It was mid-May of 2018, I was failing every single one of classes, the relationship I was in at the time was going to shit, my family had so much drama, and I was constantly consumed by the overwhelming thought of killing myself. Most nights I’d sit by my window contemplating if I should jump out. Other nights I drank more alcohol than I would have on a casual night. It was safe to say my depression took over me. I was already on anti-depressants but it just wasn’t helping. It took a while but eventually I realized I needed to seek higher level of care.
I started researching psychiatric facilities in New York. I read so many shitty reviews about the hospitals in the city. Quite frankly I already had some of my own knowledge about them being that my mom worked on the unit when I was child. I knew that I genuinely did not want to enter any mental health unit at a city hospital. During my research I came across Four Winds Hospital. Their reviews were up and down but I also believed I needed to form my own opinion of it. I spent about two days constantly visiting the site and calling them, trying to decide if I really wanted to attend a facility that was borderline upstate. The distance wasn’t my biggest fear– I watched so many movies and heard so many things about how they treat patients in mental institutions, I was beyond terrified. I also knew the stigmas surrounding psychiatric hospitalizations. I didn’t want to be deemed as that crazy girl. Overall, the experience of finding a facility that I felt was best suited for me really brought out my anxieties.
On May 17th, I realized Four Winds was for me. It’s not like your ordinary psychiatric hospital, they had so much more to offer. One thing that was incredibly exceptional to me was that they offered outdoor activities, I wouldn’t be confined to the indoors. On their website they also shared the schedule for the adult inpatient program which showed the numerous amount of daily activities and groups that was offered. I called them again and let them know that I would be arriving the next day.
On May 18th, I hopped on an Amtrak train and headed to Katonah. Did I know for a fact that this was the best decision for me? Yes. Was I still petrified beyond words? Hell yes. As I waited to be screened by an employee I remember sitting on the phone, with my now fiance, anxiously trying to distract myself from what was going on. After about a half an hour I was seen by a woman who asked me numerous questions about why I felt that I needed to be there. Next step was to be screened by the psychiatrist. I explained to him my symptoms, told him the medications I was already on, and we came up with a treatment plan. I had officially committed myself.
It wasn’t long before I was taken to the adult lodge, the unit I would be residing at. I had a roommate, I won’t say much about her because everyone is entitled to their privacy, but I have this clear visual of her pink hair. We vibed right away, had conversations about why we were there, shared a crazy amount of stories. It didn’t take long for me to be relieved of my anxieties. After a few days, for unknown reasons, I was transferred to another room and given another roommate. She and I got along just as well, her case was a bit more severe than mine as she was a paranoid schizophrenic. I’m not sure how they arrange who gets roomed with who but I wasn’t mad at the process. I had some nights where I didn’t get much sleep because my roommates condition caused her to need a night light. There were some nights where I’d wake up and she would be holding the lantern over my head just staring at me. I gave her the nickname Sweets because, when you take away her condition, she was truly the most precious person I’ve ever met.
I met with my social workers daily and gave them updates on my symptoms. I went to most activities and groups, they didn’t force me to do anything that I didn’t want to do but they highly encouraged me to be active in what was supposed to help me heal. It took some time for me to feel better because, like I mentioned, I had so much family drama going on and the relationship I was in at the time was reaching it’s ending. No one came to visit me (one downside about attending a facility that’s 50 miles away), the only people that called for me was my grandmother and my dad. So yes, I was a little heartbroken. I was facing the most difficult time of my life and the people I needed the most were not present. As they days passed by I become more engaged in the groups. DBT was one of the best forms of therapy I encountered. After two weeks my depression subsided, I was not in the same head space or emotional turmoil that landed me there. When the time came for me to be discharged I was genuinely heartbroken. I didn’t want to leave the facility. I formed so many friendships on the unit with people who reminded me that I was not alone in this battle. To this day I still keep in contact with them. Leaving Four Winds reminded me of the last day of school after graduation.
The setting of the entire facility reminded me of what I’ve seen in camp movies except it was much more beautiful. I really valued the large amount of time we spent outdoors because we were surrounded by nothing but other lodges and nature. Unlike city hospitals, you really had freedom to do as you pleased, as long as you weren’t harming yourself or others. I never felt more free and confident– I walked around the unit with and without my wigs, in a bonnet, I did my own laundry, was able to pick the food that I wanted, and had access to great snacks. They had some exceptional staff as well. There was a tall, lanky African American worker who put a smile on all the patients face, I wish I could remember his name. I know most people have the worst things to say about being in a psychiatric facility, but I can’t say anything bad about my stay at Four Winds. Honestly, their groups taught me all the skills I needed to overcome the struggles I face living with a mental illness. I’d be lying if I said I’m completely healed. Living with a mental illness is a daily struggle, I have good days and yes, I still have some bad days. But I also have every single DBT handout that was given to me in groups and I go back to them whenever I feel triggered or like I’m entering that depressive state.
If you or someone you know is in need of more intensive care for their mental health, I’d highly recommend Four Winds Hospital. I know many people are against hospitalizations as movies portray it as this place that has you doped up on medications to the point where you’re a zombie, but that is not the case at Four Winds. I can only speak on my experience but I will say that it was a great and positive experience for me. I learned a lot about myself, healing, and all the necessary skills to help me not get stuck in the trap of my mental illness.