The first time I ended up in a psychiatric hospital I was 20 years old. It was shortly after my first attempt at getting off heroin after being on it for a few years. I don’t exactly remember how I ended up there but it was a foreign place to me and I was scared.
The staff didn’t seem to be all that accommodating or even care at all that I was confused. I was asking a lot of questions like “where am I?”, “how did I get here?”, and “what pill is this?” On two separate occasions I was put into restraints and was forcefully injected with the ever so famous Haldol and Ativan cocktail. I believe they referred to it as my “PRN.”
After several days in and out of isolation, acceptance for my newly found situation had set in. The medication had started working and I became less agitated. I stayed in my hospital bed for several more days. Taking the medication and not questioning why this was all happening.
I started eating again which the food was actually decent. I had spent the last year or so homeless and learned to appreciate a good meal when I could get one.
The daily visits with the prescribing doctor were interesting to say the least. It consisted of him telling me what symptoms I was experiencing (how could he know that?)and telling me “we can talk tomorrow” when I asked him when I was going to be discharged. I don’t quite remember how I ended up there against my will but I must have been petitioned by a governing authority at some point.
I continued to become more docile due to the medication. I eventually just stop asking questions, which was at least giving me some sense of control, because the nurses and techs would just turn their backs and walk away when I did.
After about a week or so, the doctor explained to me that he had diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and that I had had a manic episode. He did not explain to me what a manic episode was nor did he give me treatment options for the condition. He told me that the ONLY treatment for this affliction was a lifetime of mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. I had no idea what either one of those things were or how they worked. None of the professionals on that unit would take the time to help me to understand how these medications could affect my life (positive or negative).
I was released from the hospital after about 4 weeks. No education was provided about the illness. No ways to cope with symptoms were provided or encouraged. No plans for follow up or aftercare were facilitated. But, they did make sure I had a prescription for these new medications upon discharge.
So what went wrong to provide me with such a poor experience? Well, I could go on for hours about mental health policy but I won’t. You see, this was about 15 years ago. Big strides have been made in the mental health field since then. Focus is steering towards more client centered environments in hospitals. Also, much more education and training has given to hospital staff since those times.
I hope that I don’t sound too jaded but this was not a great first experience with the mental health system. It also would not be the last time I was to have a bad experience at the hospital. In hindsight… it’s okay. I like to take the outlook on life that everything I have gone through in my life has led up to today, and today was another amazing day.
Check out more personal stories and informative posts at Bipolar Taxi