Psych Ward Nurses Tell All
Being a nurse isn’t easy or ordinary—but these nurses had more difficult, and more bizarre, days than most. Here, psych ward nurses (and patients) took to Reddit to tell stories from their funniest, strangest, and most unforgettable interactions.
1. Blast From The Past
This was a resident I had a long time ago. He was a WWII veteran with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and probably once or twice a month he would relive some battle he was in. This is when it got terrifying. He would literally RUN up the hallway and grab you, then yell at you to get down behind the sandbags.
He would then tell you take his Thomson because it was too heavy for him so he would just use his pistol. Then he would get up and run back down the hallway. This guy was OLD, and seeing him run full sprint like that up and down the hallway during one of his episodes was surreal.
I can’t imagine having to constantly relive the worst moments of your life where you witnessed and survived unspeakable horrors.
2. A Few Spoons Short
When I was in nursing school, I had a clinical in the state-funded psych ward downtown. I was assigned to sit with this one girl to “monitor” her behavior. She spent about thirty minutes doing nothing but eating pudding cups with a plastic spoon.
She ate like 6 of them in half an hour. Then out of nowhere, she very calmly licked her spoon completely clean and pulled her shirt sleeve up, before shoving the entire spoon into an incision in her arm near her bicep. It got weirder. She then very calmly said, “Oops”.
The nurses that worked there didn’t believe me. They kept saying I was making it up and that I couldn’t have seen what I saw. Only later on, like four hours later, the orderly noticed the girl had some blood on her shirt.
He took her into her room to change her clothes and noticed that an incision on her arm had been bleeding. They eventually agreed to send her to the hospital for testing. The X-ray showed the entire spoon, sucked into the fat of her upper arm, through an incision where they’d removed a birth control implant the week before.
Apparently, the girl had slowly been picking at the sutures and opening it bit by bit, until it was deep enough to fit an entire plastic spoon…The girl admitted that the “oops” was because it had gotten sucked in and couldn’t be pulled out, not because she’s stuck a spoon in her arm.
3. I Know What I Know
We had a psych patient on our floor that wasn’t really “crazy” crazy, just really confused and unpleasant in general.
One night I was mixing his drink with some thickener, and as per usual he started yelling about me tampering with the drink to hurt him. I explained what it was and that we’re all here to help him, not hurt him, and he responds with, “I’m just going to die”.
His vitals were fine, he was alert, no red flags, and like I said, he was always pretty unpleasant so I didn’t think much of it. Sure as heck, he coded an hour later and we never got him back.
4. Hello, Clarice
My sister was actually sectioned earlier this year for her own non-psychosis issues, and she was right next to the psychiatric intensive care unit. One of the nights she heard multiple screams coming specifically from that ward. What happened was nearly unbelievable.
One of the patients had bit a chunk out of a nurse’s leg as they were trying to detain them, then put the chunk in their mouth. It’s crazy to think these types of things happen.
5. Ice Ice Baby
How about in an inpatient addiction clinic? The first one that comes to mind was something I witnessed between a patient and another floor tech. We had a man who was in serious detox, his substance of choice was crystal.
He was throwing a huge tantrum, which is not uncommon of course in detoxes. People will do just about anything to get a fix. We weren’t a locked facility, so it wasn’t like he was stuck there. He genuinely wanted help, that’s why he stuck around, and we were there to listen and help him through the shakes, hallucinations, and other symptoms.
He was slamming his fists on the desk at this point, and he had started just yelling “I just want some ice!” (slang for his substance). Well, the tech with me was inexperienced, although much older than me, and while I talked to him and tried to calm him down, she went back to our staff kitchen…and got him a glass of ice.
Like, frozen water. She brought it out to him and put it in his hand like, Problem Solved! The guy’s face just froze with confusion, staring at it. The patient and I both realized at the same time she thought he wanted ice and we just stared at each other and started laughing.
He was in for a rough couple of days, but I’ve never seen someone jump from a near-psychotic episode to giggling so fast.
6. Ah, The Pizza Test
A severely schizophrenic woman used to tell me that my name was “the worst fairy tale lie that she ever wrote in the two Bibles for her daddy”. When she was angry with me, she would yell at me and say “Get out of here fairy-tale book, I wish I never wrote you”.
That same woman went after some nursing students who were attempting to use tissues over lollipops to make ghost props for Halloween. She didn’t seem to like this, and while trying to hit them, she was yelling “You idiots, you can’t make ghosts out of lollipops”.
Again, same woman: A different group of nursing students brought in several pizzas for an end-of-semester party. The woman then walked up and down the tables looking at the pizzas. Then out of nowhere, she started throwing the pizza and yelling, “What’s this supposed to be? Some kind of pizza test?”
7. Cutting His Teeth
I’m a nurse in Boston in a psych hospital and I’ve seen some stuff. One of the things I’ll never ever forget was we had this manic guy that had been transferred from another unit because he kept getting in fights over there and all the other patients were now trying to attack him.
