After struggling with depression and anxiety for years, it took a turn for the worse. I was religiously taking the antidepressants, going to weekly counselling, but the downward spiral continued. The suicidal thoughts were constant. I would tell myself, no one would miss me, I was an outsider, not important. I doubted anyone would even go to my funeral. My saviour became alcohol, I was drinking more and more, drinking to forget – despite quickly recognising it didn’t work I continued regardless, I just couldn’t see a future, all I could see was darkness, stifled with pain, sadness and anger. I hated myself, I hated the world, I just wanted to die.
It became impossible to go to work, I would lay in bed most of the day, praying for sleep because I just couldn’t face getting up and having to get through the day. I cried constantly, I felt so sad but not for any particular reason. I felt alone, surrounded by darkness.
My GP, assured me I would be fine and to carrying on popping the antidepressants. Give them more time, things will settle. But they didn’t settle. My head was awash with thoughts swimming at Olympic speed around my head. The negative voice yelling at me about how useless I was, that no one likes me, no one cares, just kill yourself and do us all a favour.
I had been self-harming for a number of years, but the frequency had increased dramatically. I would cut my arms and legs with a knife or burn myself on an iron or the grill of the oven. The emotions would build and build until I felt like I could explode or implode. When I cut myself, I got some relief, a few minutes of peace, a tiny amount of pressure would escape from my body along with the blood. It was easy to hurt myself, because I hated myself so much.
A Trip to A&E
I really have no idea what I was expecting, but after a week of writing suicide notes and lying in bed, I decided I really needed help. Whilst I wasn’t totally convinced, I wanted to die, I was totally convinced I was going to kill myself. I dragged myself out of bed and got a train to the nearest hospital.
I walked into A&E and told the triage nurse I was scared and thought I was going to kill myself. She didn’t really say much, asked me a few questions and then said a doctor would see me. Sometime later a psychiatrist arrived, he took me into a room, and we went through a rather long list of questions. I can’t recall the entire conversation, but all of a sudden, I was terrified, I had not expected him to section me. Well actually, until the point he explained I was not allowed to leave the hospital, I was being detained for my own safety, I don’t think I had ever heard of being sectioned.
I remember the doctor telling me I would be taken to the psychiatric ward. I was following him, my brain in panic, we walked along a corridor at basement level from the main hospital to the psychiatric unit, a corridor that appeared to have no ending and I wasn’t sure I wanted to arrive at the destination.
Life on the ward
I spent a week in a room on my own, I wasn’t allowed to leave the ward, if I did the police would be called, but the drugs had me in a place I would struggle to get out of the bed. With a tired, fuzzy head, it was difficult to focus on anything. Subsequently I was moved into a ward with 5 other women, all much older – more my mothers age than mine. They tried to talk to me, to be friendly, but I couldn’t speak. I could only cry and lie on my bed.
The worst times of the day were when medication was given to all the patients. Everyone would be called and crammed into the day room, one by names our names would be called. I would be given a plastic cup of water and a little paper cup filled with tablets. Forced to open my mouth and lift my tongue to prove I had swallowed them. I hated being in that room, it felt like I had absolutely no dignity left.
For those of you that have never been admitted to a psychiatric ward or hospital, the most brutal part is the weekly ward round. You are allocated a time slot; at the dedicated time you are summoned into a room full of doctors and psychiatrists. When I say full, I cannot be sure of the exact number now, but it felt like 10 + people. The purpose is to assess your progress, this panel will decide if you are to be kept under section, will remain on the ward, or you are well enough to go home. They can also decide if your medications are working or require tweaking. It feels like an inquisition, people firing questions at you to establish if you are still a fruit loop or if the drugs have worked and you are a stable human being again.
I never spoke, I just looked at feet and hoped it would soon be over. Didn’t They know I was struggling, and this was too much for me?
I left the ward four months after I entered it. 4 months!!! You get used to life on the ward, the constant screaming, shouting, wailing, never a moments peace. I made friends with a couple of women, we would sit watching TV in a tiny smoking room out the back, we got to know each other and our stories of why we had ended up in the nuthouse. All of a sudden, the big world outside the ward seems daunting, you have forgotten what life on the outside is like. Regardless of the nerves, I was free, I was being released.
You can read about what happened after my release, in the A fresh start post.