Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Story: My first night in the psychiatric ward following my assault

I was questioned: “Do you have any razors? Sharp objects?”

I’m sure I looked puzzled.

“Anything you could hurt yourself with?”

I shook my head and responded, “no.”

No, I don’t have anything. I wasn’t allowed to go back to my dorm room.

I was shown my room. My roommate was asleep so I didn’t meet her until the next day. She remained asleep for almost the entire week I was there, and we never spoke more than a few words. I’m not really sure why, but that was just the extent of our relationship. Although we spoke little, I learned that this hospitalization was not her first.

Our room looked like a typical hospital room, except that it was suicide-prevention friendly, meaning there were cameras, safety latches on the windows, special types of lamps, etc. There was also a hospital employee who would come by hourly to check on us. Although I was not on suicide watch like my roommate, we were put in the same room because we were of the same gender and approximately the same age.

I did not want to disrupt her sleep so I wandered down the hallway into the lobby area of the psych unit. I was still feeling pretty wired at this point, but the events of the day and change of environment were a temporary distraction from the racing thoughts caused by my assault. There were two other inpatients still awake.

One patient – we’ll call him “Chef” – was a head chef at a local restaurant; due to neurological damage from cocaine use, he carried around a box that was hooked up to numerous sensors attached to his scalp. He told me that the purpose of the machine was to monitor his brain waves to help detect the onset of seizure activity.

The other patient – we’ll call him “Jolly” – was quite the character. He never stopped smiling and making jokes. The fact that he was in a wheelchair because both of his legs had been amputated years earlier did not seem to bother him in the least. I did not get a clear sense that night as to why he had been admitted into the psychiatric ward, but when I awoke, he was no longer there. I was later told that he was a homeless man who had feigned mental illness for the shelter of the hospital.

That night Chef, Jolly, and I made grilled cheese sandwiches. I was wearing jeans and a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and blue Saucony sneakers with pinkish laces. I can vividly remember the smell of the grilled cheese sandwiches, and the way the butter looked sizzling on the pan as we put the sandwiches atop it to fry. It’s funny the things we remember.

I guess I wasn’t the only person to enjoy the smell of the grilled cheese sandwiches cooking because other inpatients started coming out of their rooms to identify the source of the smell. We ended up making quite a few grilled cheese sandwiches that night. Because our group had increased in size and thus noise, the hospital employee on duty came by to tell us that we all needed to return to our individual rooms. In retrospect, this experience was kind of strange, but it helped me to calm down after a long day of uncertainty and loneliness.
I returned to my room and attempted to sleep but eventually gave up and returned to the nurse’s station down the hallway. I had been told earlier when I checked in that the nurse could provide me with medication to help me sleep if needed. I am not sure what medication I was given, but whatever it was, worked.

The next thing I remember following my head hitting the pillow was being awakened early the next morning by nurses putting me in a wheelchair. I was very groggy and fell back to sleep before they had even wheeled me out of my room.

The next time I would awaken would be to the prick of an injection. I remember opening my eyes for a few seconds, seeing the needle go into my arm, and then a nurse telling me to expect temporary stinging. I was asleep again within seconds.

The next time I would awaken would be when I was being lifted out of the wheelchair onto the platform for an MRI. Within seconds, I was asleep again.

I might be one of the few people to have ever done so, but I actually slept through the entire duration of my brain MRI. I did not awaken again until I was back in my wheelchair being pushed out of the MRI room.

I was told that I could go back to sleep, and someone would return to awaken me when I needed to attend doctor appointments later that day. I was given more medication; again, I do not know what. Honestly, at that point, I did not really care what I was being given as long as I was sleeping and felt calmer.

And, sleep I did…I have never slept so hard and for so long in my life as I did during my first few days in the psychiatric ward.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your first few days. Glad that even a cheese sandwich (which I love in fact) was your security blanket at the time. Safe hugs dear one.

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    1. Thanks so much, Just Be Real! YUM - grilled cheese sandwiches really are amazing, aren't they?! ;)

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  2. What a journey you've had. What a way to treat or not treat a trauma survivor huh? You have got some serious strength goin' on girl.

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    1. Thanks, Graceful Lady! Yeah, this was not the treatment path I needed! Fortunately, I think I'm on the right path now :)

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  3. I need some of those drugs they gave you. LOL I would tease a hungry baby with a bottle for some of those pills.

    Cooking is therapeutic to me too. I think I know why. Cooking for others feels like I am accomplishing something. It feels really good when people express that they liked what I cooked. That's just me though.

    I'm glad you were given the chance to just zone everything out.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

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    1. You're welcome, but really, thank you for reading! What you said about cooking makes sense. I really enjoy cooking (just not the cleaning-up-afterward component!) and should probably do it more often. I wish I knew what sleeping meds they gave me because I think they would do the trick. I hope that you are able to get your sleeping routine back soon. Thanks again for your encouragement. xx

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  4. It's amazing what we remember of those first few days after our world turned upside down.

    It blows my mind that this is how you were treated. They should have found you an advocate from the local RCC. I'm so sorry it was all jacked up. So now you're left with healing from the initial violation, and then healing from how you were mishandled

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    1. Iris, thank you for reading and commenting. Yeah, this experience kind of set my path toward healing astray for a while because my treatment became heavily focused on the medical management of a disorder I did not have. It was not until this past year that I learned of PTSD, and in retrospect, it is pretty obvious that all of my "symptoms" were due to the trauma of being sexually violated. I am thankful that I am now being treated for the actual root of my problems so that I can finally heal from this. Thanks again for all of your encouragement. xx

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