Psych Ward Stories…The funny thing is less than a month before, I told my date on Tuesday I was excited for our dinner plans that weekend and would be there as long as I hadn’t checked myself into the Psych Ward. Little did I know a month later, I would be there.

I knew my mental health was at an all-time low; I had just gotten out of a physically abusive relationship, that I had hidden from everyone, I was dealing with a legal issue, and let’s add in the ex-husband whose mission in life was figuring out ways to screw me over. To top it off, my kids were out of school for summer vacation which meant they were at home 24 hours a day with me. An over tired, mentally exhausted, freshly single (again) mother of two. 

Fast forward a month, I’m laying on my bed asleep, when I hear banging on my door, I ignore it; it doesn’t stop. I look and there are 2 police officers outside with a mental health warrant. There are there to admit me to the local psychiatric hospital for evaluation. How it got to this point is a long story for another day, but the lessons I learned are life long. 

Things I learned in the Psych Ward, Part 1

1. The Psych Ward is NOT for Therapy it is for Medication 

I repeat, The Psych Ward is NOT for therapy, it is for medication. As I woke up the first morning I wasn’t sure what the day would be like, I would guess lots of individual and group therapy. There were two group therapies a day and two recreational type therapies but ZERO individual therapy. 

What I needed, and what the others did too, was intensive therapy. Instead, nurses give out anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, or anti-anxiety meds . Since the reason I was in the psych ward was a little different from the others and the psychiatrists were aware, they kept my medications the same. A low dose daily anti-depressant and a fast acting anti-anxiety medication as needed. Most of the others needed a new medication regimen which created a bunch of women that wanted to sleep.

Instead of working on issues in therapy, people were in their rooms asleep or falling asleep during our scheduled meeting time. Did some people scratch the surface at the root of their issues? Maybe. I know I did, but most of the others slept through group therapy, which is not helping them long term. If you need to get medication or you are suicidal, the psych ward is the place for you. Having trouble dealing with life? Find a therapist and a psychiatrist.

2. What You Can and Cannot Control in Your Life 

I woke up that morning and thought, well I’m here for 3 days no matter what, I guess I can either sit here and hate it or I can make the best of it and learn from it.

What I didn’t realize is how much I would learn and grow. The wanting to control situations and others to my liking was the source of so many of my problems. I had zero control over where I was but I did have 100% over how I was going to deal with it.

When you are not “allowed” to watch tv when you want, play on your phone, call/text, go to sleep when you want; need chapstick? You have to have a prescription for it from the doctor. Want something to eat? If you don’t like the snacks or they are out, too bad. They tell you when you can eat, go outside, shower, etc. which is terrible sounding but also freeing too. I din’t have to worry about any decisions, they were all made for me. I had to let go of control. By letting go I realized wanting control over everything in my life all the time is incredibly stressful.

Also, having complete control and responsibility over certain matters would overwhelm me and send me into a panic. When my kids need to eat but I haven’t gone to the store because I don’t have the money; because my ex-husband has not paid child support for months or because my anxiety causes the thought of going to the grocery store to be the equivalent of a visit to the dentist.

In the psychward you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat or doing the dishes or kids screaming they don’t want what they requested you cook them. Acknowledging that you can’t control your situation but you can control your actions, by not freaking out about bot having choices and looking at is as having not to stress over food, is freeing. You just eat and are thankful that you don’t have any worries over it…unless you don’t like what they are having haha!

3. Everyone Has a Story and You Are Not Alone

It is very easy to sink into the feeling you are the only one going through things that make you depressed and anxious. Maybe no one you know has gone through what you have, or maybe many of us are too ashamed and afraid to talk about it. But there are others out there, I promise.

Almost all the women in my section had a similar story. Which was amazing because I always felt alone. The number one commonality I noticed is that none of us were “allowed” or taught how to express our emotions correctly. None of us had healthy coping skills. Some of us didn’t even understand what a coping skill was.

