So you are a danger to yourself and others?
I have had four experiences as inpatient at a Psychiatric Hospital – three of them were as an Adolescent and one of them as an Adult. I was a clear danger to myself on all occasions and looking back on the matter I can see that I left my parents with very few choices. In short – I needed to be there.
The experiences were not positive at the time but to make fundamental changes to who you are as a person is not with its costs. Here is some reality I collected:
1. Be honest with yourself (& everyone else if you can)
You are not looking down the barrel of a mental hospital stay because your life is going well. The sooner you accept that there is a reason you are IN A MENTAL HOSPITAL – the sooner you can use the tools they offer. The worst thing you can do is compound the problem by pretending you are okay when you are not – you are not fooling anyone. I can promise you that even if you resist treatment with silence and lies – you will soak in some of that standard cliché wisdom along the way that will help you if and when you decide to fundamentally change your life for the better.
The setting is medicated circles of villains and victims all being forced to face facts in the same room. Broken is broken and sin is sin – throw down as completely as you can without sending yourself to jail. There are very few times in this life that you can sit in a circle of people in equal or greater pain (physical and emotional) and throw down your greatest sins and inner turmoil without fear of judgement and where people will openly and unapologetically understand your plight. There is no social context in such a place and it allows for a freedom to be completely honest that is unlike any other. The staff may not understand – but do not let that stop you – UNLEASH THE TRUTH.
2. Accept that it is going to be awful. This is not a spa, you are not going away to summer camp
Separation from drugs, loved ones, and decision making can be painful. There is also an unfair stigma that comes with doing a stint in the “the looney bin” that leaves some people in cold sweats but the reality is once you are admitted – you are there and that too is….uncomfortable. Did you know caterpillars turn to goo inside of their chrysalis in the transition time between being a caterpillar and becoming a butterfly?
No matter if you give in or fight it to watch you and others pulling themselves out of the rabbit hole of despair, tragedy, morbid logic and inner gridlock is unsettling at best. I learned the most about myself and life being confronted by other patient’s experiences and perspectives -not from the doctors – though they tried their best and should be listened (but also logically evaluated and not just blindly trusted…just like anyone else you meet in life).
3. Two sickies do not make a well-y
Do not make BEST friends and especially do not fall in false love in the mental hospital. Broken people have a tendency to attach to each other in a place like this and let me tell you it is a relationship built on sand and can only end one way –badly. Trust me on this if nothing else.
It could be one year it could be more – that relationship is going to tank. It sucks that it is like this but your mental health/ sobriety/life cannot rely on another person – people are fallible and this has to be for you. Listen to people – take their stories – their characters and use them to grow but do not try to drag them up with you if you care about them at all because ultimately even if both of you
4. Treatment is not real life so do not make it your life.
This might not make sense to you yet but there are people who choose hospital life over outside life.
There is something to be said for handing over the control of your space and doings and having no option – it is just…easier at as certain point – to have the luxury of evaluating yourself and those around you all day-every day. It is a bubble of self-evolution – some people you will meet have accepted the bubble for its security and have no intention of ever leaving. There is something to be gained listening to their fears and reasons for demanding the cage as long as you don’t fall into that mindset.
5. Know your medications
You are allowed to request paperwork on every medication you take.
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE ON. KNOW WHY YOU ARE ON IT. KNOW WHAT THE SIDE EFFECTS ARE.
As an adolescent – medication was shoved down my throat by order and the cost of refusing was being held down and tranquilized – this is savage, traumatic and wrong but for all things there is a lesson and there is always a cost to giving up control.
As an adult – you have more control over your medications – you will be allowed to make your own decisions and the only cost would be lengthened stay if the doctor feels you are not making progress. You can always leave AMA – Against Medical Advisement – but good luck getting insurance to cover your stay. You can also be tranquilized as an adult – any type of violence usually provokes this reaction.
In any case typical mental hospital medications come with a whole host of side effects from extreme weight gain to hallucinations to lactations so don’t let yourself be blindsided.
6. Use the journal
If they offer you a journal for the sake of whatever sanity you possess.
TAKE IT. USE IT. NAME IT. MAKE IT YOUR BEST FRIEND.
Take note of your medications, the patients, the doctors…EVERYTHING. Make an effort to focus on what is going on around you and inside of you – this will help you to be more aware of what is being asked of you in every moment. Medications can make it tough but being present in the moment you are in now is one of the most invaluable tools life has to offer and a journal is good way to get there especially if you have a tendency to get lost in your thoughts.
7. Take it for what it is
I cannot say that I trust that these institutions have your best interests in mind but I can say from where I stand now –what seems like a life time later – that they offer an experience unlike any other. They offer the cliché stepping stones of perspective – alongside various medications – but it was the people I met and the experience itself that I found to be priceless. The lessons, experiences and teachings of those around me for what they were worth to me in that moment – and even more so what they mean to me now – I would not trade for anything in this world.
It is not easy but if it is where you are meant to be – I wish you the experience you need.