Many posts, are great raising awareness of the symptoms of mental health, but what happens when the sh*t hits the fan and you end up ill? This post, is the hardest one to write -well because its the one I never thought I would be here to write. However, I have done this post to give you an honest insight into mental health illnesses.
So here it goes…
It’s been nearly a year since I shared a post about depression with such hope things would get better and for a while … a little while they did. Then one negative situation after another it all changed….Although it appears now blogging can trigger me, I suppose there wasn’t much else to do in an impatient mental ward but write. As you enter you could mistake the hospital for a Centre Parcs resort with the overgrown trees , wooden sculptures , modern buildings and birds taking the bread patients leave out.
So … your first thought is probably how did I end up there?
I’ve been classified with anxiety, borderline personality disorder and clinical depression but I suppose I knew that for some time, showing documented symptoms since 2011 but up until then I was never diagnosed officially with BPD.In May depression and BPD and the pain from EDS took me with a drug overdose. I was trying to fight my mind, but my serotonin levels had other ideas not helped with drinking continuously after this, which may come clearer later. For a while I convinced doctors I was fine it was a “mistake” but I suppose there was just a chemical imbalance in my brain. Although I did have one before this incident and a serious lack of control.
So the next question, what were my problems?
- Being 25 years old and the stress of university, with learning difficulties
- Paranoia and feeling empty or feeling too much
- Lost of identity
- Suicidal thoughts and intense mood swings
- Self – harming and excessive drinking
- Insomnia and hallucinating from the lack of sleep
- Fear of rejection and abandonment and being abandoned
- Feeling conflicting emotions (like being clingy but emotionally detached)
- Sensitivity to changes and temperature
- Racking up loads of debt (reckless spending)
- I had an ongoing fraud dispute of over £1,500 pounds with the bank
- Unstable relationships (Not many friends and struggling to make new ones)
- Chronic illnesses without a cure causing constant pain
- Being dumped because I was too ugly
- Difficult family life growing up
- Having to give up art (to the standard I like)
- Despising my appearance
I didn’t tell my ex boyfriend about what happened, I considered it when he finished with me but …. I told him a different secret to deflect the truth because it wouldn’t of achieved anything. I want to be honest with you, I would never try to kill my self over one person but with my irrational behaviour I suppose doctors weren’t so convinced.. maybe it’s happened to prior patients.To be honest I’ve been trapped for quite a while even if it wasn’t constrained to 4 walls. Although I can’t give you a simple answer the main things bothering me are my appearance, the physical pain and being unable to have long lasting relationships and friendships.
And now you may be wondering…
What’s it like being on a Psychiatric Ward?
Well firstly their different, dependant on security and if your informal or sectioned and they have different security levels . I haven’t been to prison but I can imagine it’s not far from it.There’s a ping pong table , pool table and a TV and a ward phone. You can’t go outside after 8pm and doors are locked at 9pm for the small garden it’s no wonder the patients attempt to climb the tall gate. The best escape route is running away from the staff on “escorted leave”. The ward I was in lets you have a mobile phone, but not the charger incase you strangle yourself. In a physical sense the ward kept me safe, well so I thought but we will get to that part later…
On admission you are shown your bedroom (some wards have dorms) and where everything is and a physical examination is done like blood pressure, temperature, urine test, ecg, lungs and bloods.Going up and down from a level 1 to level 4 means your rights can change anytime. Most people are on level 1 being checked on once per hour and you can go outside. On level 2 you are checked on every 15 minutes and can’t go outside. I didn’t notice anyone on level 3 but level 4 is the highest risk and you watched like a hawk, sleeping and eating etc. Under section you are allowed escorted leave for 30 mins, 3 times a day but no one gets this- due to the lack of nurses. Student nurses can’t sign you out.
