“Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry any more,
Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door” The Grateful Dead
It’s not sane thinking that you’re going insane.
Coping with and going through the first hospitalization in a psychiatric ward is perhaps the most difficult thing for those who suffer from mental health ailments. This experience is magnified if the hospitalization isn’t voluntary but rather one was committed by the state.
I remember my first hospitalization vividly. Those sixty days were etched into the fabric of my mind. There was the overwhelming sense of denial, “This can’t be happening to me,” my brain roared, “There must be some mistake!”
I recall the sheer anxiety of just being in a psychiatric hospital. My tongue stuck out in a wicked spasm. The first ward I was on had an unlocked door and I raced through the open portal. As soon as I reached outside of the psychiatric ward, my tongue, like magic stopped giving my any problems. I tried to point this out to the staff but unfortunately they weren’t in the mood to listen.
I think one of my biggest fears was was never getting out of the hospital. I recall the staff yelling at a fellow patient of mine, “With an attitude like that you ain’t never getting out of here!” I was facing a vast unknown with my knowledge of the system almost at a total zero. Could I be locked up for years?
Group therapy is a big adjustment as well. Here you are thrust in front a group of total strangers. The nurse, or psych techs moderate the conversation trying to guide it in a direction they find satisfactory. One is supposed to open up and discuss their greatest fears and most personal problems. It is very intimidating to put it mildly.
Understanding about the importance of medicine is probably the fundamental key to recovery. Nobody likes to take medicine and that goes double for psychiatric patients. Every time I take a pill it reminds me that I’m not ‘normal’. The most common mistake new sufferers make is stopping their medication after release. After several months they feel better and thus see no need and no desire to continue with the medication. That is the number one mistake psychiatric patients make. Stopping your medicine is almost guaranteeing a return to a psychiatric hospital or worse.
Navigating the field of support is also problematic. There are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psych techs, and others. Each serves their function. Unfortunately the lack of competence on the part of just one of these pillars could cause a psychiatric patient a world of woe.
If there was any obvious blessing to my hospitalization it would be without a doubt my fellow patients companionship. I recall how the loneliness of my first psychiatric hospitalization was filled in by many long hours of hanging out and talking with my peers. I recall one kind man who had no support at all in the form of visitors. This man would gladly share his cigarettes with me despite his limited supply. I only took to smoking because the boredom of the confines of the psychiatric hospital was mind numbing. A cigarette every hour proved a great and necessary diversion.
The last thing that one should be aware about is the adjustment after release. Once you walk down that road into the territory of mental illness you are a marked person. Ignorant naysayers will whisper behind your back putting you down. Have the courage to prove the world wrong and live your life to the fullest you can. Accept your psychiatric condition and do all that you can to maintain your health and to prosper.
I invite you to read the insight of my first hospitalization in my book of memoirs. “More Than The Madness”. Just click on my Amazon link to find it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV-Ee0zB04k