Wondering what led up to me being in a mental hospital? Check out How I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder first.
Unfortunately, I feel that since this was such a hard time for me to go through and because it was so long ago, my mind has denied/blocked access to a lot of my memories about the event. But I’ll try to get out what I remember.
After realizing that I was being forced to stay in the mental hospital, I had a mix of emotions. Including, but not limited to:
of being alone (having my family over an hour away), being at the staff’s mercy, and other mental patients.
of being around people I didn’t know, unfamiliar surroundings, and the unknown in general. I didn’t know what to expect.
from my parents leaving me there, towards the people who reported me to the police, and anger directed towards myself for getting into this situation in the first place.
- Sadness and confusion
because obviously there must be something actually wrong with me, I thought only truly “crazy” people go to mental institutes and are forced to stay against their will.
The first night
From what I recall, one of the first things they did was check my pockets for anything dangerous to myself, then brought me to a padded room, alone, in attempt to let me calm myself down. So I sat there, with those feelings for quite a while. Eventually, someone came to talk to me and ask me questions about how I was feeling, why I wanted to hurt myself and if I still wanted to – which I denied, whether it was true or not, because I assumed that saying yes wouldn’t be the brightest idea for me to be released any time soon. They came back and gave me some kind of medication, and I took it reluctantly because they wanted to see that I swallowed it. I felt tired after that and either don’t remember what happened, or I simply passed out and woke up the next day.
Then the psychiatrist
The next day, I remember still feeling slightly tired, and being brought to a different room where an older man who mentioned being a psychiatrist started questioning me more thoroughly. He asked all about my past, if I had any physical problems, if I ever see or hear things that aren’t really there, if I often have dramatic mood changes like the ones they already witnessed, irritability, anxiety, depression, etc. — basically, he was doing a symptom check list, which seemed to last for at least an hour. Then they did some general physical examinations, took some of my blood, did some inkblot test and so many other things that I can hardly recall at this point. Of course, they didn’t let me know anything about what they were thinking or learning about me.
And a shared room!?
I was rather worn out after all the questioning and tests, and finally got to go back to a room. Except this time I was put in a room with another guy in there, who was around my age; I think his name was Craig. But I really didn’t want a room mate, I wanted to be alone. So I asked one of the staff if I could have my own room, in which their reply was “what do you mean? there is nobody else is your room” … so, there was no guy, no Craig. Just kidding! No, seriously, there was a guy named Craig that I shared a room with .. I think. 😉 There weren’t enough rooms for me to be alone, so I had to put up with that. I ended up talking to him to find out why he was there, and if they had asked him similar questions as they did to me and so on, then we moved on other subjects about hobbies and things we liked etc. to try to get our minds off being in that place. Maybe it was better to have some company after-all. And at least I was in a room without padded walls, and it even had a bathroom!
Lunch! Meeting more people
After talking with Craig for a while, we got let out to go lunch. We followed everyone to the cafeteria, which reminded me of high school, except with far more noise and people staring at each other awkwardly. The food was far worse though; I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything that bad, and I hardly wanted to finish because it tasted like it had been frozen or canned for years, with no additional flavoring. The real reason I’m writing about this part of the stay though is because I met and talked to more people in the cafeteria. I became fond of one girl I talked to, even though she was seemingly far worse off than me at the time and was saying some shit that even I thought was insane – but somehow, she seemed innocent, in pain, and she was cute to me – so I talked to her more than anyone else while I was there.
I came to find out she was suffering from schizophrenia, and that it wasn’t her first visit to that hospital. Sometimes she would run up and down the hallways, screaming as if she was being chased by something – or as if she was going to kill someone; one of those times, the staff had enough and put her in a padded room, alone like I was when I came in, and I felt sad for her. I wanted to help her, but I wasn’t even in a position to help myself.
After a few days, I saw her again and she was much calmer. I don’t know if she naturally came out of that phase, if they gave her more medication, ECT or what. But when I talked to her, she almost seemed like a different person, which worried me. Knowing what I do now, I assume that it was medication changing her personality, because I myself (after being out of the hospital) have been on multiple different medications which have seemingly transformed me into a zombie, for example. Some psych meds are very powerful and scary.
Anyway, back to my story…
I went back and forth seeing the psychiatrist, being monitored by other staff for changes in my mood and so on. There were times I got extremely irritable — I remember wanting to punch the wall, bang on the door, or even hurt someone. There were days I was very depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed, even after being told to get up multiple times – they started sending someone in every morning just to wake me up. And there were days I was nearly bouncing off the walls, awake earlier than the normal staff got there, and I even woke up my room mate a few times. It really wasn’t a fun time, and I feel that being there was triggering my moods to change even quicker and more dramatically than they normally do.
