So it’s occurred to me that perhaps a lot of people who follow this blog (and the numbers are growing, a big thank you if you’re following me here!) may not have any idea what life is like for a psychiatric patient in the hospital. Most people when they think of a hospital stay think of the traditional kind. You have a room with a bed, and that’s pretty much all you see. Nurses come in, take care of your needs, make your bed, fetch you things etc. You have a TV (if you’re willing to pay for one) and your own phone (again if you can pay) and your food is brought to you on a tray, which you eat in your bed on one of those little tables that the wheels fit nicely under.
Now, not to say that nurses won’t do a lot of that for a psychiatric patient, because they certainly will if the situation calls for it. About ten days ago when I was so sick I couldn’t leave my room they did some of those things for me, but here in this post I’m going to share with you what life is like on the psych unit.
I’ve been in a few and they are pretty much all run the same way. Let’s start with the device we all know and love so well, TV. Do we have TV? Yes! Do we get TV in our rooms? NOPE! There is ONE TV for all of us, and on this unit I think there are about 25 beds. How about the telephone. Do we have a telephone in our room? NO! We have ONE telephone for all 25 of us. Good luck getting hold of your loved one if they don’t have a cell phone in here because the patient phone can ring and ring and ring, and nobody bats an eye or lifts a finger to answer it. Answering it means you will have to run around the entire ward looking for that person. Most of us are too out of it, or too tired to do this. And good luck making your outgoing calls. There have been times I have waited upwards of three hours to get use of the phone, and as soon as you get on, someone else is there to stare you down so they can have it.
How about music? This ward is unique in that there is an actual music room, which is nice, however the stereo is from the early 90s I would say. It’s a dual cassette/CD player combo. The cassette doors are broken and although I haven’t tried to play a CD another patient tells me it’s broken. There is a small collection of cassettes, most are country, and there are at least 10 Foster and Allen cassettes. Right now you’re laughing because you think I’m joking….I’m not! It’s Foster and Allen-a-palooza up in here!
We do have a ping pong table which is pretty cool. A psych ward I was on in Sydney had one and if you can find someone sane enough and coordinated enough (and good luck, a lot of us are a little loopy from the drugs) it can be great fun. Hell it can be fun even when you are super drugged, more fun even.
What about meal times? Well as opposed to eating in your room like you do with a regular hospitalization you are expected to eat in the dining room. It’s a nice dining room here, with a few large wooden tables and a nice bright window with lots of plants and paintings. A good setup. The one drawback is that there are not enough chairs for everyone, so get there early. Tonight at supper I slacked and ended up eating over on the couch, which kinda sucked.
For fun we also have board games. On a psych unit you are expected to socialize whenever possible since people with mental illness have a tendency to isolate themselves. We have crib, battleship, and lots of others I don’t have a clue as to what they are. A few nights ago myself and three guys decided to play monopoly, only we don’t have actual monopoly, we have “Catopoly”. This led to an evening of bad cat puns. It was a cat-tastrophe. Haha! It was good for a few laughs.
There is a room upstairs where you can go if you have passes and they will let you borrow movies. If you don’t have a laptop, you can borrow a personal DVD player too. You can sign one out along with 2 movies. This is unique to this place and I have to say I like it. A lot of people take advantage of it, and unlike the cassette collection, the movie collection looks pretty good.
Also unlike a regular hospitalization you are encouraged to leave and get outside for a while. Depending on your condition there are different types of passes. Some are 15mins, some are up to an hour, or four hours. They may be escorted passes or unescorted passes. I now have 4 hour unescorted passes, but last week I only had escorted ones when I wasn’t doing so well. Some people have NO passes at all.
I took one of my 4 hour passes yesterday and went to Starbucks for a couple of hours, then I sat in the Halifax Public Gardens for half an hour or so before heading back. I didn’t use the entire 4 hours, but I could have. Right about now I can hear some of you saying, “They let you people leave? That’s not right!”
Hey! Lookit! If that’s what you’re thinking you have seen way too many movies, or watched too much news. Yes there are people who are dangerous and should not be let out at all. And yes sometimes things go wrong when doctors or caretakers fail to realize that someone is an actual threat. But honestly folks, mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victim of a crime than to commit one. If I had not been taken here last week, because I just so happened to have an appointment with my psychiatrist, anything could have happened to me. I’d never hurt anyone, but there are predators everywhere and when they spot someone who’s not all there it’s like a shark smelling blood in the water. I could tell you many horror stories about people who were victims of crimes due to their mental illness.
Having said that, there are two rooms toward the back of the unit that look like prison cells. They have large steel doors and only a small window to look inside. They are empty at the moment, but I’m sure they’ve had to be used a number of times.
We also have a washer and dryer, which is nice. It saves you from having to beg your family to bring you clean clothes. A good thing to have because as I said in a previous post, visitors are a rare sight here. Along with that we have a shower room, and a tub room. You get your own towels and you remake your own bed with linens from the cart in the hallway. We also have a small kitchenette with a little fridge full of all the orange and apple juice you can drink. Yay! I love orange juice.
In the evening we get snacks brought up from the kitchen. Cookies, crackers, cheese, peanut butter and fruit. Again, get there early if you want something! It runs out quick!
Anyhooo, that’s life here in a nutshell. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer you back down below. I have to go stake out my spot for dinner. Chow for now!