Photos: Scenes from a Mental Hospital

I’ve compiled a set of items, papers, and other memorabilia from my two stays in mental hospitals. I’ve been in significant inpatient treatment twice, and have accrued quite a box of items to remember those stays by. Hopefully, sharing these pictures with you, accompanied by brief descriptions, will help you develop a better understanding of what staying in a mental hospital is really like.

This mug was brought to me by my mother while I was in eating disorder treatment. Everyone in the house had a mug, though the opaque mugs weren’t allowed at tables, lest we hide food in them. She found it at my local bookstore and said it reminded her of my mini goldendoodle and me. This mug was nestled amongst the other patients’ mugs atop a transparent shelf by the fridge, both of which were outfitted with alarms that would go off every time the cupboard or fridge door opened or closed.

This is the scrawled version of the video  that I put together a week or so ago. I was tasked, by my treatment team, with writing a reflection on my eating disordered voice as if it were the distinctive voice of an abusive partner named Ed. I wrote about the pros and cons of the voice and any details that I cared to share about it.

From my first hospitalization in freshman year, I was given all kinds of papers and trinkets. The picture on the left is from my grandfather, who wanted to send me mail and decided to send along a picture of the osprey that nest by his house every year. I specifically remember loving this picture; it reminded me of what I had to lose. The picture on the right was drawn for me by a fellow patient upon my discharge. They’ve survived over 5 years of moves and cleanings.

My dear friend Katie mailed me a sweet animal coloring book and some colored pencils to use while in ED treatment. Coloring was a common pastime and she was kind enough to provide me with my own tools, rather than those of the house!

On the left, my treatment team sent me an assignment to work on after I’d been barked at in the house and failed to stick up for myself, instead shrinking away, as is my tendency. I was to write my response and bring it to my next personal session. On the right is my schema questionnaire. I’ll go into this in more detail at some point, but schemas are longstanding beliefs about oneself, and as you can see, my emotional deprivation, abandonment, and mistrust/abuse schemas are the highest ranking, set at “very high.” In fact, of the two pages of schemas, only two of mine were not ranked “very high,” and neither are pictured.

I’ve discussed before my experience with Excoriation Disorder. These are the tools I was given to help combat my picking while I was in treatment. They were moderately helpful. The contraption on the left is a simple counter. The silver button is to be pressed every time something needs to be counted, and I was to press it every time I picked. My counter usually ended up in the 40’s by nightfall. On the right is a sensory brush. My treatment center ordered a pack off of Amazon for me, and every time I had the urge to pick, I was supposed to gently brush over the desired picking site, instead.

The beaded bracelet is one that I picked out from my treatment center’s rewards shop. We were given points for progressing through the program and exhibiting desirable, healthy behavior. Those points could be spent in the shop on things like toothpaste, books, art materials, and a set of bracelets. Mine says “courage.” The other object is my rock. When you graduate from the program, you are given a rock ceremony in which you select a rock that has a word engraved into it that is meaningful to you. Then, your fellow patients go around in a circle telling you why they’ll miss you, what they’re proud of you for, and what was most striking about you. I chose “wisdom.”

These were some books that I read while in the program. The books on the left and right- “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown and “Life Without Ed” by Jenni Schaefer- were given to every patient upon intake. My mom brought me the book in the center of the picture; “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” by David Adam.

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2 thoughts on “Photos: Scenes from a Mental Hospital

  1. I’ve been in a mental hospital and I can picture it well although I’d like to forget it. My main memory is of the smoking room with a high ceiling and very loud fan, way too loud for me at the time.

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