I recently attended Richmond State Hospital’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. As a volunteer, I get to engage with patients and share my recovery story.
One of the things I tell them is I know what it is like to be in a hospital and wish I were at home instead. I empathize with the difficulty of cohabitating with other people having problems.
During past hospitalizations, I was more than a little uneasy while waiting for the medications to reach therapeutic levels. I knew the nurses, doctors, and attendants were all monitoring my behavior, taking notes and discussing whether or not I was well enough to be discharged.
Another difficulty was the boredom I experienced. I am a creative and curious person. I’m also really busy. At home the only time I sit still is when I’m writing or making something. When I do sit, it’s often on our front porch. I enjoy being outdoors, which is another drawback of hospitalization.
What made me happiest about the 125th Anniversary at Richmond State Hospital, was witnessing many of the patients going outside for hamburgers. They ate under a covered pavilion with swings nearby, and a stage where they could sing karaoke. If it wasn’t obvious it was on hospital grounds, the scene could have taken place in a park.
Later, as I read from my memoir to a group of patients, I mentioned that during my hospitalizations in private hospitals, we never had any picnics. But state hospital or private, short stay or long, we all have the same goal of leaving asylum. And we all have emotional work to do while we are in it.
Naturally the ultimate goal is to never be hospitalized again, but if it happens, here are some tips that can make the experience easier on everyone. Feel free to use them if you like.
Ten Tips for Hospitalization:
- Have a plan in place, and communicate it to family and loved ones.
- If you are insured, stay updated on your coverage and benefits.
- During the intake, or another appropriate time, make sure a communication happens about things you enjoy and who you really are, so that if recreational activities are available, you can participate.
- In your plan state who you wish to have contact with in the hospital, and specify who can have access to updates.
- Keep a medication history log and share it with the treating physicians, so they know which medications have worked well in the past, and which ones caused side-effects.
- Decide in advance what you want communicated to any employers or teachers you may have about your absence.
- Fully understand your rights as a patient. Make sure you understand policies regarding your access to the telephone, mail, and clergy. Know the visitation schedule.
- Have strategies in place for coming home. Often it is best to reduce stimuli.
- Understand what your triggers are. Increase self-care during times of stress. You can reduce the chances for needing hospitalization.
- When you are well, write an encouraging note to yourself that reflects how you got better. Pull it out as needed. Because if you did it once, chances are you can do it again.