I Was A Patient Inside The Psych Ward Of A Hospital

This is what it’s really like…

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The word that echoed inside the barricades of my mind with more sincerity than some previously mentioned ‘I love you’s.’ The engine rumbled and faded as the car entered an idle state. The automatic doors opened and the A/C blew the baby hairs on my forehead into complete disarray. I approached the desk, alongside my mom, and watched as the pen glided across the sign-in sheet. Her eyes remained lowered in the way a child does when they know they have done something wrong — only this time, it was I who had done things wrong…time and time again.

Ive always been a bit of a wildcard. Unpredictable, at best. Though the spontaneity of my nature has dissipated over the years, it is safe to say I gave my parents quite the run for their money throughout my adolescent years. Toss a child with manic depression and ADD into a glass and mix it with emotional and mental abuse and you will get the cocktail of my upbringing. I never quite fit in and always seemed to find my way into the crowd of what many of us have shamefully referred to as ‘the flagpole kids’ or ‘emo.’

To put it simply: I gravitated towards those I felt were equally as f*cked up as I was.

Crushed up Benadryl lined my desk just before entering my nasal passages. Earrings became tools for self-mutilation. Altercations with classmates felt like practice for when my dad came home on the weekends. The principal’s office became my new classroom. Throughout all of the sh*t in my childhood, I knew writing would be my saving grace — but even it couldn’t keep up at times.

My hands couldn’t write fast enough to beat the mania before it set in.

When I decided the only way to better my situation was to simply not be a part of it at all, I moved forward with packing a bag to run away in the direction of ‘anywhere but here.’ I loaded the second gym bag into the car and joined my mom for a silent car ride to school. Upon arriving, she noticed the second bag and immediately requested I leave it behind. She wasn’t sure why it was there when my ‘regular’ gym bag was already. I suppose my lying skills were more inept than I suspected because I soon left without the bag and my mom with increased curiosity.

Around lunchtime that day, while hanging out with a few of my ‘friends,’ I noticed the principal heading my way. Authority hadn’t motivated me to respect in the past and I wasn’t going to make this the moment of growth so I immediately began walking in the other direction. Soon, I was being physically carried to the front of the school by a series of police officers where my mom’s car sat. I remember the first and last time I ever said, ‘Fuck you’ to my mom. I knew why she was there.

After dropping me off that morning, she took a moment to search through the contents of the second gym bag: extra clothes, a toothbrush, and a bottle of Advil. I believe this to be the moment she began to agree with my dad’s perception of ‘my brokenness beyond repair.’

I asked her where we were going and she soon became a woman of few words, which told me everything that I needed to know. Fortunately for the public (and unfortunately for me), they don’t provide thorough signage on the outside of the building so it wasn’t until I entered the lobby that I learned things were never going to be the same again.

The woman at the front desk overheard me whisper, ‘How long am I going to be here for’ to my mom and interjected, ‘It’s not up to her anymore.’ I can still recall her voice, my stomach dropping with every word and from the look on my mom’s face, I knew she wasn’t quite sure whether she was saving me or sabotaging the rest of my life.

“WHY DIDN’T ANYONE WAKE ME UP!?” A man stumbled out of his room on the first floor while nurses rushed to assure him he hadn’t missed dinner and they would bring him his food and medication shortly. My mom hugged me goodbye and I was escorted to the elevator and eventually, the second floor. I don’t remember what the walls or the floor looked like, but I’ll never forget the windows, because in that moment, all I could think about was how likely I’d be to survive the jump.

I was greeted by two girls, roughly my age (11 or 12), and proceeded to ask them how long they had been there for, as they seemed pretty cozy in their room. They shared they were roommates and had been there for nearly 4 months. My next thought was which stranger I’d be stuck living with and whether or not they’d attempted a runaway yet in order to land themselves in a place like that.

I was taken to a room, observed as I disrobed, removed my bra, and was given the lowdown about how ‘the wire could be used as a weapon’ and ‘the clothes we give you will tear before you die from asphyxiation.’ It’s like they knew every person that enters that place will eventually contemplate suicide (if they weren’t already). I was told I no longer was permitted to use the restroom with the door closed and every meal had to be consumed in front of a member of the resident staff so as to ensure I wasn’t exploring bulimia or anorexia as a new hobby. The food was disgusting: cardboard pork chops and flavorless lima beans.

My inquisitiveness about the sleeping arrangements was met with the unsettling response that I would be spending the night in their observation room: A room without windows, bedsheets (or a bed for that matter), pillows, cords, light switches, or privacy. A camera nested in each corner and I was provided a table and itchy tweed blanket as my place to sleep. Every hour, I was woken by a nurse asking me interview-style questions and giving me medicine before revisiting what I would imagine being the control room to watch the cameras. I was nothing short of a lab rat at that point in my life.

The next day, I was given National Geographic magazines from the late 90’s as their sorry excuse for ‘school.’ It was no wonder so many of the residents were requesting their family send them new content. Sometimes I wonder if this was a test to see how insane they could get us to become.

After deciding on an antidepressant and stimulant that was least likely to make me kill myself, I was told my mom would be permitted to come get me. I knew I wanted Boston Market and it never tasted as warm and satisfying as it did that day. My mom asked me about my time to which I am unsure of my response, but going off of the way I remember feeling, I am sure I requested she never take me back to that place again.

I wasn’t nurtured, empathized with, nor understood. The greatest indication I received implying concern and care was the fact that the children are put on the top floor because they are less likely to jump and the adults reside on the bottom floor for the opposite reason. I was given less freedom than a prison inmate and left with a reduced belief in humanity. No one tells you that you just might be the laughing stock at their next family dinner or the punchline at the end of their joke about being a ‘psycho.’ Though it hasn’t been a highlight of my childhood, it has been influential in my desire to be the person I want to meet and better yet, become: the person I needed most at that point in my life.

There is something to be said about the events that bring us to our lowest points and the opportunity each brings to learn and grow. Had I not spent time with what society would deem ‘crazies’ and been labeled as one myself, I wouldn’t have found the empathy necessary to seek understanding before judgment. Though it wasn’t the highlight of my life, I am appreciative because what it taught me — the world needs more of that.

Written by

Writer. Poet. Philomath. Dog Mom. Traveler. Creator. Wanderer. Teacher. Empath. Author of “Unapologetically Human” - available on Amazon

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