My life

Lurching from one disaster to another...just a suburban princess trying to get by!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

In treatment...

Warning: This post contains details regarding mental health and suicide. 
If you are unable to cope with these concepts or would rather not proceed then please don't read on.

The information supplied is from my personal experience and should not replace professional medical advice.

The other day I started a very personal series chronicling my battle with mental illness.  Please refer to it here if you didn't read it yet.

I would like to state that I have never actually attempted suicide, being lucky enough to have a support system in place to help me through, but it was close.  Some would therefore diminish the severity of my illness, this would be a grave mistake.  You have to fight for your life, you cannot hand everything over to others to fix for you, there is no magic pill.  It is hard, tiring, painful and unpleasant to fight this disease, a process I am currently going through.

Today I just wanted to address a few misconceptions I had before entering the mental health ward of a hospital. 

Now you must understand that this is my personal experience, as a voluntary patient in a private hospital.  Whilst I have experienced the local public emergency room in the recent past it was decided at that time that being committed to a locked ward (their option) was not going to be beneficial for me and we made alternative arrangements which did work for a time.  Everyone was kind and professional, there was no sitting in the waiting room, no feeling of stigma, not an experience I want to repeat but not as bad as expected.

Before arriving for admission, I had visions of barred windows, alarms, slamming doors and security guards (imagine Terminator 2).  Of drooling, drugged out, terrifying looking people wandering around randomly waiting for the opportunity to "get me".  To be treated without respect and dignity.

This is the exact opposite of my current experience.  The staff, from the cleaners to the doctors treat you in a friendly, approachable manner.  Don't get me wrong, there are rules and you will get your arse metaphorically kicked if you don't follow them.  But they are common sense, you must get dressed during the day, wear nightwear at night, there is no physical contact with other patients (or the staff, unless strictly necessary), no entering the rooms of others, no passing on of personal details (after all, you don't necessarily want to know these people in "real" life).  We must attend mandatory group sessions, appointments with psychologists and your psychiatrist, you must take your medication, you have to make your own bed, look after your own hygiene etc.  Cleaners with vacuum, empty the bin, clean your sink and the other facilities.  There are laundry facilities if you need to use them.  You are required to eat your meals in the dining room at set meal times, no food in the rooms...a struggle if all you want to do is crawl into a foetal position and cry, but ultimately the best thing for you.

The nurses have seen it all, are onto every trick and often recognise the signs things are going pear shaped before we know it ourselves.  They may not give you what you want, but they will always give you what you need and you have to make the decision to put yourself into their experienced hands for treatment to work.  You might not like it, but you have to trust that they will do their best to help us. 

As I said before though, it is my decision whether I live, and I am fighting to.

There is medication prescribed by your psychiatrist, this is firstly to get you over your initial issues and then to establish an appropriate regime for you to continue at home.  There is always someone to listen to you and do the best they can to meet your needs, but there are a lot of people here, some better, some the same, some far worse and you need to learn patience pretty quickly.

We do have a bit of free time, can use our computers (free WiFi woohoo), watch TV, use our phones, read, craft, go for walks, whatever takes your fancy.  They do need to know where you are and you are not allowed to leave without permission.  There are also recreation facilities, a pool table, music, tv's, computer games, dvd's, board games and books should you wish to use them.

Visiting hours are less than a regular hospital ward, simply due for the need for treatments sessions.  Leave during the week is not strictly permitted but assessed on a case by case basis.  Weekend day leave can be approved by your doctor and even overnight leave if you are preparing to go home.

There is a door on your own room, you can shut it at will.  We have windows looking onto maintained gardens and individual a/c units.  Some lucky bastards get en-suites (as in NOT me) but they are generally reserved for the oldies or those with physical ailments.  I have personalised my room as much as possible, with throws, cushions, my own pillows, pictures and bits and pieces.  It helps to have a retreat that is your "own".

The other patients are normal people, the same as you (and me ;P), we can have a laugh, sometimes a cry, but there is always someone around who knows the ropes and everyone is very kind.  There are the odd dodgy characters who are dispatched "somewhere else" quickly. 

Most of the patients are here for depression and/or anxiety.  Other mental illnesses are generally cared for in a different type of facility.

I have now been here three weeks and am looking down the barrel of possibly another couple, we will see.  At present I am not responding well to treatment and they are re-thinking some of their strategies.  But that's mental illness, it isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be the end.

I hope this has given you a small (well it's bloody long actually) insight into what you might expect should you have to be hospitalised for a mental illness. 

If you are suffering a mental illness or considering suicide, please talk to someone, your GP,
 call Lifeline on 13 11 44 or go to your local hospital emergency department.

If you are in physical danger please call 000 (Australia only).

Jo xxx


  1. Jo,

    I wish you and enormity of health in your path to wellness.
    Sunshine and happiness to follow you always love.

  2. I am so in awe of your bravery, honesty and your eloquence. Please take care and look after YOU!

    Sending you a great big virtual hug!

    Best wishes,

  3. Thank you for sharing so much. You make this place sound safe, sound ok, sound like a place that is worth being at. Probably not what we all usually think. That in itself could be enough to help someone else.

    Wishing you a life with less darkness.


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