My experience with a psychiatric hospital wasn’t a good one, therefore this post won’t be as positive as some people may think it should be. Obviously, like any situation, people’s perspectives are going to vary based on what they’re experiencing. I don’t want my negative experience to put anyone off of going to hospital, or scare them, as I’m sure for many people a hospital is where they need to be to stay safe and recover.
When I went into hospital in 2016 it was voluntary. When I’ve told people that in the past they’ve looked at me with an expression I can only describe as confusion. After I got out of hospital I finally understood why people like me don’t tend to do that very often – especially into NHS run hospitals in my area. It was so bad, in my experience, that I ended up only staying one night and two days.
The reason I self referred myself into hospital was because of my dissociation and increasing amounts of suicidal thoughts. I have a very supportive family thankfully, however back then we still hadn’t quite figured out the ‘what to do’ part about suicide, self harm, dissociation especially. Therefore I didn’t feel safe at home because I knew if I dissociated and self harmed, there’s no way of me controlling how bad it can get. I thought, if I tell a therapist then they’re going to section me anyway, so I might as well self refer. That meant that if I did hate it (hoorah for past me), I could get out a lot easier than if I would’ve been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
I saw a psychiatrist in the morning of a Friday and by that evening I was in hospital – which is actually very good considering that I believe usually, I would’ve had to have waited for a bed for a reasonably long time. I clearly can’t speak for every hospital in the UK, and I can’t even speak for the process in general as it varies massively across the UK depending on who is dealing with your case.
The hospital itself was quite old, and I did look up the reviews before I went in (BAD idea) and they didn’t seem great. I wasn’t that put off, but it did seem like I was being slung anywhere that they could put me, which is true, because that’s how the system works sadly. There wasn’t a regard for where I would be more comfortable or where I would get better treatment, etc, so if you’re expecting that going in then definitely get rid of that idea from your brain almost immediately.
When I got admitted I took both of my parents, and my best friend Ciera with me to get me settled into the place and to comfort me. We got introduced to some nurses and one of them showed me around the hospital floor quickly, explaining how the scheduling worked and what different parts and rooms of the floor were for; I’ll get into that later. It wasn’t an extremely nice environment but it wasn’t absolutely horrifying either – it was clean, quiet (at the time) and it seemed like it was organised and the nurses were nice.
My room was dismal, as you can expect from any sort of NHS hospital I suppose. It was just a simple room with a bed, a bedside cabinet, a small wardrobe and I think it also had a small sink in it but I can’t remember exactly. I wasn’t that fussed about the room as I knew I wouldn’t be there for long, I just wanted somewhere that I felt safe and where I couldn’t do anything to harm myself if I tried. Which was true, they ask you right at the beginning if you have any cables, any rope, any glass or other sharp objects, any pills, etc. I was surprised that they even took control of your phone charger, leaving it in a special cabinet; which meant when I wanted my phone charged I had to leave it with the nurse team for several hours – cutting off my communication to the outside world for a while.
Once they had got me somewhat settled, the nurse explained the schedule slightly further. It was pretty basic, certain times for breakfast, lunch and dinner which I couldn’t remember even if I tried. You weren’t allowed outside without supervision, I think some patients even weren’t allowed outside at all. Since I self referred I had slightly more freedom than some, meaning I could be taken out of the hospital by family if it was a prearranged event with my nurses and doctors. There was also certain times for medication to be taken depending on what you were on, and other times for group therapies and personal therapies.
Once my family and Ciera left it was already pretty late at night, I can’t remember the time exactly but around 9pm. The nurses left me in my room for a while, the whole time I was texting all of my friends saying how much I hated it and I wanted to go home. I just immediately felt a sense of isolation, which didn’t make me feel safer at all. The only ‘safe’ thing about it was that I definitely, 100%, couldn’t get my hands on anything dangerous to harm myself with. The nurses told me that a psychologist would assess me at some point during the night, which ended up happening at 1am. A great time for a mental assessment, I know.
I basically begged the psychologist to let me go home. I told her the truth about my symptoms and why I actually had admitted myself in the first place, but in honesty, I did lie to get out. I told her that since being in the hospital and seeing all the different people, seeing quite how mentally ill they were, made me realise that I wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t a complete lie. This may sound mean to some people, but when you’re mentally ill you definitely think that your problems are the worst. Not to say there’s a ranking order, because there definitely is not, but you don’t really think about how others are suffering. When I got into hospital I witnessed people who were suffering extremely badly. I won’t go into what they were doing or saying because I think that breaches their privacy but just trust me. I saw and heard some quite horrific things that night I was in there, and it does make you realise how good you have it.
The psychologist told me that she didn’t really believe that I needed to be in there, because I wasn’t showing any symptoms that I should be (Coincidence? Nope.) and that I was too young to be in a hospital anyway. She explained that once people go in, they hardly ever stop coming in. They always get out, come back in, get out, etc. I didn’t know whether that was a flaw in the patients or the system but I didn’t mention it. She said she’d discharge me over night and I could go home the next day.
The night in the hospital caused trauma for me. I still have flashbacks of it. I got heavily medicated (way too heavily) and I slept for 16 hours on and off, with small breaks to eat breakfast and take more medication. I also woke up several times to hear and see things that I don’t want to repeat.
Seeing my dad and my brother when they came to pick me up was the most amazing moment. I wasn’t just happy that I was going home, I was happy that I had realised how to help myself. It wasn’t at hospital, and I knew that I wasn’t going to let myself be someone who came in and out all the time. I knew I was happier and safer at home, with my family, and I have been ever since.
I am in no way disregarding those who are so mentally ill that they need hospital treatment. I think that some hospitals are a lot better than others, and obviously they do help some people. I think the people who manage to stay in there for long stunts of time are absolutely admirable and I couldn’t have the courage to do that at all.
After the hospital, I had the crisis team come to my house, but that’s another blog post entirely. I also went to a suicidal sanctuary in 2016 called Maytree in London, which changed my life. I’m also going to write a blog post about that separately.
In conclusion, my hospital experience was bad. That does not mean that yours will be too, or even was in the past. I am fully aware that the NHS does its best for what it’s got, and the hospital I went to is an unfortunate downfall in my care. The rest of the care I’ve received in the NHS from therapists has largely been amazing (forgetting the wait times) and I can’t thank certain therapists enough for what they’ve done for me.
Also, the food was disgusting.