Laurel Oaks

Name of Hospital: Laurel Oaks

City, State/Province, Country: Dothan, Alabama, United States

Number of Stars: 1.5

Comment: I admitted myself voluntarily to the acute ward because my therapist was going to be out of town and I couldn’t promise my safety. It was hell from the second I got there.

I was talking with my friends in the waiting room before I actually entered the hospital – I was told to put the phone away, but was not allowed outside to finish the message. Whatever. I signed over, went inside to meet with the nurses. I had told them I was trans, and they said they separated patients by sex, but that I could join in the boys therapy group (this was a lie, I was never allowed this). To alleviate my dysphoria, I put rolled socks in the front of my underwear, but this was “dangerous.” I had copied out Buddhist stories that made me feel at ease, but these were thrown away during the “checking my luggage” part of entry, and I had to remove my earrings. The entire week I stayed was awful.

Staff had no problem insulting patients and openly mocking them if they were in the ward for a second or third stay, but it was a “breach of privacy” if we talked about our own personal reasons for coming. There were only about 10 people on the acute ward, but if we talked to the same people frequently, we were separated so we wouldn’t become “co-dependent.” Consensual, platonic touch was “violation of boundaries” and for the gay/bi patients, inherently sexual in the eyes of staff.

A nonverbal Autistic girl was regularly mocked by staff for refusing to bathe and for sitting with me. A hyperactive little boy was not allowed to go outside and play because he was “being too hyperactive, and being bad means you can’t go outside.” My journal was confiscated because when I wrote about my day, I used first names. Somehow, it wasn’t a problem that I wrote that I was suicidal or that my roommate was bothering me.

They asked us how we felt each day and what our goal was for the day, and they didn’t care if we lied about feeling okay because we wanted to leave as soon as possible. I only saw my assigned therapist once, and when I requested to see her, I was told she would see me if they thought she needed to – not when I wanted to. We were always to be with the group – the only privacy we ever got was the 3 minutes we were allowed to bathe or shower, and staff would come in if we took too long. There was no hot water. My first night there, staff burst in with flashlights yelling at me because I slept with my covers over my head.

I was marked as having had an “irrational breakdown” because I started crying when I wasn’t able to contact my family during phone hours (my family is deaf). They get half a star for deciding halfway through the week I could text my family under supervision. Movies and videos were not captioned, and they regularly played Lifetime Movie Network (you know, the network that has a lot of women dying or being abused).

I was accused of lying about drug use – I admitted to smoking marijuana, but my bloodwork was mixed up with someone else’s, so instead of pot, they found cocaine, which I had never done and denied doing. They took my blood twice to double check (and rolled their eyes when this made me dizzy and faint), and said I must have been hiding track marks under my sleeve (I was hiding cuts).

If we even looked at someone of the “opposite sex” we got scolded for “flirting” – but the playground was so small it was hard to avoid anyone. I was regularly in trouble for standing up without permission, or walking to the bookshelf without permission, or getting water from the pump using my own hands instead of asking staff to do it for me.

All in all I felt lost, like I had even less control over my life, and as if I had no autonomy. I left feeling worse than when I had come in, and the staff seemed to feel this was the point.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Autistic (undiagnosed at the time), Deaf trans person

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