Back at the start of January, I found myself in a situation I had not been in for 2 years. After a period of decline in my mental health, I became very unwell.
I noticed I was spiraling down and sought support from A&E and mental health teams. After a while, they assessed that I was unsafe to stay at home. My partner and I waited for a little bit of time for the crisis team to find me a bed. Within a couple of hours, they rang to say they had found me a bed and I was admitted to the mental health assessment unit at our local hospital.
I was lucky in this aspect. Many times it can be a real struggle to get a bed. I was also lucky that my stay was relatively short and I am now back at home, awaiting support from community mental health.
I thought I would share my experience with you so that maybe I can break some of the stigma and perhaps give people a bit more insight. Hospital is often not as bad as many films and hearsay make it out to be. I want to spread the message that it’s okay to need extra support at times.
My hope is that reading this will empower people to speak out about their circumstances.
This is the room I was given, which was actually pretty comfortable. It was a little bit hot because I couldn’t turn off the radiator and my window barely opened more than an inch, for obvious safety reasons.
It was a basic room with lots of space, probably a bit too much for me, but it was meant to be wheelchair-accessible. They’ve tried to put an inspirational quote there, but it sort of peeled off.
Notice the plug sockets? I thought they were a bit redundant since I was not allowed any wires, because of the ligature risk. They’re actually for the domestic team to clean. There’s not a lot of places to tie anything onto; even the toilets don’t have proper seats.
Here’s a little glance outside my room and into the corridor. You can sort of see a tiny courtyard you can go out into during the day.
To the left, there was the nurse’s office and beyond that, the door to the outside world. I was in a locked ward, so even though I was an informal patient I couldn’t leave without being seen by a doctor.
You had to be careful because if you tried to leave that way, I’ve heard stories people being sectioned. Which means you could be held there against your will, for your own safety. This shouldn’t happen to you if you can prove you’re safe enough to be discharged. You will have to wait to speak to a doctor though.
The other way down the corridor. Behind that plastic window covered in drawings is the dining room. It’s open most of the day. There are tables where I spent a lot of time coloring and talking to other patients.
Also, I don’t know if you can see it, but in the top right corner, there’s a little round mirror. That’s for the nurses so they can see what’s going on around the corner. It’s actually a safety measure for them, but I used it to see how long the queue for medications was, whilst standing by my door.
This is a very small section of the day room, where we could come to watch TV. It’s much bigger, but I didn’t want to take any pictures of other people, because it’s illegal and they deserve their privacy.
You would absolutely love the terrible box the TV was encased in. They’d lost the remote controller so the only way we could change the channel was to find someone with slender arms. Also yes, that is Jeremy Kyle…
Back to my room. I got a sort of wardrobe thing to store my stuff.
I’m not really sure what the bit on the left is, because you clearly can’t hang anything up or it would be a ligature risk, once again.
I spent a lot of time rearranging it, when I got bored. There weren’t a lot of activities. This is probably because it was a short term ward and funding cuts have really taken their toll on the NHS.
So these are things the hospital provides. Pyjamas (I bring my own), shampoos, shower gel, a stress ball and that’s a bag of lavender I got from the relaxation lady (one of the only activities left).
Also there’s a little care plan they gave me to fill in, which was useful to evaluate my progress and helped me feel more involved in my care.
I always bring my own toiletries. If you’re a woman, you need to bring your own sanitary products as they don’t give them out in most parts of the NHS (thanks to underfunding). You won’t be allowed any sprays, so pack a roll-on deodorant.
I brought in my own entertainment, because I’ve been an inpatient enough times to know how boring it can be.
There’s a big word search book I always bring, a book I can get lost in and I also keep a journal. The journalling really helped me to grasp exactly what was going on with my emotions and how I was progressing. You wouldn’t always be allowed a pen unsupervised on all wards, but mine was relatively relaxed about this.
The green thing is called a tangle; it’s a twisty fidgety thing, which helps with anxiety.
On the third day, I had a meeting with the psychiatrist that didn’t go well. I felt like he wasn’t listening to anything I was saying and my anger got the better of me. I ended up storming out of the room. I spent the rest of the afternoon sobbing.
When one of the nurses came to check on me, she took my shoelaces off of me. I think she thought I might try and use them to ligature. I spent the rest of the week feeling a bit ridiculous. Amazingly they stayed on my feet though.
Here are a few arty things. The one on the left isn’t my art, I just colored it in. The creepy thing in the middle is my own creation. The picture of the bat was a gift from one of the other girls, who was drawing pictures of people’s favorite things to cheer them up.
Most of the other patients were really lovely and supportive. The same goes for the staff; their biggest crime was probably being overworked and tired. I felt sorry for one nurse, who was on her fifth long shift in a row.
This creepy drawing is based-off a weird delusion I sometimes have about 4th-dimensional beings, that are watching everything I do as though I’m some sort of experiment or subject.
It’s normally triggered when I’m under a lot of stress. The delusions were not why I was in the hospital, though. I’m diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and I was in a period of deep depression and had been actively suicidal.
I’m feeling a lot better now and hope to return to work in a few weeks time.
I really wanted to give people a look into what it’s like to be admitted to a mental health unit so that maybe others don’t feel embarrassed to talk about it.
I’m so glad that I was supported by others to seek help in such a desperate time and I’m really grateful I’m still here.
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