What It's Like to Go Through Psychiatric Hospitalization from a Patient's Perspective

This is the first of a two part blog series on “What It’s Like to Go Through Psychiatric Hospitalization.” We will be sharing the insightful and informative writing projects of Zeppy and Laura, a patient and a parent (with permission, last names withheld).

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In the Inpatient Facility – Zeppy

Being in the inpatient facility is, for me, a memory that is tainted with strangely sharp and defined thought patterns that, even now, I am unable to find the origination for.

Being in the inpatient facility (the psychotic/suicide/acute drug crisis ward) is boring, only lit up by the small amenities that are as welcome as they are minor, such as a small amount of candy, soda, and Netflix.

The inpatient facility isn’t for those who have done something wrong. And, it seems that most of the people who work there understand this. Unlike in prison, where I hear that the atmosphere can be vicious and cruel, malevolent and oppressing, the atmosphere of the psych ward is mostly that of confusion and sadness. The schizophrenic-types feed off each other’s babble and strangeness, amplifying their madness while misunderstanding the source. The depressive types say nothing and robotically fill out adult coloring sheets (the ones with complicated, often beautiful and fractal designs). The druggies shake their feet and breathe heavily.

The biggest impression that each facility leaves in one’s mind is of a single color. For one, bright, brilliant hospital white. For another, orange, soft, library-like illumination. For yet another, black and brown accented by doors with wood paneling.

What I experienced in the psych ward is totally different from what other schizophrenics have experienced and will experience. Every system of delusions has a different form, a different shape, a different underlying stimulation and visible symptom map. The primary sensation from one on the inside is that of misunderstanding. Why am I here? What did I do? And even: “where am I?” (Some of my answers to those questions in the moment: “In heaven.” “At the LHC [Large Hadron Collider.]” “In the middle of a tutorial for a ‘The Sims’-esque game played by an alien from another universe who is controlling my every action,” and “floating in a box of nothingness.”)

Whatever the answer, the general feeling is one of misunderstanding and being misunderstood. Of “knowing” that you don’t belong there, and yet not being able to express this to anyone. The staff, mostly comprised of blue-scrubs-wearing nurses, interacts as little as possible with the patients, except to sort out disagreements about chairs and remotes.

One overhears the inner mechanisms of other people’s delusions while in that place. Some people babble incoherently, either with or without a purpose. The end result is one of unreality.

Not only you, but everyone you see is off in the canyons of metaphysical space, experiencing the distortion of their thoughts like gravity distorts spacetime.

I’m sure that there are some good things that are buried underneath the delusion and the confusion. There must be some sort of metaphysical truth about the universe that these babbling crazies must understand, but cannot communicate. It’s like being lost in a forest of sanguine messages from every corner of reality. One tries to understand where they are coming from, and most often that results in a misunderstanding that is amplified by the fragility of the human consciousness when exposed to the unknown.

Lovecraft portrayed it perfectly: when one encounters the inscrutable gods of this reality, they lose all sense of sanity and delve into the depths of their own, dark minds. The psych ward is just the manifestation of the conclusion of this adventure.

Deborah Geesling