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Going to a 'Mental Hospital' Does Not Make You Weak

During the fall of 2015, I chose to admit myself to a mental health facility. It was not an easy decision, but it was one I wouldn’t trade for the world. In October, I started to have constant flashbacks from a traumatic event that occurred during my childhood. For an entire week I could not eat, sleep or function.

Thankfully, I have some amazing friends who helped me get through the worst week of my life. I thought I felt like I was going “crazy” and it would never end. My therapist gave me some great advice I still use to this day, “Take it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute”.

By the end of the week, I was taking that advice literally. I was exhausted and still having flashbacks. Something had to give. I called my therapist at 3 a.m. and I explained how hopeless I was feeling. She told me to take it 15 minutes at a time. I would talk to my friend and watch television for 15 minutes, and she would call me back. After a few hours, she asked me what I needed to do, and I hesitantly said I needed to go to the hospital. I think I knew that’s where I was headed. She just helped me come to that conclusion on my own.

The first hospital I went to had no psychological staff, and I was treated more like an animal than a human. They threatened to commit me to a hospital that would not have been best for me. My therapist arranged for me to stay at a different hospital, one that she was familiar with. Eventually, they begrudgingly let me go.

When I arrived, there was an intake process. It was difficult for me to convince them I needed a bed. I told them I was admitting myself because I knew I would be a danger to myself if I went back home. I had to stand up for myself. You can stand up for yourself. You know what you need. What I needed was immediate care for the state I was in. I needed to be stabilized. What I didn’t realize was the hospital was going to give me so much more than I expected.

I’m not writing to say everything was great. It was miserable at times. I had to share a room with someone who was convinced I was going to kill her. I had to shower without a door. They took my blood pressure at 3:30 a.m. every morning. I met people who were constantly in and out of the hospital because they didn’t have the support they needed outside of the hospital. I missed my friends. Sometimes the staff was unfriendly. However, the bad does not outweigh the good.

Being in the hospital was like a being at boarding school. It was nothing like what I had seen in the movies. Everything is structured. We had activity time, group therapy, mealtime, outdoor time and bedtime. It was not a demeaning schedule. It helped us have structure so we could get better.

When I met with my psychiatrist, he listened to me. When I talked in group therapy, people understood me. We were all broken, and were trying to heal. We all had a story, and I had the privilege to hear stories that other people will never hear.  I grew close to people who came from different walks of life. They were the ones going through this with me. I learned coping skills I didn’t know I needed. I learned to love people better.

After five days, I left a healthier person. I was not magically cured. I’m still recovering from the flashbacks. I’m still figuring out medicines. Therapy is still hard. There are friendships that have diminished and friendships that have grown. I am constantly learning new things about myself and sometimes it is painful. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Getting the help you need is worth it.

Whether voluntary or involuntary, going to a mental hospital doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you “crazy.” It means someone cares. It means you are strong enough to get yourself help. Don’t see it as a setback. See it as a step forward. Don’t be afraid to seek out help. Tell your therapist where you’re at, even if it means you may need to go to the hospital.

Your stay won’t be the best days of your life, but it will help you stay alive to have those days. Don’t worry about what people will think. You don’t owe them anything. You are strong. You are brave. You are mighty. Don’t suffer alone.