A Trip to the Hospital – Part One

* Please remember all the information in the following statements is based purely on my own assumptions and opinions gained from my own personal experiences.

Making the Difficult Decision of Whether or Not to Go Into Hospital

This section applies to those facing admittance for the first time:

The thought of hospitalization can be confusing and intimidating to just about anyone considering this decision, especially when that person is emotionally unstable. Often a person will struggle with the inevitable and put off the decision until it is either imperative (too late) or someone is forced to make that choice for them. A lot of people (first-timers, those who have never been admitted to a psyche ward before) endure unnecessary discomfort due to the fact that they feel they are blindly making this decision They have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They feel at a loss without any information about what life will be like for them on a psyche ward. Sadly, most of the things people “know” concerning a psychiatric facility are facts derived from common hearsay and publicized fictional accounts of time spent on a psyche ward.

Now, if there was general information available to the public about psychiatric wards and their inner workings, like a handbook it would be easier. This might alleviate some of a first-timer’s concerns when seeking real answers to their pertinent questions. They would be more equipped, having discovered solid facts not derived from fiction, to make an educated decision about their own hospitalization; not one riddled with doubt or fear of the unknown. Knowledge in hand, they would find the choice of whether to go for in- hospital psychiatric treatment or not would be much less of an agonizing experience. The whole process would then become less overwhelming when one envisions an approaching indeterminate future on a psyche ward (the length of your stay is dependent on how long you need to recuperate, usually a few weeks but sometimes up to a month or two).

Here Are Some Solid Facts That I Have Gathered Through My Personal Experiences In Various Psychiatric Institutions. They May Alleviate Some Fears And Help You Make That Difficult Decision.

*Now there will be people out there with different experiences, be they good or bad. I am providing information about the Canadian institutions I have been admitted to. There are exceptions and differences between them all and I am not proposing to claim my deductions on psychiatric institutions to be the last word.

1. Many people have preconceived ideas about life on a hospital psyche ward. These notions can keep them from choosing it as a viable option for their mental health care. Modern movies and books have done a great disservice to mentally ill persons everywhere. They frighten them away from institutions that may help them by depicting hospital psyche wards as horrifying places. They portray these places as “prisons” where the “inmates” run wild like chimpanzees in soiled pajamas and the staff is made up of deplorable lackeys who rule supreme over their helpless patients. This is far from reality. No one runs wild in the halls and there are no deplorable lackeys. Often in these overblown excuses for a story they show nurses overmedicating their patients to keep them quiet, or exercising the use of restraints at their own discretion. In the real world you only receive a monitored dose of medications, ordered by your doctor, at certain hours. No they do not medicate patients into a coma, nor do they lock patients up or restrain them unless the situation is so extreme there is no other option available.

2. The room one occupies is not a single cell in which people are confined too like animals. The walls are not padded and the room does not resemble an isolation tank with small windows for observation purposes. A person usually shares a room with either one other bed or in some cases up to three beds. A bed is how they describe occupancies. One is extraordinarily lucky if they should happen to snag a single bedroom. This doesn’t happen too often. If one is staying on a hospital psyche ward they will typically have a toilet and shower in their room. If not, there usually are private stalls in the men’s or ladies’ bathroom down the hall, clearly marked and monitored by staff. The walls of one’s room are usually white or beige, or some other neutral color. In most of the places I have stayed the windows are large; bringing in much sunlight. The rooms are not dingy and grim in nature. In fact, they resemble any ordinary hospital room you may find on other floors of the hospital. And, I can’t forget this, the door to one’s room is never locked, so one can come and go as freely as one pleases within the confines of the ward.

