My Experience Inside A Mental Ward

This is an account of what happened to me on January of 1996. I am still suffering the consequences of this ordeal.

All my life I have suffered with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety and panic. What I write about occurred when I was hospitalized for a week and a half around the time of my 18th birthday.

I had no idea what was wrong with me. All I knew is that I had intrusive and morbid thoughts that caused me great anxiety. I was speaking heavily to my school counselor every day concerning these thoughts. She labeled me as likely being bipolar (i'm not) and suggested that I should get a blood test to find out whether or not I was (of course such a test doesn't exist, but what did I know?) I should have known right then and there that the medical community was nothing but people that made assumptions. Still, I was hurting and knew I needed help. I'm not sure when it was decided, but it was decided that I was to go to Franklin Squares mental ward for evaluation and medication treatment the following week. Why there was a delay I have no idea as it makes little sense to me today.

It may seem odd, but I was beyond happy to finally be getting some help and was highly optimistic that my problems were to be treated starting that day. Unfortunately, my father was more than against me getting treatment. In his mind, my problem was behavioral and I was nothing but a bratty child, which he firmly addressed to the staff.

Sure enough, the hospital staff fell for his lies and treated me worse then most would treat a caged animal. Even after I stated that my father was abusive and was a huge source of my anxiety, they still behaved as if I was nothing more then a spoiled brat that needed to be scared straight.

I remember first being shown around the premises. To the left was a gathering room which consisted of a pool table that was badly slanted, a ping pong table with no paddles, and board games that missed pieces. There were also crayons as people drew like toddlers. To the right was two padded rooms with nothing but an exercise mat. I didn't know it at the time, but this is where I was to spend nearly my entire stay. There were also rooms that consisted of two to a room. Most of the residents were either delusional and screaming or fighting with someone. There was a single shower which sprayed scalding hot water which was shared by everyone and a closed room where I was to later learn was where they gave patients Electroshock.

I was quite uneasy about what I saw, but I still was feeling optimistic and filled with hope for getting better. I was told to give up my possessions and even my shoelaces, but being that my OCD centered around self harm I did not blame them and obliged.

Later in the day, I was told to swallow two pills. Being as I had no idea what they were, I asked what they were. I was told that if I did not take them, that I would be held against my will for as long as the hospital wanted. That was when my optimism turned to severe panic.

I remember during my entire stay that there was a victim of sexual abuse who was, on a daily basis, tied up in straps, given a shot, and then stuck inside one of the padded rooms to scream all day. I can not remember if this coincided with the time I was given this first dose of medicine, but I remember thinking that I could not trust them to give me something safe. Maybe I was afraid what they were giving me was the same thing that was in those syringes. Maybe I just was unwilling to take something I didn't know anything about. All I know is that if I didn't take it, I was to become a prisoner. And yet, I already was one.

The first night or two, I was consigned to a room with another patient. I did not sleep well due to the screaming of others in distress, but I was able to get a little bit of shut eye. I remember people coming by every 15 minutes with a flashlight to check if anyone was harming themselves. It was a morbid thing to think about let alone having a light shown on you as you tried to sleep.

I'm not sure why the nonstop panic kicked in, but it shortly did around day 2 or 3. Was it the fear or being locked up indefinably that was threatened at me? Was it the schizophrenics that were fighting, the rape victim screaming, or the bipolar woman who was receiving Electroshock just to go into a rage after each treatment? Or, was it the drugs from before that they gave me?

It turned out that these two drugs were Prozac and Mellaril, which I later learned could have been a fatal combination. It is hard to say whether it was the drugs or the fear of knowing this alone that caused me to go into a never ending panic for the next week or so. What I DID know is that I was PETRIFIED of anything they gave me and was convinced that they were going to kill me. I swore to myself that if I closed my eyes I would never wake up again although sleep was the one thing I wanted more than anything else. I could not bring myself to eat and I lost a ridiculous amount of weight in a few days to the point of being anorexic.

The rest of my stay consisted of me being given a different drug every day. The only thing they kept me on steadily was Ativan for my nerves and sleeping pills they gave me every night to calm down. At one point, they gave me a drug that seemed to work (Wellbutrin). When I told them I was finally starting to feel well, they stopped giving me the Wellbutrin and instead gave me other drugs. In my time there, I was also given Nortrypteline, Risperidal, and Trazodone. There were posters on the walls speaking of all the different drugs I was taking and I could not stop reading them thinking I would get every symptom.

The never ending panic that I witnessed this entire time i'm sure was due to the cocktail of medications they were giving me. Yet, if I were to deny them, they could have kept me there for as long as they wished. I remember pacing nonstop crying at the nurses that I could not calm down and to please give me something that would knock me out so I would no longer be in pain. I also told them that I was suicidal and wanted nothing but to end the panic I was feeling. This is what caused me to be stuck in a padded room every night. Nothing was given but a mat. No blanket and I don't even recall if there was a pillow. The rape survivor was screaming and being abused in the second padded room next to me. Sleep was impossible, as was eating. Some may not believe it, but I can honestly say that I did not sleep for at least 9 days as much as a minute, nor did I hardly eat or drink. I was starving, dehydrated, and sleep deprived while simultaneously petrified and forced to witness people being tied down and shot up with drugs, constant screaming and horror coming from the Electroshock room. There was almost always nurses rushing during some distress call of someone trying to kill themselves or attacking another person.

For an entire week, the doctor that was assigned to me was on vacation. I was told that this was why I was not allowed out of the quiet room or allowed to be released. I often wonder if my doctor ever knew what I was subjected to or if he even was the one to assign such torture. If anything he was negligent.

When I was finally released, I remember getting my first nap in the car on the way home. I still had a lot of anxiety, but the terror was finally gone. I shortly after found a therapist that diagnosed me with textbook OCD. My case was so severe and obvious that she had no idea how anyone could have looked past it. I was overwhelmed with joy to finally know what was wrong with me as when I expressed my problems in the hospital, I was looked at funny and told that I was sick. The nurse/therapist said those exact three words to me at Franklin Square. You. Are. Sick.

Growing up, my panic disorder had built into something completely out of control. I am almost certain that it is PTSD caused by the fear of hopelessness and complete dread that the hospital caused me to feel. To this day, I still know the name of my doctor that basically did nothing but throw me into a pen of lions. He is still a doctor at the same hospital with a record of abuse.

Last modified 3/19/2015