How visiting a friend in hospital can affect our own Mental health.

On Monday night I visited a lady I know in the psychiatric ward.  There were a few feelings and emotions that I had no choice but to acknowledge, both before the visit, during and after the visit.

Anyone who has been in the psych ward will know the deep emotional connection we can have with it, the smells, the sounds, especially the aggressive sound of the alarm bell ringing, signalling staff members from other wards that help is needed, the staring faces, the atmosphere of sadness.

Whilst in the ward a few things occurred. First, a nurse who was on duty greeted me, asked me who I was seeing, told me she liked my earrings, all the while not recognising me as the same patient whom had been in her ward a mere few weeks ago. The blank look she gave me spoke volumes, sending a clear message, “I did not see you, really see you as a human, as a person whilst you were in hospital.

Sitting with my friend was a revelation.  As I experience my Bipolar with manic highs, sitting with someone who was suffering with her illness in an aggressive and frankly scary way shook me to my core.  She is an extremely clever lady and whilst with her she rattled off all the names of the people who had proposed to her, the list was never ending, starting with a list of celebrities, going on to a list of people she had known since childhood, her memory for names and places amazed me.  She has not yet accepted that she is ill and currently is refusing medication. She shouted at me that she was the Messiah and they are trying to kill her and silence her voice.  All in all it was  a scary experience.

It naturally made me draw comparisons, the exhaustion I felt after the visit, the low mood, the sadness I feel for her all compounded the emotional reaction I experienced from being in the ward as a visitor. It gave me more awareness of how different Mental Health Illness are experienced, it gave me gratitude that when I am unwell I am not aggressive, in fact I am the opposite, love flows freely, this is not diminishing anyone who suffers from the manic highs, rather it can be just as dangerous and terrifying as living with the illness experienced with lows or anger.

The thought kept and still does keep going around in my mind, asking myself if those who visit me in hospital feel the same or similar emotions after being with me?

The visit, though fleeting left a lasting impression, has affected my mood, things have seemed bleaker, regular situations  I have had to deal with this week have become mountains, my thinking has been black and white with regards to daily struggles, and once again I am experiencing transference to my therapist.  She is occupying far to much space in my mind, the feelings of love I have whilst feeling vulnerable are unhealthy  to the extreme, the panic knowing that I will not see her for 2 weeks overtaking me.  I believe all these are the result of a highly charged visit to the psychiatric ward.

We have to be so aware of “where we are emotionally” before carrying out certain activities, for example visiting the psych ward very soon after being released from one yourself, taking on to much and saying “yes” to everything is a warning sign.  There are times that we are able to help, be there, support and encourage those who need us, but when living with a Mental Health issue caution must always be taken.

Ethics of the Fathers 1:14 states, Hillel says ” If I am not for myself, who will be for me? but if I am only for myself who am I? If not now, when?” The genius of these words are so clear, and can be interpreted on so many levels. Each person will have their own way of looking at these words, taking their own message.

The message I see in these words is ” If not for myself who will be?  Who will look after me if I do not look after myself, who will keep my emotional health and wellbeing at the forefront if not me?”   He continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” It is interesting that Hillel started the verse with self care, self love telling us that  only once we have looked after ourselves, made sure we are healthy and well, can we then be there for others.

A week in the ward.

Since last Monday I have been on the psychiatric ward.

I tend to sometimes go on and on, trying to get people to understand mental health, to get people to realise that mental health is no different to physical health, that from a very young age it is essential that children are given the tools to understand there is no shame in talking about mental health.  This week  though I have realised that huge steps have been taken, during my first admission many years ago the messages, phone calls and visits were few and far between. The difference is so clear now, I have never had, whilst on the psychiatric ward so many supportive messages, people  wanting to visit and people actually visiting me.  The stigma and fear of mental health issues is slowly ( very slowly) disappearing.

I am aiming this article at staff, those who have chosen to work in a mental health ward, those who, when they started training wanted to do it in order to help those are  vulnerable and unwell.

Control. A word with so many meanings, mainly used in the negative, however there are many positives within the word, control of our spending, health, diet, home environment, hygiene, work life balance and more. We all need to have an amount of control over aspects of our lives.

When a person enters the psychiatric ward, there is no control, every decision is made for us, from the time we eat, sleep, take our medication to the amount we are allowed out, if we are allowed out on our own or need to be escorted, and in extreme cases whether one is able to visit the bathroom alone.

Every person on the ward is suffering in their own way, the staff have a duty of care to ensure we feel safe, cared for and are not invisible. The things  I have experienced within the last week goes directly against the above ethos.

There are staff who will take the time, who will listen to you, who you do not have to beg to be heard by.  Sadly though many staff are cold, uncaring and patronising.

Below I have pasted a few things I have written whilst on the ward.  I have also made a formal complaint, which I have copied  below.

A Poem I wrote after being admitted to the psychiatric ward:

I am back inside
the doors are locked
there is nowhere to hide

It all started I would say a while ago
when the stress built up
I just couldn’t say no

watching your every move and noting the way you have behaved
telling you they don’t understand why your so stressed
to their wants you have become enslaved

is this a hospital or a prison cell
where is the love? the warmth and care
that would make us feel well

fast asleep way before dawn
the monotony of the day making you so folorn
even sleep can not bring escape for the situation
the nurses standing around like statues at their assigned station.

