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Being in the Psych Ward Felt Like the End, but It Was Just the Beginning

The day I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital was the worst of my life.

I remember sitting in the dining area late at night, waiting to be seen, sobbing so hard I could barely breathe and begging my husband to take me home.

I remember seeing a doctor who explained that if I didn’t stay voluntarily, I would be sectioned. I was in a no-win situation.

Physically and mentally, I was in a place in which I never, ever dreamed I would end up.

It felt, that night, as if my life had ended.

In fact, it was a new beginning.

It’s often said you have to reach rock bottom before you can start to travel upwards again, and for me, that held true.

I was completely horrified to have ended up in a psych unit, but my admission marked the start of my healing.

Without that admission, I wouldn’t have had the complete break from real life that I so desperately needed but was trying to avoid.

I wouldn’t have had the time and space my mind needed to sleep, to rest, to stop fighting itself.

I wouldn’t have met the psychologist who took the time to talk to me, to understand me, to get to know me, and to work out what I needed from therapy on my discharge.

I wouldn’t have been referred to a psychiatrist who was willing to do what no other doctor had done before: take a proper look at my medication and make changes that would, in time, help lift me from the bleak, terrifying hollow of depression.

I wouldn’t have met the psychiatric nurse who visited me daily after my discharge, a lifeline for both me and my husband.

I wouldn’t have met women who, like me, had seen their lives ravaged by mental illness through no fault of their own.

I wouldn’t have known the extent of my friends’ love for me, as they rallied around me with visits, phone calls, cake and hand-holding.

My time on the psych ward was also a validation. For too long, I’d been battling with the idea that my mental illness was, literally, all in my head. That it was something I should be able to snap out of, or think myself out of. That I was a great big fraud and if I just tried harder, I would be OK.

Being admitted to the hospital made me realize this wasn’t something I was just making up. I had a real, serious, life-threatening illness. It made me realize this was not my fault. It was not something I could control. And, above all, it could be treated.

I won’t deny that being in a psych unit was tough. It was scary and lonely, and I spent my time in there longing to get out.

But now I realize it was not only what I needed at the time but also the start of my illness being taken seriously at last. Without it, would I have got the help I needed to get better? It seems unlikely.

So to you, curled up in a corner in a psychiatric ward, frightened, isolated, desperately unwell and thinking your life as you know it is over, I reach out my hand and urge you to hang in there.

I know that right now, it seems as if things couldn’t possibly be any worse. But from struggle can come healing, and this can be just the start.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo by Efsun Kutlay