Mental Space: The Hospital

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Amber Gauss ('22) looks out a window at Winan's Chocolate & Coffees on Jan 13, 2019. Gauss is an Psychology and Russian double major at Wittenberg University. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

I’ve been sick for a long time, but not the kind of sick you’re thinking of. I mean mentally sick; and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped with it. I’m not blaming COVID-19 for my illnesses or my breakdown, but it definitely hasn’t done anything to improve my mental health.

This past April, I had a complete mental breakdown and was severely suicidal. The only thing that kept me from doing anything to hurt myself was the fact that I couldn’t motivate myself to get up off the couch. At this point, I realized I needed help, and more than what I was getting from weekly Skype meetings with someone at the Tiger Counseling Center.

I called my mother asking for help, and she agreed to help me financially with going to the hospital and she even had my dad drive me to the emergency room. While in the ER on April 15, I explained my situation to the doctors, psychiatrists and social workers that I saw. I waited hours before being transferred from the ER to a different hospital. By the time I got there, it was late and my parents were unable to give me my personal belongings in person.

So, imagine being in a completely unfamiliar place for an extended period of time and not be allowed to have something that is a main part of what makes you who you are. That’s how I felt, being unable to have my teddy bear. I felt alone and scared and I didn’t sleep well at all.

My first full day in the hospital, I barely ate anything; I’m a very picky eater and I didn’t get to choose what I ate. But the rest of my time there, I did get to choose what I ate and I was actually excited about food for the first time in a while. I attended almost every group therapy session. I only missed two because I was sleeping.

I was allowed to make phone calls, so my first full day consisted of me getting crucial phone numbers for people from my mother and calling my roommate and boyfriend as soon as I could. It felt amazing to hear their voices in a place where I was unfamiliar and scared. I may have cried a little.

Showering was weird. We only got 10 minutes before they checked on us to make sure we weren’t doing anything we shouldn’t. I only got checked on once, and that was awkward because I was washing my face and couldn’t grab a towel to cover up. On that same note, I wasn’t able to hold on to my soaps, for they kept them with the sharp objects. Thankfully, my roommate brought me a body wash that smelled like piƱa colada.

I was there for a total of five days, but it felt like it lasted forever and like no time passed all at once. I wanted to go home so I could sleep in my own bed, but I wasn’t sure if I was really better. Being told I was going home was strange. I wasn’t told by my social worker or doctor. I was told by my group therapy leader. Once group was over, I called my roommate and asked her if she was available to pick me up, and she was so happy. I was ready to go home, but I was going to have to follow a plan to keep my mental health in check.

So, that’s the story of my time in the hospital. While I was there, they diagnosed me with a different disorder than I was initially diagnosed with in high school. I started new medication and had others adjusted. I had a schedule that I was able to stick to, but now I can’t. After it all, I hope to never enter an experience like it again.

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