What’s it like inside a psych ward?
Images of One Flew of the Cuckoo’s Nest may fill your imagination if you’ve never entered one and I wanted to share what I saw while working in the mental health sector.
I volunteered and later worked in this field because I was curious who these people were, putting a face on a label that is shuffled like a deck of cards behind locked doors.
Here’s what I saw on the surface:
Eagerness to be “fixed”
Confusion as to what was going on inside their heads
Isolated in a special environment for others just like them
Relatives not really talking about the patient in the outside world
Reliance on an authority who knew everything
Subjection to drugs and treats to treat the symptoms while the root cause was remediated
Internalized judgement for being different
Complete loss of liberty to do, act, and be themselves freely especially during “episodes”
As funny as it sounds, I see this in a lot of people who aren’t being “treated” for mental illness, in society…in the workplace. Here’s what I mean. Most of us, if we were to be really honest:
Are on the path of achieving something, driven to get something that we think we need. That will give us what we don’t have. In a sense, we are trying to fix ourselves, make ourselves how and we do it eagerly.
Confused, not understanding what goes inside our heads, confusing the deeper part ourselves in our subconscious and spirit, about why we do, or don’t do, what we do.
Isolated in the output of ownership displayed in, “This is my home, my yard, my curb.” Or, at work, “This is my role, my project, my team.”
Hesitation in talking about our tender parts when we suffer a loss or something too big for one person to handle.
Rely on those in authority who are “supposed” to know and permit us to do things that we know secretly we should be able to do on our own: The government, leadership, law enforcement.
Deal with this superficially, like stress in the form of activities like meditation or diabetes with medication, that skate over the root cause.
Internal judgement about others not being good enough, being too good…and secretly compare ourselves to them.
Complete lack of being true to one’s self in speaking up freely, completing work uniquely, and to openly go through the human aspects of life in the form of “episodes” like grief, anger, or exhilaration.
Whether in a psych ward or in everyday life, we all experience similar feelings and thoughts and yet, we are poorly positioned to address the root cause most of the time. We mask over it hiding what’s really going on further complicating matters because of the pull of shame.
It doesn’t take a special authority to do so live a masked or unmasked life because we do it every day.
I saw some other things underneath the surface and the patients I saw taught me how to be a better person. I see this potential in everyone outside of psych wards, too:
Depth of compassion, protected from the judgement outside of the ward, due to their experiences in the full spectrum of the human experience.
Openness and courage to talk about and share with me, in an unfiltered way, what they were experiencing.
Commentary about what society could be, inclusive and magical, heard clearly behind the “delusions” and being “different” behavior.
Acceptance of me, as a kind outsider, and eagerness to connect.
Psych Ward Parallels to Work
These are simple and yet very deep ways of living that we all can experience outside of the ward, even at work that pulls some parallels as funny as it sounds.
Mental health or illness give us chances to accept people deeply as we are, without judgement, even if an opinion or way of doing is different. Seeing that breaks the real craziness in corporate’s cycle of no-value-add processes when one questions and everyone listens instead of defends.
Needing help can be openly communicated, breaking down the isolation that keeps all of us stuck, because we’re not meant to be perfect, able to do every thing so we won’t be judged as “lacking efficiency or organization skills.” People are more fluid than rules and more powerful when helping others but the stigma for being genuinely human is so strong.
The human experience is meant to be broad and the spectrum of mental health to illness is a continuum of degrees.
Yet, the undercurrent tone of the spectrum has compassion, acceptance, and openness either in full expression or suppression. Connection, acceptance, and understanding don’t need special training because we are born with these capabilities. The potential to live them naturally is just as easy when you embody your true identity that doesn’t attach to details of life that it expresses.
Instead, consider these invitations:
Know who you are outside of the details of life like your job, gender, sexual identity, world citizenship, political or religious affiliations, educational or professional achievements, role in the family, or amount of wealth.
This liberates the natural (unefforted) ability to act, live and work from a place of unmasked identity where there is no gap to be hooked by others’ judgment because your integrity fills you up completely.
#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth #NoShame #WorkAsylum #UnmaskedLife