When you do finally make it to the outside world you meet other patients with many in recovery and some recently tried to commit suicide or rehab patients. Its like a secret circle, where you all try to make sense of everything. There isn’t silence though people always ask either if you can provide them with illegal drugs, numbers for explicit drugs, cigarettes or change when the staff are chatting with the backs turned. As you glance over back to the centre you will see parents in a flood of tears trotting to their cars, as they leave their loved ones behind for yet another day.
Inside the staff love wondering round with clip boards doing observations checks known as “obvs”…Your role is to pretend your okay all the time. At night observations are annoying because the staff turn the bright lights on waking you up.The days in the ward are the same from the screeching trollies, cleaners asking you to put your feet up to mop or hoover, the screams from the patients (although some are so ill they don’t know what’s going on) and sometimes they are restrained with a loud buzzer ringing as the staff fight to sedate and bung them in seclusion).Seclusion is when your isolated in a box room with dark shutters and someone sits outside on watch. Some patients claim they are injected with illegal drugs but who knows , I doubt this. Fortunately I haven’t misbehaved to find out.
If two patients “misbehave” then they are taken to a seclusion room on another ward. I haven’t heard there being white jackets like you see on TV though but you definitely know when someone is going to be secluded. Restrained by numerous staff, you see as bruised traumatised body laying like a slab of concrete on the floor. Other aspects of the day are being called for meal times 3 times. The dining room reflects a high school cafeteria with a dinner lady serving preheated hot food and a trolly of salads, sandwiches and biscuits with squash and orange juice.
Weirdly, you don’t have to eat if you don’t want to … but you are watched to take your medication (which you queue up for like on a shop ) , weighed and fluid and food intake are always noted. You are allowed visitors at specific times but they are only allowed in communal areas.
The doctor also has the right to up medication and ban some.In my case I was put on 9 anti-histamines a day because I have too many mast cells…. but Tramadol, codeine, diazepam and co-Codimal was taken off me because of my “addictive” nature. Oh and once in a while you will also see paramedics swiftly drop a new patient or multiple ones, leaving as quickly as they entered.
The highlight of the day was being told the art activity room is open and closed but they always checked you hadn’t smuggled sewing needles or scissors out.There’s a gym but they never really let you go to it so you find yourself pacing up and down your bedroom and using the bench in the garden as a step up bench when the staff are busy, if you want to lose weight.Once a week there is also dog therapy where you can hug a small dog. The most boring parts were being dragged to planning meetings to find out your allocated nurse and daily events. There is also an on call doctor but you meet with your consultant and other doctors formally once a week known as “ward round” where you can invite friends and family or they request it.
On reflection my brief ex boyfriend and ex friends had the spark with one side of my personality, which diminished when they met the other. If any of them ever find out I was there well they probably would say they had a lucky escape.. but that’s fine … I’m not even sure they noticed or took the time to realise I had mental health issues. Not that makes this any easier –being emotionally unstable and everything. People have always said I took things to literally and I would sit there baffled , as what I say is really what I mean, not always the case with others. I will admit I was pretty ashamed to discuss the extent of my mental health problems and didn’t realise myself how bad it was again.
I suppose the anxiety is thinking bad things will happen in the future due to the past, another person will change their mind about me again, lie to me or I can’t achieve something. I don’t really view this part as paranoia as my worries seem to come true. The depression is not letting go of the past and not having the energy to have hobbies and the bpd is not being able to handle the present or rationalise situations, obsessing over what things might mean.
Now, I want to take you back to the evening of my overdose. I had been drinking for a few hours and went to a party. I hadn’t really thought of suicide that day but all of a sudden I had this feeling it just had to be done reflecting on my past and everyone else was drifting to sleep or was asleep.
I wasn’t afraid of the dark.
The way I can describe it is it was like the urge you get to eat your favourite chocolate bar, perhaps I was addicted to my thoughts.I can say that’s where I really felt the line between life and death. Thinking if there is a God I was definitely going to hell and that I was fine with that. With my eyes flickering away, I didn’t think about what I’d leave behind, I just wanted the physical and mental torture to stop and in the moment I hoped I would pass away peacefully. Instead someone had found me. Someone I didn’t even know turned me over and was hysteric as they tried to stop me choking on my own sick, wiping my mouth still high as a kite themselves. Probably half due to the fact I had taken their drugs and partly because they didn’t want to explain how they ended up with someone who was dead.
