A Day in the Life: Visiting the State Psychiatric Hospital

Shirley

Mom in her younger days

I am going to write a short post in my A Day in the Life Series today. As hard as it is for me to think about those memories, I don’t want to forget them because society still has a long way to go regarding the treatment of people with illnesses like schizophrenia and we still have a long way to go in finding adequate treatment.

The last time my mom was committed to the hospital, I was living in another state when my sister called me up to tell me. It had been a number of years since her last hospitalization, although she continued to have symptoms of paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations during those years. My dad’s philosophy was to allow her to make her own choice about medication and to leave her be unless she became dangerous to herself or others.

At the time he made the difficult decision to have her involuntarily committed she was becoming increasingly agitated with a few of their neighbors and making some relatively strong threats against them, although she had never been known to act on them. He became especially concerned when she came home one night and appeared to have been attacked. She wandered around the neighborhood a lot at night, and one night after dark she came crawling into the house with her broken umbrella, covered in dirt and scratches, saying someone had attacked her in the park. Unfortunately we didn’t always believe her when she told us something happened, but in this case, it was clear she had been attacked. The police came to the house and took a report and comforted her, but never found out who did it.

I flew home a few days after my mom was hospitalized to visit her. She was at the state hospital, and it had a large forensic population (criminals who were awaiting determination of their sanity or who had been declared insane) and other patients who didn’t have anywhere else to go or who were awaiting housing etc.  I remember going through several locked doors to visit with her, accompanied by my aunt and my sisters. My aunt was like an angel during that time, visiting my mom on a daily basis, and taking her things to eat or read. My mom’s brother tried to come and visit her, but when he realized he would be locked in with her, he panicked and said he couldn’t go in.

It was so sad to see my mom sitting at the long cafeteria table, amongst so many others who looked lost, angry, worn out, and disoriented.  She held her head high and tried to maintain her dignity and distance, never doubting that she was better than the rest. I will never forget a large woman coming up to her, trembling from head to toe, trying to ask for my mom’s help and crying, saying she couldn’t do it any more. My mom had become the person other patients came to for comfort, and she gently reassured the woman everything would be okay.

I held it together during the visit, but on the way home I sat in the back seat and sobbed. The thought of my mom in that environment, seeing the others who seemed so forlorn, lost and forgotten, and thinking about her being so alone was unbearable. All I wanted was for her to be healthy, and to be able to live in peace in her own home and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Eventually mom was released, only after agreeing to take medicine. She held out for a long time, but finally they told her she wouldn’t be able to return to her home again if she didn’t, so she complied.

To see the previous post click here.

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11 thoughts on “A Day in the Life: Visiting the State Psychiatric Hospital

    • Thanks Julie. It is much the same as the service you are providing in writing about your experiences with Parkinson’s and dementia. It is very important to raise awareness of these issues, and it is nice to share our experiences. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That truely is a horrible place for people who definitely are in a better condition than most of the other patience and also very difficult for the relatives most of all such close ones like you (also in that youngage).

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  2. My mother signed herself into treatment after a blown out episode of mania while on vacation alone in Jamaica. My sister, a psych nurse, convinced her. I had 4 younger siblings who were confused and troubled about the whole thing. As a relief, I took them to a movie that I thought would be light and funny, called “The End”, which featured Dom DeLuise and Burt Reynolds in a psych hospital. I should have done the research, but did not. I watched their faces, was mortified at my pic of entertainment, and resolved to take them to see Mom the next day. It was a highly regarded, peaceful setting in Pennsylvania Hospital (Philadelphia). They were relieved to see that the reality was not like the movie. Yikes.
    I’m so sorry for your mom, Amy, and that so many of us can relate to your experience. Hugs to you.💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Van, your experiences must have been heart-wrenching as well. I can relate to your story about going to see the movie as an escape only to find out it contained such sensitive material. It is funny how often that happens when your going through something like that. Movies, images, and many other things people come across in their daily lives seem so simple unless you are going through it yourself. As always, I really appreciate your wonderful support. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A Day in the Life: Saying Good-bye | Shirley's Heaven

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