The Psych Ward: Part 1

What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.

-Glenn Close

A tale of two hospitals

I hope you find this interesting. I do, but it is happening to me, so there’s that.

Me, Pisek Psychiatric Hospital

My hospital bed, Ceske Budejovice Psychiatric Hospital

Things had been getting worse. Read more about that here.

The day or two before I went into hospital, my husband asked me exactly how I was feeling. I told him I was scared and I told him why:

I feel horrible and I feel nothing all at the same time.

Me, Zbudov 48, Divcice

The day I went in, I didn’t want to go. But, I was lying on the couch crying and I saw that I was also really, really making life bad for my family. It was like I wanted the comfort of home, but I couldn’t get help at home. My family didn’t know how to help me. The only place that could help me was hospital. It was why I was crying. I knew there wasn’t another option at this point. I knew that I had to pack my stuff and go, and possibly be away for a while. I would miss my cats…man, my cats. And, I would miss my herbal workshop and my garden. I would miss my bed and…everything.

So, I packed all of my stuff. It was hard to do. I know what this is like from the other side only. We have packed Bekah for hospital many times. I started getting nervous. I knew what to expect and I totally didn’t know what to expect.

Healing Words

We get to the hospital, a drive we’ve taken quite often. As we were sat in the waiting room, two things came to mind: What if they don’t admit me? (Am I sick enough?) and I wonder what it’s like on the other side of that door? (This is a place I’ve yet to have gone.)

After a lengthy conversation with the admitting psychiatrist, she said these words to me:

We will admit you into the hospital. Let us take care of you now.

Admitting psychiatrist, Ceske Budejovice Psychiatric Hospital

I cannot tell you what these words did for me. The nervous energy and the anxiety, were momentarily, yet effectively, healed by this holy balsam. Imagine that, someone just told me that they were going to take care of me. I don’t know if it was the way she said it or just the simple words, but it deeply affected me. It’s like in 6 words she had pinpointed what had been sorely missing. I needed care. Oh, and meds.

I cried sitting on my hospital bed. The balsam of healing words had worn off. It hit me that I was in hospital, effectively a prisoner. I sat and I cried.

I had missed dinner, so I ate crackers I had packed.

I’m glad I packed those.

A day in the life: Hospital #1

Hospital Prison Daily Schedule

6:30 Woken abruptly by loud nurse yelling “Wake up!”

6:45 Get ready

7:00 Sit in the hallway with the other patients whilst they mop the rooms and empty garbage

7:15 Pick up breakfast tray, eat in room with roommate (See fig. 1)

7:30 Turn in breakfast tray, showing nurse that the butter knife is safely on your tray (no sharp objects allowed)

7:45 Try to get a nurse to give you hot water for coffee. Patients can’t have access to really hot water for safety reasons. Or jars of coffee (no glass allowed)

8:00 Line up for meds (just like in the movies, folks)

8:15 Sit in the hallway with all the other patients to wait to see the doctor.

Anytime between 8:15-9:30 Chat with the doctor for 5 minutes. This is when they ask you how you are feeling, how you are sleeping and how you feel on your meds. They are mostly concerned with your meds. On Wednesdays, the whole psychiatric team meets with you. They kind of stare at me while I sputter out random stuff. It is nerve wracking being sat in front of a whole team.

9:30-11:30 Sit in your room. Because of Covid, the patients can’t really hang out in common areas. There were varying degrees of strictness about this, depending on the staff that day. There really are good nurses and bad nurses. During this time, I would usually work on my website and social media.

11:30 Lunch. Again, in the room, with your roommate.

11:45 Turn in lunch trays, knife check, line up for meds.

12:00-2:00 Sit in your room. I usually napped. Meds make you tired.

2:00-3:00 Outside time. If your doctor says you can, you get to go outside. See fig 2. It’s more like a pretty prison yard where you can walk around in a circle for an hour, play ping-pong (if there are any balls or if they’re not broken), sit on a bench or sit on a bench and smoke.

3:00-4:00 Social time. We would talk a nurse into letting us get coffee from the vending machine (a real treat!) and we would sneak and sit in the dining room (typically closed off because of Covid). If there were good nurses, they wouldn’t say a word. I would use this time to play chess with a fellow patient I call The Viking. He looks like one, really.

4:30 Pick up your dinner packet. This consisted of more bread and possible paste of assorted flavours and dubious provenance.

4:45 Line up for meds.

5:00-9:00 Sit in room and figure out what to do. Maybe get depressed.

Assorted evening activities: Shower, wear a face mask, watch a movie (with wireless headphones. No strings or cords allowed), get depressed, get anxious, ask for more meds.

9:00 Last (and very often best) meds of the day

9:30 Lights out.

Fig. 2: Outside Time

Covid Strikes Again

The Psychiatric Hospital in Ceske Budejovice is more of a holding pen to keep you safe, regulate meds and figure out where you should go next. The typical stay is 2 weeks to a month. There is almost always a thing you need to do next. This is like step one.

Though a holding pen, there is still typically therapy during the day, even some arts and crafts, yoga, ceramics and cooking. This is all cancelled because of Covid. We were really lucky that we could sometimes congregate…playing chess with The Viking was really a good deal.

Suffice it to say, no therapy, just lots of free time.

Meds

The meds were so strong that at first I just kind of slept and shuffled around in my bunny slippers. I was on meds anyway, but they gave me a stronger dose of everything, plus a new one to stabilise me. So, week one was kind of a wash.

Thinking thoughts

Week two was super boring (though I enjoyed having time for yoga in my room and getting to know my roommate who was awesome and doing my herbal stuff on my social media). Having a lot of time to think can be good and bad. If I get too introspective, I can get super anxious…then need more meds. But, having the time to think, with no responsibilities, with nurses who were super kind and caring and loving (most of the time) was kind of amazing. If you needed anything, you just shuffle over in your slippers and ask and they sweetly help you. If I was feeling bad, they would care for me. It’s a little like being six.

I could think my thoughts and carefully organise them into safe ones and unsafe ones. It enabled me to at least take an inventory of what really hurts and what doesn’t. I don’t think I’ve given myself this much time to think thoughts in my whole life.

I had a really bad panic attack one day which led into an anxiety state that caused me to get an appointment with The Psychologist. Please picture Jared from Silicon Valley/Gabe Lewis from The Office.

He specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and he helped me work through a specific scenario and gave me some skills for the next time. I got to see him twice and I was happy to walk away with a new skill and the hope that CBT could work as a therapy for me.

Week Three

I’m literally going crazy in this place! Walking around in a circle for an hour outside, sitting on my bed, NAPPING!?!. I want to go home. I feel really anxiious, like I’m never going to see my family, my cats or my garden again. I know it’s illogical, but my body doesn’t know that.

I am told that they finally have a place for me at the therapeutic hospital in Pisek. This is the place where you get therapy. This is what I need, what I have been asking about for a while now. I look forward to when they tell me it’s my turn to go.

On my way

I pack my bags and say my goodbyes. I feel like my real journey is just about to begin!

4 Comments on “The Psych Ward: Part 1

  1. Thinking of something wise to say…nothing but questions.
    Thinking of you and your beautiful soul all the time.
    Consider yourself hugged and held tight…

    Like

  2. Dear Krista,
    Sending prayers your way! How strong a person must be to survive this and still have hope.
    Hoping and praying that things turn out well for you!
    Zuzka

    Like

  3. You will find your comfort and happiness again. Sending you a big hug, all my support and love. Get well.

    Like

  4. Good luck Krista, may you receive the help you need at the place in Pisek. My thoughts are with you and the thoughts and best wishes of all your readers.

    Like

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