As most of you know from social media, I went back into the psych ward for another week due to yet another relapse and suicidal urges. This was not my “regular” bin, as they did not have any open beds, so after a day or so languishing in the ER detoxing and begging anyone I saw to let me die, I was transported to a few towns over to their local psych hospital. For the sake of protecting the innocent and the very, very guilty, let’s just call it “Bedlam.”
Bedlam is a run down joint with four wards: Psych, Detox, Juvenile, and Dual Diagnosis. I was in the Dual ward (dual diagnosis means that you have addiction as well as mental illness). Where my regular bin has just one ward, is clean, relatively calm, fully and capably staffed, and run as well as a psych ward can be, Bedlam was the complete opposite. Nowhere was the nurse ready to check in with me every day to see how I was doing, gone were the therapy groups wherein people could work through their problems with the watchful eye and sympathetic ear of a therapist. The food was always cold and barely edible. But all those things didn’t compare to the fear.
The fear. Fear for my physical safety, fear for my mental stability, fear that I would get out in a worse state of mind than I was carted in with. The anxiety med that I was taking “as needed” and took maybe once every few days was no more. Now I was taking it every four hours. I spent the first few days completely despondent, desperately depressed, prone to crying jags and near catatonic states. I only saw the doctor once in the eight days I was there, and that was just to fill out paperwork. The visions of cutting until I was a jigsaw puzzle of scars bathed in blood were relentless. Then there were the Guys.
The Guys were a gaggle of men who spent their days fighting over who was tougher, who spent more time in jail, who had more and better tattoos, whose dick was bigger, who had fucked more chicks, who did more drugs, who could do ANYTHING better and meaner than anyone else. These arguments were constant, always at top volume, and always ignored by the staff. I was terrified of The Guys, because they all seemed to have hair-trigger tempers, and anything (or nothing at all) could set them off. I tried to be as quiet and invisible as possible. I disassociated a lot, going into a kind of fugue wherein my brain became static, all the loud voices blending together into an unintelligible white noise as I stared at the floor for hours. I was in hell.
Bedlam was cold. So cold. We spent most of our time wrapped in the paper-thin blankets from the rock-hard beds, mummies populating the common room, shivering and staring at the clock waiting for the only respite we had – four cigarette breaks per day. 7 AM, 1 PM, 6 PM, and 10 PM. Then we shuffled with our blankets out to the courtyard where we could suck down two cigarettes back to back before being shuttled back inside for more tedium, threats of violence, and worst of all, absolutely no help from the staff. We were cattle in a pen, pushed in and out of the ward according to whatever insurance you had, whether you were better, the same, or worse than when you came in.
By the time I was released on Thursday, I was so emotionally shattered I couldn’t cry any more. I stared out the window as my dad drove me home and said very little, except that I had been in hell, and that Bedlam should be shut down. The stories whispered between the patients about suicides on the ward (one girl unraveled a bath scrubby thing and hanged herself with it, so the story goes) and how the freezing cold showers, hostile staff, and dangerous patients were a disgrace, not to mention the lack of a doctor’s care (one girl, suffering from emphysema from years of smoking crack, had to beg for over two hours for her inhaler). This was more than enough to show that this was not a therapeutic environment in the slightest. This was one of Dante’s circles.
I’ve always felt that my mental illness is a punishment for something, that I must have done something wrong in a past life, that somehow I deserve every second of emotional torment for some reason. Bedlam was the first place I felt that way from other people. The same people who were supposed to be helping me. Us. All of us, even The Guys. We were all there for help. What we got was hell.
I really didn’t want to write about this. I’ve only been out for two and a half days, and I’m safe at my parents’ house, recovering. But I had to let it out, wash it away like the shower I took as soon as I got out, practically sobbing as the hot water beat against my back and I scrubbed Bedlam off of my skin. But it goes deeper than skin. And I can’t wash that away.