Whole and Healthy

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.

Sitting on windowsills without wanting to jump

Hey there! Guess who isn’t suicidal anymore!

No?

Too glib? 

Yikes. Sorry about that. 

This is like the time I let some of my friends know I was in the emergency room by sending them snapchat selfies of myself in a hospital gown.

For some reason people get mad when you don’t seem like you’re taking your health seriously.

Go figure.

In my defense it is hard to talk to people about being suicidal. I mean, if people are uncomfortable talking about mental health to begin with, they are terrified about hearing about suicidal ideation. 

Hell they may not even know the phrase suicidal ideation exists.

My parents and close friends have been aces these past couple (years) months. They’ve dealt with my worsening depression, anxiety, and panic attacks far better than I could ever have hoped and I am constantly, continually grateful. And what’s more, they’ve found ways to understand that through it all I’m still me. 

Under all the crying and screaming and bruising and weight loss, I was still me.

Admittedly a broken down version of me who needed a lot of help to get back to normal, but the point still stands.

A lot of people have a hard time seeing that. A lot of the time people you care about, people you don’t, well meaning friends and family, and people who couldn’t give less of a fuck only see you as your mental health status. 

And sometimes they think you can’t even tell.

Well trust me. I can tell.

I was genuinely scared to write this post because I don’t know how it will affect how people see me. As amazing as it might seem, there are still some people out there who don’t know that I’m a mess. 

I know. Frankly, I’m astonished too.

Fortunately, I’m pretty sure only strangers and people who are already at least a little privy to my personal life read this little blog of mine.

 That said, it’s still hard for me to talk about being suicidal because honestly it’s still hard to accept that I actually was.

When I think back I don’t ever remember thinking “I want to die”. It was always more of a nebulous desire to stop hurting floating around me than a solid wish. 

MAKE THIS STOP MAKE THIS STOP PLEASE GOD I WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE THIS STOP

I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t necessarily want to live. 

Now those might not seem like different things to some people but to me it was all the difference in the world.

I wanted out. I was so unalterably sad, in such constant pain, and in such a state of resigned terror that this was going to be the rest of my life that I didn’t know what to do. I was desperate and broken and scared and I just wanted it all to 

Stop.

I would get so scared when I thought like this that I would hold my breath, put knives against my skin, open windows in high buildings and stand there, crying and staring, willing myself to live.

So I told my therapist. And then I went to the hospital. I wrote a whole post on that when I got out, so I won’t go into much detail on that subject, but suffice it to say, that was both a wake up call and a turning point.

I was living my worst nightmare and that more than anything compelled me to get back to being alive. 

And so I did.

Two months later and some actual medication that works and I’m feeling more like myself than I have in years.

It’s exhilarating and unbelievable and absolutely terrifying.

I’m going slow at the moment. As hard as it can be for me to grasp sometimes, I’m sick. Mental illness is a disease like any other and like any other chronic illness it will ebb and flare and there will be good and bad days.

And I’m trying to be okay with that.

For now, I am good. I’m happy. I’m stable and yet I can still feel the whole range of emotions I’m used to.

I’m less reactive and yet I’m not numb. And for that, I’m grateful. 

I didn’t think I would ever get here for a while. And sometimes I still worry that I’m not here to stay. 

And that’s okay. If I slip it doesn’t have to be all the way back down. And if it is hell, I got here once, I can find my way back again.

But I’m not going to worry about that for now. For now I’m going to be alive, just like I promised myself I would be.