Being the youngest on an adult ward was probably one of the most frightening experiences I've had. When I got told I was being admitted to hospital for the second time and on an adult ward, I was very scared. So many thoughts were racing through my head – what's it going to be like? Are the staff going to be horrible? What are the other patients going to be like? I was anxious and panicky because I can't remember anyone saying anything good about adult wards. I was in the general hospital at the time, waiting to be transferred, and one of the nurses came and said to me, 'Why do you look so scared? The other patients will be just like you'. I didn't believe her. I thought all the staff were going to be unkind and uncaring, and I thought I'd witness people kicking off and having to be restrained.
It was nothing like that.
When I arrived, I was greeted by one of the staff nurses who went through everything with me - she took me into a room and went through my belongings. She then told me that I was the youngest on the ward and that if I needed anything to come and speak to staff, because some of the other patients were quite unwell and at times it could be frightening. The nurse that I met when I first came through the doors was lovely and caring. Nothing like I thought they would be. But even walking down the corridor felt very overwhelming, as I was the youngest. I've had experience of being on a camhs ward, but because I was now 18 it meant I had to be on an adult ward. I remember a patient coming up to me, telling me she love the pattern I'd done on my hands. Another patient came and spoke to me about clothes and shopping, and what she'd done that day. She also told me if I ever needed anything or I wanted to talk, that I could always come to her.
My admission to adult wards haven't been anywhere near as bad as I first thought. The staff that I thought would be unkind and uncaring were the ones who hugged me and comforted me whilst I cried. They were the ones who picked my belongings up off the floor when I had thrown them across the room during a meltdown. The ones I thought would be rude and horrible to me because I "need to take responsibility for myself", and who I thought would shout at me when things had gone wrong, were the ones who sat with me, talked to me, and told me it was going to be okay, after the police had brought me back or I'd had an incident. Or what about the nurses I thought would be too busy to speak to me, were the ones who persuaded me to come out of my room to play bingo with them, or to get my nails painted by them, or would take you out somehwere. These were the staff who always had time for you no matter how busy they seemed to be.
And these patients who I thought would be "crazy", were the ones who made me laugh until I cried. The ones who I thought would attack me were the ones who kept me safe from myself. The ones who were so much older than me were the ones who adopted a mother-like status. These "crazy and psychotic" patients sat up with me when I couldn't sleep, comforted me when I'd had a bad day, believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, made me laugh until I was doubled over, made me cry and cried with me, made me stay out of my room when I was struggling, encouraged me to speak to staff, spoke to me like a normal person instead of just someone in a psychiatric ward but most of all, some of these patients I thought would be unkind, uncaring, horrible, psychotic and crazy, became some of my closest friends.
Both staff and patients witnessed me at my worst - self harming, throwing things about my room, crying, screaming, giving up on myself, trying to discharge myself because I wanted to die, shouting at other patients and on my worst days, being presumably rude and unkind. These were the staff and patients who said goodbye to me on my discharge date, only to see me readmitted a week later on a section - they weren't horrible or unkind because I'd been readmitted, but caring and reassuring. These people saw me not only at my worst but at my best - being given my leave back only a few days after I'd run off and had to be brought back by the police, and managing to stay safe during it. They saw me bright eyed and bubbly after an overnight leave, they laughed and joked with me and when the ward was unsettled, us patients would stick together and support each other.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this:
Don't judge a book by it's cover.