We also didn’t know we were “allowed” to feel certain ways. We had been taught to “be mentally tough,” “not to show weakness,” “to let things go.” Which can be useful strategies in certain situations but to be raised that showing emotion or voicing your feelings was a weakness did not create the mentally strong warriors I assume our parents wanted us to be. Instead it creates mentally fragile women with low emotional intelligence and the inability to grow.

4. The Power of Forgiveness

***Trigger Warning of Sexual Abuse***

Anne is an older woman, she has spent most of her life in and out of psychiatric hospital after psychiatric hospital due to Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Sitting outside with her, she starts to tell her story:

“I had a brother, he was shot and killed when he was 14, (she was a few years younger than him.) He molested me growing up but I would do anything to see him. That I know he didn’t know any better because he had been molested by the neighborhood paper boy. I want him to know that I love him and forgive him.”

All I could think was how do you forgive someone that molested you? Let alone, your own brother. I asked her. She told me what’s the point of holding on to something she couldn’t change. He was messed up because he had it done to him, so for her own sake she had to forgive him.

I started to cry, she taught me so much with her story. She showed me what forgiveness and strength are. That forgiveness allows you to move on with your life; not holding onto anger inside because that anger will destroy you sooner or later. A woman in her 50’s with Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia with an IQ in the 80’s, taught me what forgiveness is; something no one else had ever been able to do in my 34 years on this Earth.

5. Who Your Real Friends Are 

When I went into the psych ward I only called one person to let them know what was going on. Most people would have called their parents or best friend, nope, not me. I didn’t want to face my parents’ reaction nor did I want to stress any of my friends out. My friends all have their own families, plus I was only going to be there for a day, because this was all a master plan of my ex-husband’s to take me down. Or so I thought.

So I call the guy I had been seeing for 6 weeks. Yup, the same guy I had joked around with the month before that I was going to be checking myself into a psych ward. The call went something like this:

“Hey, you won’t believe where I am…umm a psych ward…I got mad at my ex-husband for not helping me out. So, I told him I wanted to kill myself and he got a mental health warrant and had me put in here…

…yes, I am being serious I will send you my location from my phone…they are going to take my phone away so I just wanted you to know I wasn’t ghosting you and I understand if you don’t want to talk to me anymore, I just didn’t want you to think I disappeared…

…you mean you still want to see me even though I’m in a psych ward…is it ok if I put you on my call list just in case…thanks, I’ll talk to you later.”

On the phone that night he asked when visitation time was and he would come to see me. During the visitation, I told him about my lack of clothing. I only had the yoga pants, shirt, and sweatshirt I came in wearing. He went to Wal-Mart and got yoga pants and a shirt for me to wear.

I couldn’t believe this guy. I was not sleeping with him. He barely knew me. Yet he would do all this for me. Looking back, I realize that I hate asking for help because if the person says no, I take it personal. I feel as if I’m not worthy of their help. That is the reason I did not even tell anyone else about what had happened. I did not want to feel hurt if they did not offer to help.

On my release, I start to make the phone calls to my closest friends, they all listened to my story, all in disbelief. I am open with my friends about my struggles with anxiety and depression. They are “weekly therapy” bad. Not “locked up for 6 days in a mental hospital” bad. In fact, two friends told me that they too had been to a psychiatric hospital. One while in college and the other after returning from a stint in Afghanistan. This comforted me that I was not the only one that had been through this.

Another friend, who I had only known for a few years but had become incredibly close with called almost every single day and text me when she couldn’t call, for over a month to listen to me talk about my struggles and just to check in to see how I was doing.

These people that I had considered friends became my family. They were doing the things that a family is suppose to. My inability to discuss my mental health openly with my family without shame or judgement made me push my parents further away. They really hadn’t tried to see if I was ok, because they were angry at me.

They too did not know how to handle the situation so they avoided me the same as I did them. It made me realize what true unconditional love was. That my friends didn’t judge me or care about anything other than helping me get better.

To Be Continued…