We also had the privilege of visitation on Tuesday and Saturdays. Bob would come and visit me; we could stay out in the TV rooms or go to our individual rooms for a little privacy, depending on the policies in place at the time. Bob and I usually talked about the kids when he would come visit for about thirty minutes each time, carefully making sure we kept the visits light and positive for both of our sakes.
I always went to devotion. Since it was a Catholic hospital, our devotions were conducted by the nuns each morning. On Sundays, a full church service was held for anyone who wanted to attend. My last hospitalization came on Easter Sunday in 2011, and I remember crying through it because I missed our church’s Easter celebration service, which was always a highlight of the year.
The biggest topic of discussion on the wards was always the illness. We would exchange medication stories, discuss various treatments we had been through, or talk about our experiences with psychiatrists, counselors, mental health centers, and group therapies. Before I was a freelance writer, I had worked for Social Security disability, and I was always giving people advice on filing for benefits, even helping one woman during one of my stays fill out her forms to file her application after she got out.
Other elements of the hospital routine are more medical in nature—blood drawn in the morning to check medicine levels and medicine given morning and night, depending on your personal medicine schedule. (I was once hospitalized for suicidal thinking and was discovered to have low levels of my Depakote in my blood, which resulted in my dosage being upped considerably.) You also get regular checks of vital signs—blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, weight, etc.
Mealtime and snack time are a big part of the day, too—smoke breaks used to be until so many hospitals went smoke-free. They offer a little bit of normal life to people in one of the most restrictive environments in the hospital. We went to the ward cafeteria for meals, while snacks such as ice cream, cake, or pudding were brought to us on the ward. Smokers who used to have the option of smoke breaks at St. Dominic’s now get nicotine patches once admitted to the ward.
Restrictions depend on your condition. Any drawstring pants, belts, or other sharp implements were banned due to suicide risks. I used markers and crayons to keep up with my journal while an inpatient. Suicide watch involves fifteen-minute checks for at least 24 hours once admitted. Violent behavior resulted in restrictions ranging from no outside breaks to complete seclusion on a more restricted ward—a sight I was glad to never see. The scariest sight I ever saw on the ward was a girl with a port in her arm for anesthesia for her electroconvulsive therapy.