this post was all about my experiences in a mental hospital. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did. I owe my life and my new found happiness to the excellent staff there.
Happy Beautiful day,
This post is dedicated to all those who fear going to a mental hospital. A book will be coming soon all about my experiences as I hope to inspire those that respite is a wonderful thing and NOT a scary one. I hope you like the first chapter.
It was 2:25pm, on a gorgeous Sunny Saturday day that I arrived at Shoreshands. At the time, I was scared as hell, had packed only for a couple of days (as that’s what the community nurses had said) and frankly, I was convinced I’d be experimented on endlessly and chained down to a bed for the rest of my life in a long Victorian style ward…
2 weeks before had possibly been one of the lowest periods of my life. Over a period of 6 months, I had been greatly overworked both personally and professionally so frankly the accumulative effect of the typical symptoms of stress on my mental health were at a breaking point. I was a complete mess. I had seen countless community nurses and doctors who’d visited me almost every day yet I still believed I was perfectly well, when in actual fact I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every day I was told to take a tablet to which I often had to be reminded to take along with what felt like hour sessions of doctor’s consultations which felt pointless as I wasn’t sure I was getting anywhere. My parents finally came to their wits end when I spent what felt like 3 hours trying to persuade them not to send me to ‘Wentworth’ as I started calling it because to me it was a life sentence…
…The afternoon I arrived was possibly one of the key moments in my life as it was an admission that I was actually sick but it seems to have gone by in a blur. Forgive me if initially my memory seems a bit sketchy, but like every patient with a mental disorder, this is what is classed as ‘normal’. So it went something a bit like this…
10 am the crisis team was called out (essential what people call when they’ve had enough of life) to my house. It was 1-0 to my parents as I had lost the will to fight any longer. My fate seemed to be in their hands.
11:30 am There was a unanimous decision that I needed more help than a community nurse and outpatient support could offer. I was offered a celebrity ticket to a room in ‘Wentworth’. Sh*t this was it. I had been given a life sentence even though it was ‘only for a few days’.
2:30 pm I arrived a Shortsands with my bags packed and shown around. It was worlds away from what I dreaded. The ward was single sex and immaculately clean. For some reason it was a cross between the layout of university halls of residence and the peaceful and calm nature of a monastery- minus the religious monks and nuns. I took my first deep breath of relief for this was the break I’d been crying out for. The nursing staff and doctors kindly introduced themselves and I was shown around.
The ward was light, airy and decorated with lavender walls and a calming neutral floor. If that wasn’t calming enough, the whole ward was surrounded by green fields and had large windows that overlooked stunning sea views. On a good day, you could see around 30 miles in each direction along the coast line. I had arrived at just the right time as the sun beams gleamed in from them and danced around the large wooden window benches.
I was also kindly shown a relaxation room with therapists, a study room with walls of books, 2 telly rooms (or living rooms as I liked to call them) with big comfy purple sofas and blankets, a dining room with lots of pleasantly dressed wooden tables and comfy chairs, and an excellent tea station ( that would soon be the hub of the ward) which overlooked a peaceful courtyard. As the building was a large sqaure loop, every room seemed to have a gorgeous view. Wentworth even had a relaxing courtyard in the middle. Maybe it wasn’t so fair to call it Wentworth afterall as I instantly felt at home yet still had the jitters.
4:30pm I had been in my room for half an hour, my parents had left tearful but hopeful and I was terrified of coming out. I knew no one and was petrified of being attacked or something similar. Although not a religious person, I prayed for protection and peace before braving the dining room. Luckily, there were some lovely people there who made me a good cuppa and made me feel very welcome.
I was then greeted by a wonderful doctor Patel and accompanied by a nurse to a quiet room. I was so scared they’d still chain me down and force a confession or something like that but I was totally wrong. The room was in one of the corners of the building and had an amazing sense of peace. It overlooked the fantastic sea view that had been perfectly framed by almost floor to ceiling windows. We sat down in big comfy purple chairs and the doctor asked my about my full history from leaving school all the way up to the present day. It was highly emotional as I admitted to being emotionally abused as well as highly overworked and stressed out from jobs that I hated, as well as a relationship that was doomed from the start (although I couldn’t see it at the time). My life was in pieces!
