Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Name of Facility: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Chicago, IL, USA

Number of Stars: 3

Description of Experience: In March of this year (2017) I voluntarily admitted myself into the inpatient psychiatric program (More so my ex-boyfriend [who I was still living with] and my family (mostly) my mom coerced me into doing so. I had had a manic episode, had not slept in at least 72 hours (plus I had huge bouts of depression for at least a month before that).

I checked into the ER, saw multiple nurses and doctors, then a psychiatrist, and finally was told they thought it best I was admitted. I then waited forever! From the time I got to the hospital, to the time I actually got into the psych ward was 12 hours- I don’t know how I made it.

When I got there, I hadn’t slept in over 80 hours and was completely delirious. I was forced to strip naked and have every nook and cranny of my body inspected. Then every single one of my belongings was taken away from me (apart from my underwear, bra, socks, leggings, and shirt) My boots had laces, so I couldn’t keep them and my hoodie had a drawstring. This one very rude man took away EVERYTHING else, including all my makeup and even my chap stick. I told him I had very dry lips and I needed it but he refused to give it to me. They took away my birth control and refused to let me have any (for 2 full nights) until a doctor THERE prescribed it… which gave me extreme anxiety (oh yeah, but they forbid xanax there, so I couldn’t even take anything to help me out with that).

It’s the middle of the night, so I sleep thru the morning sessions and wake up for lunch. The food there actually wasnt terrible (not great, but definitely better than anticipated). I then attended a group therapy session (where I made my first friend (over my uncontrollable laughter about a pun he made)). So I became friends with him and this other dude (I was told “hey you’re the second normalish-person I’ve met yet, hang out with us!”). So that was cool until the nurses gave me some drug I’ve never taken before (without explaining anything to me) and suddenly was unable to form a coherent sentence or think clearly, so I staggered to my room and went to bed.

Next day: everyone is supposed to receive a folder with an itinerary, articles, worksheets, and you are supposed to be assigned to a certain group. Guess what?! Nobody told me anything about who my regular nurse would be, who my social worker was, or what group I was in. The staff was SO unhelpful- those front desk employees won’t even look at you if you have a question. They treat you like you are an animal and have no respect for you whatsoever, SO I just went to whatever meetings the friends I had made attended.

I had my own room, which was super nice.. and it was really big and a good escape between sessions just to rest or contemplate. The beds were very uncomfortable though.

My social worker was very nice (but it took me 4 days to see her and then I only saw her the second time when I was leaving).

I had maybe 6 nurses while I was there because my primary nurse was on vacation so they kept alternating them. Ya know, It would be great if the hospital would assign you a nurse that was actually there, instead of one that would be there 5 days after your admission.. just sayin.

I also had 3 psychiatrists: my primary, the weekend coverage, and a sub when my primary was out sick. I think that’s way too many psychiatrists for 1 week. Hospital policy is that Xanax is not tolerated, but I had been taking 3mg daily for 2 years. After 2 days I experienced severe withdrawals, but no one would listen to me. I was sweating, then freezing, couldn’t hold a cup of water due to the shakes, could not think straight, was laughing deliriously, had severe insomnia, started hallucinating- thinking the plants from the painting in my bedroom were coming out as demons trying to eat me alive. It wasn’t til a weekend day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I approached a man in a white coat and asked him if he was a psychiatrist. He said “yes, but what’s your name? … I’m not yours but Dr. so-&so will be seeing you later today”. I told him anyways what was going on and he pulled thru, told the other doctor, and she immediately put me on some Klonopin. Thank god, because I literally thought I was dying. It was so irresponsible to cut me off of benzos cold turkey in the first place, but at least I eventually got helped.

The substitute psych was a real “pleasure.” I was told I could go home in 5 days (pending approval from your doctor) and it had been 5 days, so I asked her about it. I had been waiting all weekend and was excited to see my assigned doc on Mon, but when I saw it wasnt her, I started crying a bit. She got pissed off with me and told me “even doctors get sick you know.” and then prescribed me Zoloft (which I have taken before with HORRIBLE results… she clearly didn’t read my charts). After I talked with my nurse, this doctor prescribed me another SSRI that i had already tried with HORRIBLE results. I refused, and my nurse was very understanding and didn’t make me take it.

