Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide, Hospitalization, and Hallucinations.
“Hi, my name is Wendy Phillips, and I have Major Depression (Severe), Anxiety, Schizoaffective Disorder, and possible Bi-Polar. I’ve tried to kill myself seven times, and I’ve been hospitalized four of those times.”
These are the words I say sometimes to remind myself why I need to be on medication and why sometimes it’s good for me to go to the hospital for an inpatient stay.
My blog and Twitter have been empty for almost a week (my blog longer, since I only update it for posts). Why? Because I had to go to an inpatient facility for my (then) rapidly declining mental health.
This wasn’t my first inpatient stay though. It was my fifth, and luckily it was because I checked myself in before I did something drastic. Something I couldn’t come back from. Something that would be permanent. I think we know what I’m trying to say.
It’s always different going to different hospitals. I’ve been to five altogether, and not one of them is like the other. Some are better, some are worse. Some are equipped to handle mental health patients and crises, and some of them (in my opinion) are absolutely not equipped to handle shit, much less a person who is suffering emotionally. Which is why it’s always good to do research and sometimes even request a walkthrough of the facility.
Before I touch base on each visit, I think it’s important to tell you what they do at every facility (in my experience). You’ll have to be ready to have no real privacy. They check on you all the time. All the time. Even when you’re sleeping- especially when you’re sleeping, actually. I think rounds were made every 15 to 30 minutes in all the hospitals I’ve been in.
They will ask you to lift your shirt + bra (if you wear one). They’ll ask you to take off your pants. This is to check your body for scars/ self-harm wounds and to make sure you’re not hiding things in your clothes that you could hurt yourself with.
If your clothes have laces or you’re wearing a belt, you may as well kiss those things goodbye until you’re out of the hospital. This is also for your safety. They could be used in different ways to hurt yourself or others.
You will be asked if you’re suicidal like a lot. You’ll also be asked really personal things like if you hear and see stuff, and they’ll ask you what that stuff is. This was hard for me since I see violent things. It felt like I was opening a piece of me that no one had ever really got to see, save for people I really trusted.
With that being said, I’m going to talk about some of my visits and what they were like and how they differed!
The first hospital I went to (that I’m counting) was called Snowden. I stayed there briefly– I didn’t like it much. I had my own room (which is cool), the food was okay at best, and I was surrounded by people who were detoxing and not people who tried to die. It was very weird. I remember feeling like I was floating the entire time. They took my shoes (the laces could be used for strangulation), and briefly, they took my clothes before returning them. I went to this hospital because I tried to do something.
My mother had driven nearly thirty minutes to get me there. I remember being told I did something stupid and her being angry and disconnecting my phone on the way there– isolating me even further from the world. I can understand her anger though– she was scared and sometimes the first way people react to something like that is being angry. I understand that now.
The second hospital I went to was called Rogers Behavioral Health– This was the best hospital stay I’ve ever had. Hands down. I had gone to my therapy appointment and I had been so distraught and so mentally unstable that she wanted me in the hospital immediately and referred me. I was so upset that I knew that I needed to- I didn’t tell her that the night before I had tried to hurt myself. (I don’t want to go into details because I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.) I knew I needed help. So I went. I had packed a quick bag. Some clothes. A comb. That’s all.
I had to get some of my clothes altered there (see: they cut strings), but that was the only inconvenient thing. The staff was amazing– from the psychiatrists, all the way down to those who cleaned up! Everyone treated me with respect, care, and love. I had one on one therapy, I got to go to walks near the lake (after I was moved from High Risk [for hurting myself] to Low Risk), I went to a beautiful garden. There was music therapy, Art Therapy, Group Therapy, and Talk therapy. Whilst I had been around people who were detoxing, I was also around people who needed help because they were mentally ill too (not to say you can’t be both detoxing and mentally ill).
The next two hospital stays were at a hospital called Meritus– this was a great hospital. Though the first time I went in, it was because I tried to hurt myself. (Once again, I don’t want to go into details.) I remember being in and out of consciousness which was terrifying. I remember the nurses having to undress me to put me in a gown, and this was the only time I ever felt like my privacy was too infringed upon. They took my clothes off of me while there were numerous people in the room (all staff though), and I remember being poked and prodded and IV’s were started to reverse what I did to myself. It was scary. I’ll be honest.
This (and the other) hospital stay were both in a very hospital-like stay. Whereas my stay and Rogers was more like going to a retreat. The hospital was very clean (which, surprisingly, isn’t always the case), the food was good. The staff was very kind. I remember one nurse giving me a hug while I cried about what I did. She gave me some tough love that I needed badly. She was just enough tough, and just enough love. I still thank her words to me.
My very last stay was at a hospital I’d rather not name (simply because it’s where I live!). I have to be honest, outside of the care of the staff, I wasn’t too hot on this stay. The unit wasn’t sterile like I’ve always been used to. There was a roommate situation (which I don’t discourage, but I personally like my own personal space). But the staff was kind, the food was good, and the therapy and “alone” time helped and did wonders. I did this hospital stay because I realized I needed to go. ASAP. I was hearing things, I was seeing horrible things, and I was crying my eyes out on the daily. It was bad, y’all.
But Wendy, what about the other times you tried to die?! You didn’t go then?! No, I didn’t. I should have. If you try something you need to go to the hospital. Period. If you feel like you’re on the brink of doing something, I say research the facilities nearest to you (a simple google search like Mental Health Hospitals in [area] will do), or if you’re able to, research inpatient places in other states that you’d like to go to. If you don’t have insurance the state will sometimes pick up the bill, but sometimes they won’t and you’ll need to have a payment plan. It sounds scary but they break it down really well and it’s manageable.
My mental health stay recently was because I went off my medication. This is something that’s not only not smart but also very dangerous. Going off medication cold turkey can have adverse effects and can seriously hurt you. If you want to go off medication or switch, always, always, ALWAYS, talk to your psychiatrist or doctor and they’ll help taper you off of it.
I went off because of a few reasons 1) I was manic. 2) Other people made me feel bad for needing it. 3) I was being an absolute walnut.
Mental health medication is good. It’s not bad. It’s not as scary as everyone says. Yes, sometimes it will have side effects. Yes, sometimes you’ll need to switch. Yes, sometimes specific meds just won’t work for you. BUT that’s no reason to give up. It’s a reason to keep trying. You DESERVE to have a happy and healthy mental state. It’s your birthright imo.
This is all very long but for those who are tl;dr? Hospital stays vary. Do your research. At the end of the day, any hospital is better than no hospital. It really is. Also, stay on your damn meds. Talk to your doc if you don’t like them.