How inpatient mental health treatment wasn’t what I was expecting
Having gone through a mental health crisis, this author shares their experience of inpatient care.
Written by Anonymous
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
CW: This piece contains descriptions of suicidal ideation. Please mind yourself if you choose to read and reach out for support.
I’m going to be honest with you – my experience and the standard of care I received in an Irish inpatient psychiatric hospital was far from ideal. I wish someone had properly informed me about what to expect prior to my admission. My expectations versus the reality of the situation were two completely different scenarios. Little did I know that when I walked through the front gates that I wouldn’t be returning to the outside world until four months later.
I won’t go into too much detail about how I ended up in psychiatric care but after years of being the strong friend, I finally collapsed under the pressure of constantly wearing a mask.
Psychiatric care to reset
The reality of my life was far from the pretty picture that I showed off in public. I was a pro at pretending to be fine. I had good grades, a caring family, bubbly friends, a loving boyfriend, a job and so on. Yet every night I begged the universe to end my sufferings and every morning I woke up with tears streaming down my face wondering why God allowed me to live yet another torturous day.
Keeping up the face was utterly exhausting and the cracks were starting to show. My personal hygiene went out the window and I spent most of my days in bed. When I eventually confided in my therapist that life had gotten too much and that I didn’t want to live anymore, she suggested I go into psychiatric care to take a break from the outside world and reset. I had never been involved with psychiatric services before, so it was all brand new to me.
My experience of inpatient care
Having watched American TV shows, I expected to have a program to follow where I would have daily individual and group therapy sessions. I was very wrong. I saw my psychiatrist and psychologist a maximum of once a week, but it was often every fortnight. It is a very medicalised environment with little to no room for alternative treatments.
I found that I often wasn’t listened to, or my claims were dismissed because I wasn’t able to eloquently portray my unease. The nurses were completely understaffed. There were many days on the ward where there were more agency (non-psychiatric) nurses than qualified psychiatric nurses which led to a lot of unnecessary hurtful comments due to the lack of understanding.
In all honesty, unless I fought to see any member of my team I was often forgotten about. I really didn’t feel like anyone truly cared about my recovery and it was a constant battle to access the help I needed. There was a huge lack of communication, and I often wasn’t filled in on my own treatment plan, which was very frustrating.
I was in hospital when there were stringent COVID-19 restrictions. I was not allowed out and no visitors were allowed in. It was very isolating, and I spent most of my days in bed, watching Netflix to pass the time. I went into the hospital to get help. I had reached out and was met with indifference. Every day I was living in immense crippling pain and eventually my fight went out.
I moved from wishing to be dead in order to stop the pain and torture, to firmly believing that everyone would be better off if I were truly gone. I was just a burden making everyone’s life miserable. Four weeks into my hospital stay I hit rock bottom and made an attempt at my life. I was overcome with guilt. A guilt I still carry in my chest to this day.
A break from the mask
Before admission, I was terrified of being confined to a ward with ‘crazy’ people. I now laugh at my naivety. The reality was that they were all just regular people going through a really shitty time – just like me. We spent a lot of time together as there really wasn’t much else to do. We talked, we laughed, we cried.
There was a lot of dark humour. It was comforting being around people who understood the pain and suffering of wanting it all to end. The break from the mask I was wearing was so freeing. I spent my 21st birthday in hospital. I was shown such kindness from my fellow suffering souls, and they really went out of my way to make me feel special.
My parents were granted permission to visit me for an hour. I get emotional every time I think about sitting in the visiting room with my parents singing happy birthday with my sister on the phone. There was hugging, crying, laughing and smiling. I don’t think I will ever be able to properly portray how much that visit truly meant to me. Despite our complicated relationship, my family means the world to me, and I do not know where I would be without their support.
Safety in crisis
The reality of the inpatient care I received in Ireland is that it provided a safer environment than the real-world during a crisis to prevent injury and death. It did not provide much else. I needed to be in hospital, away from cars and bridges and seas that were all too enticing. I needed to be in a place that was not my home.
I know that my rock bottom would have happened sooner in the outside world, and I may not have been so lucky to survive. However, in my experience, inpatient care does not offer long term recovery. Something that I was very reluctant to accept. I wanted a quick fix but the reality was that only my own hard work could pull me out of the darkness I was drowning in.
I was terrified to leave hospital, but with my intrusive thoughts subsided, the hospital no longer served me. It was a very difficult transition after spending so many months cocooned in a fortified environment, but I was determined more than ever to put the effort into my recovery and give life one last shot. So, I joined outside support groups, I moved out of my home environment and after four different tries, I finally found the right therapist for me.
Building my own supports
I built my support network of close friends and family and let go of old ties that no longer served me. I’m still recovering from the traumas of my past and dealing with multiple illnesses every day. It’s hard, but I now think life is worth that fight.
I’ve come a long way since my admission and attempt to take my own life. There have been highs and some very low lows, but instead of wishing for death each night, I now go to sleep and give thanks that tomorrow will bring a new day, a new opportunity, a new fresh start with the hope that one of these days I will be happy again.
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