Advanced Hospitalization: The Psych Ward

MTWRFSS — 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.

Martha Dominguez de Gouveia / Unsplash

Course Overview

So you had an anxiety attack, the worst of your life. Or you tried to kill yourself and your friendly doctors are all, “only trying to help,” or “we’re so glad you’re okay,” or they promise “you’re going to be just fine” a little too enthusiastically. Or you’re not quite at either of those stages and your only symptoms are an overwhelming darkness and an invisible weight on your very existence precluding your participation in the outside world. For whatever reason you are joining us today, we do hope we can make you as uncomfortable as possible as we surround you with enough raw, untreated illness that your symptoms subside simply by giving us a few days to immerse you in your own personal hell.

In this course you can expect to feel trapped and alone, in spite of your roommate with the bandaged wrists offering you food from home in ward-approved plastic containers. But it’s either that or eat our food, which tastes like those ward-approved plastic containers.

You will be tested on your ability to qualify for Medicaid in a state you don’t live in, the crushing realization that your efforts will be for naught becoming as ever-present as the pen marks you’ve made on the application. You, who were barely speaking to your family or closest friends before being brought in an ambulance by four uniformed strangers you were meant to trust with your life, will learn what it means to be in solitude and to simultaneously never be left alone. You came in for an anxiety attack — isn’t that camera hung up on the far corner wall opposite your mattress that feels like poured concrete with a cardboard blanket supposed to be for watching those who might attempt suicide? Or re-attempt? That’s not you. But if you’re here any longer, trapped in this small room without lights or windows, behind a door that locks from the outside, it might be.

But that’s not why you’re here.

Learning Goals and Objectives

By the time your daily meeting with your perpetually ashen-faced psychiatrist, pores deep and wrinkles neat, results in him uttering those fateful words — “We’re going to let you go home soon” — here is what we expect you will have learned:

1. Don’t try to kill yourself again. Or have another panic attack. Or have another very public psychotic break. These things scare your family and friends but, more importantly, they make our lives a complete hassle when we have to admit you at 4:45 on a Monday morning.

2. Your time is not your own here, but it is entirely yours in the outside world. How will you spend your time once you’re out? We weren’t meant to teach you that, so we didn’t.

3. Remember those breathing exercises we spent five minutes teaching you in that small monotone room, and by “we,” of course, we mean your blank-stared occupational psychologist with the short brown hair who had the body you want and that’s why you couldn’t focus on the exercises, because all you could think about what how unattainable those smooth curves and flat stomach would be in your perpetually infirmed state? Because now whenever you are anxious about your body, and all you want to do is breathe normally, relying on your lungs to bring you back to your warped reality, all you will be able to think about is that woman with the perfect fucking body who has probably never needed to rely on the breathing exercises she teaches in order to ground her perfect fucking body back down to the earth that already revolves around her ilk, do you know what? They won’t work. Imagine that.

4. But seriously, don’t pull this shit again.

Required Texts

· Don’t Be Selfish, edited by your ex-best friend who just couldn’t deal with “your situation” anymore

· “Navigating Medicaid: You Won’t Be Accepted” (pamphlet — if you buy just one book on this list, make it this one)

· Ten People to Avoid in the Cafeteria, a workbook completed by you every time you sit next to the disheveled woman who was probably sitting alone for a reason because she mutters about you to herself even though you’re sitting right there

· Voluntary Admittance: Is It Really Voluntary?


Surveillance is constant and judgment is swift. And while there are no formal exams, if you don’t socialize enough or cooperate with your doctors or take your meds, we will find out and it will affect your ability to complete the class.


1. There are no gentle reminders on the ward. If we suggest you do something or refrain from doing something, it is law.

2. Eat your meals. We don’t care how disgusting hospital food is or how you dread the cafeteria (see “Required Texts,” Ten People to Avoid). It’s a public hospital, we’re not equipped to deal with eating disorders here.

3. No sharp objects or flimsy fabrics, unless you have received permission to have ONE (1) pencil or ONE (1) pen or ONE (1) fitted sheet. No sharing these objects with other students, even if they just need it to complete their state health insurance application (see “Course Overview” and “Required Texts” — “Navigating Medicaid”). Someone else can be trusted to do it for them.

4. If you try to kill yourself on the ward, there will be severe consequences. Like being made to stay longer, for one.