So from nowhere there I was, having my bag searched to ensure I wasn’t carrying anything too exciting and being given a guided tour so I knew where everything was. I can honestly say that I was terrified. I mean mental hospitals are full of crazy people right? I don’t belong there, I’m fine. I refused to make eye contact with anyone and don’t think I said anything much for the first 24hrs other than to phone friends and let them know where I was. This made friends happy, they’d been pushing for hospitalisation for a while and were just glad I was somewhere safe.
As a new arrival, I had to be assessed and admitted by the doctor. Unfortunately he was rather busy and so didn’t get to me until 1am by which point I just wanted to be home and in bed pretending none of this had happened. I slept badly that first night. Somebody in the dorm snored, the mattress was hard and I missed my duvet. It all felt like a particularly bad dream.
Eventually, though I started to settle to it. People weren’t that scary after all, in fact with one or two exceptions they were all really rather lovely which I’m ashamed to say surprised me. I don’t really know what exactly I was expecting but everybody seemed so “normal” and that was very reassuring. I took part in scheduled activities in order to break up the day, everything from Yoga to Dealing with Anxiety and many more in between. I don’t feel I contributed anything useful or learnt much that I didn’t already know but the presence of other people was comforting. I was safe for once and that quietened the thoughts in my head that are hell-bent on destroying me.
It’s so easy to become institutionalised. Up at 9, lunch at 12, dinner at 5, meds and then bed at 10. Repeat indefinitely. I read books, eventually almost finding the ability to concentrate that I’d been lacking for so long. It wasn’t perfect, I had to keep rereading chapters and I’m not sure I could tell you the plots of the books even with that but at least I tried.
On the third night I started getting visitors. I nearly cried, I was that grateful to people for coming to say hi. Even though they probably only came out of a sense of duty, it was good to talk to people I knew and be reassured that it was all going to be ok. Plus friends bring chocolate 🙂 And colouring books… There’s something slightly wrong with a Cambridge educated geologist sitting in the middle of a mental hospital ward contentedly colouring in a join the dots dinosaur! Was fun though.
Although boring, I found the environment secure and the structure relaxing. My head was quieter than it had been for a long time and for a while I was almost what I’d describe as calm.