In 2007 I was sectioned under the mental health act with my nursing uniform in my bag. The whole experience of my first sectioning was shocking, traumatic, shameful and confusing.
I was taken by a psychologist, who I was seeing for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, to the Emergency Psychiatric service because he was concerned about me. I was taken to a room with no windows whilst the psychologist spoke to the Emergency Psychiatric team. I remember feeling catastrophic, trapped and concerned that I needed to get to work.
I was then assessed by a doctor who asked me deep psychological questions which for me was beginning to open a whole can of worms and was traumatic and distressing. Through the whole assessment I kept thinking, I need to get to work – I can’t let the ward down.
Then I was left in the room by myself, I felt stressed and that the room was closing in on me. After what felt like an eternity to me, a number of people entered – I had no idea who there were and all I remember of them is their shoes as I was no longer looking up. In my medical notes it states that my speaking had become very slow and I was not responding to questions. My memory is that I was extremely overwhelmed and I just wanted to leave, go to work and no longer be asked anymore psychological questions that I couldn’t answer and were confusing my mind.
All the people left then after a short time returned to let me know I was sectioned. I went into sheer panic. I thought instantly that I would lose my job and never be a nurse again. I keep repeating – I will come in voluntary, you don’t need to section me. I had not realised that when they had asked me to go into hospital I basically had had no choice that if I didn’t say yes I would be sectioned. In my mind I just kept thinking about the ward I worked on, that they would no be able to find cover for me that day. When I realised I was sectioned I was absolutely terrified. One of the staff said don’t worry we will help you – that comment has haunted me and felt like a betrayal to this day because for me my situation became so much worse and I call the years between 2007 – 2012 my lost years.
I was taken up to the ward and a nurse read me my rights under the mental health act. I was so overwhelmed that the only thing I remember her saying was that if I didn’t take the medication I was prescribed by the doctor, it would forcefully be given to me by injection. I was completely terrified.
I rang the ward I worked on and told my manager what had happened, she was so compassionate and supporting she put on the phone the HIV mental health nurse that worked on our ward. It was her that with care explained my situation and where I could get help and support.
After this phonecall I was taken to a bedroom and searched. All I had with me was my crossbody bag which contained my keys, wallet and nursing uniform. When there got to my nursing uniform there noticed that the name badge and my watch had a pins on then to fasten to the uniform, they took them off and said they had to take them off me. I remember wondering why, it has never crossed my mind that I could use them to self harm. That action by the nurses, in a moment, had stripped me of my identity as a nurse, I thought I will never be a nurse again and my thoughts of suicide increased 100 fold. The nurses had not even considered what they were doing to me psychologically.
I was then left in a freezing cold room because it was November and the windows in the room didn’t close properly. Lost and confused I went to the lounge and it was a patient who asked if I was okay. She then made me a cup of tea, gaave me some of her own toiletries and explained to me how the ward and hospital worked. I will always be thankful for her kindness that day.
My first admission was 8 months long. In that time I completely deteriorated. I was forced to have ECT Electroconvulsive therapy with a second opinion doctor saying that I did not have capacity to understand the benefits of the treatment. But in reality this treatment made me think I had completely lost my mind. In addition, I was financially and sexually exploited by another patient, was deprived of my liberty and embroidery, thought I would never be a nurse again and was told by my eldest sister that if I took my own life I would go to hell. Though I was taken off section 3 in August 2008 sadly the whole experience increased my desire to end my life and for the next 5 years I became a revolving door of the mental health system.
However in 2012 I was sent to a therapeutic community where I was given 4 years of psychodynamic psychotherapy which has meant that in 2019 I was able to complete a return to nursing course.