Anniversaries are always a bit of a weird one. It’s been two years since I was admitted to hospital. Two years since I met some of my best friends and grew a second family. Two years ago I was spiralling so quickly into an illness that makes it hard to let anyone in, thinking that I wasn’t sick enough for treatment. Looking back I can now see that I was really very unwell. It was never an easy path to take. Being admitted to a hospital 3 hours away from home so close to christmas, but everyone knew it was the last option we really had. It was that or I would die. I find it so scary that a mental illness is so strong that it can make you think that you aren’t ill at all. Two years on from the beginning of my admission I am still close friends with many of the other patients who I met there. I have an even closer relationship with my family than before and my general outlook on the world has changed. I find it difficult to have gone through an experience that not many other people have been through. But as time goes on I know that difference isn’t bad. The memories from that ward will stay with me forever. The good the bad and the ugly. They have been the product of many a good story! But mainly I’m just happy that I’m still here.
It is coming up to a year since I was discharged from a 9 month long inpatient admission in a adolescent psychiatric unit. It has been a very interesting year. Somethings were more challenging than I had thought they would be other things were a lot easier than I thought they were going to be, but over all life out of hospital is not what I expected it to be. Its been interesting to see that all of my hospital friends have followed different paths since we all left the same ward. Some have gone back into CAMHS wards others have turned 18 in the past year and have been admitted to adult psychiatric units. Some of us have gone back to school and gotten part time jobs. Some people have really distanced themselves from everything to do with their time in hospital. Everything that everyone has done is understandable and has its own merits but it is interesting how we have all done such different things in the past 12 months. For me, the past year has been about finding my feet at home and working with my mental health team to get the right balance of support while also maintaining a social life. The friends I have made in hospital are a huge part of my life still, we are a cheer squad for each other through the tough times and we are there to enjoy the happy times too- because we all know how hard we have each worked for those smiles. I’m incredibly aware of the fact that some jokes I made in hospital are not funny to people from the ‘outside world’ (keeping hospital friends close for these moments is crucial.) I also have come to realise some of the stories I hold from hospital are unique and hysterically funny to people who I have re-told them too. I’ve learnt that a year on from discharge I still am in awe of the staff I met on the ward and miss them everyday. I have also learnt that it isn’t a bad thing to miss people and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling this way it’s a natural human emotion after-all. The past 12 months have made my relationships with my family grow even stronger and made every happy moment (however small) that we share together even sweeter. With my loved ones help I have been learning more than ever to find things that I truly love and grab onto them with both hands because if I’ve learnt anything in the past year its that those are the things that life is all about.
On the 11th of December 2014 I began my 9 month journey on a psychiatric unit. I gained a lot of knowledge over those 9 months, but not all of the things I learnt were what you might expect. The end goal was to gain skills that we could use in day to day life to cope better in a crisis and overall keep us safe in the “real world”. But no one is fully aware of the convoluted route that the patients take to get to this point. This brings me to, unexpected things I learnt at a psychiatric hospital:
- You will laugh. You will laugh from your belly and it will be a honest laugh and it will show you a small but very real glimmer of hope.
- The friendships you form are unlike any other. Be that with the other patients or friends at home, they grow strong and you can not recreate them again.
- Being honest with staff will create enough trust for 1:1 showers to turn into frozen sound track sing alongs with you, rather than keeping the bathroom door open to visually see that you are safe. These moments are well earned and priceless.
- Therapy isn’t a walk in the park, it will be tough but it will be worth it.
- The value of a cup of tea is huge. Staff need it, you need it. Its good for everyone! Enough said.
- Weird talents and funny stories will not stay hidden for long! Believe me they will all come out at some point.
- You have to commit yourself to getting better. You might go in thinking you are doing it for someone else but you will make that change and realise you are doing it for you. You are giving yourself the chance to live and have a future.
- Therapy balls aren’t just for at home gym sessions. Bouncing up and down, sliding across the room, balancing on them will lift the mood of any depressed patient! Who knew!?
- You will discover the joys of phone calls and letter writing. At the start of a lot of peoples admission they are obsessed with social media and texting, but you will come to love the more simple and personal ways to keep in touch with the people you love.
- Never underestimate a multiplayer game. No panic alarms tonight we are too busy playing mario kart!
- Make the most of that leave because when you come back to the ward with a new top, hair colour or socks you’re going to get more compliments than you have had in your whole life.
- Found a new quote? Share it around! By the end of the day it will be written posters and in scrapbooks everywhere!
- The chances are you will most probably have a member of staff with you in your bathroom at some point and then you will realise that they are pretty dedicated to keeping you safe and that they will stay there with you for as long as it takes.
- You will learn that you are a hell of a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for
- When you leave hospital, you will not be recovered. But you will be so much closer than the day you went in.