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How I Saved Myself By Asking for Mental Health Help

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The first night on the mental health ward is always hard. I should know, I’ve done it a few times now. The first step is accepting that you need help.

My first time came after spending my night bawling on the bathroom floor, pill bottle in hand, unsure of what was about to happen. It felt like a movie. I was watching myself unscrew the cap and pour every pill into my mouth. I lacked clarity, my body moved without my control, and I was afraid. When the taste hit my tongue, I snapped back to consciousness. In a very last-minute effort, I spit them out. I’m lucky I never swallowed them, that my dissociation ended quick enough for me to stop and think. I sat for a bit, crying and staring at the pills on the floor. Would this pass? Would I try again? The risk was too high for me to sit there alone. I remember the emptiness I felt, the despair and the hopelessness. I just wanted that to stop, I wanted it all to stop.

So I did the one thing I had never done before; I asked for help. To this day, that was the hardest moment of my life. I was afraid that my friends and my husband would be upset. That they would be disappointed in me. I mean, I was already disappointed in myself, I never should have let it get to that point. I knew I was spiraling and did nothing, said nothing. It is sometimes easier to blame myself than to acknowledge the truth; I was sick, very sick. Ignoring that fact is what almost killed me.

Timidly, I called a friend. I wanted to call my husband, but he was working, and I thought interrupting him with this would be silly. My friend understood, dropped everything for me, and rushed to my house. I am grateful every day for that. When they arrived, I explained everything, crying harder than I had been earlier. To my surprise, there was no judgment, no lectures; just someone who would listen. They discussed options with me and urged me to call my husband. He needed to know what was happening, despite my fear that he would be upset.

He wasn’t upset, he was afraid. He could have lost me; I could have ceased to exist in our home, and he wouldn’t have known until it was too late. At the time, none of that registered with me, the only thing I could think about was dying; it was all I wanted, what I felt like I needed. By the time my husband arrived home, I had stopped crying, I was simply numb and exhausted. It was then decided that the hospital would be the best place for me. I was a danger to myself, and it would only get worse if I was left alone. I had never been hospitalized before this, so naturally I was afraid of all it meant. Would anyone believe what I had done? Would they be able to help me? Would I ever be able to go home? All these thoughts wound around in my head like a train on an endless track. The ride to the emergency room was a silent one. I had nothing left to say. I was surrounded by love and genuine care, yet I still felt nothing. I was a shell of myself, an empty husk just waiting to be put out of its misery.

I never liked hospitals, emergency rooms even less so. They were always either too quiet or too loud. The smell of antiseptic covering up the smell of sickness always made my stomach turn. When you are having a mental health crisis, as they call it, the emergency room process is a little different. You are sequestered into a room, asked a million questions by a million different people, and forced to relive your traumatic moment every time you speak. What did you do? Do you know why you did it? Do you remember every detail? What is your diagnosis and what medications are you taking? Just endless interviews when I no longer wanted to speak. After the inquisition, I was told I would be admitted. They would need to find a bed for me somewhere, but I could not be trusted to go home. This frustrated me. I wanted to go home, to sleep in my bed, but I knew I couldn’t do so. My husband could not watch me 24/7. I accepted that this was the help I needed, whether I wanted it or not.

I was placed in a room stripped bare of anything I could use to hurt myself. A camera on the ceiling in a corner kept an ever-watchful eye on me as I slept in the uncomfortable bed. My husband sat quietly and kept me company. Occasionally, I would wake to watch TV or eat. I would talk to my husband and make jokes, trying to lighten the severity of the situation. I’m still not sure if he found this helpful or annoying. I have a knack for not taking things as seriously as they should be. A coping mechanism from many years of trauma I have yet to address.

I remember this barren room always being cold. No matter how many heated blankets they brought me, at my core, I remained chilly. Perhaps it was the shock of everything finally wearing off. Eventually, I said goodbye to my husband, was transported to another hospital, and admitted to the mental health ward. The first night was the hardest. I cried in between sleep. I missed my husband, my cat and my home. For the first time in days, I felt safe. I had saved myself and that was something to be proud of. Asking for help was hard, and even though life can still sometimes be difficult, I am happy I am still here.

Getty image by nadia_bormotova

Originally published: November 9, 2021
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