In these moments my thoughts were everyone dies at some point and I hadn’t achieved much in my life but be a burden.Everything was a bit of a blur from then on in but then I woke up, in bright surroundings. I felt angry. That stranger wasn’t there anymore but I was awake, I hadn’t succeeded.
It was odd realising at this time, a stranger seemed to had more care for me than anyone else. After medical attention I can say that was the most unpleasant day of my life struggling to regulate my body temperature and losing the feeling in my legs and completely as I tried to stand up and just falling like a sack of potatoes. Feeling a knife had been taken into my stomach. Some medical staff don’t feel bad for you and some do – not all understand –but why you would want to take your own life?
The leg issues lasted for weeks frazzled instead of my brain. Then I was back to some essence of reality. I had a camera put in my stomach , which to be fair was in pretty good nick considering what I did and how much I was drinking. I then put in mitigating circumstances to get extended deadlines to finish the university year and was trying to speak to my friends and at that time boyfriend like normal, whatever my “normal” was I mean. Everyday was a struggle though , pretending to be happy without mentioning specific things or what I did, it was really exhausting. Hoping if I believed I was fine enough and smile it would come true.
Fast forward back to my first day in the ward. The initial doctor thought I had fibromyalgia, another joint problem (eye roll) which is massively impacted by stress. This was no surprise as my aunty has it.. although my mental health consultant isn’t so sure about this and thinks the deterioration in my mental health, what he calls “emotional pain” caused the rapid deterioration to my body and movements and caused trapped nerves in my knees. No matter the level of pain I was not allowed any other painkillers than paracetamol. I would be trailing back to the medication kiosk every 4 hours, being asked why I was not asleep also being diagnosed with insonmia.I don’t feel like being there changed my thoughts and certainly not my appearance but I do agree I hit the lowest point physically and mentally.
And now you may we wondering…
Who are the Other Patients?
I was on an acute ward so luckily I’m not in with murderers, they live in forensic units.
Anyways, I’ll give you an overview other than me…
Key patients (names have been changed)
Well I didn’t have to much interaction with the patients but I saw Lottie the most and the woman who looks the most mentally ill. She spends her days walking around trying to get out with excess oil out her hair, staring and dribbling at you and one day asking me to shoot her with heroin whilst trying to steal my Coca Cola Zero ( as caffeine is banned).Apparently she doesn’t do heroin (not in here anyway the staff say) but “needle”, “fizzy” and “shoot” are the only words I heard from her. It is pretty easy to sneak things in as you’ve probably gathered by now even with the security checks… so I locked the door at night. Although it’s no wonder she ended up here if what she is saying is true that her dad raped her.
Then there’s Astana she apparently doesn’t speak any English but does when it suits her. She spends her days talking to herself and making excess tea and decaffeinated coffee for everyone but me (even though no one wants it) . I walked in a room and she walked out.If there’s one empty cup left to make a drink we raced to get it. It was a pretty hate- hate relationship, although her moustache did brighten up my mood slightly. I can’t work out if she doesn’t think her husband couldn’t look after himself or if she is clever because she steals all the canteens food for him to take home.
Then there’s Helena she doesn’t speak but I think has an eating disorder as she tries to avoid eating and smiles when she sees I’m not eating due to pain and exercising looking at me in awe like a Greek goddess. She gets a lot of visitors but I think is sedated a lot with lots of cotton wall padded to her hands .One day I saw her stare at the door for 6 hours waiting for a visitor and fighting the staff trying to put her to bed with her actimol flying everywhere like a cow being milked. She’s definitely the one I feel the most sorry for she looks like she could kill over and die any minute with nurses following her round with a blood pressure machine. She was pretty much always on suicide watch with the door open and staff rotating to watch her.