3. There are a lot of people out there with over-active imaginations who believe the purpose of a psyche ward is to house all the unholy freaks of nature that are unwanted rejects of society. Images of people in varied states of undress ranting at unseen antagonists, or drooling zombies pacing haplessly up and down the ward’s dark dingy hallways, all these seem to spring to mind when someone brings up the topic of a psychiatric institution. This is in fact a huge lie. The actual people one might meet on a psyche ward are in truth a lot like some one you might meet on a street corner or at the local supermarket. The only difference between a psyche patient and anyone else is they are forced to deal with a psychological disease that renders them unable to properly function emotionally in society for a duration of time. This is brought on by a chemical imbalance that causes them to experience emotional breakdowns. They look normal, act normal, and seem for all intensive purposes like “normal” people saddled with life
struggles, not unlike anyone else’s, just sadly more intense. There are a lot of people in these wards because of depression or manic episodes they cannot manage on their own safely outside the psyche ward. During the times I have stayed on the ward there have been a lot of people suffering from similar problems like mine such as bi-polar disorder, depression or some form of mental dysfunction. I would say that 90% of the people on the ward, at one time, are what people would label as “normal” people struggling with a devastating and debilitating illness. What cuts me to the quick is the sheer waste of such talent and a storehouse of valuable human beings all being lost to us because of the deterioration of these cruel diseases. Some of these people I have met are teachers, or artists, writers, actors, mothers, fathers, no matter what they have to offer society, they have all astounded me in what they have done in their lives, some simple, some extraordinarily complex.

4. Now, I must include this information. There will be scary patients suffering from more advanced illnesses like schizophrenia and similar conditions. These patients will yell and scream, act “crazy”, and suffer from a delusional state of mind. They are not the norm. The number of these patients will depend on the type of institution one is admitted too. Larger institutions will segregate the severely mentally ill, schizophrenics and the like, from the manic-depressives. Smaller institutions will have them all on one ward, but with smaller numbers. So there will be a smaller ratio of problematic patients to that of the rest of the patient population. The rest of the patient population is for the most part, very well behaved. But, in truth, there is a chance for a person to be faced with a very agitated fellow patient who is too ill to act appropriately towards others. These patients are usually housed in single rooms and are attended by nurses quite frequently. They are not allowed to cause disruptions on the ward or instill discomfort in fellow patients. They don’t take part in-group activities until they are able to interact on a more functioning and socially acceptable level. Chances are they will be too advanced in their illness to truly notice anyone’s presence, especially a new patient. Personally, I haven’t had very many disturbing occurrences. I have however, have been very guarded in my behavior when problematic patients have approached me, which seems to stave off a lot of unwanted attention from them.

5. All one sees and hears about today are the unclean conditions, and frankly I’ve never seen any filth. Most institutions I have been in are kept clean and tidy at all times. The idea that nurses and other staff are more interested in how they can dodge their work obligations, than the welfare of their patients, is a huge misconception. The attitude of the staff I have dealt with, for the most part, has been proactive, interactive, and supportive. They take time during their day to approach a patient and discuss the progress of their stay. They make themselves available to hear one’s concerns on issues bothering that person and try to give experienced advice. Now, I am not talking about great heart to heart discussions that go on for hours, there are other patients the nurses have to attend to as well. No, these are not long talks, but they do try the best they can with the time they have. There are many more misconceptions I could list here like for example: there are no basket-weaving sweatshops in production on a psyche ward near you.

I could go on for hours dispelling the tales I have heard, but I won’t. My readers are just going to have to trust me. I only wish to reassure people that life on the ward does not compare to these wildly publicized depictions. Now, granted, there may be institutions that may not offer a beneficial and healthy environment to their patients, but so far as I know from my own experiences, that is not the norm. I have to be honest; the rumors about the food are all too true. It sucks. But, good news, your friends and family can bring food in for you if you ask them too. Beg if you have too. And yes, strange things can happen on the ward, it’s a psyche ward for Pete’s sake. But, for the most part, however life on the ward is quiet and uneventful, dare I say boring? I shouldn’t say boring because people suffering from emotional strife don’t really have a moment free of personal grief, but there are low periods.

* Take this information and remember it as you mull over in your brain the idea of hospitalization. Don’t let fear of the unknown prevent you from getting the proper psychiatric care you need. I am not saying you should expect a bed of roses when you are admitted to a psyche ward, or that hospitalization is for everyone. What I am trying to say is that hospitalization need not be a frightening experience for anyone and it may be an avenue you should consider when all your other options seem grim.

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