It’s not padded cells, constant restrain and rapid tranquillisation, in fact its more mindfulness, colouring and crying.
Everybody is ill, even the staff often have backgrounds of mental illness. You can’t judge people because most the time when ill, they aren’t truly themselves. You learn to be compassionate and understanding, and that a cuddle from your fellow patients can mean the world.
Mental illness comes in all shapes and forms and the most annoying question and statement is ‘why are you here, you don’t seem ill’. Especially when you’re undiagnosed and can’t just say ‘depression’ or ‘bipolar’ and have to try and explain to each person who asks that you are as unwell as they are, is tiring.
The question, ‘so how do you feel?’ becomes the most irritating thing when you aren’t sure of how you’re feeling.
So a typical day on my first unit (willow ward at the Campbell centre in Milton Keynes) was meds at 8:15 when someone would knock on your door and wake you up to remind you, then breakfast at 8:45 where we’d all wander in our pyjamas to the dining room to have cereal and squash. I’d finish in about 10 minutes and would then walk back to my room to get dressed and brush my hair and wipe my face ready for the plan of the day meeting at 9:30. At the meeting we’d be ask which activities we’d like to join in with for the day, the more you say you’ll do the better as otherwise the day drags so slowly by. First was the paper walk at 10am, where we’d walk to the onsite hospital shop and buy chocolate and drinks (they had a costa which was cheaper than normal!!) followed by a day of mindfulness, colouring, groups, baking and dancing. It was good fun, very therapeutic and a far better approach to recovery than my 2nd unit, Ferneley ward at Northwick Park, which was more orientated around medication and only that. Therapy there seemed less intense, there were less OT activities and thus each day was very long and boring.
The food was lovely, really nice and varied, the vegetarian options were fab too… No one ever complained about the food at either hospital, it was nicer than what I cooked at home haha.
The patients are all sick, yes, but they are kind, understanding and welcoming. You will find people you get on with, you will be loved by them, when the staff don’t have time to do everything and have chats all the time, the other patients will. Be open, honest and kind.