Everything I ask the answer is no
its like they think I am stupid and slow
they say I can not have my phone wire in my room
each time I ask for something the answer is “soon”

Show some respect is what I scream in my mind
I am just as human as you all
please please just be kind

They say that we are here for our own protection
They assume we have no comprehension
Everyone here living a nightmare whilst awake
Honestly I dont know how much more living I can take

The bipolar that I need to live with for the rest of my life
all I want is a quiet brain free of racing thoughts and inner strife.
it may sound so bad for me to proclaim
That I wish I was diabetic, had epilepsy, is that completely insane?

None sets up a meal rota for those with struggling with mental health
All meetings and appointments are carried out with stealth
Just this morning I was hit and my phone thrown to the ground
that incident increased my fear, no peace for my brain can be found

Please someone take this illness away
I dont want to live with this each and every day
always having to be on alert
making sure that myself I never hurt

Can no one understand what I am feeling right now

PLEASE HELP ME SOMEONE, SOMEHOW.

Email ( Formal Complaint):

To whom it may concern.

Please treat this as a formal complaint.

Last Monday (16.12.2019) I was admitted on to the ward above.

I was unwell with my Bipolar and was very manic.

The day staff on the whole are good, kind people, who greet you, take time to talk to you and ensure that you are made to feel like a human being who is unwell.

Everyone on the ward is here for our safety, for support and the care we need to recover.

Thankfully I have almost recovered and hope to be discharged tomorrow.

I would like to make a formal complaint regarding the night staff on the ward.

First, they are just plain rude, I know they are busy but they ( and I mean all of them) do not talk to patients unless they are being disruptive, they talk loudly between themselves, and medication is given at 9pm. We are not children, giving us our medication at such an early hour, ensures for them that the patients will fall asleep and they will have a quiet night. When I requested that medication be given slightly later, again I was ignored, it was as if I was invisible.

This morning I was woken at 5am by a staff member walking down the corridor jingling her large bunch of keys so loudly, the staff member then proceeded to noisily open my door saying to someone else this is Sara.

I have requested a few times that we are shown respect, when we are sleeping ( and sleep is essential for recovery) the staff should not be in the corridor by the bedrooms, laughing and joking on top of their voices.

Every request we make is greeted by eye rolls, sighs and being told, like we are children that “you have to wait, we are busy”. When it is perfectly clear they are not busy, rather shouting and laughing with each other, discussing their secret Santa gift exchange or their Christmas party.

Every morning I have been wakened ( and so have others) by the staff just barging in to the room. Each room has a window with blinds which can be opened from the outside, there is no reason the staff need to wake people so early.

It is a matter of respect, of empathy, of understanding that we, just like them are adults, with lives, with jobs, family and community.

The nights here are horrendous, staff so cold and rude.

Please let me know how you will be proceeding with this complaint.

Yours sincerely.

I am not a trained nurse, rather an observer, some may say I have no idea what it is like to be a nurse on this ward, however, I feel that even those of us who do not have any formal training can give our view, even if that view is met with scorn and dismissal.

A list I wrote, which I will be giving to the ward manager:

Some advice from a patient:

1. We all understand that staff are humans, that they have stressful days, but please don’t take that out on us. We can all hear you yelling at your colleges, or when you come out the office and are snapping at each other.
2. Please smile at us, know that we have a mental health issue, just like others may have a physical health issue, we are not criminals, we have jobs, families, a community, friends etc.
3. It is so upsetting when we are talking to you and you shrug us off, or as we are speaking completely ignore us.
4. We are not in prison, this is a hospital not a jail, give people respect, let those who are able to have certain things, like their phone chargers in their rooms. At times like this when we are in hospital our possessions are everything to us.
5. The rooms are like cells, clinical, cold and bare, perhaps think of something that can be put in to the rooms to make them a bit warmer and homely.
6. Don t be so strict on allowing those who are able to only come and go at prescribed times, if you think that someone is trustworthy but have only been given 4 times fresh air breaks maybe use your initiative and let them go once or twice more.
7. When you promise a patient you will be with them in 5 minutes, then ignore them for hours don’t be surprised if he/she gets angry and upset. We have so little that we control, that when we are told 5 minutes and it turns out not to happen we get upset.
8. If you tell a patient you are going to do something for them, don’t make them ask 100 times. Just do it.
9. We appreciate you have a hard job, but you have chosen to be in the care profession, so do just that “care”.
10. Give people dignity, it is not acceptable that a patient is sitting on the toilet and a nurse is standing outside and the door is wide open, so everyone walking by sees the patient sitting half naked on the toilet, give people the dignity you would want for yourself, sure if you have to watch her, do that but close the door half way, so that the poor girl isn’t sitting there with everyone being able to see her.
11. Today I was attacked twice, for no reason, a girl punched me and then later on she cornered me and threw my phone on the floor twice, a nurse was standing right there and did nothing to intervene, I was terrified, I called help a few times but none came. The nurse saw everything going on and did nothing.
12. Thank you for everything you do for us.

My hope and wish is that someone, even it is one person will read this, and accept that whilst psychiatric nursing is a really stressful job, we all deserve to be treated with dignity. To have our fears heard, to not be ignored and treated like filth on the street.

Thank you to all those staff who do this job for the love of helping people.  It is you who help us recover.

 

With love

Sara.

 

 

 

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