I was still working nights back then, and at about 3 am he came up to me and said his tooth hurt and he needed to see a dentist right away. I said I don’t have a dentist for him to see, but when the doctor comes in the morning we can take a look.
I gave him some Tylenol and sent him back to bed. About 5 minutes later he came out saying it really hurt and he needed to see a dentist to pull his tooth. Again, I told him there’s no dentist but maybe I can get some more pain medications. Then it happened.
In the middle of me explaining this to him, he sticks his hand in his mouth and rips his molar out of his head. Then he handed it to me. He barely seemed to notice the blood. After I clean him up, get the bleeding to stop, and call the doctor to get him some medication, he goes, “Make sure you give me that tooth back when I leave, that’s MY tooth don’t try to take it”.
8. The Wrath Of God
Years ago, I was a student nurse doing my psych rotation in a Catholic facility. The nuns still wore habits and the building was like something out of the dark ages. I’ll skip talking about the line of patients waiting to undergo ECT treatment in the basement and instead tell you about Maggie.
She was a tragic case. She had been on Lithium for years and it really kept her psychotic episodes in check…until it reached harmful levels and she could no longer take it. One hot summer afternoon, we heard this banshee screaming coming from Maggie’s room.
We rushed in there to see what was going on. Entering the room, we are greeted by a scene I will never forget. This late-seventies woman is standing on the window ledge, unclothed, screaming through the window screens at the nuns in the courtyard: “You penguins are going to burn”.
The poor sisters are scrambling to and fro trying to get away from the ranting madwoman’s viscous verbal assault as we were trying desperately to pull her off the grating. I knew then and there that I would never become a psych nurse.
9. May The Force Be With You
I’m not a psych nurse, but a former mental hospital patient. I’m depressive, but was in a closed psychiatric facility on two occasions. Once I had myself committed, and once because there wasn’t any space in any other kind of clinic.
My roommate watched me brush my teeth on one occasion. While I’m doing this, I realize that he’s staring at me. I try to ignore it. Then I realize he’s staring at my toothbrush. He then tells me, “You shouldn’t stick your lightsaber in your mouth”. Okay then.
10. Night Night, Sleep Tight
There was a former soldier with PTSD that shared a room with me for a few days. I slept with earplugs during this time because he snored, so I only heard this story from fellow patients. So the guy with PTSD can’t sleep, so he goes to the duty nurse for sleep medication.
The duty nurse at the time was a major jerk, not because she wouldn’t give you medication if you asked (after all, she’s more qualified than you to decide whether you should be given something or not) but because she treated you like an eight-year-old when you did ask.
Not everyone in that facility had the mental faculties of an eight-year-old, thank you very much. Anyways, she tells him that he can’t have sleeping meds, he should try and sleep without them first, so the guy starts pacing up and down in the hallway.
She comes and tells him that he needs to go sleep and that he’s disturbing other patients, but he ignores her. She grabs him by the arm—and the guy completely flips. He breaks the nurse’s arm and tosses her into a wall, beats up two more hospital staff and two policemen that the hospital staff called to the scene.
Then the head doctor of the station gets called in (he was off shift when this happened), goes up to the guy telling him something about having a drink with an old comrade, and gives the guy one of those plastic medicine things that look like shot glasses with a massive dose of Diazepine or some such.
He drinks it and eventually keels over. I do know the nurse with the broken arm was fired for mistreatment of patients and the hallway looked like it had been the site of a serious fight—the staff was cleaning bloodstains the next morning, the handrails had been ripped out of the wall, and another piece of drywall somewhere looked like someone had been thrown through it.
I slept through the whole thing thanks to earplugs.
11. It’s A G-G-Ghost
There was one of those sliding fire gates that could be shut by pressing a button. It would then seal off part of the station—a part that was used for daytime activities and no one slept in.
During the night, two manic patients were wandering around because they couldn’t sleep because that happens when you’re manic, and one patient shut the other behind the fire door. The patient that was shut in started yelling “Help! Help!” in this really eerie voice that convinced other patients the place was haunted.
12. We’re All Mad Here
Some of the saner patients when we were close to getting released got permission to go watch a movie at the local theatre. We came back home at 11 pm and as we walked in, someone made a really good joke, so we were all laughing our butt off.
The night security guard sees us trying to get into the elevator and comes running. “What are you doing here?” I couldn’t have come up with a worse response. Me: “We’re patients from the psych ward”. Yeah. We ended up basically getting held by the security guard until some hospital staff came along and confirmed we said who we were.
We had a lot of fun pretending to actually be insane in the meantime, asking the security guard whether it was normal to be hearing voices and telling him hotel service sucked in this place, and whether this was an airport and at what time the next flight to Timbuktu would leave, etc etc.
I think he was glad to be rid of us at the end. The hospital staff was NOT amused—but then this wasn’t the first thing like this, because a few of us eventually decided “We’re already in the nuthouse. This is our chance to do crazy stuff and get away with it, because everyone already thinks we’re insane”.
