A few months ago I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital (interesting experience) due to depression. It was an interesting experience for a variety of reasons:
- It defied every stereotypical expectation I had about psychiatric hospitals. It was my first admission. I think I was expecting something like Bedlam. Stone walls and people clawing at the doors, howling late into the night, whilst doctors drill into your skulls and pin you down with straightjackets, wearing glasses a bit like the Demon headmaster. Needless to say, it was NOT like this. The beds were very uncomfortable, granted, but this was because they were made of plastic mattresses or something so there were no sharp springs inside them. They had sinks but no plugs, and the mirrors were made out of bendy plastic (not so great if you already have body image issues, but at least very difficult to hurt yourself with.) I was allowed to wear whatever clothes I wished, could watch tv or draw all day, and there was even a keyboard. Win.
- The doctors, although not pinning us down with creepy Demon headmaster glasses, weren’t the most sympathetic either…. especially when it came down to flashbacks. Quite honestly they didn’t seem to understand flashbacks or recovery at all. It was, quite frankly, appalling… and for the most part the patients helped each other with flashbacks.
- I WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE IN THERE DUE TO HAVING BEEN ABUSED. This was a huge shock to me. It’s so easy to believe you’re the only one! Whereas, in fact, almost every woman I met had experienced some form of abuse. It’s absolutely tragic, and the worst bit was that most of them didn’t have a support group.
This is what I struggled to get my head around. I have been exceptionally lucky to have a very compassionate circle of friends who have been helping me with recovery, not to mention my counsellor and doctor. But one girl I met in hospital told me how her friends left her as a result of her “coming out” as a survivor of abuse. Why?! I just couldn’t understand. This girl survived hell, wants to help others, and yet her friends didn’t want anything more to do with her.
And so, I was discharged once deemed more “stable” and after the doctors trying to diagnose me with every mental health disorder and then sheepishly having to admit “ah well your abuse probably has led to the depression.” Oh really. I’m sorry, just how long were you studying for your PhD? Sorry, I have full respect for people who spend their entire lives helping others, but they did say some daft things.
Anyway. I was discharged. And pondering. (Had to get that word in there). How many other victims out there are trying to get through recovery on their own? The thought makes me go cold. It doesn’t even feel possible to me. My support group are the reason I’m still alive.
So. Stage one in fighting the abuse. Give victims and their friends a safe place to socialise, and to talk without fear of judgement: set up a support group. I am still in the early stages of this but the project plan is underway!