Today was my first day in the Psychiatric ward.
You guys should’ve seen our faces. We were excited and yet we were also anxious and scared. We had too many questions, too many what-if’s even though we were already given an orientation before.
The guard unlocked the gate, pulled it open for us, I can even hear the metals clanking and right at the moment I took one step inside the facility, my heart skipped a beat. It felt like I entered the realm of “The Walking Dead” (Have you ever seen that series? I haven’t. I mean, I only saw about 2-3 episodes in season 2). Their were arms flailing from barred rooms, men and women calling out at us, some smiling widely, some staring at us with curiosity. It was a bit scary. My partner had to grip my arm so tight I could hardly feel it.
We then went to the basketball court at the male clients’ garden (or was that a garden? Not so sure. It was like an open place or something). That was the place where we were given an orientation by the nurse on duty in that ward. The male clients were still inside taking their medications, daily baths and other daily routines they have.
The orientation was a brief recall of theories we’ve learned and important things we should carry with us. He also shared tons of stories. Some made me relieved and some scared me more.
Then, the male clients went out into the open area with us even while we were having the orientation. I can feel everyone going stiff, including me. Then we were dismissed and were told to go find clients for ourselves. We had to face our fear at that instant.
I placed a big smile on my face, putting on an aura of courage but deep inside I know I’m scared. However, when I finally got talk to one of them, they weren’t so bad at all. They were nice, a lot like babies actually. You see, people with mental illness usually delves themselves into the early stage of life — preschool age and such.
There was one patient, he was on his 30’s and yet when I asked him how old he was, he answered me saying: “DOSE.” In the English translation, that meant “TWELVE”.
I had a lot of experience in the ward. It didn’t scare me but rather it lifted me up. It felt a lot like a happy place. Now, don’t get me wrong. HAHA. I’m not crazy.
I met different kinds of people there. One of them was a medical student. She was very interesting. She had on a red lipstick and her wet hair was combed well. While me and my classmates were gathered in a big crowd she started to walk in between all of us and pointed her fingers towards the bathroom saying: “That’s my concert hall. That’s where I sing all my songs. It has three compartments. Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. I always go to Visayas.” I didn’t need to translate anything to you this time because that was exactly how she said it. She was talking to us in English. (Note: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are the 3 largest islands of the Philippines.) Another woman, probably in her mid-20’s welcomed us. She actually oriented us in the whole women’s floor. It felt like she was in her sanity. It was fun listening to her. She didn’t seem crazy at all. One time, she challenged the nurse in-charge to tour us around to ask us questions but since the nurse no longer had anything else to ask us, she took over. “Bi, bi, unsa may gamit sa Risperidone bi?” In English it meant: “So, what is Risperidone for?” She challenged us as if so sure that we had nothing to answer.
The people there are amazing. So are the patients. Looking at them, I wonder what each of their stories are, how they got there, why they’re even there and so much more.
So, for all the student nurses out there who are about to be exposed in the Psychiatric Ward for the very first time, this is my advise to you. Carry everything you have learned in theory in your heart and mind BUT! (“BUT” emphasized right there.) BUT never let it dictate your perception of the patients. Learn to explore the vast unknown of their personalities. Do not let your knowledge scare you thinking you know what a mentally-ill-individual is thinking. That’s being judgmental. As student nurses, always carry a pocket full of knowledge, courage and compassion. Don’t look at your patients as someone who’s barbaric, uncivilized and all that. Erase your imagination of a crazy person with golden teeth, coated with too much dirt that when you look at them the only thing that’s white are their teeth. Stop imagining them having unkept, messy hair with no baths while laughing all the way, stop thinking even that they are always plotting to hurt you or harm you. Remember, you came here for them, not for you. You are not the star here. They are but of course, always be on your guard. We still must look out for ourselves to be able to render care to them but be careful also not to be too careful of yourself that you end up mistaking them for someone they are not. Compassion. Always remember that. 🙂
I’m very thankful to God for giving me the privilege to meet these people with such beautiful minds. They are precious beings. I feel kind of bad for thinking wrongly about them. It was an honor to know that they’re not that scary at all. They may be different, yes. Mentally-challenged, yes but still, they are God’s creations. They’re still beautiful.