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14 Things I Didn't Expect to Learn at a Psychiatric Hospital

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Last December, I began my nine-month journey in a psychiatric unit. I gained a lot of knowledge over those nine months, but not everything I learned is what you might expect. The end goal was to gain skills to help us cope in the “real world,” but I didn’t realize in the beginning how much would go into it.

Here are some of the unexpected things I took away from my experience:

1. I could laugh. I laughed from my belly, and it was an honest laugh that gave me a small, yet real, glimmer of hope.

2. The friendships I made were unlike any other — I don’t think I could recreate them if I tried.

3. Being honest and open with staff led to priceless moments, like when a one-on-one shower turned into a “Frozen” singalong.

4. Therapy isn’t a walk in the park. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.

5. The value of a cup of tea is greater than you might think.

6. Weird talents and funny stories will not stay hidden for long! Believe me, they all came out at some point.

7. I had to commit myself to getting better. I had to do it for myself. I was giving myself a chance to live and have a future.

8. Therapy balls aren’t just for at home gym sessions. Bouncing up and down, sliding across the room and balancing on them could lift my mood — who knew?

9. Without texting and social media I discovered the joys of phone calls and letter writing. It’s a simple and much more personal ways of keeping in touch.

10. Never underestimate a multiplayer game.

11. If you leave for a day and come back with a new top, hair color or socks, get ready to get more compliments than you’ve ever had in your whole life.

12. Good quotes spread like wildfire.

13. I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for.

14. When I left the hospital I wasn’t fully recovered — but I was so much closer than the day I went in.

Follow this journey on Swimming Through the Willow Tree

The Mighty wants to hear about your experiences in psychiatric hospitals. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: November 13, 2015
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