Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, I’ve spent my share of time in mental wards, with six total stays spanning six years. These visits have opened my eyes to the humanity of today’s mental health treatment methods, as compared to the stereotypes perpetrated in the popular media. Yes, you lose your freedom for a period of time. Yes, you miss your family and the comforts of home. Yes, you are deprived of many of your personal coping mechanisms. But it’s not as scary a process as it could be, thanks to modern pharmacological treatment methods designed to take you down from your psychosis and give you clarity of mind, enough that you can often avoid some of the pitfalls of being in a treatment facility.
A few caveats. I have never been in facilities that housed violent individuals. I have never undergone shock treatment. I have never been through drug and alcohol rehab, that not being among my problems. I have never actually attempted suicide. And I have been committed against my will only once. So I can’t speak to some things that others may have experienced in those situations. But I do know my own experience, including the learning I did that has enabled me to now stay out of the hospital for over three years.
The first time I went to the ward was very upsetting for me. By March 2006, I had been going through a depressive episode and had almost run away from home on a Thursday night. I instead came back home, gave Bob the pistol I had carried out of the house with me, and told him I was at the end of my rope. The next day we called my counselor, Amy, and Bob told her what had happened. She said, “We’ve got to make sure you’re safe this weekend and have you evaluated by a doctor.”
She told us she would start working on getting the evaluation set up but that it would likely be Monday before I saw a doctor. She had me give her a verbal agreement that I would not hurt myself over the weekend and gave my husband her cell number to call if there was any trouble before Monday. I behaved myself and by that afternoon, she had me a Monday appointment at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson.