Three years have passed
It’s been three years since I stepped out of the hospital to freedom. I had no money, so it wasn’t long before I was back as work, still crippled by my experience.
The hospital. It’s such a bland sounding word, nothing near the sheer horror of really being there. I mean, really being there. I remember confusion, and an overwhelming sadness. I’d wanted to kill myself before, but there, I was really ready to do it. I didn’t know if I would ever get out, there was a lot of talk about behaviour, being good, as if having a psychotic episode automatically makes one the opposite of good, which is evil. I remember not knowing what was expected of me. For most of my stay, I made my bed every morning.
I have never made my bed before or since.
But there was this thing, about being normal. About not having religious thoughts. Who decides what is normal? Who makes up these standards?
I remember nurses talking down to me like I was a child, and how much I resented that.
I remember being forced to capitulate to the psychiatric health care system, and how much I resented the people who put me there.
I remember abuse, being put in restraints twice, for hours at a time. I remember bruises from the orderlies, and being screamed at for no good reason at all.
There is still an overwhelming sadness about the experience, about being degraded solely for having a mental illness. About being treated as a disgusting subhuman, and being blamed for things I could not control, and some things I had nothing to do with. Once an alarm went off on it’s own and I remember an orderly coming into the room where I was sleeping and screaming at me that I had something to do with it, it was my fault. As though I was such a powerful crazy person that I could do things in my sleep.
I remember it was the first time in years that I got to eat three meals a day, instead of the one meal I had been subsisting on for ages.
I remember the loneliness, alienation.
It changes you. Once you’ve been hospitalized, once you’ve gone to that dark place, people look at you differently. People are scared of you. People try to control you afterwards. People assume you are a broken human.
As time passes, I find that the people I trust the most have been hospitalized too. It’s an experience that almost becomes an identity, because you know that the only safety is with others who you can turn to who have been there too.
Three years have passed, and it still makes me cry. I guess I should celebrate the fact that I haven’t been back since. But sometimes, I just feel frustrated that so much happened to me there and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I know someone who was sexually assaulted when she was in the hospital. But no one believed her, because she was crazy.
Recently a bus driver taking some patients to another hospital stopped for a drink. When he got back, all the patients had escaped. So he picked up some people and offered them a free ride, what he didn’t tell them was that it was to the hospital.
It took them three days to convince the staff that they weren’t patients.
It could happen to you, even if you are sane.
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I’m so sorry you were treated callously and had to go through such a horrifying experience, Thirza. You must have been so lonely and scared in there, especially at that time in your life, and with not understanding most of what was being said to you by the francophone staff.
I hope if you have any thoughts about how you’d like to see psychiatric wards reformed that you’ll write about that sometime.
Part of the dehumanization was about being locked down and lumped in indiscriminately with a group of very different people going through different things and all of you being brutally and simplistically labelled ‘crazy’, right? And not being talked to respectfully?