Monday, 2 February 2015

I Spent 6 Months on the Psychiatric Ward - Do You Judge Me?

The morning of my admission to the hospital I was inconsolable. Disoriented. Frenzied.

I had a 5 week old baby that I didn't WANT. Get her away from me - I don't care where she goes, as long as it is somewhere where I never have to hear her piercing cry ever again.

I knew something was wrong with me but I didn't know what going to the hospital was going to do - I knew they couldn't write a prescription and fix me right then and there.
The on call psychiatrist listened to my tearful cry for help - please tell me how I can get away from my baby!

"I think you should stay for a few days", she said calmly.

At that moment in time I felt a flood of relief. That means the baby doesn't come with me. I can be in silence, pretend she didn't exist.

I followed the doctor upstairs to the psychiatric wing where she brought me to a private room, then debriefed with the nurses about my case. I knew nothing about what my life was going to become or how I would ever be normal again.

But at that moment I didn't care, the baby wasn't with me.

The one night turned into a few....which turned into a few weeks....months... I spent many nights crying and listening to music to drown out the ramblings of the schizophrenic man walking up and down the halls. Although I was happy to be away from my baby, I was angry that they put me with these people.

I don't belong HERE - I have depression, I am not crazy. THESE people are crazy.

After a few weeks of denial that I was a full-fledged psychiatric patient, I began to observe my surroundings a little differently. I was able to speak to some of the other patients without judging them. Without thinking I had been somehow misplaced with all of these certifiably insane people.

I remember that for 3 weeks, I had the sweetest roommate (People came and went a lot quicker than I seemed to).
I actually just found a birthday card that she had given me - it was tucked into a book I had read while I was in hospital, where I celebrated my 26th birthday.

She was a quiet but deep soul, and I could see the pain in her eyes when we spoke about how we could ever feel better again. She told me that a week before I arrived, she tried to suffocate herself with a plastic bag in the hospital washroom.

At first I was shocked....then I felt sad, because I understood. I understood that pain and the desire to quietly leave this world behind.

Although I was a "bad" patient and refused to go to group therapy (I felt that I should be RUNNING these groups, not participating in them), I found much solace in art and sketching.

My family would bring in pictures of my daughter in hopes that, if I looked at them everyday, that I would start to feel some sort of connection. If even a superficial one.

I had nothing else to really draw (the hospital's beige walls were entirely uninspiring), so I turned all of my focus onto these pictures and my paper and pencil.

I have never been good at drawing realistic subjects, and I don't claim to be now, but the sheer act of the drawing and the level of focus I had, was enough to make me feel like I was accomplishing something. If I was good for nothing else, at least I was able to make some semblance of a decent sketch. I would put them on my wall in the room as a reminder that I was still able to do SOMETHING other than stare at these 4 walls.

I was going through Adelyn's closet this weekend, and I found these pictures. In a split second, I was back in that hospital room. I could feel the same despair I felt when I sat there trying so hard to forget that I was a worthless psychiatric patient, just another number that needed her meds at 8 pm and
8 am.

Those sketches reminded me of the times I thought I would never get better. The times that I drove in my car and could think of nothing else besides going 100km/hour into the nearest hydro pole.
The times I prayed that I would stop hurting my family and that they would leave me alone so that I could kill myself in peace, and without worry that they would miss me...

All told, I spent 6 months in the psychiatric ward. 
Do you judge me?

I did, but now I know better. Years of working in mental health, and university education in the social sciences, was not enough to prepare me to be truly empathetic towards those with mental health challenges. 

We just had "Bell Let's Talk Day" and I was BLOWN AWAY by the support of many of my followers and Facebook users as a whole - the conversation was wide reaching and super relevant. 

On the flip side, we need to remember these values every day of the year, not just one. 
Remember that when you hear of stories like the mom last week who slit her children's throats (including her 6 month old twins) that she was surely sick and suffering. (*they all survived by the way)
Remember she didn't CHOOSE this to happen. I got into a heated Facebook argument with a few women who made comments about the article saying "what is WRONG with the world today?"

When I piped up and said that we need to understand more about mental health (and that's what's wrong with the world) citing my experience, another woman said "Lock you (meaning me) up, and her too (the woman in the article). These women shouldn't choose to have babies if they can't care for them".

Do you judge me?

I am sorry for your ignorance. 

I am sorry that YOUR attitude is causing thousands of women to kill themselves every year because they are afraid to be judged. 

I am thankful that your ignorance is bliss, but I am sorry that your family and friends will not be able to confide in you if they are suffering. 

I am sorry that you may have to deal with a personal suicide one day and that you won't know why they felt they had to do such a thing. 

Many people don't understand, but most are trying. Just by reading this, you are trying. Thank you.

Once I found my voice again (which has happened mostly in the last 2 years - my daughter is turning 5 this year!), I realized that my stint in the psychiatric ward is nothing to ever be ashamed about because it has given me much more depth to my character than I ever would have had. 

I am able to reach out to people on a different level now, on a level that communicates clearly, that yes, I DO understand. 

Mental health challenges are not shameful - I feel that those who choose not to understand these illnesses are the ones who should be truly ashamed. 
I feel badly that they are hurting themselves and their families by upholding a stigma that will no doubt turn on them one day. 
1 in 5 people suffer a mental illness in their lifetime - and I would bet most people have more than 5 people in their immediate circles. 

Try to understand for the sake of your family or friends that may need you one day. Try to understand for the sake of your own mental health; that you will not be ashamed to ask for help when you find yourself at the bottom of a deep depression. 

Do you judge me?
I'm sorry that your judgment reflects more about your flaws than it does mine. 

Thank you for reading, and please do share this message - education is the best defense against stigma.



  1. No I don 't judge you and I'm going to be sharing on my face book page.♥

  2. Never would I judge you. I'm so sorry for you and your daughter that you had to go through this, but I see now a strong, talented, caring woman! You have my deepest admiration for sharing your story. I hope it will reach many. It would be a better world if we all understood the issues and pain that many face because of mental illness.