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