When you’re admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you expect many things — long boring days, lots of medications, loneliness, arts and crafts, restraints, seeing unimaginable events and maybe, if you’re lucky, a breath of fresh air for five minutes each day. But what you don’t expect is to make long-lasting friendships. You especially don’t expect to fall in love.
Well for me, that’s what happened. In July of 2013, after a suicide attempt and a major decline in my health due to anorexia, I was placed in a psychiatric hospital. The doors slammed behind me as I rode in a stretcher. Horrifying thoughts and feelings flooded my mind as the reality finally hit me — this was going to be my home. I instantly panicked at the thought of being trapped inside. I felt like a prisoner. A prisoner on the outside and a prisoner in my own body. My chains? My own thoughts and distortions.
For the first few days — or maybe it was the few weeks — I isolated. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone or hear anyone. I was in my own little distorted world, trying to cheat the system to avoid weight gain.
After a month or so, I finally came out of my shell and left my room. I started attending most groups and activities, but I still felt isolated. It seemed like no one understood what was going through my head. Most of the other patients were struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism or other mental illnesses, and I felt like I couldn’t relate. Until that one evening. The evening that perhaps changed my life forever.
I was so malnourished, I had to use a wheelchair. Michael happened to be in the same situation. I remember that evening perfectly. We were both sitting at the medication window waiting for our bed time meds so we could finally go to sleep. Something inclined me to introduce myself. That introduction turned into a two-hour conversation. We quickly realized how much we had in common. We both struggled with an eating disorder and suicide attempts. We laughed, sharing our painful secrets and memories. We connected on a level I had never connected with anyone.
Eventually, Michael was transferred to the other unit solely for eating disorders. I thought that was the end. I thought I would never hear from him or see him again. It was just a great few days and that was all.
Now, three years later, I’m proud to say Mike is my boyfriend. We’ve been together for five months, although it feels like it’s been much longer than that. This is the first relationship I’ve been in where I don’t have to hide my struggles and true feelings. Because I know he understands. Some question whether our relationship is healthy considering we both struggle with an eating disorder; I say this is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had. He understands me and I understand him. We push each other to do better, to become fully recovered. Although Michael is much further along in his recovery than I am, it motivates me to get to that same place.
I started to lose hope in ever finding anyone who understood me, but my dream has come true. They say that princes aren’t real, and I tend to believe that. Maybe there are only a few true princes in this world. I’m grateful to say I have been blessed with one of them. My future with him looks promising, and as long as we both stick to being healthy, who knows what we can achieve.
How our paths crossed was unfortunate, but honestly, I don’t think I would change it if I could. Everything truly does happen for a reason.