This morning marks 8 years since I survived my first night in a psychiatric unit of a hospital. Well, an emergency psychiatric unit to be specific. I say “survived” because not everyone is so lucky. My first night sleeping within the cold foreboding confines of a hospital ward, designed to detain those in heightened mental states, was exactly as you would expect. The first 24 hours from the moment I stepped foot into the hospital until the following afternoon were composed of straight horror film scenarios, except it was real life.
Between the tall male that had just been released from prison who was warning me that where we were was “worse” casually bringing up rape, to the heavy-set woman who tried to choke me out in my sleep, I knew shit was f*cked. Worst of all, no one was taking my personal testimony on something as private as my own thoughts, and there were no psychologists or therapists to speak to at all. Just a shrew of a psychiatrist who diagnosed me within 20 minutes of arrival. I spent most of that 24 hours frantic about my new reality, and for the other portion of time I drew “universes”.
I sat on my hospital bed in a communal room where for the first time in my life I was being observed under harsh circumstances, and all I could think to do was draw.
Since that day I have become stronger, not because I was hospitalized but in spite of it. There is a problem with the way our healing system is set up and it is okay to recognize that. In fact, it is imperative to do so. If we ignore that the mental health system has its failings then we fail any member of the public in crisis.
What I saw in those first 24 hours didn’t tell me everything about the journey that laid ahead, but it did show me that I could get through it. I survived that night and many more…many worse.
Since that day I have had to rebuild myself, my reality and almost every aspect of my life.
To all of the psych ward survivors out there: I see you. Even if you aren’t raising your hand to say that you’re a part of the club…
I see you.