Psychological Space

The mental hospital has some redeeming qualities.

The food is pretty good, and I’ve heard the same from others.

For the most part they leave you alone, giving you the option go to groups or recreation, which is pleasant.

But there is one aspect of being there, that I always found extraordinarily painful, and I don’t know if others have felt the same.

Now, one of the first things I noticed is that the hospital rooms on the ward, were about the same size as my college dorm room, maybe even a little larger, and it had about the same occupancy.

But I never had the sensation in my college dorm room, that there was not enough space to move around.

Now, I don’t think it’s entirely the fact that we are locked in there, although that is certainly part of it.

But moreso, it felt quite literally, that there was not enough space for my mind to exist, which for anyone who has never felt this pain, is quite torturous, if not difficult to describe.

The most common medications used for schizophrenia are anti-psychotics. And one of the most common side effects of anti-psychotics is akathesia.

It’s an extremely painful side effect, that if you had not experienced it, sounds quite trivial or mundane. I’ll describe it.

Akathesia is simply a form of restlessness caused by the pain or sensation of the inability to move.

If this sounds like something not so bad to you, think chinese water torture, and if you can imagine why that is painful, you’re probably closer to imagining akathesia.

I can’t recall what my sense of psychological space is like before the medication sets in at the hospital, but I do remember, that after the akathesia sets in, I always become acutely aware of the lack of psychological space.

So much so, that I could really only deal with the pain by walking around the ward constantly, and could only handle sitting still for minutes at a time, only to get up again and do the same. As if somehow that if I moved around in my environment enough, I would find more psychological space for my mind to exist.

Now, I can’t imagine wards were designed this way intentionally, to restrict psychological space for patients, but maybe there is some incidental effect that is beneficial, after all I’m sure if it were acute harmful, psychiatrists would notice it, but if it were only incidentally beneficial for normalization, and not much else, maybe they would not.

Either way, the biggest relief I found upon leaving the hospital, had little to do with departing from the routine, or the boredom, I did not even find it to be quite that boring, but rather, that whenever I left the ward, there was finally enough psychological space for my mind to exist again.

At least that made the akathesia bearable.

140 thoughts on “Psychological Space”

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