How Sweet the Sound
After offloading my 210kg, I realised that talking was one of the best medicines. But before I go into why, I’d like to take you back let’s say 6 months to an awfully exciting time. I had moved away from home, successfully completed my degree with a good grade at a top university for my discipline, had landed the perfect graduate job away from home and had a stellar boyfriend who I was convinced I’d spend the rest of my life with. I’d also been very fortunate to be given an almost new car and a free place to live so life couldn’t have been any better really….but that’s when the cracks started to show…
That Saved a Wretch Like Me
Many say that not everyone is born with faith in God. For me this was more than true. My whole life had been backwards and forwards to different churches yet I never felt I truly belonged to anyone of them. In the end, I settled for being ‘spiritual’ rather than asking ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?’ I learnt to ‘have faith in god’. But what did that actually mean? Well there was a wonderful young girl called Gemma who had the ultimate trust in him. She was a quiet and pleasant girl with an amazing sense of calm wherever she went. To me, she had the ultimate humility as she came with very little but made the best of what she had.
I’ve always been highly sceptical of the bible and within the first couple of days of getting to know Gemma, I believe I was highly argumentative. The bible was a metaphor of how to live a good life- how on earth could it be taken literally?! I argued my case pretty strongly and despite a lot of disagreements it led to a lot of stimulating debate. Yes, at time I was highly offensive but like always- you can’t always be nice and poignant at the same time.
Luckily, Gemma was highly patient and understanding. Each morning we’d read a passage from the bible with my favourite being the beatitudes.
What I really hadn’t learnt to do was relax. Work had been both my friend and my enemy for so long that relaxation days often meant housework and shopping with the rare treat of a cup of coffee out. But that was ok then, as I just kept piling up my worries and dumping them into the worry bucket. You see, I much describe stress and anxiety like this, there’s a wonderful bucket you always carry around with you. Everyone has an amount of sand in this bucket but ultimately, there comes a point when the bucket overspills as you can’t handle anymore. So how do we offload? Well that’s when I discovered what alternative therapy was.
|Our gorgeous garden! I hope to have something like this one day but with REAL grass teehee|
|My room- I hope the mattress is comfier than this was teehee (memory foam would be nice!)|
|The relaxation room with a beautiful sea view :D- My favourite room! I hope to have something like this one day- with a ceiling that looks like the stars.|
When someone first mentioned this a hippy with incense sticks and meditation first came to mind. But in actual fact this wasn’t the case- well not completely. Part of the ward had a craft room which was filled with delicious insipiration. Whether it was card making you were into or jigsaws or colouring in the craft room had it all. I found it one of the happiest rooms in the ward as this is usually where some of the most inventive things came from. This artwork proved to be very therapeutic as we scratched off the foil to reveal the colours underneath. This was part of what I called the ‘happiness project,’ which aimed to increase the overall wellbeing of patients.
However, this was not the only thing I learn when I was there. The first few days were possibly some of the hardest. Like many patients, I don’t think I’d be alone in saying it can be quite a turbulent time. You’re taken from your home and family, stripped of you ‘home comforts’, and everything you’d like to have around (such as a razor or straighteners) has to be asked for. You are a prisoner. So it was a relief when my aunty came with a good bag fool of Sanctury spa products. She knows my skin is sensitive and so this goody bad full of natural products was a welcome relief! But that got me thinking…if a home-made facial was this good maybe I could share my things with patients? After a quick google and a spot of youtube I learnt some quick and easy techniques for an uplifting facial spa. My friends (and patients) loved it!! So it just goes to show ingenuity can often be the key to success.
I Once Was Lost but Now I’m Found, ‘because he [God] lives I can face tomorrow’. I guess many Christians find strength through the power of prayer.
Happy Beautiful day readers!
Emily Smith (Smiles)
p.s this was during my identity crisis