Oh god, I feel like I have a million more things to say but I’ve already written so much. I CAN say that I met some amazing people there, and formed bonds that I will forever remember.

There was some AWESOME staff, and there was some TERRIBLE staff, but the other patients there made it bearable for me. I HATED not having my cell phone, but after a few days it didn’t bother me too much and I actually liked where I was. I definitely feel some nostalgia.

The facility itself is beautiful (it’s like a really manicured prison.. likely much prettier than your average psych ward.. including a pretty nice gym and lots of yoga mats too). They also have a machine for coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), but they’re lying because they’re both decaf.

I hate that I was here, and I hated so much of my time here, but by the end- I felt pretty content and came out a better person. I saw my regular psychiatrist a few hours after my discharge, and he told me this was the best/ most optimistic he had ever seen me ( so I guess something something worked!)

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient (7 days)

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+:

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2017

Gateway Regional Medical Center

Name of Facility: Gateway Regional Medical Center

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Granite City, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 4

Description of Experience: I was admitted on July 5th, 2017, for suicidal thoughts and self-harm. I had to spend hours upon hours upon hours in the emergency room before they brought me up to my bedroom (there was a special set of rooms for incoming psych patients). Everything was very confusing for my first day, but adapting was very easy. Literally almost all of my stay consisted of being stuck in one room with the other patients (we were not allowed to leave “the dayroom” except for at bedtime).

Legitimately all we had to do was play cards and talk. Since all anyone played was gin rummy (something I don’t know the rules to), I was stuck just spectating unless I could find someone to play Uno with. Boys and girls were separated–we weren’t allowed to sit at the same tables without a staff member present, and had to stay at arm’s length when about the room.

We had “Group” a couple times a day, and that was pretty much all we got treatment-wise besides medicine and “daily” unproductive meetings with therapists (they didn’t come in on weekends or certain weekdays). “Group” was not beneficial at all; the worst example of which I experienced was when one staff member spent an entire meeting either educating us on bestiality or bragging to us (a bunch of abused children) about how she horribly beat her kids. I don’t feel like I have to explain why that was out of line.

However, I would like to add that the food was actually pretty decent, and as a vegetarian I got my needs accommodated well (actually, I recommend to anyone who stays at Gateway to request vegetarian options–you can have grilled cheese for every meal of the day while everyone else has things like tuna salad sandwiches). All the requirements to be released were is to have two positive family sessions, which is where they sit you down with your family and have you talk for a bit. Not very hard really.

However, any kids who ended up there as wards of the state, foster kids, etc, could be kept for much longer. One kid had been in there for exactly 80 days as of the day I left because the government just didn’t seem to know what to do with him. The staff ranged from pretty great to terrible, although most fell in the unremarkable category. Only one person would really qualify as pretty great, and only one other would qualify as terrible (the aforementioned woman who bragged about child abuse). Sleeping was nearly impossible; the bedrooms were incredibly hot and stuffy and you had to keep your door open at all times so that bright light from the hallway spilled in.

Basically overall, I don’t feel like I gained anything from the experience except the added motivation to stop self-harming that was basically “I don’t want to end up in that ward again.” I don’t feel like my stay was productive at all besides that and the fact that I was finally diagnosed and began medication (I had kept quiet about mental health issues until the event that got me admitted). All in all, I don’t think anyone will get anything out of staying, but nothing was outright terrible except for how slowly time passed the first day I was there and how horridly my anxiety was acting up. Everything was just basically decent, with no real outliers besides the one terrible staff member.

Here’s the part where I talk specifically about my experience as a trans man, or just a LGBT+ person in general. Firstly, I was asked my sexuality by every single staff member in charge of treatment. Every therapist I met with, the pediatrician, the woman who showed me into my room, always asked me pretty early on, “Are you into guys, girls, or both?” Some tacked on an option of “neither.” This seemed to be standard procedure, but could have just been because I was trans. I was obviously offended by this, and nearly said something, but bit my tongue because you had to behave if you wanted to go home.

