Towards the end of 2012, I was hospitalised due to my mental health. Needless to say, I had reached the lowest point of my life, and needed immediate help. Each individual journey through hospital will be just that, individual. But, for me, this is how it went.
I arrived at the hospital in the evening. I had persuaded my psychiatrist to let me take myself, after going home to pack my bags. Thankfully, he agreed. When I first got to the hospital, I was shaking with fear. I’d heard about stories of what goes on in hospitals, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Warm and friendly
I will say now that I was lucky enough to be attending a private facility. I do not know whether the NHS facilities are the same, but I do know the patients on my ward were a mixture of NHS and private. As I walked in through the front door, the first thing that struck me was how warm and friendly they had tried to make the hospital. No individual chairs in the waiting area, but sofas to relax on. The receptionist, despite clearly being about 10 hours into her shift, was warm and friendly, inviting me forward to take my details, and then offering me a seat whilst she asked one of the nurses to meet me (and yes, she said meet, rather than collect, it’s amazing how differing words can help put you at ease).
Sitting in the waiting room, which was more like my aunt’s front room, I looked down at my phone and began sending messages to my friends to let them know where I was. Whilst doing this, I felt a shadow over me and someone say my name.
I felt immediate reassurance
Looking up, I felt immediate reassurance. In front of me was not an individual in white overalls. Instead, I saw an older gentleman in chinos and a cardigan. He introduced himself as the duty nurse and invited me to walk with him. Going through – to be fair – a securely locked door, we walked through the library and down a corridor where the bedrooms were located. He indicated a room on the left and I entered into what was, to be, a hotel room. TV, paintings, lamp, proper covers on the bed, and an en-suite bathroom. They really did go all out to put you at ease.
Throughout my stay, all of the staff were the same. They all dressed in casual clothing, all treated you as a person, not a patient, and tried their best to make you feel relaxed and at ease to help with your treatment.
No get well soon cards
Yet one thing was missing. This was a hospital. There were visitors – friends and family turning up. But, there were no get well soon cards. No flowers. Nothing from people saying they were thinking of you or wishing you well. We were all in there with different conditions – depression, PTSD, OCD, anorexia, bulimia. Yet, we all had one thing in common. We were ill.
Mental illness is that – an illness. It is not something to be ashamed of, in the same way as being in hospital for any illness shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. So why are there no cards available to wish people better? Why do people not feel the need to buy flowers when they visit, or a big fluffy bear, in the way they would for non-psychiatric patients?
A get well soon card would help
Do not get me wrong. The visits are extremely important, and do let you know you are being thought about. But, at night, when you are on your own, in your room, with your thoughts, seeing a card on your bedside table would help pick you up if you were feeling low.
To all of you out there who may have to visit someone in hospital, please, take a minute to listen here. Being in hospital, we have acknowledged we are at our lowest and need help getting better. We are going through very exhausting treatment, both mentally and physically. And we know it is going to be a long journey ahead.
So do not worry if you think we would not want flowers or a get well soon card, or even a cheeky box of chocolates. We would appreciate these just as much as the next person, who has had an operation to fix a broken leg. In fact, we may appreciate it that little bit more as we can turn to it when we most need comfort.
To those of you reading this who are currently going through treatment, or looking at taking a step towards treatment, I simply say stay strong. It is a long road, and by no means the easiest journey. There will be highs and lows throughout. There will be moments you wonder whether it is all worth the effort. But, I promise you this. Life does get easier to manage with the support and techniques you are being taught. It does all become worth it in the end.