I have come across a few blog posts recently relating to peoples experiences in a mental health hospital and I thought I would share mine. Following a failed a suicide attempt that left me on a life support machine and I was placed on a mental health assessment unit. I was told that I could commit myself voluntarily for observation or I would be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I wasn’t allowed to leave either way, so it didn’t leave me much choice. When was I “collected” from the medical unit to the mental health hospital, two large men in uniforms appeared along with a chair that had straps on it. They asked me if I wanted to sit or walk, I said I would walk! I had a lovely nurse who went along with me, to make sure that I was medically ok during the journey via a van. Once at the hospital, which was late in the evening, I was greeted by a mental health nurse who worked on the ward I would stay at. I had my bags searched intensively for anything I could self-harm with and was shown to the unit. It was on a brand new unit built around the back of the Victorian exterior, it was lovely! I was shown to my room which had its own bathroom and brand new furniture. The only thing that reminded me that I was in a mental health hospital was that the shower came down from the ceiling and the blinds had no strings. It was a lovely room, rather like a Premier Inn. There was a massive communal living room which a big TV, a kitchen and dining room, a laundry room, a computer room, art therapy room, quiet corner and secure balcony that we were allowed to smoke on. I was desperate to engage with some of the patients because I was feeling so lonely and wanted to connect with someone who undersood what I was going through, I met the most amazing girls! It was amazing to hear someone say “I have BPD”, “I self-harm”, “I have Bipolar,” I thought I was the only person on the planet with this illness! It ended up being like a massive sleepover, we shared our stories, painted each other’s nails, drank hot chocolate and read magazines. It was exactly what I needed- just some comfort in sharing my pain with people who could understand. There were some disturbed patients on the ward, but mostly they kept to themselves. I met an amazing friend who actually turned out to be a close friend for a few years after I left hospital. I ended up staying for three days, and it was just the respite that I needed. It gave me a break away from the stresses of the outside world, helped me to clean my mind and left me feeling safe knowing that there were mental health professionals to support me. I also ended up getting a whole new wardrobe of donated clothes (I went in without any clean clothes) which as a thrift lover really cheered me up. This was the kind of place where you have to make the best of the services on offer, I engaged in art therapy, we even had takeaway one night and I mostly enjoyed the encouragement that I received from the staff that I would get better. My loneliness also disappeared as I was engaging all the time with people who were lonely just like me, we had so many different stories to share. The only downside was that things became routine, you had to eat at a certain time, there was someone documenting what you ate, and had to queue up for your medication, standing in a degrading line. By the end of the weekend, I was desperate to get home, which was a good thing because I wanted my freedom back. It is a strange feeling when your freedom is taken away, you feel like you can’t breathe. Waiting anxiously to see the doctor with the news if I could go home or not felt someone playing God with my life. Luckily I was offered a good after care program to support me in getting back to normal. It was an experience I will never forget, a mixture of positive and scary.