Young teen in French psychiatric unit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short essay about my time spent in a psych unit at a French hospital.

Submitted: May 22, 2014

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Submitted: May 22, 2014

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During my first consultation I spoke for a long time with a doctor. I told him about my symptoms: self-harm, saddness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, etc... He prescribed an antidepressant, something for anxiety and something to sleep better. He also put me on the waiting list for a hospitalization. I was hospitalized about two weeks later. I began packing clothes, books, a pad of paper, pens, hygene products and my two favorite stuffed animals. I wasn't allowed to bring food, electronics or anything dangerous (scissors, knives, string, even tape!)

I was somewhat shocked to find that the doors leading out of the unit were locked and that there were bars on all the windows. There were four units: one for teens from twelve to fifteen, one for teens from fifteen to eighteen, one for children younger than 12, and one that was an intensive care unit. I was in the one for older teenagers because there was no space in the other unit. At first I had an individual room. It was bright green and contained a bed, a desk, a closet, a chair and a small bathroom that consisted of a toilet and a sink. The nurse searched me thouroughly, taking away all my bathroom products, my pencil sharpener, my ruler and my makeup. I convinced her to let me keep my spiral-bound notebook until my mom could bring me another one but I ended up keeping it throughout the whole hospitalization.

Then my mom left rather suddenly because the nurse told her to. It was lunchtime and I sat down with the fourteen other teenagers. We each had a tray with one starter, one main course, one yogurt or cheese, one fruit and one piece of bread. That was the same at every meal. The meals were at 8 to 9am, 12pm, 4:30pm and 7pm.

We were allowed three one-hour visits per week, most of mine were in the hospital's garden. My parents and I always went to the hospital café and I always got a chocolate muffin with soda. During the weeked we were allowed one two-hour visit per day or a permission to go home if we had the doctor's autherization. We were allowed short phonecalls on the days when we didn't have visits. We shared a television with a limited amount of channels on it. We were not allowed to watch anything violent, sexual or that could encourage us to hurt ourselves. We had TV from 1pm to 2 or 2:30pm, from 5pm to 7pm and from 8pm to 10:30pm.

After two days they moved me into a room with four other girls which I didn't mind apart from the fact that we had to share a desk and that some of the girls were really annoying (stealing my stuff, putting on loud music at night...) We were allowed to have an MP3 player (I had one during my second hospitalization) or a radio depending on what the doctors said. I made more friends than I've ever had in my life. Some were very sick (trying to kill themselves every week), some were less sick (stopped going to school for a while); I was sort of in between those two categories: cutting myself. We had a patio between the two units that we could go on during certain periods of the day. During my first hospitalization, smokers could smoke once in the morning and once in the evening, as long as they provided the cigarettes and that they didn't have any visits or permissions during the day but during my second hospitalization, they could only smoke on visits or permissions.

We were bored in the unit. From time to time we were allowed to make bracelets, paint or work with clay. On rare occasions, the staff took us down to the fenced-in court yard to play basketball or badminton. On Wednesdays we had more activities like fieldtrips but when we were depressed we didn't always feel like it. Sometimes the staff forced us to participate. Our rooms were closed from 10am to 1pm, from 2pm to 5pm, from 7pm to 9pm. We had to go to bed between 9pm and 10:30pm. Every week we had an appointement with our doctor and our parents.

I stayed four and a half months during my first hospitalization and two and a half during my second. For part of the second time I was in a room with only one other girl, which was nice, but in a unit that had windows in the doors. I had some psychotic symptoms during my second hospitalization and this lead me to self-harm more aggressively. One day, I wouldn't stop self harming after the nurses caught me doing it so they rolled me up in a blanket and carried me to a small room. They strapped me down to the bed with soft restraints and left me there. I struggled so much that I managed to get one of my hands loose and I continued to self-harm. A nurse came in and yelled at me. Then the rest of the staff came back in and tied my arm down again. I stayed like that for four or five hours but I slept most of the time since they had given me something really strong to help me calm down. After the incident, I was put in "safe room mode" for a few days. This basically meant that they took away all my belongings including my clothes, so I had to wear paper clothes. I also had to sleep in a room with no furniture, just a bare mattress and a thick blanket.

School was really the least of our worries but we had some classes to keep us from falling behind. The classes contained one to five students so it was pretty nice and the teachers were really good (and volunteers!). Despite the classes and the activities, we were still bored. This forced us to come out of our shells and spend time with the others. We played cards, talked and there were a lot of love stories between us. They never lasted very long and the nurses were very strict about the "no touching" rule. I wrote quite a bit during my hospitalizations and read too; pretty much the two activities I was allowed to do in my room.

I befriended a lot of different people: bipolar, depressed, anxious, drug-addicts, phobic, schizophrenic, psychotic, hyperactive... Most of them were very supportive: I couldn't be sad for five minutes without them coming to comfort me. And, of course, I comforted them (even tried to talk them out of suicide). What was nice is that they understood me, more than the people at school and sometimes more than the nurses and doctors. People usually stayed about two months but a few got kicked out way before. One girl had been there for over five years; she kept to herself most of the time but I was her friend we looked out for each other.

I can't say that the hospitalizations cured me since I was hospitalized several more times afterwards but I know that they kept me safe, at least temporarily. As my mom told me recently, who know was what have happened if it weren't for the hospitalizations.


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