Life On The Inside, Part 1

For those who’ve been in a mental health facility, this account may seem like old hat, but for those among you who have never had occasion to be in such a place, I hope to enlighten and maybe even entertain you a little.

It all started in our local ER, where Dr. Awesomesauce had sent me after we talked on the phone and where I sat in the “suicide room” for a solid six hours, waiting to be transferred to the psych unit in a neighboring town. I spent much of that time talking quietly with Will when I felt like it, and staring at the bare walls when I didn’t (which was most of the time). I hoped I wouldn’t be seen by anyone I knew; this was the hospital where I used to work and where I have a lot of friends. I looked every bit as bad as I felt. My hair was matted and greasy, I had absolutely no makeup on, and I was in my pajamas. What’s more, I didn’t give a shit. Even the sight of the security guard who hovered around the nurses’ station to watch me didn’t bother me.

I did have a few bad moments when I had to get into the back of what had once been a police car, complete with a cage and those hard plastic seats. I’m terribly claustrophobic and almost panicked, but the transport team talked me down and kept up a steady stream of chatter to take my mind off the situation. We drove through streets packed with trick-or-treaters, which made me think of my grandsons and how I was missing out on all the fun of Halloween this year. That almost made me cry again—I’d probably cried more in the previous week than I had in two years—so I sat back and tried to concentrate on the beauty of the fall scenery.

Soon we arrived at the facility—the dreaded “downstairs”—and I was greeted by a security guard who proceeded to pass a wand over me to check for weapons. Of course none were found, and then I was met by my admitting nurse, who took me on a tour of the facility that was to be my home for the next week (although I didn’t know then that I was going to be there that long). Did I mention that I’m claustrophobic? Thankfully the open floor plan and arrangement of the common areas were such that I didn’t feel confined, or I would have done very badly.

Then I was led to my private room, which had my first name on the door as if I were in a nursing home, but I think it was for the purpose of being easily identifiable by the staff. I’d come in with nothing but the clothes on my back and a sack lunch from the other hospital, so I didn’t have anything to put away; as little as I knew about mental hospitals, I did know that my purse would be confiscated and my possessions gone though, so I didn’t bother taking anything.

I was too depressed to want to socialize, but since there was no TV or even a clock in my room, I kept popping out to look at the clock at the nurses’ station. I also explored my room and marveled at all the ways a patient could NOT hurt herself: the clothes hook on the bathroom door bent down when more than a pair of jeans was put on it…..the grab bar next to the toilet was flush against the wall…..all the corners were rounded…..the bed was a five-inch-thick mattress on a platform. There were no electrical cords, and the windows were made of safety glass and locked. And every 15 minutes, a staff member would make rounds to check up on me.

So I spent my first night writing in the journal I’d been given and wondering at how calm I felt. I’d been SO afraid of the hospital, and yet I felt relieved to be there because I felt safe. For the first time in weeks, with several locked doors between me and my life on the outside, I felt that nothing could hurt me, and better yet, that I couldn’t hurt me. What I didn’t know was how much I would learn between that night and the time I was released.

To be continued…..

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

15 thoughts on “Life On The Inside, Part 1

    1. I missed you all too. I was amazed when I got home and found out that so many people were still reading my blog, even though it had been a week of no entries. Thanks for hanging in there. 🙂


  1. Thank you for sharing your story of your hospital stay. I am glad that you got the help that you needed. I pray that you are feeling better than you were before your hospitalization. I’m sorry that you missed your grandsons on Halloween.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad too. Going inpatient at that point was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, and I’m feeling remarkably better. Meds got tweaked, I got some intensive therapy, and the overall experience was a lot more pleasant than I’d expected. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am very new to your blog but I am so glad to hear that you are doing better. I do have to tell you how good it feels to “know” some one who has been through the same things that I have been through. I can explain it to my family but they don’t really understand what inpatient is like. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was the beauty of being in the unit—I was with a batch of people who know EXACTLY what I go through with this illness, and what’s more, don’t judge. I was lucky to have some really nice people as fellow patients, but even the ones I wasn’t terribly fond of were also non-judgmental. As we all should be. 🙂


  3. The place you were in sounds quite similar to the one I’ve been into, I never stayed as an inpatient, but when I first had my breakdown I went to see a psychiatrist there a few times. The first time we went there we honestly didn’t know if I’d be coming back out that day. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I see all my various MH workers at an outpatient facility now. Much closer to home and much more manageable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fortunate in that my psychiatrist works in the same building as the psych unit, so I know he was kept abreast of my progress. He didn’t see me in the unit because I already had an attending p-doc and was being seen daily by a treatment team, but I’ll see him for follow-up next week. I also have to follow up with my new primary care doctor this week. I’m not thrilled about that—what a time to meet a new physician!—but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I was scaring myself too. That’s why I agreed to go in. I should’ve done it on Wednesday when I was at my worst, but when I crashed the second time I finally realized that I was more afraid of the outside than I was of the hospital.


  4. I have been inpatient 5 times in life. Only one was similar to your experience! I could have really gotten good help there and was encouraged to bond with the 5 other women there. Then 3rd day they came with a plastic bag..told me to put my stuff in it.. i had none. and they walkedme to the door and said good luck and told my son thanks for coming to get me.. What insurance did not cover that facility. They offered to send me to another place so I went and listened to their nurse who was going to decide my fate..the “OUTSIDE” part was so horrible knew inside would not be good. so I went home. I have never had a dr who was a pdoc that even cared. couple primary guys agreed to manage3 my psych meds if I signed a contractthat I would immed tell them if anything was wrong. Worked well for me

    IMHO if the government cared about mental illness at all everyone would have a right to be inside if needed, good drs etc..Kinda like Hopsice will care for majpority of people who meet their guidelines!!!! Guess that is why I believe in assisted suicide. The recent case of the nurse who did it was handled so well, and no nasty reprucusssions left over. By the way my daughter in alw’s best friend husband killed himself yesterday and she is the manic bipolarone not him!!! and my friend in GA young neighbor walso with a little boy and wife committed suicide on Sat! Maybe it really is the weather.

    Chrissy I know people get on you for managing your meds but my pdoc actually encourages it! And I know MOST people do adjust meds some more than ever depending on background. I think Nurses manage their meds more than average person.

    I admire Marla so much for facing her fears and going in. and so very happy her denial is leaving! And I admire her amazing husband who supports her so well and most of me envies and am terribly jealous she has DR. A. Official dx was in 1992 but back in 80’s dr’s i worked with told me they ;loved hypomaniac nurses cause they worked so hard and fast. my guess is I was born with some form of MI..mostly showed as perfection, anxiety, poor sleep.

    And please do not tell me this is the wrong place for this p[ost and I am stepping on toes essentially Marla’s..So please forgive as I did not even have any idea i would post at just all came out. Only 8p but time to take HS meds.

    Liked by 1 person

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