In the year 2012, I was diagnosed with a mental disorder known as bipolar mood disorder. An illness associated with mood swings ranging from depressive lows and manic highs. Living with bipolar has been like constantly fighting with my mind every single minute. A battle I can’t escape from.
How does a mental health hospital look like?
If asked, how does a mental health hospital look like and operate? My first worldview would be tight security, insensitive nurses, horrible food, patients wearing gowns with their hands tied up and locked up in rooms etc. I could attest to this, for the longest time getting treatment when sick was like being in a prison. However, all this changed drastically when I was referred to Chiromo hospital group. The young girl who lived in a slum all her life with no experience about luxury, was here getting treatment in one of the largest and finest private hospital in the whole of East Africa, courtesy of my psychiatrist Dr. Frank Njenga.
When I first saw the hospital, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me or maybe I had gone to the wrong place. The storeyed building looked like a five-star hotel with a well-manicured garden. There was an exquisite restaurant on the ground floor for patients and visitors.
The hospitality and meals that I received at Chiromo Hospital Group
When I had a manic breakdown, I got admitted in a private room which was en-suite, had very huge windows which brought light inside and gave a beautiful view. Moreover, the bed was so comfortable that I didn’t want to get out of it, I had a television and Wi-Fi. I didn’t have a hospital gown on. Every patient was allowed to put on home clothes. I was in hospital but it felt like I was on a staycation. The environment made me relax and just take a breather, a break from all life pressures.
The nurses were very friendly and understanding. They treated each and every one of us with dignity. I used to take my medication twice a day, in the morning before any kind of activity and at night just right before I sleep. We were served five meals a day: breakfast, lunch, tea at 4, dinner and tea at 9pm just before going to bed.
Lunch and dinner were accompanied with fruits. There was always a buffet and different beverage drinks. The food was very delicious and appealing, prepared by top notch chefs. I would finish my plate and sometimes ask for more because there was plenty of it.
The treatment, therapy sessions and entertainment
I would wake up at 8am in the morning, listen to gospel music and some preaching, take a shower and have my breakfast. There was an option of it being brought in the room or have it in the lounge. Sometimes I would join others but mostly preferred it being brought to the room.
Who wouldn’t like the comfort of room service, a five-star hotel treatment? Anyway, this was for a short period, so why not? Breakfast in bed was a thing I only saw in movies. Afterwards, I would have a session with my psychiatrist who would review my recovery progress. Increase/reduce my dosage or change the medication depending on how I was recovering. I would see my psychologist in the afternoon.
I particularly appreciated my sessions with the psychologist because it provided me, a safe space without judgement and criticism to off load, speak about my worries and fears, my dreams and aspirations, my scars and share about my feelings to someone who was listening to me keenly.
Later there were a variety of options for passing time. Entertainment, music and movies, go to the gazebos read a book or have a rapport with other patients who were my friends, bask under the sun, play basketball or pool. Funny thing is I used to do all these activities apart from pool, I never got the hang of it. I had never played basketball before, but every time my daughter came to visit, she would drag me to the pitch. I never scored anything, my girl would beat me at it every single time we played. However, I remember one particular day after so many trials I was able to throw the ball and it went right in the ring. I was ecstatic, couldn’t believe it. Feeling the sun kissing my skin alongside the gentle breeze while basking was very rejuvenating and relaxing. Looking at the beautiful scenery and breathing the fresh air was just on another level. We would share about our struggles with mental illnesses. This gave me hope and comfort. Other times when I didn’t feel like leaving my room, I would journal, listen to music or watch movies.
After lunch, there were different therapeutic activities art, group therapy and dancing therapy. Creating art was a new skill for me that I ended up learning. It was a creative way of relaxing my mind. Dancing was my favorite because it has always been my hobby. A choreographer would teach us dance moves which were very interesting. The combination of music and dance was incredible. We used to beg the choreographer to extend the time because we were having a lot of fun. Visiting hours were between 12 and 4 pm. I loved it when my family and friends used to come and visit, they would bring me goodies. I was very grateful that I was not in an environment that gave hospital jitters especially because of my nine-year-old daughter.
I had a hangout group that had all sorts of professions. All these were great minds brought together. The irony is that it was a great place for networking.
My Duration at Chiromo Hospital Group
I stayed in the hospital for close to three weeks. It was paramount that I get discharged once I had fully recovered. My psychiatrist told me that I was very sick at the time of admission. I was not in touch with reality, had cognitive impairment, screaming and fighting everyone. The first two days, my partner bathed and fed me. I didn’t allow anyone else to do that. All these were things I was told later on. Before breaking down, I had not slept for four days straight. I would just stay awake in bed, couldn’t stop or shut down my mind. I had a storm of thoughts. I would finish one line of thought and get to the next one. Sometimes just think of the same thing for hours.
My discharge from the Chiromo Hospital Group
My last review, the doctor told me I was ready for discharge the next day. He was positive that I had fully recovered. I was very happy to go home and be reunited with my family but at the same time there was a tiny bit of me that wanted to extend my stay even just for a day not that I wasn’t ready to go back home, but because I had grown fond of the place. Most of the times it only hit me that I was in a hospital when the nurses came to give me medication and check my vitals. It was as if I was on holiday, just having the time of my life. In deed as the hospital motto says recovery in dignity, couldn’t ask to be anywhere else for my treatment.
Thanks to the help of the hospital, I have learned to live a more balanced life. I have enjoyed getting to know new people and learning more about my disorder, but most importantly, I have learned to live and accept it.
By Janet Monda
Chiromo Hospital Group