I was hospitalised to treat my mental illness. Yep, I spent 3 weeks inside a mental health unit in August this year. You may have seen some of ABC’s documentary Changing Minds: the inside story, showing the public Mental Health Unit of Campbelltown Hospital. Well, my experience wasn’t exactly like that, there were still amazing dedicated medical staff who truly cared for me and knew I was battling an illness.
I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. How so? Firstly I am alive. Secondly, I was a voluntary patient and I was at a private hospital only because I can afford top-level private health insurance. I have an amazingly supportive husband, family and friends who helped me to get there and get the expert help I needed in my time of crisis. Many people are struggling on the outside with out the help and support they need because our Mental Health System is broken, underfunded and not prioritised by our government. This is a travesty because 7 people die from suicide each day in Australia. Not sharks, car accidents, or even cancer.
Are you still curious and wondering what it really is like inside? My fabulous friend Jen, who dropped everything to visit me on my first evening inside, described my room as “God, this is bleak and bland! But you do have your own ensuite like at SJOG” (where we had our babies).
It made me think that really our major experience of hospital stays were the week or so when we gave birth to each of our babies (all 5 boys!). Again in private hospitals, in single rooms with ensuites, and a crucifix on the wall – catholic of course – bless them! I mean we are in our mid 30’s, healthy mums, why else would we have spent time in hospital.
So my room lacked pictures on the wall, but I came to realise that in my fragile mental state any picture had the possibility of triggering me to feel like shit or give me the shits eventually 😉 So it was probably better that they placed all the ‘calming’ ocean scenes to decorate the corridors.
My meals did not arrive on a tray to be eaten in bed, half cold. But rather were served as a buffet in the dining hall, to make sure we were getting out of our rooms. This brought back the memories of my years living at college for university and then years of eating in the mess on mine sites.
You have several choices of hot dishes, a salad bar and dessert. The hard part is deciding which food will be palatable, not over filling your plate and resisting the temptation of chocolate mousse at lunch followed by crème caramel at dinner. If you are a steak and 3 veg man or gal, then you will be sadly disappointed. Sure you can get your 3 veg, but your steak is replaced by fish: steamed fish, poached fish, tuna mornay and the all time favourite, ocean surprise pie! Why all the fish? Fish contains OMEGA-3 fatty acids which aid brain development and function, and seeing as we are all sick in the head……..let them eat fish.
Communal eating is a strange thing – its not quite the same as eating out with friends or family at the latest hipster café. Its an awkward moment of turning around with your full tray and navigating the dining room working out who to sit next to, I mean after all they are all crazy. You see the clusters of people that have already bonded, on some common ground. At least here its not on racial lines as in Orange is the new black!
Then in a clumsy possibly medication induced haze, trying to eat with your best table manners and not spill it down your front. After a couple of days I had found a lovely bunch to sit with at meals, my new peeps 🙂
So we became friends over our OMEGA-3 laden fish dish of the day.
To be continued……
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