Lesson Two – The Truth Behind the Scenes
When I thought about the idea of hospital, I figured that if it came to it, then it would be something I chose. I would be in the frame of mind to reclaim my life back from the pain that had been shadowing me. I thought it would be a treatment centre with therapies, intense support and soul searching epiphany moments. In the end I thought it would make me better. Obviously I was wrong and very misguided. The thing was that I had left it so long, spent forever trying to convince myself it was a phase of teenage angst, that when it finally blew up I was a wreck, unsafe and had no idea what was the best thing for me. Outpatient psychiatric help wasn’t enough, the acute community day service wasn’t enough, and so what I had facing me was a choice, one between going into hospital on a voluntary basis (“Only for a couple of days of rest” I was told) or being assessed to be detained under the Mental Heath Act. I wrestled with the options, which at the time did feel like options, and made the choice to go in voluntarily. I believed I would go in, and get some help, have a break from the chaos in my head, thinking I’d leave it all at the doors of the ward, and if it didn’t work and I didn’t want to stay than I could leave easily enough.
After the decision had been made I sat waiting in the lounge of the day hospital for hours. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, where I was going, I was terrified of the reaction my parents would have. There was so much uncertainty, tension and fear and no one could tell me anything. I needed someone to come and tell me things were going to be ok, just be with me and offer some reassurance, and yet no one did. Eventually late in the night an ambulance arrived and I was taken to a hospital in a different city. Much of that time is now nothing more than much of a blur, the beginnings of memories that I can not fully recall. I like to think of it as a good thing, a way for my mind to protect me from how much it hurt. Because that is what I do recollect, that it was painful and strange, and that I didn’t leave all the crap at the doors of the ward. What I do remember very clearly though was the second day in to my stay, I had been under close observations (someone with me the entire time) since I had arrived. I was exhausted to the point where I was beside myself that I ended up just snapping and realising that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I’d had enough. I came voluntarily and in my mind I thought I had the right to leave whenever I wanted. I didn’t care that I was at risk, I didn’t care that it was the middle of the night and I was in a city I didn’t know. I just wanted out, and I felt like that was my right as a human being. I knew the Mental Health Act and I knew that I wasn’t crazy so putting that together I truly believed I was un-sectionable. The doctor, however disagreed. I was detained, a prisoner who had committed no crime and with that a fury erupted inside of me. I destroyed the bedroom, my belongings, I screamed and swore until I was physically exhausted. It took everything I had to not physically attack the person who had just taken away my freedom and choice. When my body could take no more, when my brain finally caught up, I just sat and sobbed, crying in the way that hurt right down to my stomach for most of the night.
You see voluntary doesn’t really mean voluntary. All it means is that you don’t have to go through the horrendous process of an assessment. It also means less paperwork, less information that you need to absorb and understand. It makes getting leave easier and less complicated. Yet in terms of everything else, treatment and care your legal status on the ward doesn’t really matter, because when it comes down to it, if they want to keep you, if they want to do something that is against your wishes or your not ok with, than they’ll still find a way to do it. Even if that includes, like me, going in voluntarily and then being placed on a section whilst in hospital.
© Vanessa Findlay