Monday, January 28, 2013
When I was about ten years old I was admitted to a mental ward. I had no outward signs of my ocd but I was obsessed with death. I was always talking and obsessing about morbid things. I do not remember this but I can see where it would scare the hell out of my parents. It was almost time for school to be out for summer vacation. It was hard to understand why I was there. The psychiatrist convinced my parents that I needed to be hospitalized. It was scary. I had never been away from home. I was surrounded by strangers. I was really scared when I had to have a strip search during my processing. The lady was very nice and I could tell she felt bad for me. I got to share a room with another girl around my age. We were expected to write in journals once a day. I learned to clean up after myself and do my own laundry. We were not allowed to keep our toiletries in our bathrooms. When it was time to take a shower we had to ask for them. Apparently, they were afraid we would eat our under arm deodorant for the alcohol content, ew. We could not have anything with wire in it, no balloons, nothing with long strings. I was the only kid with ocd. Most of the other kids were compulsive liars and kids that were street tough. Looking back I have no idea why they were there. Not one of us were suicidal. There was even an eight year old girl there because she threw fits. I have this horrid memory of this boy, about twelve,who refused to go to bed at bed call. He ran through the halls. They put him in leather restraints and tied him to the bed. I can still hear his screams in my head. I put my pillow over my head and willed myself to sleep. At night we all had to line up and take the same little triangle blue pill. Seems kind of odd that we were all there for different reasons but had to take the same exact medication. Group twice a day was absolutely unhelpful. How do you expect to have a useful group when none of us had the same illness? The psychiatrist would have his meetings with me. He never told me my diagnosis. Actually he never talked to me at all except to ask questions and check things off on his clipboard. I would always ask am I better yet? Can I go home now? He would always answer the same every time,"We'll see." At some point my mother was admitted to the adult ward. I was there a month. Later when I was about nineteen, I was talking to my therapist about it. He was shocked because that hospital had been shut down because of fraud. I do not believe that I should have been there. I believe that psychiatrist used my parents love for me and fear of my ocd to get insurance money. I highly doubt that any of those children needed to be there either. The hospital taught me absolutely nothing about my disorder or how to deal with it. I did, however, learn to do kick ass laundry. Now, that is not to say that the nurses and staff were apart of this fraud. I do not know that. They were very caring and nice. The psychiatrist, however, I highly suspect had children, teenagers, and adults admitted for money. My parents were only spoken about my "progress" from the psychiatrist. They had no idea what was really going on. I am sure most mental wards are better regulated on their practices now.When I was finally released, I was ashamed about how I was going to explain my summer to my friends when I went back to school for the new school year. " Nelly, what did you do on your summer break?" Oh you know, had ice cream, went swimming, spent time in a mental ward.... And then came my saving grace. I have had times in my life when one person has said something profound. Something that changes my prospective. Something that changes my life. We had a family friend named Michelle. She was a biker chick. She was funny and smart but also really amazingly cool. I would spend the night every now and then at her house. While her kids were in the other room she sat me down. She softened her voice to a tone I have never heard before. "Nelly, I know where you were this summer. I want to you to understand something very important. You should never be ashamed of where you have been in life. You should never feel ashamed for asking for help. I had an older sister. She was really heavy into drugs and wanted help but never could get it. One day my father and I came home and we found her dead on the couch. If she had only gotten the help she needed she could still be here. You got help. You can never be ashamed of that." This changed my look on what I had been through. I have never since been afraid to ask for help. I wonder if she ever knew that her five minute conversation would heal me in ways that I could not. Sadly, when I was fifteen she died of epilepsy. She taught me more in five minutes than a mental ward did in one month. She is why I can hold my head up high when talking about my past. I may have stumbled along the way. I may have faltered but I am never afraid to ask for a hand to help me back up. I can always ask for help. Thank you Michelle. Thank you.