What Happens In the Aftermath of a Mental Health Crisis

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

They say that once you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s only one way to go, and that’s up. It makes sense, there’s simply no further to fall. But what no one seems to acknowledge is that all too often, there’s an awful lot of crawling along the bottom, dragging yourself by your fingernails, before you can begin your ascent.

For me, rock bottom is when I’m in a mental health crisis. This doesn’t always take the same form. Sometimes, it’s a suicide attempt or serious self-harm. Sometimes it’s a breakdown that I manage to get through at home. And sometimes it’s being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

My most recent crisis came in the form of a hospital admission for the sake of my own safety. And while I was in crisis, I was overwhelmed by the support of family and friends who rallied around. For the month I was in hospital, I felt upheld by their love and concern. I had visits, cards, texts and messages. My husband had help with childcare and meals delivered to the door.

But now I’m back home, the crisis has passed and so has everyone’s support. I’m on my own.

I know this makes me sound greedy and ungrateful — attention-seeking even. That’s not my intention. But no one speaks up about what happens in the aftermath of a mental health crisis.

I’m relieved to be home, yes. But I’m still fragile. I’m shaken by the events of the past couple of months: the rapid descent into depression, the section, the time in hospital. I’m getting used to new medication, which is making me feel physically exhausted. I’m racked by guilt about what I put my loved ones through. I’m attempting to work, cook, clean and look after my children. And all of this on top of my existing mental health issues.

Rock bottom? Yeah, I’m still there, still trying to pick myself up.

One of the biggest challenges after a mental health crisis is getting used to normal life again, without the support network that held you up when you were at breaking point. The texts and phone calls tail off, and people are too busy to come and visit. I don’t blame them. In their eyes, I’m out of hospital, so I must be “better” – or at least “better enough” to get on with things without their help, right?

The problem is, I’m not. I’m still struggling. And now I’m unbearably lonely, too, because everyone has moved on and left my mental health crisis in the past. Everyone except me.

This must be what it’s like after a bereavement, to some extent. There’s an outpouring of love and sympathy in the early days. Then after the funeral, you’re expected to carry on as normal and ignore the aching chasm at the centre of your life.

I know I could ask people for help — just the occasional text would mean so much. But I’ve been such a burden on them. I’ve exhausted their energy, time and patience. To cry out again for help now that the crisis is over seems greedy, selfish, unfair.

So here I am, still at rock bottom, but having to pretend I’m not. In time, I will likely start my climb back to sturdier ground of my own accord. But now, right now, I need a hug, a phone call, a shoulder to cry on.

I can’t do this by myself.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via ValentinaPhotos

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