I tried my best to hide my symptoms, because I really didn’t want them to see anything ‘wrong’ with me, I didn’t want to be labeled, and I wanted to leave – I wanted to go home and forget any of this happened.
After a week or two, some hope…
I talked to my sisters on the phone, and my mother & father were finally able to visit me. I was ecstatic, because I felt alone for so long. I probably never felt happier than when I actually saw them there again; I think I probably cried tears of joy. I hugged them and told them about how I felt, what was going on, how I missed them and wanted to go home etc. But that happiness didn’t last very long, because as I recall the visit only lasted between 30 and 60 minutes – and in the end, I couldn’t leave. Because despite my attempts to deceive the staff into believing I was “normal”, eventually they told my mother and I together that they were diagnosing me with Bipolar Disorder and possibly generalized anxiety disorder on top of that. They felt I was still a threat to both myself and others; and they wanted to get me more stable. So I had to watch them leave, again…
And then it went on…
It seemed I was in for a long haul. Now they wanted me to attend group therapy, and share my feelings with all the other people. Let me tell you, ever since I was a child, I absolutely hated talking in front of people like that. And to this day, I still very much dislike speaking in front of a group of people. But I did it, because refusing to comply would probably only make things worse for me. I told everyone there practically everything about me over a period of a week or more, as if I was an open book; I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed. I was so anxious and worried about doing that, I could barely focus on anything anyone else said about themselves when it was their turn – and I ended up having somewhat of a panic attack during one of the sessions, which forced me to leave the room and go lay down. I was given some other medication for anxiety, which I believe may have been buspirone; I don’t remember it helping much, but I acted like it did and tried even harder to control and hide my symptoms. I started to feel like the only way I was going to get out of there was to act like the medication was helping, and assure the staff that I would be fine at home – even if I wasn’t really sure. I just hated being there so much that my ultimate goal was to leave, rather than get better.
Until … freedom!
I seemed to finally convince them that I was alright! After nearly a month, they agreed to discharge me under some conditions.
I had to keep seeing a psychiatrist. And they ordered to keep taking the medication they had me on, which I believe included the buspirone, depakote, possibly lithium and something else. I agreed, and shortly after that I was gone. I was free, at least! Yay. But was I actually okay? …
Maybe it wasn’t the best thing…
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea to hide my symptoms. These people just wanted to help me get better. But at the time, I had so many emotions going on that I was stressed beyond the point of seeing clearly, and I also lacked knowledge about what Bipolar Disorder even is, or how important treatment can be. I think I even stopped taking the medications shortly after, because I denied to myself that anything was really wrong – however, I know now this is also a symptom of Bipolar, to deny that anything is wrong.
Regardless of me not following through with their plan, after a while and learning more about Bipolar Disorder myself, I ended up realizing I made a mistake. They were right, I was bipolar, and I needed medication. I found and started going to another psychiatrist voluntarily and started taking medications again after he too diagnosed me as bipolar.
Quick note about medication, therapy, and coping in general
Now, I’m going to pretend that medication is a fix-all solution, as it certainly hasn’t been, and I’ve had periods of time where I’ve gone without them because I felt like I didn’t need them for various reasons. But it is actually a very important thing, and mental illness isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Even if you feel that you are “OK” and can do fine without them for a while, it will come back and just as bad or even worse than it was before. Bipolar doesn’t just go away.
It’s also very important to learn various coping skills, triggers, and have some kind of safety plan in the event that things spiral out of control.
The best thing you can do is a combination of multiple things:
- Learn as much as you can about the illness
- Learn how to deal with it via various techniques.
- See a knowledgeable psychiatrist who listens to you, and who you feel comfortable with
- Seek counseling and guidance, if necessary
- Educate your family and friends. Tell them warning signs to look out for, and how they should react to them.
- Remember that your moods will change over time, even if you’re taking medication. Medication helps to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms – it doesn’t prevent everything from happening, especially if you don’t educate yourself and learn to avoid some of your triggers.
I’m sure I left out a lot of information about what happened, and some of the events may not be 100% accurate as it was so long ago.
For sure, and purposely, I have left out some of my “rage fits” while in there, because I don’t find it necessary to comment on that.
I also had various side effects during the drug and dosage adjusting, some of which were painful.
But after a few years went by, I realized that going to that hospital wasn’t really the worst thing that happened to me. It probably saved my life. And it helped me understand why I was having such abnormal mood swings along with a whole host of other symptoms.
I’m glad that mental institutes aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be, and patients aren’t treated like animals ..for the most part.
I’d also like to note, that while I was initially angry with my parents for leaving me there, I am actually glad they did because I needed that experience and knowledge about myself. And therefore I have also completely forgiven everyone involved with the situation – and would like to thank them instead. 🙂