‘James. I think you need to go to a mental hospital.’
‘Do I have a choice?’
‘Well, you can go voluntarily or I need to commit you.’
This sounded serious. My GP was telling me that my mental state had become a risk to myself and others. Luckily, I was aware enough to know I needed help. I took the voluntary option.
If you’ve not read any of my articles before, as well as being the Founder of Sales Confidence, the UK’s biggest SaaS sales community, I also have bipolar disorder. I live with it and manage it every day, and most of the time you wouldn’t realise. However, it wasn’t always like this. When I was in my 20s, I was admitted to hospital 5 times.
In the coming months, I want to relate more about my experiences with my mental health. I want to tell you about some of the things that happened to me, things I’ve done when in a heightened mental state. I also want to tell you about my visits to hospital. I don’t want it to be boring, however, or even a straightforward account. I want to tell my stories a little differently.
In this article, I want to tell you about my first day in a mental hospital. Not a start-to-finish account though, just 3 little observations. I hope that it gives you an insight into a different world, and if you or someone you know has to go one day, maybe it will help. OK, here goes.
1 – There’s not much to do
I don’t know what I expected when I arrived at the hospital. I remember packing a bag, and not knowing what to bring. I mean, what the hell are you supposed to bring to a mental hospital?
It was a Thursday. A friend of my Mum’s took me, as none of my family was nearby at the time. They allocated me a family meeting room. For the first weekend, I slept every night in that room. I still have no idea why they didn’t give me a bed! I had to rearrange the chairs and remove some lights to make it even a half-comfortable place to sleep.
On my first full day, I got to explore the place a bit more. The hospital was a building surrounded by high trees and forest. No connection with the outside world. It was also pretty chilly in there, the windows had a knack of opening on their own. It was spotlessly clean.
There was a square, concrete courtyard with a few green parts scattered around it. There were a few people wandering around the courtyard and smoking, but not much else going on there. I found a dining room with a pool table and a piano in it. There was also an arts and crafts room. That was it.
So this was going to be my life until I got better then? This was going to be tough to get used to. I was used to a full programme of lectures at university, rowing training, going out with my friends. How was I going to stop myself turning into a caged animal? More about that later.
2 – There are people with mental health problems in there
My first encounter with a fellow patient happened almost immediately after I walked into the building, and it wasn’t entirely pleasant.
No sooner had I walked into the meeting room I had been allocated, a guy arrived at the door. He tapped on the door a few times, then proceeded to drop his pants. My mum’s friend was in hysterics, I was suddenly very worried indeed!
Before that day, I’d never really met anyone with mental illness before. I didn’t to judge anyone, so I just decided to cheerfully begin making friends. I could write a whole series of articles about some of the people I met there (maybe I will!), there were so many stories.
There were sex addicts there. One woman showed me the contents of her handbag, nothing but condoms!
There were alcoholics and depressives. A lot of people never left their rooms. Others spend most of the day in the courtyard, chain-smoking. Everyone seemed to be an expert in their own mental health though. Most people knew why they were in the hospital, but denied there was anything wrong with them. A few saw being in hospital as a badge of honour.
Me, I didn’t know what to think. Possibly because…
3 – They don’t tell you much
I don’t remember there being any talk of my diagnosis, what was actually up with me, not early on anyway. When I first got there I realised I was being assessed continuously. They were working out how risky I was to myself, the staff and the other patients. I later learned they rank you on a scale.
Now, I’m a big guy. I’m 6 foot 4 inches, 15 stone. Although I meant no harm to anyone, and would never use physical violence, I guess I was seen as a bit of a threat, like it or not. However, the constant supervision and assessment were not explained to me, and it felt strange.
The thing they do tell you about is your medication, the drugs. I was given more and more drugs to take. This was strange to me. I was a 100% committed rower, and so far I’d avoided recreational drugs. I wasn’t a fan of the pharmaceutical industry profiting from my predicament either. For the first few days, I refused to take them.
All in all, it was a pretty strange day, and the strangeness didn’t stop there, but that’s another story for another time.
If you’d like to ask me anything about my first day at the mental hospital, I’d be happy to try and answer your question. Likewise, if there’s anything you’d like to say about this story, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment down below.