Reflections on Being Hospitalized After a Mental Health Crisis
Well, I said that I would write an article on hospitalization, and this happens to be a perfect time to do so.
On Friday Oct. 7, 2016, I was admitted to the emergency room for a mental health crisis. I had been in the midst of a severe bipolar episode; the worst I’d had in about eight years. As I wrote this article, I was inside a facility, separated from technology, writing on old-school notebook paper.
This particular hospitalization was a voluntary one, although now I am on the protocol 72-hour hold. It is important to note that being in a hospital voluntarily is a very different experience than being admitted against your will. When I came in voluntarily, I wanted to get help. It made me more cooperative, and resulted in an experience that was extremely productive. Because of my time there, I left feeling ready to go back into the world.
Alternatively, there are situations of involuntary admission. In this situation, you have an entirely different reality. I had a much harder time reaching a better state when in a place that is intended for your benefit, but not on your terms. The two times I was involuntarily committed I was unprepared, and couldn’t speak with my my support system beforehand, aside from a single rushed text. This is just as hard on me as it is on them. The way I look at it is this: when you walk into the hospital, you’re either there because you want to get better, or you need a location with the ability and resources to keep you safe. However, in my experience, if you’re there involuntarily, the options become blurred and it becomes less about getting better and more about getting out.
I remember being so angry when I was sent to a facility that was miles away from home and my support group. I felt isolated and my friends struggled to visit because of the travel time and limited visiting hours. This was extremely disheartening for me, and hard on them as well. While my parents visited every day, watching the time tick by on the clock during those hours was heartbreaking. I understood the circumstances and worked through them, however, ensuring that policy provides funding and support for local facilities is important. Patients deserve to have a say in their facility, and this starts with ensuring these places have their best interests at heart.
There’s an old saying, “I am strong, but I am weary,” and when you’re hospitalized, those words ring true. After four months of extreme depression, pain and suicidal ideation, I can truly say I am weary. I have been fighting this battle for years, which has undoubtedly taken its toll. Despite this, I try to reframe this saying. My best friend and I tell each other, “I am the storm” from a poem: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You can’t withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”
I was released on Wednesday, Oct. 11. A sad reality, too, is that even though you feel like you’re fighting a huge and ponderous enemy, the world continues to move forward. There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare when you walk out of those doors, but you need to remember that you just won a battle. I still have a hard time dealing with some of those feelings, but I walked out the victor, and nothing can take that away from me.
Scientifically, we know that language is culturally, historically and even mentally important. Instead of focusing on the negativity my brain attempts to convince itself of, I try to change my mindset, repeating to myself, “I am the storm.” This simple change keeps me going, even when life throws me everything I can handle and more. Even when it seems like there is no hope our strength left, it keeps me going.
My point is that in my experience, hospitalization, even when involuntary, is not always a bad thing. I believe that if more people decided to take steps in the direction of active self-care, we all could lead lives with a little less misery. The world can hurt us, the world can beat us down, the world can even break us, but that doesn’t mean it would better without us. Goodness knows we could all use a life like that. If you need help, I encourage you to ask for it. If you are forced into a situation, try to make the best of it. Help is all around you, but can’t do any good when you keep your struggles to yourself. Too many people in this world skip the step of opening up about what they are having trouble with and feeling. In far too many cases, this leads to taking their life instead. Please remember that you are strong and even stronger to admit when you need help, try to allow loved ones into your life.
One last thing for you all, stay strong, stay with us and reach out when you need it. This doesn’t have to be a big step, a simple car ride to talk or a text to a friend saying, “I’m having a hard day, send a little extra love” goes a long way. Loved ones always care and professionals are only a phone call away. You are not alone, and I say this to each and every one of you regardless of where you’re at: “You are the storm.”
Written with the help and steadfast support of my best friend Savanna Inman.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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