Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hospitalization (Part IV)

If you've never been in a psychiatric unit, it's not the same as being on any other unit in a hospital.  There are typically no televisions or telephones in the patient rooms.  There is a patient lounge where patients can watch television and there is a phone available on the unit for patients, but it's not very private.  Visiting hours are much more limited than on most other hospital units, with visitors usually only being allowed in the evenings during the week but also in the afternoon on weekends and holidays.  There are usually laundry facilities available for patients to wash their clothes; patients usually wear street clothes on the unit.

Psychiatric units limit the kinds of belongings patients can have in their rooms, for safety reasons.  I've been visiting psychiatric units for more than 20 years now, and it seems to me that over the years, they've gotten stricter about what things they allow.  For instance, there was a time when patients were usually allowed to have portable tape players with headphones.  They usually don't allow those anymore, though.  I don't know if they think patients might hang themselves with those little cords that connect the headphones to the CD player or what.

There is not a lot of privacy on a psychiatric unit, although there really is not a lot of privacy in any hospital setting, really.  But on a psychiatric unit, they check on patients all the time.  Like every 15 minutes or something.

At my local hospital, they have a rule on the psychiatric unit that patients are not allowed to shut their bedroom doors.  At night, the lights in the hallway are bright and the night shift nurses talk and laugh loudly much of the night.  It's very hard to sleep.

The only door patients are allowed to close there is their bathroom door.  There is no lock on the bathroom door, though, of course.  One day while I there, I was in the bathroom, doing the personal things people do in bathrooms, you know, and the housekeeper walked right in without knocking.  After that, I felt unsafe in the bathroom.

I know hospital food is usually not very good, and no one really expects it to be good, but the food I got during this hospitalization was horrible.  I am a vegetarian, and they actually had a separate vegetarian menu.  However, they apparently have very few vegetarian options.  I had soggy grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese pizza almost every day.  Since I had gastric bypass surgery, I try to eat a diet higher in protein and lower in carbs, but they just didn't have any better options for me.  I had a friend bring in some protein bars for me so that I could supplement my diet.

They provided no real treatment for me while I was in the hospital.  They did give me medication, but it was the same medication I'd been taking at home for quite some time.  They didn't change anything.  In addition to my antidepressants, I take a number of vitamin supplements, and I had to have a friend bring those to me from home.  The hospital didn't have the right kinds of vitamins.

My local hospital offers no individual therapy; most inpatient psych units don't, although a few do.  While I was there, they did offer a couple of group sessions each day, except for Sunday, when there were none.  There was one group session where they discussed communication skills and how to be assertive, which is something I used to teach when I was a social worker.  There was one group session where they talked about ways to be healthier, like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.  There was one group session in which we played a board game that was meant to help us identify and develop our leisure skills.  In another session, we played a board game that was meant to improve our self-esteem.  Improving my self-esteem probably would be good for me, but I didn't think the board game really did much for my self-esteem.  Plus, being in a situation in which I had no choices, no privacy, and was not listened to was damaging my self-esteem, much more so than any board game could improve it.

A couple times, someone asked me if I was feeling suicidal.  I wasn't; I wasn't feeling suicidal when I cut myself, either.  No one seemed to get that distinction, though.  No one ever asked if I was feeling like hurting myself or cutting myself the entire time I was in the hospital, not once.  I wouldn't have admitted it if I was, because I wanted to get out of there.  But they didn't even ask.  No one tried to help me come up with better coping skills or anything like that.  They never really addressed the issues that brought me to the hospital in the first place.

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