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My Mental Health Rock Bottom Lasted 2 Years, But I'm Finally Free

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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 741741.

I just kept sinking.

Every time I felt like I couldn’t feel any lower, every time I believed my mind was at its darkest and my life was at its bleakest, I kept spiraling downward, losing pieces of myself with every moment that nearly broke me. Before long, I felt like I was drowning — invisible, desperately reaching for an outstretched hand I’d never receive.

It was the thick of winter, and with every day that passed, my heart froze bit by bit. One of my then-boyfriend’s relatives habitually made ableist comments about our relationship, and a chorus of Internet voices echoed them. He was too good for me, they claimed. He deserved so much better, they reasoned — all because I’m physically disabled and a long-term relationship would “mess up our future children.” Internet strangers’ comments made me deeply suicidal, and from that day forward, I wondered if I should end it all.

And then came the loss — the devastating news that arose just hours before my friend arrived in my town for a few days of carefree fun. I was devastated, but I put on a brave face — and she still saw right through me. My friend saw just how precariously I was clinging to life and begged me to keep going.

But I didn’t think I could. Every aspect of my life was just too overwhelming, too fractured to piece back together. So the next morning, I arrived at her Airbnb amidst gray skies and drizzling rain, feeling no brighter than the gloom that surrounded me. And I had a secret — today was going to be the last day of my life.

The moment my friend caught wind of my plans, she did everything in her power to stop me. We tumbled across the bed as she wrestled me for anything she deemed unsafe. But I refused to back down — there was no more joy, no more light, no more peace in my life — no ostensible reason to live. Unrepentantly, I began to try to take my own life, and my friend promptly insisted I needed to call my therapist. My therapist determined I would be far safer in the hospital, and though I vehemently disagreed with her professional recommendation, I went.

I spent several days feeling trapped, lonely and dehumanized. Many of my possessions were taken from me, I couldn’t shower without hospital staff nearby, and for much of each day, I couldn’t see my family or friends. All I could do was wonder why I was still alive and pray for relief in between naps, therapy groups and vitals checks.

When I was discharged, I was promptly enrolled in an outpatient mental health program, where the program psychiatrist almost immediately diagnosed me with anxiety, depression and anorexia nervosa. I gradually began to feel hopeful again as I processed the lifetime of struggle that had led me to the treatment center — until the psychiatrist told me that I could no longer stay in the program and needed to immediately check into eating disorder treatment. I spent days on end crying relentlessly, fearing the future and feeling completely abandoned by those who were supposed to help me.

The moment I was admitted to a residential eating disorder treatment facility, the feelings of complete imprisonment returned. I was locked in, living by the will of my treatment team. I could no longer eat when I wanted to, sleep when I wanted to, shower when I wanted to or change my clothes when I wanted to. I had limited access to my phone, no access to money, no privacy whatsoever and no viable choice to leave. I was expected to open up quickly and easily in therapy, and I was pressed to discuss my lengthy medical history well before I was ready. When I finally bared my soul the way I was expected to, a fellow client told me I was “victimizing myself.” I couldn’t live with polarizing expectations, a torturous mind and a painful lack of freedom, so leaving the world behind seemed like the only way to find peace.

But I survived residential treatment, and the moment I left, I felt like I could finally breathe again, only to continue to be dealt blow after blow. In outpatient treatment, my mental health worsened, and my anxiety began manifesting physically, affecting my ability to complete my meal plan. I wanted to leave treatment behind forever, but every time I took any meaningful steps forward, my mind fought back, pushing me further and further into depression. Soon, it became clear that I needed to follow my months-long stint in eating disorder treatment with yet another round of eating disorder treatment because of the ways my anxiety and depression were affecting my body.

This time, I fought — not to recover but instead to leave. I tried to physically escape from the facility when the mental toll of treatment became too much. I refused to comply and consequently let my eating disorder take full control. I let my mind wander to dark places until I could no longer bear the thought of living another day. And once again, I ended up in the hospital, deprived of any sense of agency, any sense of humanity.

The months that followed would begin a nearly year-long battle between my eating disorder and my mental health. I threw myself into eating disorder treatment until my depression consumed me and I was forced to seek out mental health treatment. I then spent months on end learning coping skills, facing ableism, accusations and privacy breaches from a mental health clinician who was supposed to have my best interests at heart and all the while, fighting against relapses into harmful behavior. But after I emerged from mental health treatment completely mentally and physically exhausted from the strain of relentlessly fighting for myself and beating myself up for not being the “perfect client,” I was told to return to eating disorder treatment once again.

I worried I would never fully get my needs met — that I would be stuck in a loop of attending multiple types of treatment for the rest of my life. But the moment I entered eating disorder treatment for what felt like the millionth time, I was determined to never go back in — or to any of the twisted corners of my mind that led me there. I challenged myself and slid backwards, opened up and closed myself off, let myself enjoy food and slipped into behaviors in the same dangerous dance that I could never seem to escape. But by some miracle, I was released fairly unscathed, and this time I knew I was never going back. After nearly two years in and out of treatment, I was finally ready to be free.

Almost a year after discharging from treatment for the last time, I’m constantly awestruck by the moments I’ve survived and the freedom I’ll never stop appreciating. I’ve worked to rebuild my life step by step, re-engaging with my passions, learning to stay well and knowing that life’s “little” moments are so much more meaningful. I’ve struggled, I’ve fought to stay alive and I’ve even relapsed, but in every heart-wrenching moment, I choose to keep fighting.

I spent nearly two years spiraling deeper and deeper into the aftermath of trauma and heartache, drowning under the weight of my own emotions, praying for someone to reach out and pull me to the surface. But after finally reaching the surface and taking that first gasp of cool air, I know that the only hand I need to save me is my own. After years of being pulled underwater, I’ve finally made it to shore — scarred and scared but in awe of the strength within me and the beauty of the life I’ve created.

Getty image by pixdeluxe

Originally published: January 14, 2022
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