On the other end of the spectrum is Janet. Janet is like that naughty kid at school you hate to love and makes the days go by, but can be overpowering at times. Although only she could order dominos from the ward phone and catch it over the fence and escape and go to the pub have 5 pints , go home and feed her fishes be escorted back by the police and come up nearly clear on the breathalyser.
Janet is the funniest by far but I feel for her too. She was homeless because of her slousy husband and has breast cancer. Although she is always offering me biscuits and paying me compliments (even when I’m not doing anything). I only have to breathe for her to want to hug me and join my visitors conversations. The next minute she’s saying I’m hyper and demanding I don’t grass her up for smoking in the garden but hides poorly like a toddler behind a plant pot with her feet poking out, it’s no wonder she got caught anyway. (Although she claims she rubbed two stones together) which might of had substance if she said she was in the girl guides.
She always got ‘stories‘ about her runnings with the police which she tells me as she tries to grow her own plant. But if you touch her guitar her Hyde alter ego came out and you would want to stay well clear. She is under section 3 with the longest stretch to go and sees many patients come and go.
Lisa doesn’t speak to me but always smiles she’s sick at scrapbooking but I don’t know how she does it with all the self harm marks across her that look so fresh even though we aren’t allowed cutlery.Lou spends most time in her room and is in a wheelchair, she has borderline personality disorder but people are always outside knocking on her door. She seems the most normal but then maybe that’s because she’s emotionally unstable – like me.Then there’s Enid the new girl on the block at 67 she is scared of everything and everyone. I want to give a big hug but can see is to fragile for it. As there is an elderly ward I’m not sure why she is here probably because there was no bed but the staff have a lot of time for her. I think she is here because she is very lonely.
Lastly but not least Dana with skitzophrenia, she is the patient that goes awol screaming and causes the buzzer to be set off and attacking the staff and sedated in seclusion with the use of PEACE techniques. Although she never dares to square up to another patient. She says she feels different energy and vibrations in different rooms claiming she’s an angel. Although other patients are cruel and say with her age at 27 and all her stretch marks she couldn’t possibly be one and that she looks pregnant.As she doesn’t like some rooms she goes round blocking all the toilets, which is annoying if the staff want a number 2..with no designated staff toilet.
And last but not least…
What are the Staff like?
In a physc ward the staff are paid to be nice to you yet many still don’t know your name.Like anywhere the staff are different breeds. I was there to be observed , particularly my eating habits and tolerance but being in a physc ward you get bored and ended up observing staff.
There are some nurses who hate their jobs because they aren’t paid enough and a rivalry between the agency and full-time staff. The ward managers are hit and miss too. I avoided most the staff because one made a claim a patient was stalking him but didn’t report it , it’s almost like they think we are invisible when they have conversations. And then there’s the shift ward manager the one who thinks he can “change” my life because he came a nurse to help people.
The doctors are okay but then again they come and go. My doctor I looked up and it turns out he’s been an inpatient to but didn’t think it was wise to mention I googled him. Nevertheless, like anywhere there are some really good staff who really love their job. One healthcare assistant looked really scary but over time would come sit with me and watch love island every night , and talk to me like I was a human. He was my favourite because he liked his job because he likes seeing people get better and opened up how he had a mental breakdown a few years before.
I want to finish by saying sorry for a darker post but I suppose with all the time to reflect in hospital I was ready to let you all into my life a bit more and what you can expect if you ever visit someone or ever find yourself admitted to an impatient ward. They can’t solve all your problems , and recovery is a long road ahead wherever you are but i can assure you a psychiatric ward isn’t as scary as it may sound.They are there to try and save lives and give your life some routine being woken up at 8am.
My next post documents my health journey over the past three months clean of illegal drugs and the highs and lows after leaving the mental health ward.
Thanks for reading & I hope I have given you a depth insight mental health issues.
Please help me fight the stigma by sharing my story..
Lots of Love,
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