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