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Seclusion: Being on the Other Side of the Door

“LET ME OUT OF HERE!” I screamed at the top of my voice, hammering on the nurse’s station door. I was yelling so loud my lungs and chest hurt, my throat was raw and it felt like the veins in my neck would burst. The day’s events that had seemed trivial were no longer a joke and I was angry. That afternoon I had been admitted onto a psychiatric ward. Initially I thought the whole thing was quite funny because I wasn’t even “unwell”. Soon everyone would see I was not manic but actually a divine being and they would all feel rather foolish. 

I paced for hours in my room and refused any medication offered, but the later it became, the more bored and frustrated I became. It was well into the night when my anger bubbled over. I felt claustrophobic within the restricting walls of hospital. My auditory hallucinations had returned and the ethereal female voice, who earlier that day had told me I could fly, was now telling me I had to get out of hospital because I had important things to do. I was trying to explain this to the nurses, but they of course refused to let me go anywhere. I felt like the middleman in an argument between the ethereal voice and the nurses and it was infuriating. My frustration and anger continued to build. The nurses were trying to persuade me to take various pills which I smacked away – why weren’t they listening to me?! I did not need them because there was nothing wrong with me! 

The artificial lighting on the ward was irritating as it made everyone’s aura (my visual hallucinations) take on a sickening lurid quality and it gave me a headache.  I suddenly felt frightened, out of control and confused. I just needed to get out of this place because there was too much sensory overload and everything was going too fast. And why wouldn’t this voice shut-up? 

The anger now physically hurt so much that it couldn’t be contained. I reasoned that trashing my room was a good place to start in getting the anger out. I threw my blankets and mattress off the bed, tossed my bedside table over, kicked a few things and that was about it – my room was sparsely furnished. I moved to the dining area and threw the chairs around but my anger was not relieved. I resorted to punching doors and hitting my head against my bathroom wall, which helped a bit. I then shut myself in the recreation room and wedged myself between the piano and wall. It was dark and quiet and I felt a little safer.

It wasn’t long before security guards, orderlies and nurses came into the room, turned on the light and tried to drag me away. I punched and kicked out but two of them picked me up completely and carried me into a seclusion room. They put me on the bed facedown, pinned my arms and legs down and put their knees on my back. I fought as hard as I could, but a small girl is no match for four burly men. Two nurses gave me three injections before they all quickly scurried out, locking me in the cell-like room. I immediately jumped up and surveyed my surroundings. There was a mattress on what I supposed was a concrete base, two plastic cups of water and a cardboard bedpan. There was a tiny window in the door and the harsh lights did nothing to help my headache.

I was not scared, instead I was furious. I had seen a few people put in seclusion as a nursing student and I sometimes see patients physically restrained in the emergency department, occasionally they’re my patients and I’m part of the team restraining them. So I knew what was happening and I could make a very educated guess at what medications I had been injected with. I yelled and hammered at the door and frequently a face would appear and tell me to be quite. I was irate! This should not have been happening to me.

Eventually the medications took effect and I collapsed on the bed. I don’t know how long I was out for but I woke groggy with my door open. It opened onto a circular room where the four seclusion rooms were off; it was like a fishbowl. I was given breakfast and later on reviewed by a psychiatrist. I agreed to humour everyone by taking the medication prescribed, anything to get out of that suffocating place (being in seclusion when manically restless is torture). I was let back onto the main ward. In total, I was in seclusion for less than twenty-four hours.

That was nearly six months ago. Looking back I needed to be put in seclusion for my own safety. I woke with bruises and massive eggs on my head and my knuckles were cracked and bruised. I needed to be in a quiet place to calm down and I needed sedation, which I was refusing to take, so the only way to get the medication into my system was to inject it. However, I can see how this experience is often frightening and I would have been terrified if I didn’t know what was happening to me. No one told me what they were doing and I was treated like a naughty child. Worse than that, some staff were weary and treated me as if I was dangerous. Granted, my behaviour would have been labeled as aggressive but I had no intention of hurting anyone (until I was manhandled), I was just overcome with such strong emotions. Although I appreciate that I needed to be put in seclusion, one thing is for sure: I never want to go through that again. 

Sally also blogs for bp Magazine and The Mighty and has written for Youth Todayupstart and The Change Blog. To read more of her IBPF posts, click here

Comments

With tears streaming I write this.
I will never forget the massive man holding my shoulders down.
I was being tied to the bed.
A nurse was struggling to put an I.V. into my arm, but my biggest problem was this man's hands digging into my collar bones.
He was a giant,he was with the ambulance that brought me to the hospital.
Bigger than Hagrid. His fingers were digging into me.
I remember he was very handsome and being confused by this fact. This blonde giant with the posh South African accent was hurting me beyond belief.
I looked him in the eyes and said to him, as calmly as I could through the pain and confusion,
"Please don't do that so hard, I'm not scared of needles, I won't struggle, I'm going to let them do what they need to do."
That's when he dug his fingers deep into my bones, so hard I thought that they would break. I think I passed out from the pain rather than the medication.
At 48 kilos I was never going to be a challenge to this vile pig of a man.
I needed help, not punishment.
My fears were real but no one would listen to me.
I was humiliated, I think I wet my pants. I was stripped of any dignity and treated like a criminal of the worst caliber.
I remember the rush of hate I had for him before I passed out.
I still feel it to a much lesser degree.
Out of control or not, I know I didn't deserve to be assaulted, not by someone who was being paid to look after me.
It was the rock bottom of my mental illness. It didn't need to be.
I still feel anger for this giant bully.
But until this minute I've had no voice.
Thank you for reading.

This description absolutely terrifies me. I, too, was hospitalized due to uncontrolled psychotic mania. But I wasn't treated like that. I just remember that there were people always keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn't run out of the room or try to hurt myself. I woke up in a hospital bed with a bruise in my hand where they had inserted an IV, and I stayed in the hospital for 9 days. But I was never secluded or treated like a criminal. I was at one of the best hospitals in the country, and the doctors seemed to understand that mental illness isn't a question of choosing to behave a certain way. People who live with mental illnesses should never be treated like misbehaving children, and I'm sorry that this happened to you.

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