VOICES: My time in a psychiatric ward

Photo from Pixabay

I didn’t think I’d end up like this: snot-nosed and teary-eyed, head down with the indents of my pill bottle in my hands. This was my third time here except this time I was here to stay.

I was in the emergency room, where people went when they had a bad cough. There were crying babies and drunk people; I’m sure their emergencies were a matter of life and death. But mine was all about death.

I walked into an office and sat across from a nurse who took my blood pressure.

“What are you here for?” she asked.

“Attempted suicide,” I said with my head down, feeling too low to even look up and meet her gaze.

A series of questions followed: “Have you tried? How many times? Problems at home?” she asked.

It felt like forever, and I’d heard it all before.

A nurse handed me a white wristband and I mechanically walked to another room.

My mom looked at me, wishing this wasn’t happening.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“I want to die,” I mumbled.

“Don’t say that,” she said her voice getting louder.

Then all was quiet. The silence felt heavy, and every time I said “die” it became more venomous.

“How do you feel?” A male nurse appeared at my side.

“Nothing,” I said.

“But you’re crying, so you feel something,” he said.

I gave him a look that stopped him from pressing on, then said, “I just want it to be over.”

A worried look crossed his face. Finally, he asked if I would try to hurt myself if I went home and I said yes. So they transferred me to the hospital in the next town, a place that became my home for the next week.

***

I didn’t think I’d end up here.

I arrived at the psychiatric ward. I was scared to death, even though at the time death didn’t seem all that bad.

A nurse saw me walk through the hall. The paramedics and her talked. She introduced herself.

“My name is Priya, I’m your nurse for tonight,” she said.

I looked at her and opened my mouth to talk. A loud sob came out instead. She held me and gave me a tiny white pill.

“Take this, it will calm you down. Let me show you to your bed.”

The hallway was quiet and dimly lit as I followed her and put my belongings in a locker: my cellphone, my hat, and my shoes, as I could use the laces to strangle myself if I decided I didn’t want to be here much longer, which – at that point – I didn’t.

I slowly walked into a dark room expecting to just spend my time alone until I heard someone scream.

“Whoa, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to scare you.”

I sat on the bed closest to the door, partitioned from this voice.

“No you didn’t, I just can’t sleep, sorry,” said the female voice.

I cried silently for a while. Then my pill kicked in, and I suddenly fell asleep on my bed.

***

In the morning, Priya was gone. I woke up with bloodshot eyes, messy hair and a faint memory of last night.

A voice said, “You’re up! Come out and talk to me.”

I peeked. A girl was in the bed neighbouring me; she had light brown eyes and black curly hair.

“My name is Arianna, but you can call me Ari for short,” she said in a happier tone.

I told her my name.

A tall man in a white coat walked in.

“Morning Ari, I see you’ve met your new roommate,” he said. He peered at me through his glasses.

“She’s very quiet,” said Ari.

I looked at her thinking: ‘I don’t exactly go to psych wards to socialize.’

“I’m Dr. Dee. I’ve alerted your psychiatrist about your incident. Why don’t we come to my office to talk about what happened last night?”

“I still want to die,” I said, and it was true, I did.

When I first met with my psychiatrist, he brushed everything off and told me I had generalized anxiety and that it was common. When I told him I was suicidal, he told me I worry too much. This temporary psychiatrist, he told me: “Things will get better.”

I felt stuck. I had doctors who didn’t empathize, no one to talk to, a mother who didn’t quite understand and friends who I felt I had burdened. On top of that I was fighting the stigma that people of colour don’t have mental illnesses.

I was sent to a group therapy session, where an old-school therapist sat and looked at every one of us in this blank, white room and said, “Get over it!” Tears erupted. Screaming, one guy yelled “fuck you!” and left.

Everyone followed after him and there I was, left alone with the therapist. I looked up at him and left quietly. I couldn’t believe he would say that, all my life I tried to “get over it.”

I went back to my bed and stayed there for the rest of the day. I did not eat any meals, as I was too down and out to continue with “normal” stuff.

On a better day, I interacted with Ari. We would paint or talk about school and life. I found out we liked a lot of the same things.

One day her family came by and asked if we could go out on a day pass with them. They wanted to go to the park for some fresh air.

Excited and looking for an escape from these walls after that horrible group therapy experience, I said yes.

So they spoke to my nurse for the day, who looked at me worriedly. I didn’t tell Ari that I was suicidal. When the nurse came back, they whispered to her dad and he looked over at me with the same look of pity that Ari gave me that night.

Ari and her dad left for the day and I was alone again.

And that’s how I felt, alone in the psych ward. But I also felt comfortable.

The ward soon became a safe place; all your problems were outside. All of your emotions were outside. The feeling of wanting to never exist was all outside.

The day I left the psych ward was because my therapists thought I was too comfortable. The nurses would look at me not knowing my story and think that nothing was wrong as I greeted them and accepted my medication for the day.

Ari left before me and it felt different not having her there, but we still keep in touch.

She became my only friend in the psych ward at a time where I felt like it was pointless to have any.

Being in the psych ward for that week has truly taught me that mental illness is just as deadly as a disease. If you don’t take care of it, you’ll end up like me a couple of months ago. Or worse, you could end up dead.

***

All names have been changed to protect the identities of those mentioned in this piece.

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