Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The darkest nights produce the brightest stars

At the start of February 2016, I was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric hospital.

Megan, we are formally detaining you under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

I just remember the police officer telling me this, and I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I was taken to a 136 suite in Alnmouth, Morpeth at 10pm. I felt and looked absolutely dreadful, and I was frightened. 1:30am came around, and the two psychiatrists and a AMHP arrived to assess me. One was an adult psychiatrist, and one was a CAMHS psychiatrist. They spoke to me, and after a while they all just looked at each other and nodded in mutual agreement.
Can you let us arrange an ambulance to take you to hospital?
I didn't really have a choice. Because of what had happened over the past week, I knew that if I didn't go as an informal patient, I'd most likely be sectioned. I had to give my all into recovery. I was taken to an adolescent psychiatric hospital in Middlesbrough, called the Newberry Centre at West Lane Hospital. I was transported by a transport ambulance, and I arrived at 3:45am. I'd heard so many horrible things about inpatient units, so I was terrified.

Arriving at the unit

When I arrived at the unit, we rang the doorbell and had to wait for the nurse in charge (NIC) to open it. Because I'd arrived quite late, it was quiet and the patients who weren't on leave were in bed. Me, the AMHP who came with me, and the ambulance driver got taken into one of the family rooms. It was a medium sized room, with comfy chairs. The AMHP explained why I was being admitted, and the NIC asked me a few questions, too. I met the two HCA's that were on nightshift, and one of them showed me around, before the NIC took me to my room. I got a few hours sleep before the on-call doctor came to properly admit me, to ask me some questions and to check my physical obs.

What to take

As my admission wasn't planned, I wasn't able to pack my own things. However, if you're admission is planned, then here's a list of things that you might want to take with you:
t-shirts (short & long sleeved); we had to have our arms covered if we self harmed
hoodies/jumpers; some units don't allow hoodies so ask beforehand!
jeans/leggings/jogger bottoms
dressing gown
shampoo & conditioner
shower gel
deodorant; my unit allowed sprays, but some units don't so it's best to ask
toothbrush & toothpaste
sanitary towels
razors; in my unit we had to keep all razors in our locked cupboards 
hairbrush, hair grips & bobbles
phone, music device (e.g. iPod) & headphones; my unit allowed these however some don't
colouring book & pens 
cuddly toys 
positive quotes; to stick on the wall 
stress ball, tangle toys
school work
lined/plain paper

The following day

The following morning the staff let me sleep in until dinner time, as it was a weekend and I was the only patient on the ward. I met two of the HCA's and one of the staff nurses, and they were lovely. As the patients started arriving back on the ward, I retreated back to my room. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been so frightened. My mam came to visit, which just made me feel even worse, because I missed her loads. That day, I met my key nurse, and she was super lovely. She went through everything with me; the routine, who my consultant was, etc. My key nurse urged me to come out of my room, but I felt scared. I wasn't familiar with the routine, I hardly knew any of the staff and I'd only met one patient. After I'd had a shower, another patient came and got me, took me out of my room and into the night lounge to meet everyone else.

Daily routine

The structure of the routine became my rock. Before I was admitted, I lacked structure which contributed a lot to my mental illnesses. At around 8am, a nurse or healthcare assistant would wake you up, telling you to get ready for the morning meeting. If you were on meds, these would also be given to you. If you were like me, you'd get out of bed, get dressed and go and get breakfast. For some other patients, it was "get out of my room!", that was a regular occurrence! Breakfast was between 8am and 8:45am, whenever you managed to get out of bed really. The morning meeting happened at 8:45am in the day lounge. The nurses and HCA's would find me and a few other patients sat, raring to go. I mean, who didn't love getting out of bed to go to a morning meeting that either rarely happened if certain HCA's weren't in, or was late? Anyway, moving on! Education was between 9am and 3pm, with breaks in between. Well, that was the case for the Priory lot. For us few that were with Middlesbrough education, it hardly happened because they didn't bother turning up! On a Monday morning, there was DBT group. DBT group was basically all patients sat in a circle for 2 hours listening to the psychologist talk. On rare occasions, one of us would speak. At noon, it was lunch, which we'd often complain about. Even the kitchen staff complained about it! 1pm it was back to education, and at 3pm when it finished, you'd usually find us in the day lounge watching 1 of 3; Dance Moms, Impractical Jokers or Jeremy Kyle. Between 3pm and 5pm was free time, unless you had appointments with the psychologist, key nurse or nurse consultant, which happened once a week. 5pm was dinner, and there was always an evening activity. Then came the weekend, which meant home leave. Yippee!

My experience

For the month I was there, I had both good and bad memories. Patients came and went, some were in and out in a week or two, some got discharged just before I did, and some I had to leave behind. I became close to a lot of the patients, sometimes they were more helpful than the staff! We all had good memories playing pool, going out on trips, tie dying t-shirts, movie nights, and the list is endless. Despite this, we all had our bad times, which for me included breaking down to the staff and wanting to go home. I have to give it to the staff though, most of them were incredible and really knew how to cheer you up. Like the time there was me and 2 other patients on the ward on a Thursday night; most of the other young people had gone on home leave. One of the nurses and HCA's decided to get the tambourines out. Music time! No, definitely not. I didn't enjoy being chased down the corridor by them with tambourines. It was especially NOT fun when they decided to go outside and bang on the window of the room we were in. Safe to say it ended in a pillow fight! The first place the staff would go to check on me was either the sensory room, or the garden room. I pretty much spent most of my time in them rooms! Especially at night; at around 8pm me and another patient would sit in the garden room chatting and watching the clock, praying that there's good night staff on! Only because we wanted hot chocolates of course.

All in all, my experience in a psychiatric hospital wasn't necessarily a bad one. I met lovely staff, I made lifelong friends, some of whom I'm still in touch with now, and I learnt new skills that I still use now

What did I get from being in a psychiatric hospital?

1. I learnt valuable skills - distractions and mindfulness. Everytime the staff mentioned the word 'distraction' or 'mindful', I wanted to kill them. Mainly because at the time I couldn't see how they would help, but now that I'm out on my own in the world, I can see how useful they've become. In fact, they've become my lifesavers.
2. I met some incredible nurses and HCA's that really made me change my way of thinking. Especially my key nurse, who told me about the 3 Cs - choices, chapters and challenges. Everytime she mentioned it we'd both just burst out laughing. But honestly, those 3 Cs have stuck by me throughout my admission, and even now that I'm discharged.
3. I met patients that made me realise I'm not alone in my struggles. Before I got admitted, I felt so alone, and at times it felt like I was the only one going through it. But now? I realise that I'm not, and the patients really helped me on my journey to recovery.
4. Most importantly, I found myself. I didn't know who I was before this admission, I felt as though I was just going through the motions of life, and not really living. Although I still struggle now, I've found myself more thanks to this admission.

Remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

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