Inpatient Treatment · Online 'recovery community'

De-glamourising inpatient (Part II)

7. The little things- there’s lots of things about being a psychiatric inpatient that are horrible, but I found it was the little things that made it really tough. Like the plastic mirrors, red plastic mugs, handing in your chargers, handing over dressing gown ties, belts, hoody’s, earphones, shoelaces, pencil sharpeners, nail varnish, nail varnish remover, glass makeup bottles; hospital food, showers that are never the right temperature/that you have to keep pressing to stay on, having a torch shone on you during night time obs (!!!), waking up to the sound of nurses gossiping during handover or during the night, the sound of hospital doors clanging, windows with safety catches, 12 foot fences in the garden, snoring patients in the bed next to you, the smell as you walked onto the ward, the self help leaflets, the pattern of the curtains, the way the door to the garden was locked at 11pm…the kind of things that help remind you where you are

8. Asking for permission/being treated like a child- you’ve to ask for EVERYTHING in hospital and it can bring you right back to being seven years old and needing permission to stay up a little longer or go for a bike ride at the local park. Some of your belongings are kept away in the store- usually things like nail varnish, iPads/laptops, earphones, CDs, makeup/perfume, money, certain clothes, shoelaces…so you’ve to ask a nurse for things you want to use them. If you’re going out on leave, they can’t give you things like money or shoelaces or tablets until your family member is literally on the ward, so that means holding them up while you go and find a nurse, ask them for what you need, and wait for them to go get it (because 99.9% of the time they’re busy doing something else). And then you need to ask for art materials, or for the laundry room to be unlocked, or for washing powder, or to unlock the dining room at night for water, or for more plastic cups or orange juice, or to get your phone charged, or for sudocrem for itchy scars, or to unlock the visitors room if your little sister is coming to visit. To get leave you first need to ask a doctor to write it up in your care plan…so that involves asking a nurse to see a doctor to assess you, and they’ll write it up…and then you’ll need to ask a nurse before you actually go. And sometimes if a nurse thinks you aren’t well enough, they’ll want you to be reassessed even if it’s already in your care plan. And you’ll need permission (deemed sane enough) to go for a walk around the grounds or to go to Occupational Therapy or to talking therapy or over to the vending machine. And if you have a headache and want paracetamol you’ll need to ask a nurse who’ll need to ask a doctor to come over and write you up for it. Basically everything involves asking a nurse, and most of the time asking the nurse also involves asking a doctor. And asking a nurse is almost impossible because they’re “busy” and waiting for the doctor to say yes can take hours because they’re always “on the other ward”!! Staff can also treat you like a child- there are bedtimes, rules to stick to, you’re called for dinner, and you’ll get told off for skipping meals or answering back or drinking too much caffeine. And while I liked being called ‘pet’ and ‘poppet’ and ‘child’, many patients can find the nurse’s attempts at being friendly patronising and frustrating. There was one day when I got caught with some contraband and a nurse turned and said to another “look at what she’s done” as she stood with her hands on her hips. I felt like a child being scolded and really, really small. And being treated like a child can be pretty common when you’re an inpatient

9. No privacy- being in hospital in itself means no privacy, because even if you’re not being obviously watched as with close obs (as on my ward) or on 1-1 care (as in PIC), you’re still there to be assessed, which entails constant observation. Every hour an HCA would come along with their clipboard and make a note of where everyone was and what they were doing. On my ward being on close obs meant 10 minute checks- so that’s someone coming in and pulling the curtains from round your bed, or pulling the blanket from over your head, or rapping on the bathroom door, or shining a torch in your eyes at night every ten minutes. On multiple occasions I’ve had staff unlock the bathroom door because they thought I was hurting myself, and sometimes I’ve literally just been brushing my teeth, or on the toilet or in the shower- so it’s embarrassing when that happens. On other wards people are on 1-1 nursing, so have someone with them or within arms reach at all times, sometimes without bathroom privacy. My home ward has dormitories, with just curtains separating the beds, so even things like getting dressed are difficult, and there’s no getting away from other patients, so even just needing a break or a bit of time to yourself or a cry becomes impossible

10. Unsettled wards- this can happen if lots of people are struggling at the same time, but sometimes it’s things like the ward being understaffed, lots of bank staff on shift, staff being stressed/busy, ward round day (so therefore less time for patient contact, doctors and family members coming and going, and potentially upset patients if ward round didn’t go their way), patient/patient altercations, patients lashing out at staff, a group of patients ‘rebelling’ against staff, bitching (about both staff and other patients), a new admission, a discharge (especially if the person being discharged isn’t happy about it), alarms going off, police or the fire brigade arriving- or several of these things in one day. An unsettled ward means a rotten and tense atmosphere and these sorts of things are generally triggers for people starting to struggle as they divert staff attention and support

11. It interrupts your life- the reality of hospital admission is it interrupts your life. It’s not a case of choosing when to go in, or working it around your plans in the ~real world. If you need admitted, you need admitted. Be it Christmas, New Year, your birthday, Easter, the summer holidays, school term, exam season. Hospital admissions will interrupt your studies, your work, family holidays, days out with friends, special occasions. Life is on pause when you’re in hospital, and sometimes when you get out it’s too late to pick up from where you left off. I’ve missed holidays, the chance to study abroad, exams and essay deadlines, and work because of hospital admissions. I’ve also had to take a leave of absence from uni.  Psychiatric hospitalisation is intrusive and inconvenient. And even though you’re getting the help you need, it’s incredibly frustrating and upsetting being stuck on a hospital ward and seeing the people around you moving on with their lives

12. Triggering patients- luckily I haven’t had too much of this on the wards, but during my last admission there was a patient who told us how many times she’d attempted suicide and all the ways she’d tried and all the outcomes- hospital trips, police, sections and all that. While she was talking one of the girls had to get up and leave and I just remember thinking “I’m so glad I’m not here because I’m depressed/suicidal, otherwise I’d be 200% triggered right now!” This can be a huge issue on adolescent and eating disorder wards, where there can be more of a ‘competitive’ atmosphere as patients compare things like self harm or lowest weights, but generally, when around other people who are ill, there’s always opportunity for triggers to arise- and in hospital there’s no escaping from them!

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