Tuesday 23 January 2018

What I learned from 7 days in the Psychiatric Ward

Wow, never thought I would be saying that. 7 days.....I was there for seven consecutive 24 hour periods. To put it in perspective, when they removed my appendix I was in the hospital for 2 nights, when they removed the  tumour from my stomache by cutting me from hip to hip I was home by 10 am the following day. 7 days I stayed on that ward. Locked behind two sets of locking doors and two security checks.

I was so homesick I thought I would die. They took my phone, my hairbrush and even my eyeshadow compact. I was required to use plastic utensils and hospital provided Styrofoam cups. I had to get used to asking to have a shower or be supervised while I washed my clothes. My room contained a bed and a chair, no decoration or windows to look out, only a large plexiglass window in the door so that the nurses could keep watch over me. 

Do you  know what, I miss that place. The ability to just decide I had enough human contact and just go to my room and close the door. The security in knowing that nothing would interupt the flow of each day. I had no responsibilities, no stressors just time and predictability. 

The people I shared the floor with were a real shock to me initially. Never, except for when I had toddlers in the house have I seen so many bare rear ends running down the halls. They soon became family to me. I spent time each day getting to know them. I listened to their stories, learned about their hopes and plans. They were all so very different, but the common theme through it all was, "I just want to be happy, be loved, be needed". 

The day before my release I was granted a 2 hour pass. I used it to hunt through the various hospital gift shops. I wanted my surrogate family to know that I heard them, that I would carry their stories with me once I left. I purchased several new magazines for the ladies as there were none there from the past decade. I purchased a cup of Tim Hortons coffee for a lady that used to stop and have one every morning on her way to work. For the one young woman I purchased a monkey (insert Bare naked ladies hit If I had A Million Dollars." Just kidding it was a small purple monkey with big eyes.
When I returned and handed out my treasures I felt like I had been given a glimpse of what small gestures could do. Maybe I fall short of my own expectations some ( read allot) of the time, but even if I never do anything right again, in that moment I was able to touch those people and show them I thought they were pretty great.
On my last night I made sure to walk a few extra laps with the elderly lady that had attached herself to me since day 1. I watched an extra episode of The Big Bang theory with my young friend, I spent some extra time doing a bible study  with another lady, helped a man practice his speech for his Dr. To let him apply for a job. Most importantly  I spent time walking with a young man that was convinced he had nothing to offer the world. I gently pointed out all the wonderful qualities I recognized in him after only a week, reassured him that he has so much to offer the world and encouraged him to have the confidence to let others see the real him. Pretty hypocritical huh. Yep, I can see it.

He left the day before me. Before he left he gave me a handmade Christmas card from  a pencil crayon he smuggled from the diningroom and a piece of scrap paper. On it he wrote that he appreciated my friendship and that he hoped I could see how much positivity I bring to the world. Pretty amazing huh! One week in the Psychiatric Ward introduced me to people that will have changed my thinking forever, given me time to contemplate who I am as well as time to just recharge by depleted body. I am so thankful for the time I spent there (not that I ever want to go again).

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