We’ve talked before on this blog about involuntary commitment and what it’s like to stay inside a residential mental health treatment center, but recently, a writer from the popular online magazine Slate detailed her personal stay at psychiatric unit.
In an article titled “Last Fall, I Walked Into a Psych Ward and Asked to Be Locked In. It Was Nothing Like I Expected”, writer Sarah Erdreich talks about her experience from beginning to end.
“I almost protested,” she writes of a nurse asking for her tennis shoes. “I know what you’re thinking, but the laces are just decorative. I don’t even know how to remove them. Instead, I took off my shoes and handed them to the nurse, who put them in a clear plastic bag. I started to wonder when I’d get them back, but then realized that I couldn’t think too deeply about that, because I felt so fragile that any stray thought could crack me like an egg. That was when I realized that I’d made the right decision to check myself into the psych ward.”
As Erdreich describes, after recovering from breast cancer during the prior year and struggling with constant nerve and join pain, a progressing sense of hopelessness had settled into her mind. Some days, she was lucky to get out of bed in time for her daughter to get home from school. Insomnia and obsessive thoughts soon followed as the anxiety and depression deepened. Without any other resources, Erdreich went to her local hospital’s emergency room, where the resident psychiatrist qualified her for admission.
After getting a quick tour of the ward and changing into a set of scrubs provided by the hospital, Erdreich says she saw a team of psychiatric professionals the next day who prescribed a higher dose of her current anti-anxiety medication and put her on an antidepressant. She then had time to read, sleep, and take a self-assessment of her mental health. A social worker helped Erdreich set up appointments with a psychiatrist on an outpatient basis.
Erdreich’s experience, described in a warm and comforting manner, falls in stark contrast to what we usually hear socially or in pop culture about inpatient psychiatric treatment. We tend to think of mental health not taking much priority when compared to physical ailments, but Erdreich describes it as doing what she had to do in order to heal.
“I wasn’t ashamed of being in a psych ward, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that I’d had to step out of my life in order to get help. I had to “other” myself in a way that I’d never had to do to get help for my chronic pain or cancer: I’d had to deliberately leave my family and home to get treatment as quickly as possible,” she writes. “I’d had to accept that I didn’t know how long I’d be away, and I’d had to agree to be treated as someone whose mental health could cause her to harm herself or someone else. Checking into the ward had felt like crossing a line: On one side, I was a person who could be trusted with shoelaces, and on the other, I wasn’t. And it was on that side that I was beginning to come back to myself.”
You can read the full article here: https://slate.com/human-interest/2022/03/psychiatric-hospital-psych-ward-real-experience.html