A Lesson From the Psych Ward

               I lost all my rights. I couldn’t control my entry or my exit. I couldn’t control when I ate, what I ate. The first 24 hours I couldn’t even go to the cafeteria. I was stuck in a wing of the building. I dropped off the face of the earth and my only contact with the outside world was through a payphone looking landline. The only interaction, the four people listed on my call sheet: my mom, my dad, my sister, and a friend. It was lonely, isolating really. I was isolated from the outside world and alone with my thoughts, the thoughts that had put me there. Nobody cares about you, you’re all alone in this world. Can’t you see how obvious it is? Even the nurses and doctors don’t want to see you. I crawled up into the fetal position, blanket concealing everything except my face. I’m scared. For the first 20 hours of my inpatient stay, I was left alone with the thoughts that brought me there. You are all alone Rachel. No one wants to comfort you. You are all alone.

               Nobody really understands what happens in an inpatient psychiatric facility. They think it’s full of insane people, people talking to walls, people breaking things, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Society thinks that these places confine these people, these crazies, from the community until they are ready to reenter. However, what the public is really scared of is how easy it is to end up there. The people locked up in inpatient are not all catatonic depressives, they’re not all violent people with schizophrenia, and they’re not all people trying to escape during a manic episode. They are simply people that got tripped up along the way. They are people like me.

               It’s easy to end up in an inpatient facility. Easier than I originally thought. After a 4 day stay in the hospital due to an overdose of prescribed antidepressant medications, I was transported via ambulance—strapped into the gurney like I was a flight risk—to an inpatient behavioral health center. The whole trip I was glued to my phone watching a tv show, I can’t remember which one, the day is a little hazy.

               Upon arrival they wheeled me up to the center and through automatic locking doors. As I waited for my intake, I remained locked to the gurney—like a convicted criminal, they were scared I’d run. I spotted 2 other gurneys, but they were empty. Fellow newbies I guess. Maybe we could be friends and bond in relation to our first day woes together. Maybe we could be a clique of 3. Maybe my depression would finally end and I’d finally feel comfortable enough to live my life with these 2 people by my side.

               Eventually, someone approached me, unchained me and led me into an evaluation room. The room was nice, cool colors. There was nothing jarring except for the stainless-steel table that sat between the interviewer and I. Like an interrogation room, I was asked to expose all my flaws, my deep-rooted secrets, everything that was wrong with me while the interviewer kept their comfortable distance knowing full well that he would return to his family that night while I’d be banished to a wing of the facility; I wouldn’t only be safe from myself, but I’d be safe from others, safe from him.

               You start to lose yourself in the chaos of it all. One interview after another. A couple of weigh-ins. A brief tour of your new room. They even give you a pair of scrubs for when your clothes are dirty, yet another way they lull you into a sense of belonging at the facility. They dehumanize you, take your worldly possessions. Your phone, gone. Your writing utensils, gone. Your watch, gone. They even take your shoelaces. Everything that connects you to the outside world is taken away. You’re left alone with your destructive thoughts and your fellow patients.

               I didn’t learn anything from the doctors or from groups I attended; I didn’t learn anything tangible during my stay, but my break from society did teach me something. After two days I bonded with my fellow patients. We connected in ways that are impossible for society to understand. We bonded over our current state of affairs. While we colored, created beaded jewelry and watched tv, we also talked; There wasn’t much else to do. I felt all alone waiting for a doctor to see me. I didn’t feel heard or important, but all along my peers were by my side, talking with me, hearing me. They’d listen, we could all relate to each other’s experiences in a way no one in the outside world could; we all contained a dash of crazy.  We were each other’s cheerleaders, therapists, and friends. Someone even made me a bracelet during my 24-hour quarantine in the wing. I still have this bracelet and when I look at it I realize that I’m not alone. I’m not alone in this fight. Other people are fighting just like me and soon someday, when I’m strong enough, I’ll be able to fight for others. Cause we are in this together. I lost my rights, but I found something in that place. I found that I’m not alone.

About the Author

Rachel Rapier
Rachel Rapier
Just a Texas girl living in a California world. I'm a clinical research coordinator at Stanford University; someday I'll be a professor and someday I'll put together a study to examine the effectiveness of psychedelics for the treatment of eating disorders. Until then, I'll write my story, and hopefully, I'll help someone feel a little less alone.