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My Experience As An Inpatient On An Acute Mental Health Ward

25/08/2016 13:14 | Updated 25 August 2016

In late July my crisis team admitted me to an acute mental health ward, where I stayed for little under a week. It was only a short period, and I was discharged to the Home Treatment Team, however, my time in hospital seemed significant and momentous. My time in hospital was difficult, overwhelming and relieving. My time in hospital triggered a huge shift in my ability to cope and move forward. It was life-changing.

For me, being admitted to hospital was a big turning point in my recovery. It was the 'kick' that I needed; it was the moment in which I sat down and faced up to why and what I was feeling. On the first night of my hospital admission I stood in the bathroom - the only bit of privacy I had - and cried. I cried so hard that I'm pretty sure I dealt with a lot of stuff right there in that moment - and I told myself, at that point, that certain things (traumas) will no longer impact me the way that they had been, I would not allow them to.

And I've been keeping to my word - when things have been overwhelming I've thought back to that moment - the moment in which I can quite honestly say was the worst moment of my life (for now - and hopefully forever). I'm not exaggerating either, for me being in hospital was devastating. I felt trapped, scared and 100% broken. I hated myself for 'letting it get this far' - for not wanting to continue fighting, and for being at the complete mercy of all the rubbish that has happened in my life. I didn't want to let past events impact me the way they did - but I couldn't figure things out - think, or picture my life any different.

I'd been trying desperately to keep everything to myself - why bring others into this mess? This was something I had to figure out and deal with myself. But now it's not. I think for me agreeing to a hospital admission - although I didn't have much choice - was still something that I had done. I had agreed to the admission, rather than being under a section, and I was in 'control.' (Of course, I wasn't in complete control, but I could hold onto that thought). As an informal patient I could 'leave' whenever I wanted to - though I was told that if I asked to be discharged and they felt I wasn't ready they could section me - so, instead I sat tight and tried my hardest to make the most of the situation. I decided to work for my recovery - basically, I decided to fight for my life. (Something that I had, in all honesty, not been doing).

Being in hospital was tricky - I felt too anxious to join in with any of the ward activities - though one of the nurses did convince me to participate in a pampering session with another patient - which I actually found to be very soothing. (I'm a big fan of muscle relaxation exercises, and we did this whilst wearing face masks - which was nice). That was the only ward activity that I participated in, and it wasn't until the day of my discharge that I finally managed to convince myself to go to the kitchen and actually eat breakfast.

For the most part of my inpatient time I was asleep. I slept so much - I'd wake, take my medication, go back to sleep, wake for lunch, go back to sleep, wake for dinner, watch some TV, go back to sleep, wake, freak out in the middle of the night, go back to sleep and repeat. When I was awake I was too anxious or overwhelmed to think, and all I wanted to do was go home. I spent the first two days crying at everything - feeling horribly trapped.

But, the differences in my coping strategies were slowly beginning to change. When I was admitted I told one of my friends the next day, and cried over the phone to her - something that I thought I'd never do. I hardly cry, and I very rarely tell my friends how I'm feeling - so that was a pivotal moment for me - reaching out. My friend came to visit me, and I let my housemates know too. And someone from work was regularly emailing me and keeping me going - which was more helpful than I could ever articulate.

My hardest decision was choosing not to tell my parents. Everything in me wanted to tell them, but I didn't want to hurt them, I didn't want to panic them. As soon as I was admitted I knew that things had already changed, suddenly I felt able and willing to fight. But I knew I had to take the time to actually face up to things and figure out how to move forward - and I knew that this was something that I needed to do for myself. The last thing I wanted was for my parents to feel responsible or as though they hadn't done enough. Because they have done enough, they have done so much for me - if it wasn't for their support and love I wouldn't have agreed to my hospital admission. Things would have ended a lot differently. My parents have supported me through everything, and reacted in the best possible way when I did finally tell them after my discharge. They gave me space, they were, and are a constant, supportive team. They are always there for me - they believe in me and respect, accept and support the decisions I make. I couldn't ask for anything better. It's my parents that drive my recovery - whether they know this or not.

My experience as an inpatient on a mental health ward was, for me, terrifying. I felt so hopeless - but I quickly learnt and accepted that it was a huge step, and I feel so fortunate to have been given that chance. I've heard horror stories concerning mental health admissions - patients having to travel hours away to find a bed, patients not being able to access beds and so forth.

I was incredibly lucky, I was given a bed on a ward just five minutes drive from my house - with lovely staff (and the food was amazing). The stress and emotion of the admission was far too overwhelming and difficult for me to deal with. I'm very independent, and inward facing, in terms of my recovery - I don't like talking to new psychologists, or doctors, or staff, and group therapy terrifies me - being in an environment where I was able to 'break down' was new and strange. Having staff there who were willing to listen and help 24/7 was a lot for me to take in, but it allowed me to make sense of things, and figure out my path. I don't know how I would cope with another admission, the emotion was so heavy and exhausting - I knew that being on the ward was making me anxious - it was heightening my anxiety, but it was helpful at the same time. I was scared of the staff and patients, I was continuously weary of being judged, even though some of the patients were experiencing very similar things to me, I just wanted to go home, to have the chance to 'deal' with things myself. Which is why I knew I had to stay, and allow myself to acknowledge and open up to what I was going through. I had to learn how to deal with things in a healthy way. I was given the chance, and the space to fight for my recovery. I had my own room, a team of wonderful staff - and, most importantly - the desire to move forward and live my life.

When I was discharged my first thoughts were "I never want to go back," but in reflection - inpatient care was vital to me staying alive. The staff, the other patients, and those who supported me during and after the admission all helped me find reasons to keep fighting. Of course I'm terrified of a relapse - my home treatment team have been amazing, and now I am letting others help and support me - it's wonderful.

Although it was exhausting and overwhelming inpatient care was definitely the right thing for me. It saved my life.

I write regularly about mental health and recovery on my blog - Dearest Someone. Read more here: https://dearestsomeone.com/

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