Updated: Jun 21
When I was scrolling through Facebook one day, a meme caught my eye. It was posted by a friend, and I know it was done innocently, but it shook me to the core, and the fact that people laughed at it and loved it made me even more upset. It said: “A 72hr hold in a psych unit is beginning to intrigue me as a potential vacation opportunity”. Clearly, this was written by a person who has never been on a psych unit, because the horrors of losing all control of every part of your life are anything but a vacation.
When you first get to a hospital, they strip you down to nothing and go over every lump and crevice looking for self-injurious marks and drugs, etc. that you could have hidden, while you cry silently and are just completely humiliated. Your clothes are taken away from you and you are given a gown, maybe two so that you can cover your backside, but not often. Eventually they will give you back some of your clothes, usually up to three outfits worth, but they can’t have any strings or hoods, and usually only one can be a sweatshirt…oh and your bras must be wireless…but they’re happy to take out the wires or give you feminine pads to stick in your shirt.
Some of the expensive places let you fill out a menu to choose your food for the next day, but many places just give you a box of food and you eat it and live with it. At the last place I was at they had a lot of grits, fried food, and canned peas, none of which I eat. They can make you stay longer if you leave food on your tray, so I would pass out my food to other people who were always starving. I lost ten pounds in two weeks, but my stomach hurt all the time.
The staff told us once, just sit back and relax, this is a free vacation. Here’s the thing, it is not in any way free unless you have Medicaid. With my secondary insurance it is about $200 a day, of which I end up paying $50 a month for the next six years. Before I had secondary insurance, and while I was doing shock therapy I got a bill from a hospital for $21,000+. We’re still trying to negotiate with that one. This is definitely not a free vacation.
The staff is usually underpaid and overworked. It totally depends where you stay, but they can be incredibly unkind and seemingly lazy. You don’t get to keep your hygiene products (imagine not being able to brush your teeth when ever you want) and they get angry when you ask for them because they don’t want to have to get them. At the last place I was at I literally rationed which days I would brush my teeth/shower/brush my hair/put on deodorant, etc.) because I was so scared of being yelled at.. Plus, they didn’t have any soap in the bathroom to wash your hands, so we had to use hand sanitizer to try and get clean every time we used the restroom.
You frequently have a roommate, and you definitely don’t get to pick them. They may be incredibly kind and wonderful, or they may leave the light on all night long and wake you up at three in the morning to vent about all the things that are wrong in the world…or worse.
At the last hospital I was at, I was feeling fine and wanted to go home, but the doctor said that I was manic…even though he had never even seen me in person.
My support team and I talked to them about trying to sign a 72 hour hold and trying to get out, but they told me that if I did that I would be petitioned, then they would take me to court which would take at least another week, and then the court would find me incompetent, and that I would have to stay for at least a month after that. I was much better off to just do whatever the doctor said, even though it was wrong, and go home when he allowed me to.
So the next time you think that a 72-hour hold sounds like a vacation, think of this. Think of the humiliation, the tears, the panic of being ripped from your home and all your coping skills, and the cost. Maybe you’ll realize how traumatizing a statement like that can be.