The doctor later told me that this type of behavior is called hypomania and happens to a decent fraction of patients in the process of recovering from a depression. It basically means you show manic behavior for a short period after recovering from depression, but this goes away pretty quickly.
13. Wet And Wild
A girl kept spitting water at me over dinner or splashing me with it. Eventually, I got fed up and dumped a carafe with several liters’ worth of water on her. At that point, another patient was like “Hey! Wet T-Shirt contest!” The staff was not amused because they had to clean up the mess.
14. The Perfect Getaway
Someone dumped water into every bed on the station. Not a little bit of water, either, but enough to soak them all. No one ever figured out who it was. I had the theory that this was because whoever had done it couldn’t remember having done it, and was therefore unable to give him/herself away.
15. Slippery Fella
This was actually in a state hospital that is part of the correctional system for mentally ill offenders. A patient asked for Vaseline. Which is fine, they can have Vaseline, whatever. But we made a grave mistake. See, this patient was given a whole tub, so of course he took off his clothes, covered himself in Vaseline, and ran.
It was a secure unit, and he didn’t escape, but we couldn’t get him back into his cell all shift because he was too slippery. No more tubs.
16. Rage Against The Machine
I’m not a nurse, but I have had several stays in psychiatric wards for bipolar. To be fair, on most occasions I didn’t enter the wards in the most rational and stable state myself, but what has tended to happen is that even when they bring you back down to earth, you can end up staying for an extra month or two before they let you go.
So I have spent some time in psychiatric wards completely sane, if not maybe firing on all cylinders. Anyway, I have seen a few shocking things, so you quickly become desensitized. What tended to leave me speechless was the abruptness of certain behavior and its total incongruence with facial expressions, etc.
For example, sitting watching a TV when a 5-foot tall, 110-pound woman calmly walks over, suddenly lifts the TV up, and throws it into the wall with great force, smashing it to bits. She then calmly sits back down in an armchair declaring that the TV was ruining her painting (she wasn’t painting).
She never even raised her voice. She then immediately asked me, as if it was somehow related, if I liked singer-songwriter Lisa Stansfield.
17. Comfort Where You Can Give It
I was a care nurse for about four years and the saddest ever was when my resident constantly thought I was her daughter. She went to Harvard and was an extremely brilliant lady in her time. She was non-verbal but every time I walked into her room she would exclaim “Elizabeth you came”.
I loved this lady so much. She would only eat when I fed her; she was extremely combative with everyone but me. I ended up quitting my job there but visited her every single day. To the point that her family kind of accepted me as their family. Then I found out the devastating truth.
I finally found out that Elizabeth took her own life at 21 and the fact that she thought I was her gave her extreme joy. I never corrected her, and I like to think I gave her peace when she passed holding my hand. She was an amazing lady and I miss her to this day.
18. Day And Night
I got assigned to the child’s psych ward in a hospital where I worked. It was honestly an easy gig…I got to wear street clothes, and there wasn’t much to do but pass out medications and observe.
There was this 15-year-old kid who was sitting beside me one day casually discussing his day when he jumps up, begins screaming like a banshee, and flailing around. Basically it looks like a seizure on ‘roids and I’m befuddled as to how to control him or the situation.
After a few minutes of twisting my nerves into a tight ball, he stops, sits back down, and begins talking casually again. Had one of his “spells”. I’m not sure if anyone has ever been that close to a raving maniac while he’s having a fit but it’s disarming to say the least.
19. She Knows What She Likes
We had an older lady who would walk up and down the ward constantly mumbling. It never stopped. I think she would get something like Thorazine to calm her down, but she would fight it and her eyes would be all droopy and she’d slow down but she kept going.
Nobody understood a word she said, and she was there for at least over 6 months. She was punched out once by a patient while he was on the phone because she kept walking by ranting. He just lost it.
Anyway I’m up there doing a patrol one day (I was security) and she’s ranting and walking up and down the ward as usual and they call her to come get her meal. She sits down and opens her tray and stops ranting and states clear as day: “I didn’t order no diabetic tray WITCH”.
Every last person turned to her and all of our mouths were wide open. That was the only thing she ever said clearly.
20. The Lucky One
The most incredible thing I saw happen was someone got better. The change was jaw-dropping. Like he got well enough to walk right out of there and resume his life. I was in-patient, not a nurse, but the Psych Nurses were kind of speechless, too.
The guy just woke up from a chemical fog, and walked out of there. Cured. Say what? When I was put on the ward, one of the nurses told me that for depression, all they had was some meds that didn’t work very well and talktalktalk.
Nobody expected to “get well”—we were in for a long, life-changing slog. The exception proves the rule.
21. My Live-In Friends
I was a former patient who helped out on many occasions, since I am surprisingly stable even if very weird and uncanny at times. This one time a co-patient apparently came in with so many fleas, it’s amazing.
