The Truth Behind My Decision to Admit Myself to the Psychiatric Hospital
In the past year, I’ve admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital three times. You read that right. Not once, not twice, but on three different occasions.
Now when I tell people this, I usually get the same kind of response. People will look at me, amazed, as if they can’t believe what I’m saying. They will look at me in awe or in admiration or sometimes both. They will say things like, “Wow, that was so brave of you,” and, “I can’t believe how strong you are: I’m so proud of you.” They will tell me I made the right choice hands down, no hesitation or questions asked. They will tell me they are glad I was able to keep myself safe, and aren’t I mature for my age?
They will send me the following message: you made the right choice, and you should be proud of yourself.
But here’s the thing: going to the hospital wasn’t some kind of stellar achievement or outstanding accomplishment, and it certainly didn’t feel like pride or delight. In fact, it felt like failure and self-hate.
When I stepped into that ER, I have never hated myself so much.
I hated myself for feeling weak, for needing help.
I hated the idea of being certified under the mental health act, of losing my rights and personal agency.
I hated the fact that deep down, I knew the hospital is where I needed to be.
You see, everyone says what I did was brave — that I made some kind of noble decision. The right call, the mature choice. But I want to clarify that it wasn’t an ultimate act of self-love; it wasn’t about, “I love myself so much I’m going to save my own life and go to the hospital.” It was more along the lines of, “If this doesn’t save me, I don’t know what will.”
The first time I was certified, I was admitted to the Psychiatric Assessment Unit located at Vancouver General Hospital. That night, doctor after doctor confirmed what I feared most, and assured me that yes, I absolutely needed to be hospitalized.
I did not believe a single one of them.
One psychiatrist, Dr. T., told me that hospitals were busy places, and beds were very limited. She said they wouldn’t keep me in the hospital if I didn’t need to be there, and she told me she couldn’t let me leave because I was considered a danger to myself.
I yelled at her.
And when she asked me where all this anger was coming from, and whom it was directed to, I realized I was beyond pissed at myself.
I told her I was angry with myself because I was the one who checked myself in, and could I have not been more stupid? I told her it was all my fault, that I had nobody to blame but myself, and “I cannot believe I put myself in this situation.”
I told her: “I don’t belong here I don’t belong here I don’t belong here I don’t even deserve to be here, I made a mistake!”
She told me I had made the right choice. She told me she was glad I was here. And she told me things would get better, that the suffering would pass.
At the time, I didn’t feel as though I deserved to feel better, so when I reached out for help, I felt worse about myself.
That weekend in the PAU, I asked myself, “How did I end up here? How did things get so bad?”
When my friend Emily visited, I told her that going to the hospital was like giving up, like throwing my hands up in the air and saying, that’s it, I quit. I told her only weak people admitted themselves, and my choice meant I wasn’t strong or good enough. I told her going to the hospital was like cheating, like taking the easy way out.
She asked me, “But has any of this been easy?”
Slowly, in the following days, I realized I had made the best decision of my life by going to the hospital, and I just wasn’t ready to admit it aloud.
It’s been almost three months since my last admission, and today, I’m able to reflect on my choices and see them clearly. Yes, I checked myself into the hospital, but not because I wanted to — because I needed to.
I did it, over and over again, aware of what was at stake.
I didn’t feel brave or empowered. I felt angry and afraid. I gave up my personal agency in the name of my physical safety, and that was a pretty bold move.
If there’s one thing I want you to remember after reading this piece, it’s that checking myself into the hospital was the most difficult decision of my life. It meant admitting I was vulnerable and on my knees, desperate for anybody to help me. It wasn’t an easy choice to make. It was fucking hard to step into that hospital that first night, and even harder the second and third time around because of feelings of shame.
Lastly, I want to point out that unlike what some people might believe, the reality is: a psychiatric admission is no fucking picnic. It’s not a vacation and definitely should not be viewed as such. Hospital stays are not the equivalent of taking a break from life.
Some people have questioned my motives and reasons for showing up, including doctors. What, did they think I just showed up for the hell of it, for fun? Like, who wants to go through that process?
To clarify, all I have to say is this: showing up was one of the hardest decisions of my life. It meant giving up so much; my rights, my freedom, my agency. It meant showing vulnerability, and it meant facing uncertainty.
And yes, I was aware of the consequences.
I knew going into the hospital meant having to confront my parents and I feared disappointing them, as well as my psychiatrist. I knew going into the hospital meant I’d feel like a failure and it’d disrupt my daily routine and I could even maybe lose my job. Because I was aware of the way the whole process is designed, I knew being admitted meant I’d have to deal with even more psychological distress. I knew a hospital stay equaled more financial issues and it meant taking another break from school, which broke my heart.
Going to the hospital was not something I wanted to do. It was not an easy decision for me to make. I did not show up at the ER because I had a headache. I showed up because I was at risk of harming myself, and not going could have cost me my life.
Some days, I wonder if going to the hospital was even a choice.
Sometimes, I wonder if my illness chose to kill me, and my body stepped in and said, no way.
Sometimes, I think my survival instinct kicked in, and those steps leading to the hospital building were my body’s way of telling me, “It’s not over, it’s gonna be OK.”
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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo via Maria Kuznetsova