10 Things You Should Know About... Being an inpatient

Note: this post is regarding psychiatric hospitals and not medical inpatients


1. How you came to be in Hospital will impact on your time there. For example, if you've become scared of your hallucinations and worried that you were experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, then you may have asked professionals if you could be admitted in the hope that it'll keep you safe and Doctors could review your medication. Going in to hospital voluntarily and willingly will often mean that you are more open to working with professionals, and more likely to engage in proposed treatment plans; such as medication, psychology sessions, or activities with other patients. Alternatively, if you self-harmed or attempted suicide and were subsequently detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, this often means that you're taken to hospital forcibly. Youll feel angry at professionals, and so it is more likely that you'll resist their efforts and refuse to engage in therapies or refuse to take recommended medication.
2. It might seem to get worse before it gets better. You may believe that you were better off in the community; whether that be because you believe you'd be better off dead and this is harder to achieve as an inpatient, or because there are aspects of being in hospital that exacerbate your ill mental health, such as being away from your family or seeing other patients self-harm or being restrained. Trust that the staff will not keep you in hospital if they feel that you aren't benefiting from it.
3. Sometimes you'll forget that the staff are real people. Personally, I thought it was like when your little and you see your teacher at the shops; it's a massive shock to see that they have lives and don't sleep in the school. In an ideal world mental health professionals will never do anything wrong because they know better than an A&E nurse who has little to no training in mental health. But they're only human, and so they won't always get it right, and they won't have experienced everything. Some can go months or even years without seeing a patient self-harm. And like everyone, they learn as they go. They make mistakes and they learn from them. I think that it becomes a big deal
4. You should make the most of the aspects of hospitalisation that wouldn't usually be available to you if you were in the community. This could have so many variations depending upon what helps you, what you enjoy and the services that are actually available in your hospital. For some, it might be the experience of always having someone to talk to no matter what the time. It could be simply having company in the form of the other patients, being away from usual daily stresses like cleaning and bills, having access to the hospital gym, having psychology sessions without having to go on the inevitably lengthy waiting list that you have in the community, or the social and creative groups the hospital may run; such as arts and crafts and movie night.
5. It's ok that you spend an entire day in bed. Whenever I've been in acute hospitals, I've mainly spent my days in my room reading or doing wordsearches. However, in the long-term hospital we were given a timetable of groups which our attendance was compulsory. You need to balance these sort of things; if you feel that you benefit from some of the groups then like I said, you should make the most of this. But you also shouldn't feel ashamed or allow professionals to criticise you if you need to spend a day in bed. Recovery, treatment, and just admissions in general, are tiring. And hard work.
6. You can learn so much about relationships from your engagement with the staff. There is such a variety of possibilities with this one. Firstly, you will often find that there's staff who you'll get along with and staff which you won't. This will depend on so many factors; such as your stage of recovery, their working ethos, what sort of a day you're having, the reason for your interaction with them, your views on any of their reactions with other inpatients, your personality, their personality... It's important that you bear all of these aspects in mind when making a judgment of staff, but it's also importance that you accept responsibility of your actions towards staff, and are not afraid to voice a change in your judgment. Personally, there was a Support Worker on duty when I was first admitted and I readily decided that I hated her after she restrained me for trying to leave the ward. By the time of my discharge (over two years later) she refused to work that day because she couldn't face saying goodbye to me! I guess it's also essential to see that everyone is different and so each patient will differ on their opinions on staff.
7. Bonding with the other inpatients, even though you all have mental illness in common, can be extremely difficult. Personally, there's been a number of different aspects that have affected my relationships with others on the ward. Firstly, if you find yourself on an acute ward (usually meaning short-term) then there's often no opportunity to get to know other patients as you aren't there for long. Secondly, if you see a patient struggle or you believe them to be more poorly than yourself, there might be a little fear involved. Thirdly, you may have difficulty in building and maintaining relationships in general and are reluctant to let anyone get close to you in such a way. Fourth, as in any scenario, there will be differences among inpatients, such as a difference in opinion, attitude and behaviour. I also found that if I did manage to build a bond with another patient, it could be made
extremely difficult to maintain owing to them perhaps self-harming or attempting suicide; making it hard to truly care for someone at fear of losing them or seeing them hurt and in pain. Unfortunately, this is often the case in a psychiatric hospital.
8. Being an inpatient can easily make you feel 'different.' I found that it somehow felt worse than being given a diagnosis that, is often, more long term. I especially struggled when I was granted leave  from hospital and when walking around in public, I became convinced that there was a label on my head telling everyone that I was from the psychiatric hospital and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. My only advice, would be that yes, it makes you different; but it is something which you should not be embarrassed or ashamed of.
9. The memories of your admission will be with you forever. The good, and the bad. It's important to focus on the positives and good memories, or to at least come away feeling that you have learnt something from the admission. I was often admitted to hospital as an attempt to break the self-harming cycle I was in and so, once it was apparent to the staff that the admission wasn't achieving this, I was discharged. And so obviously, I'd go home feeling annoyed at the waste of my time and the waste of services. Looking back, now that I'm in recovery, I've been able to take positives from each admission and I just wish I'd had the ability to do that at the time. Hindsight is a fantastic thing.
10. No matter how the admission goes; whether you leave it feeling that nothing has changed or you're in recovery, you will get better.
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