Turns out he didn’t wash his hair for the last few months, so besides being oily as heck it was also full of fleas. When asked why he didn’t wash his hair, he reasoned that he didn’t want to drown the fleas. I mean…he wasn’t wrong, per se.
22. When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go
I was a nurse and also a Navy Corpsman and served in Iraq. This is the most messed-up mental health thing I think I’ve seen. So I’m a temp at this 50-bed skilled nursing facility. The facility itself is really, really nice.
The owners are super nice. One day we get a new resident and she’s a feisty one. I can’t blame her. She was a hospital administrator, also an MD, who had made her way to the top. Rich as all get out.
She was very recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She’s mid-50s. So this woman went from being a high-powered CEO/physician to one bad diagnosis to nursing home resident in the scope of two weeks. She is angry in ways that I don’t think I can fully comprehend and hope I never do.
I don’t think people fully appreciate the level of indignity that can occur with going into a skilled nursing facility. She’s fully ambulatory. She seems “fine” during many interactions. But she has dementia and no family, and this is the only place the hospital could legally release her to.
This woman walks in with a closet full of fancy suits and is presented a dining room where all of her new neighbors are wearing plastic bibs. We’re trying to be cool. We’re trying to be supportive. We’re trying to help preserve her dignity in every way we can.
We call her “Doctor” instead of by her first name. We’re trying to have her see us as colleagues rather than her caregivers. Ultimately, though, this can be a terrible adjustment on a good day. She had her entire world turned upside down in the scope of a few weeks.
While many of her fellow residents are wheelchair-bound she, as I mentioned earlier, is not. She’s up and around, fully active, and rather physically fit. So as part of this attempt to ease things, we have her hanging around the nurse’s station rather than languishing in her room.
We’re talking about doctors we all know, stories, everything is settling in nicely. Then it all changed. One day, she’s telling us a funny story. She stops midway through and springs up from her chair. I’m confused, I’m about to ask if she’s OK.
She, with incredible urgency, pulls her Ann Taylor pants down to expose her butt, leans forward slightly, and poops all over everything. She hits charts, she hits someone who was behind her, she got it into a coffee cup that was on the desk.
The urge to poop was sudden and intense and she was determined not to poop her pants. Which I can appreciate on some level buuuuuuuuut….I’ve dealt with a lot of poop. That was the poop that I couldn’t get the smell out no matter what I did.
I call it the Lady MacBeth poop. Nothing I did could get the spot (or the smell) off. Worst night of my life, man.
23. It’s Not What It Looks Like
In movie style, I’m going to start with what happened and then give the background. I’m handing out meds. That’s pretty much my day, to be honest. I wheel my little cart around and hand out meds.
When I finish, it’s time to load up the cart again and hand out evening meds. Certified nursing assistants tend to do most of the direct patient care. I jump in to help where and when I can. There is this one old bird we’ll call “Mrs. Tanner”.
On a scale of 1 being “I’m a bit forgetful and just got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s” to 10 being sitting in a wheelchair completely oblivious to your surroundings, this woman was probably a three or four.
She was ambulatory. She ranged from sweet old lady to raging witch who accused almost everyone of stealing jewelry she no longer had in her possession. But hey, dementia’s rough. Not her fault.
I knock on her door one day and do the knocking entry as I go to give her the meds. “Good afternoon, Mr. Tanner I brought you your m…” I stopped in my tracks. Mrs. Tanner is sitting in a chair near her bed.
In front of her is one of the CNAs wearing a pull-up style brief (diaper) over her scrub pants. The second I walk in, her head snaps as she looks at me with wide eyes and says, “Wait, there is a reason for this!”
Mmmk…Our facility didn’t provide pull-ups. We only had the briefs that tape on the sides like a standard diaper. For our residents who were only bladder incontinent but still could control their bowels, this presented some problems.
It meant that women like Mrs. Tanner might not be able to go to the toilet without assistance even though they are physically still capable of using the toilet. Also, and I never understood this one myself, but nurse assistants are super lazy about taking residents to the toilet.
A resident will ask to use the bathroom and they will either ignore them or just outright tell them to soil themselves and they’ll change them after. I have no idea why this was such a common thing among the ranks.
The standard reasoning was “I’m not gonna hurt my back trying to lift someone”. So, there it is. A dirty truth about nursing homes. Anyway, some families decided to provide pull-ups for their family members. They would pay for them and either deliver them themselves or, more often, have them delivered directly and for that one resident’s use.
This nurse had just cracked open the box and was trying to convince Mrs. Tanner to wear one of these. Mrs. Tanner responded with a line of forceful questioning such as “What are these?” and “How do they work?” all in a very suspicious tone.
This nurse, a perfectly lovely woman who doesn’t do that terrible thing I described above, is desperately trying to get this woman to wear this thing so that she can still poop on her own but doesn’t soak her bed and chair wherever she goes.
So, when Mrs. Tanner said “Show me how it looks. Put one on” she cautiously agreed and complied. That was where I entered. This CNA relays the story above and, at that moment, I turn to Mrs. Tanner to see the biggest grin on her face imaginable.
