What It Was Like Being a Patient on a Psychiatric Ward #31Days2021 #Blogtober21

I’m still not too inspired to write. Today’s optional prompt for #31Days2021 is “patient”. Obviously, most people will write about “patient” as in the adjective derived from patience. I won’t. I want instead to share what it was like being a patient in a psych hospital.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I spent 9 1/2 years in a mental hospital between 2007 and 2017. I spent my first sixteen months on the locked ward. This is pretty much as I imagined it before I entered the psych system myself: floridly psychotic patients screaming and exhibiting other erratic behavior, staff running around trying to control it. Like I said yesterday, I witnessed people being secluded and being forcibly medicated several times. I was an informally admitted patient, so I couldn’t be subjected to any form of restraint. This isn’t to say it didn’t happen, as I said.

The staff/patient ratio at my ward was around 1:5 during the day. This means there’s not much time for staff to keep regular tabs on what patients are up to if they aren’t kicking up a fuss. I, in fact, at one point got told I would be put into time-out if I “needed more care than we can provide”.

After those sixteen months, I transferred to an open resocialization unit and later another open ward. The staff/patient ratio there was around 1:10, sometimes even less. As a result, patients had to help one another out sometimes.

On the locked ward, I had treatment plan reviews once every six weeks. This was because the ward was basically a crisis intervention/stabilization unit, where officially you could stay a maximum of six months. I must say there wasn’t much in the way of therapy. Of course, most patients admitted to this unit, suffered with psychotic disorders, for which the main treatment is medication. For me, it was decided I just had to figure out a place to go after pulling myself out of the worst crisis and, for this reason, I had mostly contact with the social worker.

On the resocialization unit, I did get psychotherapy. This was where I was diagnosed with (complex) PTSD and dissociative identity disorder in addition to autism. Thing is, once I moved to the other ward, these diagnoses were all removed. It was decided I was just care seeking and dependent and needed to be kicked out of the hospital.

We did have day activities most days on each psych unit. However, not all patients were able to participate. I, for one, usually was not.

In summary, my entire psychiatric hospital stay was one lengthy journey of changing diagnoses, social workers who tried to find me a place to live but had a very narrow view of what I needed, limited nursing support and hardly any day activities. I did start two of my three current daily psych meds while in the hospital. However, I must say, looking back, I hardly made any progress during those 9 1/2 years.

29 thoughts on “What It Was Like Being a Patient on a Psychiatric Ward #31Days2021 #Blogtober21

  1. Wow. There’s a lot in that. I hope you will drill down into more specific things, if not too upsetting. It’s an insight that people might need if they navigate the system themselves (or work in it too). #Blogtober21

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can sort of relate. I was in one for a week, due to chronic sleep deprivation. It was the scariest week of my life. It also wasn’t very helpful, they kept trying to shove any pill down my throat. Was hard to sleeo, since they kept doing room checks through out the night. Was a very eye opening experience, but did nothing to improve my lack of sleep.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sleep deprivation is a dreadful feeling.

      I have never resided in a psychiatric ward but my mother has several times. It has been so difficult to watch her suffer and then try to regain herself at 90, locked in a facility where most of the patients were young adults with addiction problems. Our mental health system needs a desperate overhaul.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh wow, that’s sad. Here in the Netherlands, most adult wards take under-65s only and if you’re over 65, you’re going to the elderly ward. That is, unless the elderly ward is in quarantine due to some virus outbreak like norovirus (my experiences took place prior to COVID). Here, those with just addictions are admitted to different wards but those with dual diagnoses (mental illness + addiction) do go to the general psych wards. That way, I indeed did get exposed to a lot of substance users.


    2. Oh, that’s so sad that it didn’t help. It makes sense though, since you suffered from sleep deprivation and they kept waking you with room checks. On the locked ward I stayed on, the staff did do room checks at night, but only twice a night at around midnight and 6:30AM.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Those door clicks are the worst. I was involuntarily admitted in 2017 and was on edge from my CPTSD. I ended up putting the trash can in the doorway so the noise would stop waking me up.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I hear you. I’m so sorry you were involuntarily admitted while you were struggling so badly with your CPTSD. I think a psych ward is almost the worst place for someone who’s been traumatized to the point of developing that. And yes, those door clicks can be horrible indeed.


  3. A stay at a hospital is not fun . I know that since I go three days in a week and I stay 5 hours at the hôpital since 2018 (dialysis). Not funny indeed
    You are right the psychiatric ill people need much accompagnement . My wife was chaplain in a psychiatric hospital and organized times of games or dialogue with the patients.
    Love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh. That’s a very long time to spend there, nearly a decade, and heartbreaking that it didn’t help you make progress. So sorry you didn’t get the support you needed. Well done for carrying on xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much. Indeed, it sounds much longer when I write “nearly a decade” vs “9 1/2 years”. Like I mentioned in another response, not going in there wasn’t an option back in 2007, but it’s a shame I didn’t actually find a place to live that was suitable out of the hospital and was basically just kicked out.


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