It is my pleasure to introduce my guest blogger Tegan who writes ‘Musings of the Misguided’ where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude. I hope that you not just enjoy reading this guest blog from Tegan but you take away from it an understanding of what it is like to be a in-patient of a psychiatric ward/hospital.
The first time I was admitted to a psychiatric unit I was 15. The closest unit was 1600km away. I was a long way from home and only had my Dad for immediate support. I was scared and had no idea what was in store. This admission was the first of many, spanning over a period of 5 years.
Once I turned 18 I was admitted to an adult unit, a unit that was a lot more daunting than the adolescent one that I was used to. The adolescent unit seemed more like a boarding school, relaxed and mainly full of teens with eating disorders. Psychosis didn’t seem to be very common.
The adult unit had a mixture of people, it was a public ward and so many of the patients were there under an Involuntary Treatment Order. They were at their most sick, at mercy of a doctor whose job it was to keep them safe. The ward was locked, unless your doctor gave you permission, you couldn’t leave. I tried when I was there involuntarily but no amount of kicking helped.
Where the adolescent unit felt like a boarding school, the adult one felt like a prison. To the uninitiated it was scary, the rest of us ignored the most sick, doing things that helped to pass the time. The last time I was admitted, the patients were still able to smoke on the grounds, this is now forbidden, a move that frustrated both patients and staff. When the days were long, sometimes a shared smoke was what got you through the day.
The funds are low for a public ward, the staff turnover high. There is no organised groups, patients are expected to amuse themselves, usually with a pool table or puzzles that had too many pieces missing. A psychiatric ward is no place for the sane. The night can be filled with screams, unless you have been prescribed a sedative, to forget the place you’re in.
It’s been almost 6 years since my last admission. The psychiatric unit used to be my safe place, I would relax into the routine, knowing that if I wanted to hurt myself that I would have to actively seek out the means. I was a regular and not in a good way. I knew that the unit had nothing more to offer me than a safe place to land, yet still I found myself coming back, time and time again.
Sometimes I find myself thinking that I would love to go back to that safe feeling, to check out of life again. Then I remember the nights of being scared, knowing that the coping mechanisms that I have come to rely on for the last six years wouldn’t be allowed there. I have come to realise that I have started to do this on my own, that the words of the nurses who gave a shit were true. I can do this.