She was fully lucid the entire time. She wasn’t at all confused. She just trolled a nurse into wearing a diaper and modeling it for her amusement. Bravo, Mrs. Tanner. Me and the nurse had a good laugh about it and it became breakroom lore for the remainder of my time there.
24. Infamous And Dangerous
My ex’s mother used to work at Broadmoor hospital for years. For those unaware, Broadmoor is a very famous asylum for the criminally insane in the UK. She said the strangest thing is how “normal” the patients were because of all the meds they were on.
They’re like children eager to please. she met Peter Sutcliffe aka The Yorkshire Ripper numerous times and just said he was nice to everyone. Her scariest moment for sure though involved this huge man who hurt both people and animals.
Anyway, he was very nice and helpful to everyone and eventually my ex’s mother let her guard down around him. It became a terrifying mistake. He came with her to get something and as they went into a room he closed the door behind him and just stood there.
My ex’s mother pressed her panic button that all staff kept with them and then used her training to try and keep him calm and stall for security. But it was no luck—he went after her. Luckily for her though, part of her training at Broadmoor also included some self-defense techniques that even the smallest woman could employ.
Basically, she used her finger knuckles to press into the sides of his ribs and he let go of her long enough for her to escape. She did it to me once and I’ll side with the crazy huge man on this, it’s incredibly painful.
25. Never Forget
Emergency Department nurse here, but our ED has a specific section for psych emergency, so this counts. So our bathroom is in this hall and is right next to the guards’ monitor; they share a wall. The bathroom also has one of those pass-through cabinets you use to give a urine sample at the doctor’s office.
Anyway, one day we were dealing with a patient we knew well. Unfortunately, he had multiple complex psych issues which led to him being with us quite a lot. He was mostly reasonable, but when he got angry, he’d be a handful.
Well, one day, one of our docs went in to speak with this patient and somehow made him really angry. He then walked out of the room, and the encounter was over as far as the doc was concerned. He was very wrong.
This led security to have to address this guy’s behavior because he became aggressive and began throwing things/shouting, etc. He and the security guard get into it and aren’t best of friends, to put it mildly.
A few minutes later, he has to go to the bathroom. He walks in and is seemingly behaving himself. Then he yells, “SURPRISE!” AND THROWS HIS POOP THROUGH THIS PASS-THROUGH WINDOW STRAIGHT AT THE GUARD.
I obviously didn’t show any reaction at the time, but I laughed until I cried after I’d walked out.
26. Falsely Accused
I had a job that led me to a behavioral health unit of a nursing home. Some elderly lady scooched up onto the back of a couch, almost standing on it. Think of an old-time cartoon lady seeing a mouse. She was pointing at me, yelling, “That’s him, that’s the one”.
I had that weird panic of being accused, knowing I was innocent, but wondering if I’d be in trouble anyway, despite this being my first time there and me having zero patient interaction other than potential peculiar stuff like this.
Then she cries “He beeeeeats me! My legs!!!!” Then she said she’d give me a million dollars not to ever talk to her again. I said “deal” and kept moving.
27. She’s Not Here Anymore
I worked in a group home for teens and one ended up in a psych ward. She was a sweet 15-year-old girl who had been there for about three weeks. She had plans for the future, would be staying with a relative she liked in a week, had friends, and had no history of issues whatsoever.
Aside, that is, from her mom booting her out of the house for having a boyfriend, which she was understandably upset about. Well, she went from sane to broken overnight. It was about 1 am when I found her awake during checks, sitting on her bed and looking upset.
She had become convinced she was pregnant, in spite of tests saying otherwise. Then the “baby” had been “changed” by “chemicals”. She was terrified of the “baby” inside her and the “chemicals” everywhere “changing” everything.
We couldn’t seem to get her to realize she wasn’t pregnant, couldn’t be pregnant. And she would go on rants about “chemicals” but it’s hard to know exactly what she was talking about—Cleaners? Pollution? Medication (which she wasn’t on)? She talked about “chemicals” getting in things the way some people talk about the devil.
All strange, but still just borderline alarming. But it got worse. Then the clock started talking to her and telling her what to do, some of which involved burning herself and knocking her head against the wall. This is when we called the authorities.
She then basically became incoherent, in a word salad way, and was unresponsive to us, even when we got between her and the wall she was thumping. It was like we weren’t there to her. When she was hauled away, about four hours after initial weird statements about how she was suddenly pregnant, she was in a kind of manic but also oddly passive state.
Again, it was like we weren’t there. She was also unable to walk. She had to be carried out on a stretcher. She was mentally somewhere else entirely…It was terrifying watching her self collapse so quickly and completely.
28. A Turn For The Better
I am a support worker. We currently have a patient who, when he was admitted, was extremely aggressive (not physically) and impatient. He was unable to wait for anything for longer than 2 seconds, barely spoke to anybody unless it was on a needs basis, and wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything for himself.