I was put in a bedroom by myself–everyone was given either a room by themself or a with a roommate (each was equipped with two beds), and I wasn’t allowed a roommate, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. Half the people in there weren’t allowed roommates either, (for anger issues or other reasons) so it wasn’t really seen as peculiar by the other kids. I was deadnamed only around less than 30% of the time by staff (I haven’t legally changed my name), which deeply bothered me but I could handle. I also was called “ma’am” a few times, which really bugged me.

I experienced no blatant transphobia or homophobia from the staff, and was treated as a man by therapists. I was also treated as a boy in the dayroom–I was supposed to sit with the guys and avoid the girls. I had been asked at the beginning of my stay what I preferred (they said the last trans guy they had asked to be put with the girls), and my decision was met with no objection. I wasn’t outed to any of the other patients, and was allowed to remain stealth (have people think I was a cis man). So, overall, no real complaints in how I was treated as a trans person aside from some deadnaming and misgendering. Treatment was much better than what I expected in that regard.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: I am FTM transgender (I identify as male but was assigned female at birth), pansexual, and a minor

Northwestern Hospital

Name of Hospital: Northwestern Hospital
City, State/Province, Country: Chicago, IL, USA
Number of Stars: 3

Comment: I had never been in an inpatient program before this one. I spent 5 days at Northwestern and they were alright all things considered. Everyone had their own room and personal shower. There was a washer and dryer we could use with permission too.

I wasn’t /forced/ to go to activities but it did make a difference in how soon I got out as I preferred to read in my room but got scolded for that. I didn’t like any of the activities besides art and yoga personally. They had computers and phones we could use after meals until activities started again. Meals were pretty good and I’m vegetarian so I got a few extra options to choose from. There were visiting hours everyday but only 2 people could come at a time.

Some negatives were the workers. They were really condescending and wouldn’t tell me anything about the process or what they were thinking about how I was doing. My therapist was the worst as she would usually just ask me things like “why are you so sad?” or “why is that a big deal?” She basically told me I had no reason to be depressed or upset and was totally dismissive of the fact that I’m trans. (the general staff made an effort to call me by my chosen name instead of my legal one).

Nobody would use my pronouns even though dysphoria was a big reason I was in the hospital in the first place. The social worker was the same as the therapist. Also they wouldn’t give me my testosterone even though I brought it with me and it took 3 days for them to “approve” it. They also switched my meds twice just in the 5 days I was there. They wouldn’t listen to any of my opinions about what was going in my body.

Overall Northwestern was okay logistic wise but it didn’t help my mental state.

Type of program: inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?:  I’m trans (gender fluid)

Arabella House

Name of Hospital: Arabella House

City, State/Province, Country: Naperville, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: The groups at Arabella House are absolutely horrifying. On my first day there, the therapist immediately pressured me to share intimate details about my trauma. when I didn’t, they told me that I would need to toughen up & that the next day in group I better talk about it. Every single day I tried so hard to find the courage to talk about my trauma in the kind of detail the other patients did. Everyday, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t trust anyone there, it didn’t feel safe.

The therapists got more and more angry with me every day. They started to yell at me. They would tell me, “you’re not trying.” And “if you’re not going to care about your recovery, you will have to leave.” I constantly told them and showed them how hard I was trying. They based my progress off of how much I shared in group. Nothing, in their eyes. Everyday I would cry and no one cared.

I felt very left out, and one day I decided to voice that. All the patients became personally offended, and yelled at me. The therapist yelled at me, told me I was being immature. I cried alone in the bathroom for hours. They didn’t care.

They made me see a trauma therapist. He was a man and we had therapy in the basement. When I told him I was scared of him bc basements are triggering and men are too, he yelled at me and said I was being a baby. Literally. He said, “stop being such a baby.” I swore to myself every time I met with him that I would open up bc every time I didn’t he would yell at me and tell me I was never going to get better. But I would get scared and go mute. One day he told me I was a hopeless lost cause and I was gonna die traumatized and never heal. I freaked out, slammed the door to my room & sobbed. No one cared. Then they yelled at me for being upset. Said it was my fault and that I wasn’t trying.

