Before I get started I want to make a quick comment: I wrote this post a few days after I got out of the hospital. Since then, it’s been nearly two months. I found myself wanting to edit this when reading through it again, but I think in this case, leaving it as is (save for minor spelling/grammar errors) might be the way to go. Content warnings for depression, self-harm, and suicidality.
Most of the time when I write on here, it’s because I have something to say that I want other people to hear.
This post is a little bit different, because, frankly, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll ever post it. I want to get my thoughts down and reflect on a little bit of what I’ve been dealing with, so here I am.
This past week, I had a short stay in a psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital.
It was my first (and with all reasonable expectation, last) stay in such an environment. I had been dealing with some heavy lows. Not being able to get out of bed in the morning, staring at the television for hours to make being unable to move, concentrate, or speak feel more normal. Things recently have reached a pitch where I have to fight to convince myself that they could ever be better.
This Monday, I told my therapist about what had been going on, and how I had reached a point where I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I’ll call it “suicidal ideation” because that’s what everyone around me has been calling it, but I think exhaustion is more accurate.
I’ve been working so hard to get better for such a long time, with so few lasting results that being alive just feels exhausting some days.
But, perhaps wisely, most people hear “I don’t want to be alive” as “I want to die.”
This week wasn’t the first time I had considered inpatient psychiatric care. I’ve been told by people who I love that I’m unable of taking care of myself on my own, that I need to do more, that I need to consider having someone else take care of me. Someone else to make sure I stay alive.
Up until now, I’ve always been able to convince myself that this isn’t what I need. It turns out that I was right about that, but when you’re unfathomably low to the point where you’re willing to try anything to make yourself better and your therapist suggests the possibility of inpatient care, it can sound like a promising idea.
In some cases, I think mental hospitals and psychiatric wings can be enormously beneficial. They provide a physically safe space where you have access to therapy, medication, doctors, rest, and reflection.
For me, the most beneficial part of being in the hospital was realizing that I did not need to be there, I did not want to be taken care of in this way, and I need to be able to care for myself in my own way, on my own time.
I realized that I would do anything, anything, to keep myself from being put in a hospital again. And more importantly, to get myself to a place where no one would consider it necessary to suggest hospitalization again.
I have plans moving forward for therapy, medication, lifestyle shifts, figuring out how to change my mode of thinking, but that’s all information for another day.
This post, and this blog overall are an attempt to explain my experience and thought processes regarding my mental health in a way that anyone, even neurotypical people who have never had to deal with mental illness, can understand and empathize with.
It can be difficult trying to explain these things in person, especially when there are people who will dismiss your views as “the disease talking” or walk on eggshells around you, terrified of how fragile they believe you to be.
I have anxiety. I have panic attacks, I deal with depression, and PTSD tends to mess with me. But these characteristics aren’t who I am. They’re part of me, they affect the way I live and think, how I empathize with others, and how I process experiences. They are something I work on daily and something people will always try to cure. But they aren’t me.
I’m not a disease.
I’m not a suicide risk.
I’m not someone to be coddled or kept from living through reality.
I’m just a person. Whole and healthy and flawed and dealing with the world the best I can.
Do I need more support than some people? Sure. Are there times where my behavior gets a bit out of whack and I need some time, or a wake up call? Absolutely.
I don’t intend for this post to be an all encompassing exploration of mental hospitals or how to treat people with mental illness. Like with any disease, mental illnesses can be treated in a variety of ways, and what’s best for one person might not help another, in fact, it might even make things worse.
I want to give myself a voice.
I want to keep my agency, and I want to help people understand where I’m coming from as I live my life for myself and build myself into a stronger person every day.
There will always be people who don’t understand what’s going on with me, who treat me differently because of my mental and emotional state. And that’s okay. Things can be confusing at the best of times and frankly, I’m just thankful that people care enough about me to worry.
As always, the biggest thing I’m advocating for here is to listen to the people you care about. Don’t invalidate their experiences, and listen so that they can find the best care suited for them.
Try to remember that people aren’t their diseases. I promise, it can do a world of difference.