Fast forward 6 weeks and he has stopped me in my tracks multiple times. The first time he said please when he asked for something, the first time he agreed to make his breakfast himself, the first time he asked how I was when he saw me, and probably the most rewarding of all was when he smiled at me and said good morning.
29. A Much-Needed Upgrade
I used to be a tech at a psych facility. It was my first job out of college. I was left pretty speechless when a teenage girl patient reached over the desk, grabbed hold of the phone, and strangled me with the cord.
After several similar incidents, the hospital switched to cordless.
30. Legendary Enemies
I had a patient once get a picture off the wall—I don’t know how, they are bolted to a brick wall—and run down the hallway screaming “I’m a cat burglar. I’m the joker!” Then it got better. Another patient abruptly stood up and gave chase screaming “I’m Batman!”
31. What A Doll
Sometimes you give baby dolls to dementia patients because it gives them an activity. Caring for and rocking a baby doll can have a calming effect and improve mood. I once had a patient in the later stages of vascular dementia, who was very agitated.
When not much else was working, we gave her a baby doll. She calmed down and started rocking the doll and I went back to charting. Then I heard her start crying. I went around the desk to try and comfort her.
I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but patients just cry sometimes. When I sat down next to her she said, “I know this baby ain’t real”. Then she began sobbing inconsolably. I put my arm around her and let her cry.
I just sat there with her, silently letting her cry.
32. Don’t Touch The Ghosts
I am a former patient. My roommate seemed pretty normal but overall annoying as heck. I was quiet, refused to talk even to staff, and mostly kept my head down and out of trouble. She, however, took my comb and said white girls don’t need it. I found out she was sleeping with it.
I also could not get out of bed in the morning until I appeased Queen, the “ghost” beside my bed. One day I had enough of getting in trouble for not being ready in time, so I just jumped out. She screamed like a banshee.
Apparently, I stepped on “him” and had angered him. She told me I was going to die. I rolled my eyes and went to brush my teeth.
33. Crisis Averted
I am an emergency room tech. I saw a patient drink a mysterious yellow liquid out of a urinal bottle. I was shocked—until I found out the whole story. I found out from a staff member that started their shift earlier in the day that he had poured his ginger ale into it a few hours ago. Those few minutes before we found out? Priceless.
34. Shared Delusion
My ex and I saw a marriage counselor who did part of her psychiatry residency at a hospital for people with severe mental conditions. Apparently, the grounds had a lovely, enclosed greenhouse.
One day, one of their schizophrenic patients was sitting on a bench as a heron frantically flew around. It had found its way in and, not being able to escape, it was smashing into the large panes of glass.
The man just sat there watching. Finally, my counselor asked him if the bird was bothering him and he kind of sighed and said, “Thank god, I thought I was the only one seeing that”.
35. Let’s Work Together
My sister-in-law is finishing her nursing degree, and they had to spend a couple days working at some psych wards. She told me a story about these 2 guys there that were schizophrenic and violent.
One was this skinny little white guy and the other was a medium-build Black guy. The Black guy kept telling her that he wasn’t crazy, that he was actually the owner of the ward and just stayed there for fun. He also told her he had a record label.
So then she goes and meets the white guy. According to him, he was an up-and-coming rapper who was such a threat to Eminem’s career that the deep state had him locked away, and that the psych ward owner was his new record label. Fun times.
36. It’s All True
My wife is a medical doctor and psychiatrist. Her story is about this one patient that had been placed under a psych watch because he was showing signs of paranoia and claiming that his house had been bugged and phone had been tapped.
She was left speechless when the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed up to arrest him based on information that they had gathered on the bugs in his house and wiretap on his phones.
She was even more offended when they came to collect the bugs that they had planted in her workplace to listen in on what he had to say after he had been placed there for the psychiatric intervention.
They insisted that they only ever listened to “his” sessions and didn’t keep a record of anything else said in that office.
37. Don’t Test Me
Not a nurse but a patient. I had someone who I had met in the ward who was this massive 13-year-old who was like 6’3 or something, and he was really arrogant. We had a security guard who would come in and joke around with the patients, but this kid would try and pick fights with him by telling them he was tough or something.
He was tough, but we didn’t know if he could take down a security guard. He was never reprimanded because it was all laughter and jokes…until one day. He got angry and flat-out knocked out the security guard.
The nurses had to try and restrain him and even had some of the patients helping too. That night he was sent down to the county clinker. Who knows where he’s at now.
38. Self Control
I was a patient once and the nurses were getting ready to move us to the gym. They weren’t allowing this one patient to go because there would be patients from the women’s ward present and he had previously unclothed himself in front of them.
This guy was pretty nuts (hard to believe, right?) and he just keep shouting: “I won’t do it this time”. He started pointing at the female nurses, shouting, “There’s a woman and there’s a woman and I’m not doing it now”. I don’t know man, but he was making sense to me.
