- Depression, Traumatic Brain Injury

In the Abyss

Scene from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"
Scene from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

I Become an Inpatient

Monday morning, July 31, 2017, my wife drove me to the Veteran’s Administration hospital.  We found Rip, and he took us to the emergency room.  This is where they do intake for the mental patients who are being admitted.  To say I was nervous was an understatement.  I had NO idea what would be happening, I just had to experience it as it happened.

First, they had me change into the hospital pajamas.  The only items that I was allowed to bring into the psychiatric ward with me were 3 t-shirts, 3 pair of socks, and a softcover book.  I had a softcover crossword puzzle book with me, but I couldn’t bring a pencil in with me.  They told me everything else would be provided for me.  I had a quick physical, and then around 9:30 they wheeled me over to the psychiatric ward.  It was in another building. We arrived at the psychiatric ward (of course, all of the entry and exit doors are locked, you have to be buzzed in and out), and they took my vital signs.  They told my wife they would be taking me to my room to shower, and she could either wait, or come back in about an hour.  If my wife had her way, she would have stayed in there with me 24/7.

My New Routine – What Everyone Else Would Call “Sitting”

Two attendants took me to my room.  A bare room with two twin beds.  Two built in shelves, one for each patient in the room.  There is no door on the bathroom, it is open to the room. One of the attendants took me into the bathroom and handed me a tray.  The tray had my name on it and it contained three small plastic cups, a toothbrush, and a comb.  Two of the three cups contained liquid soap for me to wash and shampoo my hair.  The third cup had a squeeze of toothpaste in it.  I found out later, I would be given this tray first thing in the morning when they woke us up (6 AM), and again at 5:30 PM.  I had to return the tray to them each time.  The attendant showed me how to use the shower, left two towels (she had to sit them on the sink, there are no hooks or bars in the bathroom), and then she left.  The other attendant stayed in the room sitting on my bed.  I took a quick shower and while I was putting my pajamas back on, the other attendant was talking to me.  She was pretty nice.

The attendant walked me out to the dayroom, and told me to sit there.  What I have described is my complete indoctrination into the VA’s psychiatric ward.  I had no idea of when or where I would eat or when or where I would get my medications.  No one told me that the doors to the bedrooms are locked from the time we get up in the morning, until 9 PM.  I didn’t know when, or if, I would see a psychiatrist.  The only thing I knew was I was supposed to sit in the dayroom.

The dayroom was about 60 feel long, by about 20 feet at it’s widest point.  There were padded chairs along one of the long walls, and there were about 5 or 6 circular tables with 4 wireframe chairs with hard plastic seats and backs around each table.  On one of the short walls there was a big screen TV mounted IN the wall, and covered with plexiglass so the patients had no access to it.  If we wanted to change the channel, or adjust the volume, we had to ask a nurse to do it for us.  I thought I would be OK, since there was a TV to watch.  Unfortunately,  I am hard of hearing, and the dayroom is VERY noisy, so I couldn’t understand what was being said on the TV.  I was allowed to bring in my softcover crossword puzzle book.  I had to go up to the Nurse’s Station and check out a pencil.  The pencil is about 3 inches long, and flexible, so one patient can’t hurt another one with it.  I tried my best to do a puzzle, but it was so noisy I couldn’t concentrate.  I decided that I would try and sleep in the chair as much as possible so that time would go by faster.

After a while, they called everyone for lunch.  They have a room there that has about 10 booths in it for meals.  The meals are delivered to the ward.  Since I was new, they didn’t have a meal for me, but another patient was discharged that morning, so I got his lunch and supper.  It was surprisingly good.  I should have enjoyed those two meals more.  Starting the next day I received meals prepared specifically for me.  I don’t know why, but they put me on a low salt, no cholesterol diet.  My meals had absolutely no taste to them.  My wife tried one of my meals, and thought it was horrible also.


Next: My Crisis Begins

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