One thing that’s really come to my attention these past 6 months is the reality of the mental health stigma. Of course I’ve always been aware of it, anyone who’s watched film and television has come in contact with an ‘Insane Asylum’ scene at least once in their life. Not only do we have the glamorization of it all in Hollywood, but we also deal with the stigma in our everyday lives. Back in 10th grade I silently suffered for months before opening up to my group of friends. At the time I had people in my family who would constantly discount that mental health existed, and would go as far as saying that anyone who self harmed or thought they were depressed, only said that to get attention. With all of that negativity surrounding an illness that had, at the time, truly taken over me I felt more alone and more scared than ever to speak up. It’s taken me years, but I’m finally at the point where I no longer let fear hold me back from speaking up about something so eminent in my life.
Recovery is a long process on it’s own, but it’s even more so out of reach when you let stigma silence you. Back in the fall when my health really deteriorated, I spent a week without eating or getting out of bed because all of my energy was exerted in crying. During that period my family got themselves involved and suggested being hospitalized, which I quickly shut down. Me? In the psych ward? I told myself, I’m not that bad.. Those thoughts came from years of being told that mental health hospitals were for people who were much worse than me, and were filled with nurses who took advantage of their power and neglected the patients. It wasn’t until I attempted suicide and ended up in the emergency room after calling the crisis line that I realized how far beyond myself this illness had gone. When in the emergency room, a social worker came in and made me eat, but also talked to me and calmed my nerves. She told me I was going to be transferred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital and that they would help stabilize me and give me the proper care and attention to start my recovery. I asked her what it would be like and she said to me, “It’s nothing like the movies. There are no electric treatments or being strapped to the bed. There will be patients worse than you, and there will also be patients healthier than you. You will get to stay in your own clothes, they’ll feed you breakfast lunch and dinner, and you will be put into group therapy sessions throughout the day.” She was right. The first hospital I was admitted to really made me feel stable. I met some really incredible people, who I’m still in touch with today, I had my own room, I got to wear my own sweats, there was time to draw in between therapy sessions. It wasn’t bad at all, and everything I learned still stays with me.
If you’re sitting there wondering if the hospital is the right next step in your own recovery, here are some warning signs I noticed within myself that made me know I needed to hand my safety and health over to someone else. For starters, I wasn’t eating. I realized that not only did I barely have the energy to eat, but I also didn’t retain the will. Secondly, I was self harming every chance I got. I’d even do it at work in the bathroom. I wasn’t cutting to feel something, I was cutting deep enough to seriously injure myself, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I felt very disassociated from my own body, and in times like that I realized I was on autopilot and didn’t understand what I was doing to myself until the damage was already done. On top of all of that, I had suicidal thoughts. Anyone who is contemplating suicide should 100% call a crisis line and get help. It’s a horrible state of mind to be in already, but it’s even worse when you hold it all in and let it consume you. These were all very serious warning signs, and they may be different in you. Bottom line is you know yourself better than anyone, and you know when you’re beginning to lose control. Seek help in times of emergency. My email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is also always available if you need anyone to talk to before calling a crisis line.
To end this, I’d just like to say that being hospitalized was something I was afraid to open up about while I was going through it. I was afraid of what the stigma that’s been developed over time would say about me. Knowing what I know now, through experience, mental health facilities are more important than most people realize. The hospitals I was admitted to got me on the right medicine to stabilize me, had me start eating again, and truly saved my life. If you are suffering and have been too afraid to admit yourself in fear of what people might think, or in fear of being too “dramatic,” please consider yourself before any of that. You and your health are your number one priority, and if you need to extra help to keep yourself safe, then so be it. You will be taken care of, and you might just save your own life.