Psychiatric wards: my story

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years stuck on psychiatric wards; usually over risky self-harm and feeling suicidal. Some of my time was voluntary; I agreed to go into hospital to get treatment, until I was ‘safer’ to be looked after in the community. The rest of the time I was involuntary; I either wouldn’t agree to go into hospital, or I would be in hospital and trying to discharge myself.

Before spending any time on a psychiatric unit, I imagined all kinds. It was a ‘scary’ place, where people went to if they were ‘dangerous’. So this was one thing I wanted to clear up with people who may still have that perception. Psychi wards can have some very vulnerable people; some are psychotic (hearing/seeing/sensing things that aren’t real etc.), some might have attempted suicide or expressed suicidal thoughts. Some can become quite mouthy when they feel stressed, anxious, worked up, scared, threatened; anything can tip you over in that environment. In my time on various units, I’ve witnessed, heard, seen, experienced some frightening things. I’ve heard staff members yell to their collegues for the ‘ligature knife’ whilst they’re also trying to remove a ligature from around somebody’s neck. I’ve seen different characters clash, tempers flare, and on one occasion witnessed one patient attack another. I’ve seen or heard people being carried by staff into ‘seclusion’; a basic room where people who are ‘disturbing the peace’ (kicking off, being aggressive, extremely upset etc.) go, to calm down safely. I’ve been held down and injected, I’ve been taken to seclusion, I’ve escaped, I’ve hurt myself in some way, and somebody out there will have had to go through the trauma of witnessing me behave that way too.

Believe it or not, the majority of my time on the wards, it was calm and pretty boring. Staff do their best to have spare time for patients, but it’s so difficult when there’s only 4/5 of them on one shift; made even more difficult by the fact that they all have so much work to do. They have meds to give out, notes to type up, incidents to deal with (plus the extra paperwork with them), meal times to help out with, monitoring the ward environment etc. They literally just have no time; particularly the trained nursing staff. The healthcare assistants did have more time, but there were times when they just had so much to juggle that they hadn’t even had time to say hello. Despite all that, I have nothing but praise for inpatient staff on psychiatric units. There’s probably at least 1 or 2 I came across every now and then that I just didn’t like for some reason. Maybe I felt they were abrupt, rude or didn’t care. Or maybe, that’s life; there’s always 1 or 2 people we all come across who we just don’t gel with, and that’s fine. I like to think I was always polite to those I wasn’t ‘keen’ on though. They all do their best though and are sometimes pushed to their limits. There were times when 4 or 5 people wanted the same person at the same time; we can’t be in 4/5 places at once. The demand on them is huge, and the job must be emotionally exhausting (though rewarding when people’s health improves). I respect every one of them who respected me during my “darkest” times. Those who looked after me when I was at my most vulnerable.

I agree, that in the past, hospital has sometimes made things worse for me; it isn’t the ideal environment for me (and possibly a lot of others). When you’re put into that kind of environment, when things can flare up at any time, that’s hard enough. But then also consider, I was unwell mentally; I was depressed and all that comes with it, but I was also struggling a lot with containing my emotions. It was a place where my emotions ran sky high to begin with, followed by more intensity, leading to more harmful thinking and behaviour; more self-harm, more suicidal thoughts etc.

I’m speaking only for myself here, in this post and in all my others. I’m giving you the perspective of 1 person with Borderline PD, and I can’t talk for other people so please keep that in mind. The easiest way to look at things (for me anyway) is that we are all on a spectrum, and everybody is on a different place in that spectrum. Everything comes with a spectrum. Emotions, behaviours, thinking processes etc. The majority of people behave, think and feel in very similar ways, and often very different ways too. If somebody’s view is completely opposite to your view, you’re both on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

My mind’s totally gone now and I have writer’s block. I’m so sorry if this is very complicated 🙂

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