What else? They made me have family sessions with my abusive family. The therapist constantly took my mom’s side. She told me I was being irrational. That my horribly abusive mother does so much for me and that I’m ungrateful. Etc.

Eventually, they decided that there was something wrong with me and they made me get some psych eval. Tests came back & said I was psychotic. I was livid. after they diagnosed me with psychosis, it was my label. Everything I said was met with, “that’s the psychosis talking.” It made no sense & was extremely inaccurate.

after this hell, I was left an extremely suicidal mess. I told them I was suicidal and afraid. They said, “you can leave whenever you want to.” I said ???? They said “you aren’t trying. You can leave. We don’t want you here if you’re not trying.” They almost discharged me to my death. I decided to stay. Worst choice ever.

The night staff member sprayed holy water on us while we slept.

I could go on. Those things are only the tiniest parts of the hell that was Arabella house. It was an extremely traumatizing environment. I was there for my eating disorder and I left with a whole new set of problems.

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

Year(s) : 2014

Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital

Name of Hospital: Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 1.5

Comment: While this program seemed to have all of the trappings of success, it failed miserably in helping its patients. The counselors were apathetic at best and manipulative at worst. They consistently threatened to extend your stay, even if you were there of your own volition and they had no reason to detain you.

All sessions took place in a group, where refusing to share personal information to complete strangers was seen as noncompliance and punished accordingly. I spent most of my stay there completely silent until directly asked a question, where upon I would reply with the minimum necessary to avoid trouble.

Counselor visits were very infrequent, and I was often made to feel ashamed and hopeless, even physically intimidated at times. My counselor’s method seemed to be destroying self worth and trying to rebuild me into someone I wasn’t. They refused to acknowledge or recommend any medication for clearly clinically depressed patients.

In addition, while I understand it was a religiously affiliated hospital, all patients are promised a nonreligious experience prior to entering any program. That is a definitive lie. It’s not a nonreligious program when a part of treatment is explicitly Christian “spiritual healing.”

The few redeeming factors were art time and some light exercise, even if they were just excuses to get away from the room we were trapped in for so many hours of the day. I’m lucky that some of the other patients took me under their wings. It’s because of them that I got better, because the program alone would have just made things worse.

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

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Pansexual atheist woman. I remained closeted after seeing how fundamentally Christian many of the staff were, and how much that religion was pushed onto patients.

Blessing Hospital

Name of Hospital: Blessing Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Quincy, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 4

Comment: The facility was nice. It was very clean and well kept. (Its brand new basically) The counselor they keep there is wonderful and makes you feel like she actually cares. One of the head nurses during day shift is a bit of a control freak and not very nice. Most of the other staff make up for it.

The “groups” they have aren’t very well developed. I don’t feel like I got a lot of growth from them. The activity people are jokes. There is no painting or drawing which is more therapeutic than silly games. I believe some of the rules there were a little strict (like no books) but they will make exceptions if you talk to the counselor. The doctors on staff are wonderful and take very good care of you.

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

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: I am pansexual. A woman married to a woman.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

Name of Hospital: St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: Awful hospital that should be sued. I am a very anti medicine person, I made it absolutely clear that I did not want medicine. I noticed I was getting headaches and that my drinks tasted funny, and the hospital lied to me and told me that it was because the place was not ventilated. I kept asking and it turns out they were putting medicine in my drinks and lying to me. I was told by another doctor from another ward that they considered that an illegal action. I also looked up a medicine guideline a while after, which had ‘do not put medicine in food’ bolded. They also put me in a room with a camera and claimed the camera was broken (it was not.)

The staff were awful people, casually throwing around the r-word. I was hiding in a corner on the first day and one of the staff asked if I was cr*zy, which is not acceptable to do when the patient (me) has psychosis. Also had transphobic staff, one of the staff members told me that you couldn’t be the gender you identify with unless you get the surgery. Very bad hospital and I want it to be shut down. I wish I could sue them and get money from them for the traumatic experience of being drugged.

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

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: nonbinary minor, autistic, psychotic