I spent the Waitangi Day weekend last year in the inpatient psychiatric unit. I put myself in there after feeling like I could no longer keep myself safe on my own. The five days I spent there were awful.
Getting a berth in the ship of the damned was a lengthy process. I presented myself to the emergency department of the hospital just before 11am. I was admitted to the ward at quarter to nine that night. I spent most of that time waiting for the mental health emergency team to come and assess me. I know they’re busy people, but by the sixth hour of waiting I was pacing, anxious, and regretting asking for help. A caged animal waiting for its master.
The emergency department were very good to me. They were overworked, as usual, but they brought me magazines, made me the odd cup of tea, and even brought me some sandwiches. I was grateful for that, because it was the only food I got that day. They made me feel safe in a chaotic environment, and eased my wait as much as they could.
I was admitted on a Friday night, and taken to a little room that would be mine. I had to unpack all my bags, and had any contraband removed – drugs (including medications), and anything with a cord. I’m sure there were other things on the contraband list, but these were the only things I had on me. I was body-searched, which was intrusive and frightening. I understand why they had to do it, but it was another thing that made me wish I had never asked for help. They took my description and any identifying features, ‘just in case I did a runner’.
I was ‘settled in’ and left to it.
Tomorrow – what it was like on the inside.