Mental illness is a very serious illness because you can't tell. You can't tell who is hurting on the inside and who is close to their breaking point. Some people don't speak up about their struggles because getting help can be seen as weak (even though, it's not!). I am one of those people. I suffer in silence for the most part and that is what led me to being admitted to the psych ward.
I have seen many movies and heard many stories about psychiatric wards. They always involved padded rooms and screaming patients getting pumped with medication. I was so used to seeing this being portrayed as the reality of being in a psych ward and I thought that it had to be true! But, it's far from true.
When I was being admitted, I felt numb and lost. I was ready to be wrapped up in a straight jacket and thrown into a white room with dim lights until they saw how I'm not crazy. I kept thinking to myself that I'm not as crazy as them. Not as crazy as them. Now, thinking about that statement that kept running through my mind makes me laugh because those people were some of the best people I have ever met in my life. But, we will get to that. Before I was taken to my room, I was questioned about my past, my current thoughts, and what brought me there. While I was answering those questions, I kept looking around and there was no one. It was a dark ghost town. Back then, I was shivering at the thought that this would be my new normal for now: dark, quiet, empty hallways. I was too scared of what the media had told me about psych wards that I had completely forgotten that it was almost midnight!
Fast forward a little bit.
When I was finally taken to my room, I had it set in my mind that I would not leave unless it was time to eat or see the doctor or my boyfriend who promised to visit. I felt at peace that my room was not a padded room, but it was a regular room. Not a hotel room, but a regular room by myself with a private bathroom. Side note: They only have padded rooms for people who get so upset that they feel like they want to hit something and they are taken there to get their rage out without damaging anything. Also, this is just my experience. I heard not all psych wards have single person rooms. I was at peace up until I walked out of my room to grab a menu sheet to fill out for the next day and began to be followed by someone who was already admitted in the psych ward. I didn't make eye contact with him, but he initiated conversation and told me to follow him. I remember looking back at the staff and no one was paying me any attention. I felt like I was going to die. Literally. But, I followed him anyway. He took me to what turned out to be my favorite room. There was a TV, snacks, comfy chairs, tables, books, and other things people could do to pass the time. He sat me down and we talked for awhile. I opened up to him about what led me there that night. He reassured me that everyone there was going through something and that I didn't have to feel scared or alone. Another person sat down beside us and helped me fill out the menu and let me know that the best things that I could get weren't even on the menu!
All throughout the four days I stayed there, I wasn't alone or judged. My tears didn't make anyone look at me weird. I could talk about my thoughts out loud and I'd receive smiles or accepting nods. Nobody made me feel out of the ordinary. These people are people. My first night I judged everyone in there and I thought that there was no way I was like them. I thought that somehow I was better than them without knowing a single thing about them except that they were patients.
I think it is time that the media accurately represents psych wards.
If you are suffering from a mental illness, get help! There is no reason that you should not get the help you deserve even if you have to keep it to yourself or within a close group of people. Your health comes first.