Tales from the Psych Ward Part II

hospital psych ward hallway with one open door
Photo by Erkan Utu on Pexels.com

I’m currently on day 9 in hospital. I had my first ECT treatment yesterday. As they were getting ready to take me over to the post-anaesthetic care unit to get treatment, the nurse said she was waiting for a security guard to come along with us as an escort. I told her that was absurd, but she insisted, even though PACU was calling to ask why they were late bringing me over. I’ve been asking for ECT since I got into hospital, and I’m so slow moving that I couldn’t run away even if I was so inclined, but nope, gotta have security for those scary psych patients.

For the ECT itself, they used a different anaesthetic (methohexital) than what I’ve always had before (propofol), and I woke up afterwards feeling totally freaked out and couldn’t stop crying. I told the ECT psychiatrist I don’t like methohexital and want propofol instead, but she just told me to talk to my psychiatrist on the ward. I told him, and he said the anaesthesiologist has the final say, meaning I’m probably going to have to fight this stupid fucking fight every time. The chances of an anaesthesiologist taking me seriously seem low; after all, if even the psych ward staff thinking I’m a scary fucking psych patient, what the hell is the anaesthesiologist likely to think? And who listens to or cares what a scary fucking psych patient thinks?

We talked about the security escort business. My day nurse said the doctor had ordered it, but he didn’t seem to own up to that. He said it’s routine practice to have security escort psych patients, and I pointed out that that sure sounds like structural stigma. Sure, security is sometimes necessary, but that should not be the default for people accessing health care, including mental health care.

I had written a long email to the patient relations leader about my experience of getting restrained in follow-up to a complaint that I had made to the psych ER’s clinical nurse leader. I asked for a commitment to training the staff in the psych ER in trauma-informed care, and I also recommended the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Understanding Stigma course for health professionals. The patient relations leader responded and didn’t actually comment on what I told her happened (which was disappointing), but she said she was going to talk to the ER manager about what kind of training is currently offered, and then get back to me.

What had happened was that I had spoken to the ER psychiatrist and told him my previous involuntary admissions had been difficult, and he agreed to admit me voluntarily. When I was taken over to the psych ER area, the nurse was being really cunty and I didn’t like the way I was being treated, so I said I wanted to leave. Even though I was voluntary, they refused to give me my things or let me go (it was a locked area so I couldn’t leave on my own). They called a whole bunch of security, and so there I was surrounded by nurses and security trying to convince them to let me go because I was voluntary. They stalled until they could get the psychiatrist on the phone and get him to agree to commit me. At that point, I just froze in place, overwhelmed by how things were going. They then pushed me onto a stretcher and put me in restraints. I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate and uncalled for that was.

In 5 years working on inpatient psych, I put patients into restraints a grand total of once, and only because he was physically aggressive.

When I first met my psychiatrist here on the inpatient unit, he briefly brought up me being put in restraints in ER. He seems like a fairly reasonable person, but I was pretty disappointed that he didn’t seem to recognize how wrong it was for me to get restrained (although he recognized it was distressing for me). I got the sense that he figured it was called for, and he was saying some shit about trying to keep me out of seclusion here on the unit and that needing to be a 2-way street. What the actual fuck?

And yes, Dr. Murray, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you. That was not cool.

He asked yesterday if he could look at my blog, and I said I’d rather not. Then yesterday evening I read everyone’s supportive comments and changed my mind, because I want him to see how my friends reacted to the clusterfuck of my admission.

Thank you all for being amazing.

This 6-part series begins with Tales from the Psych Ward part I.

The post Cell Phones on Psych Wards—Yea or Nay? is the hub for all psychiatric hospitalization-related content on Mental Health @ Home.

108 thoughts on “Tales from the Psych Ward Part II”

  1. Johnzelle Anderson

    Fuck you, Dr. Murray!!!! We got your back, Ashley! Even in a crisis, you’re using your experience to advocate and educate! Sending all the best vibes!

  2. I am so sorry for the way you were treated. That is disgraceful. I hope they help resolve this for you.

  3. Dr. Murray needs to take a 101 course on things to not say to patients! I cannot believe the way they treat people who are in distress. Parts of your story completely resonate with some of the things that happened to me–mainly me agreeing to go and then them putting me on involuntary. One of the worst things I remember was begging to get my clothes back which took forever. They didn’t want to read my blog but they all had a good read of my journal. God, I hope your stay gets shortened soon. Thinking of you….xx

  4. Wow it sounds like the healthcare professionals in your area are horrid! I don’t blame you for changing your mind on voluntary and ending up involuntary. I admire that you have stood up for yourself though, I don’t think I could have managed that myself.
    Your doctor sees things through his lense of “I know best because I’m a doctor”, not taking a moment for empathy and seeing that ‘hey, she really didn’t need restraint and she doesn’t need security’… it’s ego for him. That’s a doctor thing, that is likely because you have a medical background and he wants to throw his weight around. Honestly that’s how the situation comes across, but I could be wrong (rarely am).
    I’m just so upset for you, I hope things start going better! Praying your treatment helps and they start treating you with respect you deserve.

  5. I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Hopefully you’ll feel better soon (although this treatment doesn’t help obviously) and will be able to leave.

  6. Unfortunately, this type of thing is all too familiar. I’m so sorry you had to go through yet more trauma, and drama on that god awful unit! Sending a big hug and you have my/our support! xoxo

  7. I’m running out of things to say that wouldn’t be redundant at this point over the whole fuckery of the system. I’m glad you feel supported by your friends here, and it’s absurd you aren’t getting anywhere close to that same support at the place where they should be the most supportive.
    If these people wanted to work with prisoners, they picked the wrong profession/location.
    This is the exact reason that so many more people don’t ask for the help they need. They’re afraid, and justifiably so. And it ends up being so much worse for everyone in the long run. Seeking mental health care shouldn’t be a traumatizing or dehumanizing experience. I’m sorry for all of it, to you and everyone else who has that experience.
    At the very least….you’ve now got a whole lot of new writing content… 😢
    Hang in there 💙💙

  8. Whenever in the everlasting f- did patient dignity become something that needed to be negotiated for in a two-way street, DOCTOR Murray?

    Your advocacy is incredible, sending hugs and support xxx

  9. Ashley, I am shaking my head reading this.
    I can understand that although you were voluntary patient, they changed the situation to you staying. For this part, had my mum not changed her mind to stay, whether it would have happened to her because how ill she was, I don’t know. But like you, its was a locked ward because there are others who are not voluntary.

    As for everything that happened to you, ridiculous and again, so sorry this is happening. Its so wrong.

    As ill as my mum was on a mental health ward, there has never been a situation of a security staff having to be present.

  10. Not sure you’re able to reply to comments from where you are, but I am definitely on your side. It’s bringing up some of my own negative experiences with same. Rooting for you. Hang in there

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