39. Welcome To The Monkey House
A patient in full-blown psychosis took her pants off, then proceeded to “give birth” to her entire family who lived in her stomach for years. A while later she stated, “It was time to evict them”. Now over the years I’ve seen some stuff, but this incident happened on my first day!
40. A Happy Ending
I was hospitalized once for an attempt on my life in high school. Nothing too remarkable happened there, other than a girl who shaved off her eyebrows. Oh, and a lot of the patients tried to get involved with one another.
Two summers ago, however, I was put in the adult ward at a hospital in New York City. It was an interesting mix of people who were coming down from addictions—they were zombies due to the meds they had them on—homeless people who had been caught up in some nondescript stuff, and a couple of young men who were placed there to be monitored instead of taken to lockup.
There were various characters who did things like poop their beds or wipe poop on other people’s rooms during breaks. The most memorable for me was this elderly, blind, Jewish man. He used to be a radio DJ, and that’s about all he would talk about.
Other than that, he was running down the halls, endlessly screaming all night long, calling women disparaging names, telling various people that they sounded stupid when they talked, etc. He spent a lot of time in solitary.
He would use the phones and pretend to call people, but there was never anyone else on the line. Well, he would pretend to call a woman, and switch between calling her awful things, to phone intimacy, and everything in between. Some of the lines he said to her in their steamy moments still give me chills of revulsion.
In the end, the patients rebelled against his presence. Almost everyone on the ward filed an official complaint asking to have him moved somewhere else. So happy ending, he was removed. I also got re-introduced to AA due to an amazing group that would come in and hold meetings a few times a week for patients.
I ended up not gelling with them character-wise on the outside, but grateful for it. So I’m over one and a half years sober now, have an incredible job, apartment, health, and savings again. Also, I never have to listen to that man again.
41. Loss Of Innocence
I’m not a nurse, but I was a phlebotomist that would occasionally go to the psychiatric floors for blood draws. I had to be extremely careful with supplies that I took with me in the room and made sure I had to leave with every piece of plastic I took in.
Whether the patient was violent or not, I always wanted to have a staff member with me. But anyway, I was drawing blood from an 8-ish-year-old boy and he was asking me questions I wasn’t sure how to answer to a pediatric psych patient.
So I would ask him questions about his favorite foods, and his replies were alarming. He told me that he doesn’t sleep at night because it is too dangerous. I’m not sure if the parents did anything violent to the boy at night. He then told me that his favorite food was peanut butter because he was a dog.
At the surface it might just seem like a kid playing around. But I have no idea what kind of treatment this kid has endured and I’m pretty sure he was messed up because of his parents and that’s why he was there. Just the way he was acting and his mannerisms weren’t like a normal kid.
I saw bite mark scars on him and he mentioned something about people biting him. It was weird.
42. You Make A Good Point
A guy I knew worked in a psych ward. This one patient was talking to a hallucination one day. My friend asked the patient, “You know he’s not real right?” and the guy’s response was, “Well, you know he’s not real, and I know he’s not real, but he doesn’t know he’s not real”. For some reason, that always stuck with me.
43. Right Here, Right Now
I’ve been admitted to both open and closed units and spent about a year in psych hospitals. It can both be comforting and scary. Obviously, the closed units are the worst. The moment that sticks with me was probably when I was at the closed unit and there was this woman, who was just obviously disturbed.
She wasn’t really that weird, kind of stereotypical schizophrenia, talking to herself about nonsense, claiming there were cameras and microphones in the sink in the kitchen and talking to them, but one day, she just sat down in the middle of the tv room and took a poop on the floor. That left me pretty speechless.
44. Stop And Smell The Flowers
There was one relatively nice area to go on the ward I stayed in. This was the garden area. It was between March and May sometime, not sure the exact time due to being medicated etc. Either way, there were these daffodils I’d been watching grow from seed to flower.
I would go there when it got rowdy to bring me peace. I would sit and even try to communicate with them sometimes. I had psychosis but had been told from a young age that plants enjoy being talked to for the transfer of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Yeah, I knew what I was doing looked out of the ordinary, but in hospital I didn’t really care.
So then one day an older, poor woman who I’d actually befriended took a turn and her symptoms got worse. She turned on me and started following me, bugging me and flicking ash in my hair and things like that. Eventually, I got angry and snapped at her to leave me be.
So she stubbed her cig in the center flower of one of the daffodils, then proceeded to destroy them all.
I was speechless and mortified. At the time I did cry (I cried a lot over my times in the hospital) but that time stuck with me. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would choose to do that. But now I see in hindsight that there was probably some confusion there, amongst a whole bunch of other things. You never can know really.
45. It’s Always The Last Place You Look
I’m a nursing student, not a psych ward, but a nursing home where almost all the patients have dementia. One day, I was giving a patient a bed bath. When I came to his butt, I saw a leather watch strap hanging out of you-know-where. Here’s how that conversation went.
Me: Sir, there’s a watch in your butt.
Him: Ahhhh, that’s where I put it.
Me: Excuse me for a moment.
