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What Being Hospitalized for Depression Gave Me

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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.

“I never knew darkness could be so bright.”

After losing control over myself, I voluntarily accepted to be hospitalized in a psychiatric department because everything had become too much to handle for a single 21-year-old woman. I hurt myself and I was deeply thinking about dying by suicide.

I needed help and no one could give it to me, neither my family nor my friends. I needed to help myself, I needed to save myself. I was running toward a road with a dead-end — literally, a dead-end. I had lost control over my situation; there was nothing I could do. So I did the only thing that in that moment of lucidity seemed like the solution: I asked for help. It was my last resort. Though I wasn’t alone in making this decision, I was supported by friends in Madrid, my best friends in Italy and my parents — my anchors.

On Saturday, October 5, I was hospitalized and my recovery process began. At first it was tough, the toughest part of my life, but also the best thing that could ever happen to me. The first day was hard; I was completely alone in a room with no phone, no computer, no access to the outside world and no way to call my parents and talk to them, just to hear their voices telling me everything was going to be OK. I was alone with my mind and my scars and it was killing me. I didn’t understand how the hell I ended up in this place. I could see my friends for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but during the day I was alone. And it made me think.

I realized it was where I needed to be, but at the same time it wasn’t. I needed to be out in the open where I could attend classes, could study, could hang out with my friends and finally enjoy living. I didn’t belong there because I belonged where I could be alive… and I wanted to be alive.

I admit, I still haven’t completely recovered from depression. I still have to take medicine, see a psychiatrist and psychologist and continue to walk a long, long path if I will ever be fully recovered. But that psychiatric hospital made me feel so dead inside that now the only thing that I want is to be alive.

I want to live.

It’s OK to ask for help. It is OK to fall. But it is so important to try again and again; always try again, and never stop trying. There will be dark days where nothing will make sense, where everything will seem so dark — I’ve been there — but trust me, there’s hope and there’s light. We just have to find it — and not by ourselves, because we’re not alone. You are not alone.

Reach out to people; ask them how they feel because you might save a life without even knowing it. There are people out there struggling with things we know nothing about. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, to be vulnerable. Don’t be ashamed of your scars, you’re not the only one with them. Don’t be afraid of who you are, you are not alone. I’ve learned, sometimes, the best things are those that seem the worst at first.

I’ve come to face a reality I thought only existed in the movies. But I touched it, I felt it and it’s real — mental illnesses are real and they can be terrifying. I thought I was alone, but the truth is I found some kind of a home in that psych hospital; I felt understood, like I could be myself without being judged. At the same time, it made me think about life, about what I was doing with it and about where I was going. Staying there for four days — that may seem like a very short time, but trust me they were the longest days of my entire life. But they helped me found that little sparkle I had been looking for the last 10 years. I found the will to live that I had lost a long time ago, the will to put my broken pieces together and start over. Sometimes you have to reach the bottom in order to get to the surface and rise again. Personally, I reached it in the moment I admitted to myself that the hospital was the best choice and the only way for me to stay alive.

I want to stay alive.

I’ll be honest, my fight is not over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me, full of obstacles and ups and downs, but life is like a rollercoaster, right? Without the downs there would be no ups. I’ll still have breakdowns, I’ll still have crises, I’ll still have panic attacks, but I’ll be able to manage them.

I know who I am and I’m not my illness. I am who I am; I’m the one in control. I must be the one in control. I won’t let the voices in my head take over. I will fight. I will fight for those who have fought for me — and a lot of people have, even if I couldn’t see them. My family fought for me, my best friends fought for me — they helped me ask for help. What surprised me was to have found someone here in Spain who fought for me as well. I thought I would’ve been alone, but I met a group of people who supported me throughout the process.

There was one guy in particular who stood by me through every single step I took. I never expected to find someone as special as him. After being rejected by everyone because of my illness, finding someone who didn’t go away felt like a rare blessing. I don’t easily trust people, but with him it has been different. He’s one of the reasons I’m still alive today and writing these words. He pushed me to ask for help and open up to my parents about the hard reality of my depression and self-harm. But most importantly, he helped me accept my condition and go to the hospital. He helped me realize my depression is not a limit. It may seem like I’m exaggerating, but he gave me the strength to push through the hospitalization. He didn’t stop believing in me, not even for a minute, and this is why I will fight for him too.

But most importantly, I will fight for me.
It’s me I must fight for.
It’s my life I must fight for because life is worth living.

In the complete darkness I saw the light and that light is there for everyone.
I will fight and I will win.
I won’t let the darkness win.
I will live.
I will stay alive.
I will follow the light until there is no darkness.

That’s what the mental institute gave me: strength. Will to fight. Will to live. And I admit part of me wants to live because I’m scared to go back to that place, but the other part — the strongest part — wants to live because I want to win.

I will live — not survive — but live.

Never lose hope, never for a moment think you are alone, because you’re not.

There’s help.
There’s hope.
There’s life.

Getty image by Anna Ismagilova

Originally published: October 16, 2019
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