Inpatient Treatment · Recovery

Things I learnt in hospital

One day during my first admission I was having a lengthy conversation with one of the nurses and I think I said something about feeling like being in hospital was a waste of time, because she gets up and says ‘RIGHT! I want you to write me a list of the things you’ve learnt in hospital and come and show me after- and it can’t be things like “the food’s crap.”‘ So I reach for my coloured pens and park myself in the TV room and set about writing the list. I come up with a dozen things, and have added to it following subsequent admissions:

  1. Having a routine is really important/structuring your day makes things less chaotic
  2. Painting really calms me down- I’ve always been into artsy stuff, but never took the time to do it. So when I discovered during Occupational Therapy sessions just how much I enjoyed losing myself in painting and crafting, I went out and bought a stack of canvases and paints and scrapbook materials and it’s something I do a couple of times a week now
  3. Thoughts aren’t facts- a lovely bank nurse said this to me on my first full day
  4. I don’t want to self harm anymore- I never really wanted to self harm, but I’d never wanted to stop either. I self harmed two or three times while in hospital, and each time, it ended horribly, so I began to appreciate that it caused more harm than ‘good’
  5. I have a lot of people who care about me. My extended family didn’t go running when they found out I was ill/in hospital, and I have the BEST friends that came to visit and asked the nurses how I was even when I refused to see them. None of them judged. Plus, lots of the nurses are really rooting for me and want to see me do well. My wellbeing means a lot, to a lot more people than I’d previously realised
  6. Meeting other people who are unwell made me more accepting of the fact I was- there is no stereotypical ‘mentally ill’ person, and it didn’t matter if I had a stable childhood and good upbringing- my struggles were still valid
  7. To just BE without trying to question or make sense of everything, because sometimes, there IS no reason or explanation. It’s ok to be ok and it’s ok not to be- and there doesn’t have to be a reason for it
  8. It helps to laugh at myself. Black humour makes it less scary
  9. Hospital (or any treatment for that matter) will only help if you let it/use the place and its resources
  10. That maybe I am/was more unwell than I thought. Being in hospital and some of the things that happened in hospital and some of the conversations I had with the staff were pretty home hitting
  11. There is a difference between what my head/illness wants/thinks is rational, and what I want/think is rational. And I need to listen to those differences and fight with my head/illness. And sometimes I might not always win that battle, and that’s ok, so long as I pick myself back up and start again
  12. I want to live
  13. I can sit with uncomfortable feelings and chaotic emotions and they will pass and I can get through them and I will not explode
  14. My illness doesn’t define me, even though at times it feels like it’s all I am
  15. I have to take control- by taking my meds as prescribed, sleeping well, eating well, going easy on things like alcohol and nights out and taking on too much, doing things to help myself feel better when I’m low
  16. I don’t want a life that revolves around my illness/hospital admissions
  17. That I need to listen to and trust those around me because sometimes I lose insight. [Favourite nurse] is always right and not everyone can be lying to you
  18. Accepting I have this illness is the first step in recovering from it. Running from it won’t make it go away
  19. If I don’t comply with treatment, I’ll be in and out of hospital forever
  20. The only person I’m hurting, the only person that is really losing out by engaging in behaviours or not taking my meds, is me. The nurses will go home each night and my friends and family will keep living their lives, and I will be the one lying aline in a hospital bed, stuck

I remember showing it to the nurse afterward and talking it through with her, and she says it’s a damn good list and that I’ve learnt a lot. Since then, I’ve always looked back at that exercise, that list of Things I’ve Learnt In Hospital as being the start of Recovery- real recovery, because for years before I’d been stumbling along saying I was recovering while simultaneously doing diddly squat to actually make Recovery Happen. But for some reason, writing that list, being asked to reflect on what I’d taken from my time in hospital, made me appreciate the things I’d learned about myself, my condition, and the bits of advice the nurses had given me. This list became the kind of ‘foundation’ for my recovery and for me, encompasses some of the key things I gotta remember.



2 thoughts on “Things I learnt in hospital

  1. That’s a great list. I think all of us that have been hospitalized for mental illness have a list like that, either written or in our minds. Great post.


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