I then went to the charge nurse. She saw which room I came out of and immediately said, “Oh god what’d he stick up there now?”
Me: A watch. How should I remove it?
46. Taking Me For A Ride
One of our patients escaped the ward and managed to hitchhike all the way to Sydney, Australia—which was about 900 kilometers away from us.
47. A Rough Adolescence
Someone I knew was in a ward with a girl who wanted to be a vampire and drank blood from her own tampons. It’s as atrocious as it sounds. She was around 16 and schizophrenic.
48. An Absolute Tank
We tazed a guy, he took it took it like a champ. He then pulled out the barbs, handed them back to the officer, and told him that wasn’t very nice.
49. The Darkness Within Us
My ex-best friend was a psych nurse. This young (early 20s) guy came in, in total psychosis. He was brought in by his parents. No history of mental illness, no family history of mental illness, and everyone said he doesn’t do substances.
Of course, it’s always a possibility (albeit a small one) that he took substances for the first time and it triggered the psychosis, but everyone was adamant he didn’t take anything. They admit him. He hasn’t talked to anyone.
Since he had come in he was just sitting, staring at a wall and murmuring things like “I’m so sorry”, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I did that when you said stop. I’m sorry”. When anyone asked him what happened it was like he couldn’t acknowledge anyone was there.
My friend and her colleagues were at a loss. He had no history of physical issues so no one knew what he was talking about. It turned terrifying in an instant. He was there for a day or so when all of the nurses get called into the doctor’s room for an emergency meeting.
They were told that under no circumstances were any of the nurses allowed to go into his room without one other nurse AND security. Why? Because everything from here on out would become testimony and they think they knew why he had such sudden psychosis.
His live-in girlfriend was missing. She had tried to break up with him a couple days before he was admitted. She still to this day hasn’t been found and he was transferred to another ward after that.
50. Filled With Rage
I used to be an officer. We got called to a psych ward where a guy was smashing up his room. Ok, fair enough. We got there and the room was one where it had like plywood-based furniture that was attached to the walls and floor.
It had a solid door with an inch-thick safety glass with wire in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had ripped apart every bit of furniture apart from the bed with his bare hands, ripped the lights from the ceiling, ripped the sockets out of the walls, and had smashed a hole in the door window.
He had done all this with his bare hands. I got there and one of my colleagues was standing outside the door with a shield and the patient was crashing into the door so hard that plaster dust was falling from the ceiling.
He then managed to break through his window that led outside (also an inch thick) and got out onto the roof. They had to talk him down and eventually got him in, and a load of us escorted him to a room filled with only furniture made from foam and padding.
The doctor gave him a powerful sedative and then quickly backed out the door while waiting for it to work. They took him to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. I’ll never forget the amount of damage he did.
The room was sprayed with blood and looked like he’d smashed it up with a sledgehammer. He had only used his bare hands and the furniture. The most insane thing was he was about 5’6 max and looked about 140-pound max. He was a small man but his psychotic break gave him insane superhuman strength.
51. The Worst Roommate
I was a patient. The first person I shared a room with was sitting up and staring at me throughout the night, so I switched rooms. This next room was even worse. I got woken up in the middle of the night with this woman legit braiding one side of my hair.
When I woke up, she said, “Are you ready for the cruise? I’ve packed all of your things”. Sure enough, at the end of my bed were all of my clothes folded and on top of each other. I screamed and someone had to sit between us the whole night.
Oh, and this woman actually escaped for a little bit when I was there. She walked out with the visitors in line! Savage.
52. Let Your Hair Down
My mother worked at a psychiatric hospital in southern Illinois in the 60s. She was in her 20s at the time and had to wear the whites and little white hat while on duty. She had long, black hair that she’d let down during her breaks.
She was sitting at a table, hair down, when she felt someone running their fingers through her hair behind her. Then she heard a deep male voice say “Pretty…pretty…” as he pulled his fingers through her hair.
She realized a patient had somehow made it into the breakroom. She said she kind of froze and he spent a few more seconds petting her hair, muttering “Pretty…pretty…” before someone got him and gently took him back to his room.
I know this story because as a child she would come up behind me, run her fingers through my hair, and mutter “Pretty…pretty…” in a voice that predated Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.
53. Grandpa, No!
My grandfather got dementia as he aged, and got violent. He was 7’1 and a veteran of both World Wars, and had been a trench fighting specialist in WWI, so when he got combative, he was very dangerous.
He literally thought he was still fighting the Germans. We eventually had to put him in a home. They put him in four-point restraints and gave him lots of mediations. He hurt nurses, but it was all bruises and the like. As he got older he got a lot weaker, so the restraints were removed and the medications lessened. And then horror hit.
The day came when he took a nurse’s eye out with one of those little plastic basins you have at the dentist’s. He apparently got hold of one somehow and whittled it to a point. I was out of the country at the time, but my dad had to miss like two weeks of work to go deal with it all. It all sounded really unpleasant.
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