It mustn’t have been easy. Thanks again for your honesty xx
This is such an intriguing insight into what happens behind those white doors. A friend of mine is a male nurse at a psychiatric hospital and he got a black eye once when he was attacked by a patient at the facility. As he recounted the incident to us, there were plenty of gasps and head shaking. But after reading your post and seeing how sad the conditions are for the patients, I can now sort of understand the frustrations and wound up feelings being built up in a person forced to live in such a condition day-in day-out… resulting in such an explosion. Thanks for this glimpse into the other side.
Very brave post. People need to know what it is really like – and how much guts it takes to put yourself in there. How very limited resources are there, particularly for children and teens, and for those in the country – where suicide rates are the highest. I have written about it from a journalism perspective, in the third-person, I’ve written for mental health charities and allowed myself to be used as a case study. I have/am writing about my own experiences but apart from a little I published on my blog years ago, it’s all private for now. I guess it’s still close to the bone, and I’m still gathering strength … and I’m wanting my children to be of an age where they can read it first and approve it. They know all of it, according to their age, and have grown up with it. And thankfully had counselling and support and child-focussed programs over the years. But people who think those with mental illnesses are faking it, or need to get over it, or anything else, need to read stories like yours. We would all take the magic pill, if only one was available. Love how far you have come and how open you are. We all know that talking and sharing helps others reach out and/or understand.