But I will be back with Starbucks

The mental health ward was not what I expected, although, admittedly, I hadn't really expected much of anything.

Our first several minutes of visiting seemed awkward. I admit that it was probably my fault when I opened the conversation by saying, "So, do you come here often?" I asked her if she'd made any friends or met any cute guys. We quickly decided that developing any type of relationship, friendship or otherwise, while under an involuntary hold was likely to result in more complications than it was ultimately worth.

We talked about many things in the two hours I was there. I vowed to bring her slippers and a bouncy ball ("Be careful not to hit that thing," I said, pointing to some sort of fancy looking device on her ceiling. "We had something like that in residence, and, if you hit it, it caused an alarm to go off in the whole building," I explained). We discussed what other entertaining items were permitted on the premises. Glass and cords are forbidden, as is anything that can easily be used to self-harm. It sounds simple enough to avoid these items but causes a lot of second guessing when you really think about it. If a person is intent enough, anything can be used to self-harm.

We talked about the arts and crafts patients are requested to participate in each day. We talked briefly about her therapy sessions and the other inhabitants of the ward. But what I really wanted to tell her was that she had nothing to be ashamed of. There will be people who judge her for the time she has spent in this place. There will be people who will see her in a different light when (or if) they learn that her brain isn't quite right, chemically speaking. But those people are not worth more than a passing thought. While it is technically true that there is something wrong with her, her value is no less than any other person around her. She should never let her self-worth be determined by the opinion of anyone but herself.

It takes courage to admit you need help. It takes strength to keep moving forward when you are so paralyzed with fear that you can hardly breathe. It takes bravery to remove yourself from your comfort zone to go to a place where you know you will be scrutinized by professionals who have the ability to turn your voluntary three day stay into an involuntary two week long admittance.

There is nothing to be ashamed of, but there is a whole lot to be proud of.

"I will see you tomorrow?" she asked just before I left.

"No, not tomorrow, but you will see me Monday. You will also see me Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.. Well, you get the idea. I will see about having chocolate bars delivered to you each day at noon as well."

And then, with a heavy heart, I left.


K. Restoule said...

I've had family in the same place. I nearly beat the crap out of my brother for saying disparaging things about the person in there.

Is it just me, but do those wards seem cold and impersonal?

Megan said...

The ward I visited was not so bad. That could be because it is a special ward for people 16 and under though. Impersonal, definitely, but this ward had a slightly lessened hospital feel to it.

K. Restoule said...

Honestly, the need to change the way those places look. How is someone expected to "get better" when the place looks about as friendly as a prison.