I woke up on a bed in a room I didn’t recognize. Without speaking to anyone, I soon realized that I was locked up looking at the window. I tried to leave, but I couldn’t. I was confused and panicked. This was my first reaction to being hospitalized for the first time in my life. No college classes or work training or life lessons had ever prepared me for this. Why would my friends and family let me get locked up? Why was no one I know coming to get me out?
This wasn’t a carefully planned visit. The night before, I rode in the back of an ambulance that seemed so huge and empty I felt like I was being swallowed. I was alone with a medic without any friends or family. This was the third time the EMT came pounding loudly on my door asking if everything was all right. I was frustrated by these intrusions and had no idea why they kept coming, not knowing that a friend had been calling them out of fear for my safety.
By the time I was at the ER, I was so exhausted from struggling with the talking voices for I don’t know how long that I laid down on a sofa and slept. The doctor at the ER transferred me overnight to a psychiatric hospital. That was how I ended up being locked up.
After a day of getting used to where I was, ironically, I felt safe. Well, at least no one can get in here without permission. Though I still remembered that I was not free.
For someone who has always been independent since I was young, losing my freedom and control of my life was terrifying. If I am locked up in here for months or years, who is going to pay for my home and bills? Will I lose my place and everything I have and end up homeless? It was me against my friends and family. They wanted me to get help but didn’t explain that to me. I felt powerless. I lacked any knowledge of what was going to happen to me, which made me realize that I had worked this out with the people in charge.
Being in the hospital removed all forms of responsibilities I had: working, cooking, cleaning, and any other distraction in life, like social media, stressful news, or entertainment of any kind. I didn’t have a smartphone or laptop with me at all times. Suddenly, my mind was free of clutter. I could think about anything I wanted. Since I was safe and had to stay, I wanted to focus on the most important problem at hand. What happened to me? Who were those people I heard talking to me?
I wasn’t left alone though. My doctor and care team talked to me every morning, guiding my free and wondrous mind toward making progress and stabilizing my mental state. Their friendly manner quickly won me over. I thought about our conversations throughout the day. They asked, “Why do you think you are here? Why don’t you want to take your medication?” My family and friends also took turns visiting me daily, which made me feel like they didn’t abandon me.
My only hospitalization turned my life around. I finally made the connection between the talking I heard in my head and the brain disease I had, because my psychiatrist asked me to consider the benefits of taking medication. I was lucky to gain full awareness of my brain disease and start the journey of managing schizophrenia and not just living with it. I was released from the hospital after 2 weeks and resumed a functioning life.
Hospitalization for someone like me was both a traumatizing and a lifesaving experience. When admitting your loved ones into a hospital, keep in mind that they might feel confused, fearful, and powerless when they don’t think there is anything wrong with them, even when hospitalization might be the help they need. Show up with brownies and visit them just like you do for any other illness.
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