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Vanessa's Story 

"It Felt Like Prison"

Hi, my name is Vanessa. I am nineteen and I live in Maryland. 

When I was sixteen, I experimented with LSD. During this time I was chronically depressed, anxious, and controlled by an eating disorder. The LSD brought everything to the surface, and I realized I was not ok. I tried to seek help by talking to my parents and school counselor, but it only resulted in trauma. I was also under a psychosis for about a week or two after taking the drug. After opening up to my parents, my dad ended up physically assaulting me by putting his hands around my throat and pushing me into the bed multiple times. When I told my family, no one believed me because they thought I was "crazy" and "delusional". One day, my sister told me she was taking me to school and instead I was taken to a crisis center. I talked to a psychiatrist for only twenty minutes (after waiting there for hours) while my dad was in the room. I wanted to tell her about what had happened but I didn't feel comfortable; I also didn't have much time to talk. On our way home, my dad got violent with me again during an argument. This time he drove past our house, so I opened the door to see if I could jump out, but he was going too fast. Before I knew it, my dad had swerved into the middle of the road with the door still open. I asked him to stop and he only turned the car around when I said I was sorry. When I got home, I went to tell the rest of my family, (I am the youngest of five) and no one believed me yet again. So I told them to take me back to the crisis center because I did not feel safe at home and I needed help. Instead, they took me to the hospital where my sister works, which is a regular medical hospital. 


When I got there, they asked me all sorts of questions and I told them the truth at first. I spent twelve days at GBMC waiting for a bed somewhere else. At first, there was a seventy-two hour hold, and then they couldn't figure out where to put me. I waited twelve days to come home. While I was there, I had four different roommates and received no treatment. I would talk to a psychologist almost every day for about five minutes, which was really just a series of questions. I learned which answers were right and which answers were wrong. 


As soon as I got settled there, I wanted to go home. I did not realize what I got myself into, it felt like prison. Twelve days in one room is a long time. I also lost a significant amount of weight while I was there. I would overhear the nurses giggling outside my room as I screamed and cried. One doctor made me feel absolutely crazy, and I wish I could remember what he said but I blocked it out. No words can describe the pain that I felt sitting in that room. I felt completely alone and isolated, which I was. It made me regret seeking help in the first place. 


When I got home, I was even more traumatized than I was when I got there. I was back in the same house, and nothing had really changed. I basically ended up going back to therapy and was extremely behind in school. My grades suffered because of this, some teachers made accommodations but I mostly had to accept failing grades for the second quarter of my senior year. 


In a way, I am grateful that I wasn't sent somewhere else. But even being at a hospital for twelve days is extremely traumatizing and I now have a huge fear of hospitals. I went there needing help and safety, and I was given nothing. It made me not want to ever open up to anyone again. It taught me how in this system, there are right answers and wrong answers. I felt like an animal, and I felt like that is how all the workers saw me. Some treated me with respect, and others didn't. To pass the time I would cry, read when I could, watch TV, and talk to my roommates. I did not have my phone, and I was on suicide watch because I "tried to jump out of a moving vehicle". I went on a walk one time in the twelve days I was there. It was a walk around the unit and I had to be escorted by two security guards. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. 


I cannot speak about psych treatment centers because I never stayed at one, but this is my experience, and it is a huge flaw in the system. My sister works at a hospital as a nurse, and she said kids can wait months for a bed. I was there for twelve days and I barely survived. I could not imagine being a child staying in a hospital for months waiting for a bed, receiving no treatment, as a mental patient. 

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