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What People Don’t Know About My Time in Psychiatric Hospital


Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Last year, I was open with people around me about the fact I had been admitted to the hospital, to the psychiatric unit. I was a little more private about the circumstances that led me there, mostly because everything was so raw. I was still ripped wide open and was not ready to share. I don’t like to spout off about a situation until I have had some time to digest it. But today, I am ready to share not because my life is an open book, and not because I am looking for attention or sympathy, but because maybe, just maybe, my story will help someone else. At the very least, I won’t feel like a fraud when people compliment me for knowing I needed help.

When I went to the hospital last year, it wasn’t a cool, calm, collected decision to seek help. It was a whirlwind of tears, gasping for breath and feeling like I couldn’t handle the “craziness” anymore. I was taken to the hospital to seek help only after I had attempted to die by suicide. It was the fortitude of my family and friends who carried me for a time until I was able to to take care of myself again. There were so many groggy days when I felt like I was talking and moving in slow motion, as I adjusted to the medication I was taking. There were days I was so embarrassed to be back at my rock bottom that I felt like I was never going to be able to show my face again. There were days I felt so guilty for the time I was taking away from my family, for the time I was taking off of work and for the pain I had caused my family and friends. There were days when I felt so broken I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel put back together, but little by little, I did.

Over time, I got used to the medication and felt more like myself. Over time, I found a wonderful psychotherapist who has been monumentally helpful. (In fact, I see her again tomorrow, and I am looking forward to my visit.) Unfortunately, I learned I had no value to some of the people in my life when I could no longer “do” for them, when I had to put my own interests first. On the flip side, I also learned I have some incredibly strong and resilient family and friends, who stood beside me even when I thought I was fine to stand on my own. They showed up, helped me get my kids ready for school in the mornings, fed my family dinner — they helped me keep everything running smoothly.

One year ago, when I looked down at my arm covered in painful stitched wounds, I was mortified. I was thankful for the cool weather that allowed me to wear long sleeves without looking out of place. I looked down at my semicolon tattoo, nestled in-between fresh wounds , and thought of the irony. I cringed when my children noticed my arm and asked me questions that hurt my heart to answer. But I did answer, the best I could, and the stitches came out, and little by little, the scars have started to fade.

One year ago, I had my last drink. I knew I was mentally and emotionally spiraling out of control and decided to blow off some steam with a few glasses of wine and the company of friends, but what I did was pour gasoline onto an already burning fire. I have not yet had a single day where I have regretted my decision to give up alcohol.

Today, I am a happier, healthier, more whole version of myself. I feel more connected, more collected, more confident. I take a holistic approach to staying as balanced as I can: medications, talk therapy, yoga, meditation, essential oils, healthy eating, supplements, sleep hygiene, routine, walking, laughing, dancing, singing, writing, drawing, family downtime, alone time. Even though it is work every day, it is the best work. It is the most worthwhile work. Every single day, I feel grateful to wake up next to my husband, to be with my children, to visit with friends. I am so grateful last year wasn’t my final chapter; it was merely a plot twist in the story of my life.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash