What I learnt in inpatient care
Going into hospital for your mental health can be really scary, but it can also be an important step in your recovery. Laura, 21, shares what she has learnt from her time in inpatient care.
Throughout my teenage years, I was admitted to various psychiatric hospitals. Each time, it felt incredibly daunting and filled me with so much uncertainty, so it felt like a real blow being told that this was the necessary next step in getting the help I needed.
On one occasion when I was admitted to an inpatient unit, I felt a confusing sense of relief alongside the fear and uncertainty. I felt guilty for feeling like this as I didn’t really understand why – surely no one wants to be in hospital at all! But I gradually understood only after I was discharged two years later, that it was because I knew that inpatient care was the only route to getting the intensive help I needed at the time.
Give yourself time to adjust
No matter how you feel going in, being in a new place with a different structure and unfamiliar people can be terrifying for anyone, let alone if you’re going through a really overwhelming time already. What helped me was simply having time to adjust.
When you go into an inpatient unit, there will likely be more restrictions than you’re used to, including ones you might not feel you need. But they need to do this to make sure they’re doing the best they can for you! Within a few weeks, you will hopefully be able to form a clearer plan together that both keeps you safe, and includes things that will help make it easier for you.
There may be fun moments - that's okay!
From there, I was able to establish my own routines: Every week, my friends and I wrote letters to each other. This helped keep me connected to my old support network, but also allowed me time away from the normal pressures of being social. Having phone calls in the evening sometimes also helped me process really difficult days, and just have a break from the constant focus on getting better.
There would also be frequent groups during the week – both therapeutic and just for fun! Remember that just because you’re in hospital, doesn’t mean that you always have to be feeling the worst you ever have, and it doesn’t mean you’re fine again if you do have better days. Take in the better moments when you can, and carry these until you may have another dip so you can feel a little reminder of hope.
Honesty is key
It’s important to remember that no matter how bad you’re feeling, being honest is what will carry you through those times. Try and identify a few professionals that you feel able to trust, and try your best to tell them when you’re in a bad place, or feeling something you might not understand. They aren’t there to judge you, or punish you, but rather to take the steps needed to keep you safe and moving forward when you can.
Sometimes it can be really hard to believe you are cared for, especially when you’re unwell with certain mental health disorders. But in my experience the staff don’t do the job they do (which is spending really long days with you!) for any other reason than that they truly want to make a difference to people like us who really need help from people like them at that point in our lives!
You won’t always be on a straight line upwards to feeling better — in fact, I got worse before I got better. But it was much more important for me to have been honest and go through that turmoil in hospital where I was safer, so that I could eventually reach a place that was much more hopeful.
An important chapter in my recovery
It was one of the most challenging times to have gone through, but I am so grateful for it. I don’t feel I would’ve been granted that same trajectory of recovery if I hadn’t been in hospital, where I was able to really uncover so much of my illness in a way that I needed to in order to move forward. It was a place where I was kept physically safe, among people who gave me that reassuring and encouraging space to learn important things about myself and my illness, and how to manage it. I still carry these lessons with me today.
It’s normal to feel scared, hopeless, and disappointed when going into inpatient care. But for myself and so many people I know, inpatient care was vital in working towards a lasting recovery. I want you to know that however you feel now, you will get there and feel that light again too.
Author: Laura, 21
Where to get help
To find out more about what help is available to you and how to get help, have a look at your guide to support.