I am going to touch upon a subject in which I might offend someone I know. I’m willing to take this chance, however, for if I influence anyone to someday take action if given the chance, I will be thrilled.
If someone you know is hospitalized in a locked-down mental health ward and she is allowing visitors, GO FOR A BRIEF VISIT.
If someone you know is hospitalized in a locked-down mental health ward and is not allowing visitors, SEND HER A CARD OR SMALL GIFT, OR CALL TO LEAVE A MESSAGE.
Apart from my husband and two daughters, I did not allow visitors nor did I receive any cards or small presents during my last three hospitalizations. Now, you read that correctly, I told Craig that I did not want visitors. I felt too depressed to put on a brave face to interact with anyone I knew outside in my “real” life. But I would have appreciated receiving personalized cards or gifts such as a book or magazines or any gift item allowed in a locked-down ward. (No sharps!)
When I was hospitalized in a sterile, frightening setting among strangers, I felt forgotten by the world. The phrase “less than zero” comes to mind. Unfortunately, the hospital I stayed at twice last summer did not even take their mental health unit patients outside to get fresh air and natural light. There was no outdoor courtyard either.
There were very few group activities occurring there daily, although for the astronomical price they charged, they should have offered a high tea, massage and pedicures. On a serious note, I believe it would have been helpful to have “pet therapy” in which service animal pets were brought in to patients to give them some authentic affection. Music therapy would have been a blessing as well – the steady drone of the television in the main room wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
After I was released, I referred to this place as “The Kennel”. Yes, I sound like an ingrate, because I needed twenty-four-hour care to remain safe. Nonetheless, I know with every fiber of my being that if you stayed there for a handful of hours you would understand why I feel the way I do.
I am still puzzled why certain family members and friends of mine did not try to reach me when I was hospitalized in one of the ways noted in this post. I think that if I suffered cancer or a less-stigmatized physical illness, these people would have called me or sent cards, flowers, and the like. Due to the intense social stigma regarding mental illness, I know I shouldn’t blame my friends and relatives for ignoring me when I was hospitalized.
It has been almost half a year since I was cooped up in that unforgettable atmosphere, and it’s time to let go of my rankled state. Time will help soften my hurt feelings.
As long as my depression is in remission, if anyone I know (even remotely) is housed in such a place as I describe here, at the very least I will send a card to impart these messages:
You are not forgotten…you are in my thoughts for speedy healing…you will get better!
All this sounds like a trivial issue, but I don’t believe it is. Each of us matters, and to be remembered during a time of such deep darkness is a gift that will be treasured for many years.