Two people (real people, but I can’t give details) were talking about the mental health system. One mentioned that hospital had felt like a punishment, and the other took that literally. “Oh,” she said, turning to me. “I get it. So hospital is like a punishment for the ones who don’t get it.” I explained that hospital is for people who need more support than can be given in the community. After several explanations she “got” it and I felt relieved.
And then I remembered.
I remembered how much, at the time, hospitalisation felt like a punishment to me. That purgatorial state. The way the nurses and doctors could be unkind, dismissive. The way that I often felt I was there because “nothing else could be done” with me, that I was there because there was no chance of me getting better. The loneliness, the restrictions on when I could see the people I loved, the constant pumping of medication I didn’t want (and didn’t think I needed) into a system undernourished by depression. I could see why she thought it was a place for the hopeless ones, the last-ditch-attempt ones, the ones who were effectively being punished for being unwell. Because at the time, that was exactly how I felt.
I saw through my own arguments, how weak they seemed in the face of the facts. Even though hospital is a place for “getting better”, it definitely doesn’t always feel like that. I understand why she took that comment literally, and I wish I didn’t, and I wish she didn’t have to.