Being an Adolescent Inpatient

On April 4th 2017, I found myself leaving the safety net of a general hospital to depart to an unknown threat.

As I approached the spiked, dominating fences a shiver ran down my spine. I was dumbfounded as I stared up to the giant, Victorian-esque building in front of me, and reluctantly stepped out of the car.

It was my first day as an adolescent inpatient. The first step in my recovery from the illness that had taken so much of my life away.

So, what did I expect?

I was oblivious to he true nature of a unit. To me, a unit was what I had seen in all of the movies I'd watched; they had padded walls with patients trapped in their rooms, fed on a plastic food tray and straight jackets on hand for those who got a little too aggressive.

Sitting in a room with a kind-faced nurse, a student nurse and a polite doctor was not what I expected. It was my admission process. We went through why I was there and what had been going on before my admission. Unfortunately, that was an admission to a paediatric ward due to chest pains where I was tubed and forced to have feeds.

I made it clear that I didn't want to live that way anymore, but I was scared of getting better. I was frightened of having food on a plate in front of me, the scent rising to my nostrils and losing all control over myself. After all, my anorexia was my control.

Despite this, I was led on a tour through the house. The corridors were carpeted and the walls a bright shade of sapphire, with a door leading to an art room full of paints and glitter. They took me to a schoolroom, emblazoned with display boards and information. Next was a lounge lit with natural sunlight and covered with motivational canvases, and then I saw the rest of the patients.

They glanced at me with wide eyes. They looked rather comfortable, like they'd been there for a while. Smiling, they introduced themselves- and I already felt more at home.

Heading to my room, a person burst through a door, grappling a patient desperately as they ran away. We huddled into my room to avoid the chaos, and heard the slight screams of an alarm in the distance, but we were told it was "nothing to panic about".

I was able to decorate my room how I liked, which was really nice. I found myself in the coming days, weeks and months spending a lot of my time doing that. My mum and dad printed images of my family to stick on the walls, and I drew small images to go on there too. And (this is rare) we were able to have our phones!

I knew that my main battleground here would be my meals. In fact, I remember my first one all too well.

I picked a circular table to the far left of the room and tentatively chose what juice I wanted. The student nurse from earlier sat alongside me, stroking my hand kindly whilst I began to panic.

In front of me was half of a sandwich. Wholemeal bread. Butter. Cheese.

I screamed. I cried. I pushed myself away from the table. I couldn't do it.

"Hey, Millie?" the nurse said, holding my hands. "You CAN do this. I heard what you said. You want to get better, right? You want to go home? Well, like any illness, anorexia needs medication. This is your medicine. The only thing to heal you is this food. This will get you back to being alive again."

I remember that so vividly. I squeezed her hand tightly as I took every small bite, and eventually there was no sandwich left on the plate. Guilt took over as I continued to panic. Then was a slice of sticky toffee pudding and custard. If anything this was worse.

My reaction was 10X worse. But again, with the nurse's support, I ate it all- no matter how long it took and the emotional and mental devastation I was suffering from.

For an hour afterwards, I had to "rest", meaning that I had to sit. I did this supervised by my parents. It was hard. The guilt and thoughts were far too strong, but I managed it.

On day two, I had my tube taken out. And I began to grow.

I'm not saying every meal from then was a walk in the park. It took me a good month or so to stop the panic, to calm my thoughts slightly, but there was a point where the panic didn't seem worth it anymore. I believed what the nurse said.

Obviously, my time there wasn't just spent in the dining room following a very strict meal plan and rest periods. I did a lot of artwork, experimenting with clay and even decorating vomit bowls to look like Easter bonnets. I also managed to continue my love of baking in there; one of the most significant things I made was a lemon drizzle cake, which I had to have a piece of- it was a unit rule.

It took a lot, but I did it.

We even went on unit visits! I watched Beauty and the Beast in the cinema, as well as Logan, Zootopia and a movie named At Eye Level, which I think was German. The most notable visit though was when we went to the RSPCA where I stroked a lot of cats and dogs, and made my little pup very jealous.

But, I got to go home too. And I'd treasure every moment spent with my family and pets. Even though they visited everyday whilst I was on the unit, there was something sweeter about sitting at my own table and laying in my own bed.

School wasn't an issue either. My unit luckily had it's own schoolroom with a teacher for every subject- it meant that I wasn't going to get behind my peers, one of my biggest fears when I was approaching my admission.

And of course the staff were lovely. I'm not going to lie, I liked some people more than others but- truthfully? I never had any issues with anyone. Every member had their quirks, and they made me grin from ear-to-ear even in the toughest of times, and they were my shoulder to cry on.

Possibly one of my hugest worries was the other patients. Although they came and went, the people who were there during most of my stay were kind, caring and hilarious. We supported each other and ensured that we were all safe.

I think having to go into an inpatient unit is one of the most bewildering experiences I've ever had. It makes you challenge your thoughts head-on in an intense environment and it's not for everyone; but for me, it was the springboard for my journey. I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for my hospitalisation.

Yes, you will have to eat. 
Yes, you will have to gain weight.

But, you will gain more than that. You will gain:

  • Happiness,
  • Health,
  • Your life back.

To me, that is much better than simply surviving.
You deserve to live. Don't let your disorder get in the way of that.

Here's my YouTube video about my inpatient experience!

Millie x


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