The Isolation Legacy of Psychiatric Hospitalisation



Ever had that feeling your distance and vague, on the edge of what’s happening or felt socially awkward? That’s how I felt yesterday which was sad, it wasn’t anyone’s fault it was just how things felt, it stems from my time in hospital when I was so outside what was happening in the world around me. When I was so detached from the rat race and generally isolated from life that I became so unaware of what was going on around me.

Now I was never a social animal, I only ever had a few people I could call friends and I much preferred to be with just one or two people than a huge crowd. But I understood life and I didn’t feel distant or vague. Yet after my time in hospital that changed and I suddenly found that it was much more difficult to interact in the same way as before.

I went out for a meal with some dear old friends and unfortunately it had been a long journey in rush hour traffic which was draining and the restaurant was extremely busy and noisy. My friends are really good, we have been meeting up for meals for over 25 years and I’ve known some of them even longer than that, this was safe secure company. They have stood by me during my time in hospital and have never judged me, in fact they have kept me up to date with things even when I wasn’t able to attend our regular meet ups.

Yet somehow yesterday the restaurant was just too noisy and I felt tired and that led at first to me feeling on edge and then distant. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, no one could have done anything different it was just one of those days I guess, but as I drove to where I was staying I felt anxious. I was frantically thinking over and over if I had done anything embarrassing, had I said too little or too much.

I was explaining to my daughter how the evening had gone and said how I felt socially inept, how the noise had caused me great difficulties and how I now felt really drained. She was as reassuring as ever, but the reality is that I just felt distance, vague and on the edge of things. It wasn’t my best night and I knew that, yes it wasn’t a failure but I knew I could have been so much better too.

Having difficulty yesterday has reminded me of the damage done by all the isolation I have faced in the past decade. Isolation caused by having Dissociative Identity Disorder, isolation caused by being in the psychiatric system, in fact it hurt to think just how much I have changed as a result of those 200 weeks in a psychiatric unit.

My admissions were rarely short, a few were, but I had one of 14 weeks, another of 10 months and my longest was nearly 2 years. Believe me it wasn’t good for keeping contact with the outside world, or keeping hold of personal life skills. The psychiatric system drained me of dignity but it also robbed me of so much more too and I know my social skills and my confidence took a huge knock.


The longer admissions were the worst you become so disenfranchised from society, you don’t watch the news and keeping up with events impacting friends and family is hard. I can recall the TV seemed frightening when I first returned home after my longest stay, I hadn’t watched it at all during my inpatient stay. The noise seemed hard to deal with and interacting with anyone except my immediate family felt like a mountain of a challenge.

The first family gathering I attended after my release was terrifying, I felt like an outsider, an alien from outer space sitting in and observing. Going shopping was a challenge as everywhere seemed so busy and talking to people in authority was exceptionally hard such was my fear of these people now. I felt as if I was being constantly assessed by anyone and everyone and they’d come and lock me back up at any minute, I had vowed to myself that if that did happen I’d bail out. I even had my suicide plans ready and this time I knew I would not make a mistake, such was my fear of hospital that I really couldn’t face being detained any more. I knew it wasn’t fair on the little parts of me to allow them to suffer yet again in a psychiatric system that really didn’t understand, in a system that terrified them.

If there was one thing I had learned in hospital it was a plethora of new ways to self harm and those ways to commit suicide that failed and those which worked. Looking back I think that it is so sad that the things I did learn in all that time I was in psychiatric inpatient care were such negatives.

In hospital I tried desperately to keep myself to myself to avoid conflicts, I wasn’t like the other patients I was the only one who had Dissociative identity Disorder. The only person who constantly carried a bear and who switched from one alter to another, one minute I was an adult me, the next a child and the next a moody teen and all in less than a day. I guess you could say that I stood out and that really didn’t help to enamour me to other patients who often thought I was odd, weird and just plain crazy.

So during my time in hospital I became isolated, isolated from the world outside but also socially isolated inside too. You tend not to make many friends in hospital and you desperately want to have your own space and peace and quiet. You lose skills, you lose the very basics many people take for granted and in my case I lost the ability to cope in busy noisy environments with ease.

Hence why I guess yesterday was difficult, tired and drained and in a noisy place I just found things harder than usual. I know I will learn from this experience but I also know I can’t change the damage done to me in hospital in an instant. Some day I might be able to face such a busy environment with ease, sadly I doubt it will be anytime soon though.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014




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