Following her diagnosis with dissociative identity disorder (DID), Encina Severa spent eight days receiving inpatient treatment at a psychiatric hospital. In a new interview with the mental health platform MedCircle, Encina shares with Kyle Kittleson what life is really like on a psych ward.
She recalls that when she first arrived, she was immediately given a schedule. “They have almost every hour blocked off for something,” she says. “It was OK for the first few hours, and then they were like OK, we’re going to give you your meds now. So everyone gets in line, and they first take your vitals, then you go up and get your meds, and they watch you swallow them. Then you can go to breakfast.. they give you a lot of food, and it’s not healthy food.”
Encina adds that her fellow patients would take “a lot” of smoke breaks from 6 a.m. onwards, but because she didn’t smoke, she would wake up and have nothing to do until group therapy at 10:30. “I decided to start journaling,” she says. “So any free time I got in there, I journaled.”
During the group sessions, patients did activities such as art, crafts, listening to music, aromatherapy, and guided meditations, with the purpose of teaching a variety of coping skills which will then serve them when they’re out in the world. And while people are encouraged to share during this time, they don’t have to—although Encina adds that staff are always checking to ensure that you’re active and participating.
As she had so much free time on her hands, Encina committed to doing the group activities, and then spent the rest of her time resting. “The nurses on staff walk up and down the hallways, and look in every room, and find you, they basically have to make eye contact with you every 15 minutes, because a lot of people are in there for attempted suicide, and so they’ve got to make sure you’re safe,” she explains. “So every 15 minutes you have someone checking on you, 24 hours a day, the entire time you’re there. They don’t wake you up if you’re asleep, but they’re making sure you’re breathing.”
While she found a lot of the treatments helpful, and has continued them as an outpatient, Encina did have a hard time with the fact that patients aren’t given much of a ballpark estimation of how long they can expect to be in the hospital, something which she feels would have helped her be more proactive in her own treatment and progress.
“I’m glad that I did it, because I did learn stuff from it,” she says. “When you need that kind of help, just do it, just go, there’s nothing to be ashamed of… Yeah, it’s hard, but when your life is that hard too, there’s something in there that’s going to help you, that you’re going to heal from.”