My Time in a Mental Hospital

Andi Burroughs

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I am very open with who I am and how my mental disorder affects me, but I haven’t told anyone about everything that has happened to me. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was fifteen-years-old. This diagnosis came after nearly five years of keeping everything to myself. I only told my mother, after I was talked down from a decision that would have changed not only my life but the lives of the people closest to me. My mother was already fairly familiar with mental illness, seeing as both her and my grandmother suffer from depression, so this was almost no surprise to her.

Accommodations were made for me, including changing schools. At this school we had family therapy every other week. On April 21, 2017 after a successful family therapy session, I was packing for a Girl Scout trip that was to happen that weekend. My mother mentioned something about bringing a pair of jeans, which lead into an argument. The argument only progressed from there. It turned into me threatening to harm my mother and then myself. She then took me to the “mental health emergency room” at the Merrifield location of the Community Service Board (CSB). From there, I was assessed and it was determined that I needed to be hospitalized. The man that was helping us called hospitals all over Virginia, trying to find a bed for me. He then found out that a bed at Dominion Mental Health Care Hospital would open up the next afternoon. He assessed me again and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to harm anyone, including myself, as I had cried out all my energy, and that I was to go to Dominion Hospital the next day.

The next day my mother drove me and my packed bag of clothes to Dominion. After registration, my bag and I was searched. After the search, I was left in the outfit I came in and a pair of hospital socks. In most mental health hospitals, shoes are taken from patients because there are parts that can be used hurt themselves with. The rules were quickly reviewed with me. Most rules were obvious, such as no fighting or no arguing with staff, while others were ones that most people don’t think of, such as no pens and no hanging towels over the door because it will set an alarm off.

I was then ushered to Lounge B. It was almost dinner time, when I finally got settled in, but I was not be able to go down to dinner because I was on Lounge Lock. Lounge Lock is when new patients or patients who have behavioral issues are not allowed to go downstairs where the cafeteria, gym, and classroom are located. Meals are brought up for patients on Lounge Lock. In order to get breakfast and dinner, we had to fill out a sheet that asked us what our goal for the day was and how we would achieve it. While I was sitting there waiting for dinner, a friend of mine from Centreville High Schools walked past and was extremely shocked to see me.

After dinner, I met my roommates and was moved to Lounge C. My roommates, Suzie and Angela (not their real names), and I clicked right away. It wasn’t long before all three of us were setting off the alarm on our bathroom door and turning off the lights while each of us was in the shower.

My first day in Dominion was a Saturday, so the next Monday was the first day of the regular schedule. This includes forty-five minutes of school, gym, art therapy, and music therapy each. There are also two rounds of room time, when we are told to stay in our rooms because the staff is changing shifts. It was on this day that I lost my temper over something very trivial. They then put me on twenty-four hour one-to-one. One-to-one is when you have a staff member follow you around twetny-four hours a day, this includes your room and bathroom. I have never disliked something more than having someone follow me around for all day.

It wasn’t until my third day at Dominion when my mother came to visit for the first time. I could tell it was very hard on her. I had already talked to her on the phone and had asked her to bring me food. With McDonald’s in one hand, she gave me one of the biggest hugs I have ever been given. She could only stay for a little bit, because she had to pick my sister. When she was leaving, she told me that she was proud of me, but I didn’t miss the tears that were falling down her cheeks. She only came once more, before I was discharged. Like the first time, she was crying as she walked into the elevator.

I was released ten days after I was admitted. It was a Monday, when I got my discharge papers. Getting your discharge papers is like when a prisoner gets their discharge papers. In order to be released, I had to fill out a sheet that asked us to list ten triggers and ten coping skills, before they gave us a bag to pack our clothes in. Hopefully by then your parent will be there. I was one of the fortunate ones that didn’t have to wait hours for a parent to show up. The next day I went back to school as if nothing happened.

Being in a mental health hospital helped me open my eyes to not only my emotions, but to other people’s emotions too. It brings light to people when you are seeing them at their worst times. It really humbles a person.

Andi Burroughs, Staff Contributor

Andi Burroughs is a senior who has been in Journalism for one year. She took Journalism because she thought it would be an interesting elective to take....

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