What It’s Like Being In A Psychiatric Hospital

I was blinded by the white lights as soon as I opened my eyes. I knew immediately where I was: the hospital. Here I was again after another failed suicide attempt. By this point, I knew the routine so well. Nurses would come in poking me with needles, doctors would ask me a million questions that I was too drugged up to answer. They’d send a social worker in to talk with me and once I was coherent, they’d send me off to the psychiatric part of the hospital where I’d spend the next week or so. After 10+ suicide attempts, all of which clearly failed, you’d think I’d have grown tired of ending up in the hospital and that the thought of it would keep me from trying to kill myself again. But there I was with little recollection of what I’d done. I woke up with bruises on my body that till this very day I’m not sure how I got them. I’ve tried and tried to recall the events from that night but the last thing I remember is taking numerous pills in an effort to overdose.

All that being said, do you ever wonder what it’s like being inpatient in a psychiatric hospital? Is it as bad as you see in the movies? I’m here to answer this very question.

My experience being in the psych unit of a hospital has had both pros and cons. The very first time I was admitted to one, I was 14. The last time I was admitted to one, I was 21. It’s not as bad as you see on TV (from my experience) but there is definitely a lot of mistreatment that occurs. I was mistreated on multiple occasions. I’ve been treated as less than, yelled at, threatened and I even had a situation occur where a nurse yanked my arm really hard. My mom and I also overheard a doctor and nurse laughing and making fun of the fact that I attempted to kill myself. These were all very scary situations. You’d expect medical professionals to treat you like you’re a worthy human being, especially considering the circumstances but instead they treat you like dirt on the bottom of their shoe. 

What do you do on a daily basis?

When you’re on a psych unit, you usually have a set schedule. This is actually one of the things I enjoyed about being “locked away”. The last time I was hospitalized, I made it a point to stick to my morning routine. I’d rise every morning, go out into the lounge and pour myself a cup of coffee, then return to my room to meditate and catch the sunrise. At around 8:30, they’d get each patient’s vitals, administer medication and we’d have breakfast. The rest of the day consisted of group therapy (which I absolutely hate), meetings with your doctor and social worker, and just downtime. During the downtime, most patients either watch TV in the lounge area, read, write, color, or spend their time in their room sleeping. Group therapy is the main activity each day and if you suffer from anxiety like me, it can be a triggering experience. I’ll be honest, my participation in the group was minimal. I did what I could but most times I’d stay for a few minutes then venture off to my room. That being said, I do believe this type of therapy can be beneficial. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone in what you’re feeling. Being able to see and hear that others share a similar story as you can make a difference in how we perceive our struggles in life.

During your stay, you’re usually allowed visitors on set days. The hospital I was in allowed two visitors per person. I think visitation time is important because we need to know there are people out there who love and care for us. Aside from visitation, you’re also allowed to make phone calls throughout the day. Other things to know are that you can’t have any clothes with strings on them. You can’t have any scarves or anything that you could possibly harm yourself with. Some of the rules seem a little silly to me but I’m aware they are just trying to keep us from harming ourselves. 

There were some positive things that came out of being in the hospital. I met some amazing souls and being inpatient is actually what eventually led to me being properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Everyone’s experience in a psychiatric hospital is different. It’s a place that is supposed to be designed to keep you safe and help you become stable. Being admitted might be one of the worst times in your life. You may be in a very dark place and it could take years before you’re fully stable. The most important thing is to remember not to give up. I understand the fear and stigma surrounding psych wards but if you’ve reached a point where you believe suicide is the only solution or your mental health is rapidly deteriorating, please seek help.

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