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10 Things I Wish You Knew After I Was Discharged From Psychiatric Treatment

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I spent the past few months in an intensive residential treatment services (IRTS) program to receive support for my mental health struggles. These past few weeks of being at home have been a huge adjustment, but it’s been a reminder mental wellness is hard work, it isn’t something that is automatic. I didn’t leave treatment completely changed, but I have evolved. Here’s what I wish you knew after I was discharged:

1. I am not “healed.”

I am still constantly striving toward recovery and will always be working toward recovery. My recovery isn’t linear and there won’t be an endpoint where I’ll suddenly be better. It’s a continuous process of self-growth and self-reflection.

2. I will still have bad days, but that doesn’t mean I’ve relapsed.

There still might be relapses, so it’s helpful if we have a crisis intervention agreement while things are steady, even if it might feel uncomfortable talking about.

3. You build a community while you’re in treatment and there’ll be days where I’ll miss the people I spent 24/7 with.

It can feel isolating coming back home and not being around the same people you laughed, struggled and celebrated with. I didn’t have to justify my pain to the people I met at my treatment facility — they understood my struggles as they were going through their own. It’s a different kind of homesickness after discharging from a short-term treatment center and meeting amazing peers.

4. On some days, I will still need support.

I had a whole team of counselors and nurses in treatment. I don’t expect you to be able to fill that same capacity for me, but please be there for me when you can and draw a line when you can’t. I want to be able to respect your boundaries and energy, too.

5. We are relearning how to live together again, please have patience with me. 

When I return home, I know it’s a transition for all of us, so practice patience because I am learning how to coexist in these spaces I’ve been absent from, and know I will practice this same grace with you.

6. I have evolved and gained new insights and self-awareness, but this doesn’t mean I’ll always remember how to cope healthily.

Gentle reminders to take a shower, go for a walk, clean or brush my hair go a long way.

7. Please hold me accountable.

My mental illness doesn’t excuse any toxic tendencies I might still have. It’s OK to let me know when my actions are impacting you, too.

8. Take care of yourself, too.

You’ve supported me through my time in treatment, but your body and mind deserve that same attention, if not more.

9. There’s a lot of shame and stigma about receiving mental health treatment.

Please don’t share my time in treatment with others unless I’ve already disclosed it to them. Although I want to be unashamed to have gone through treatment and be outspoken about it when it’s the right time, it’s still hurtful receiving judgments from others for seeking help. If you’re unsure about sharing anything about my time in treatment, you can always ask me.

10. There might still be a day where I need to check myself back into a treatment center.

Although I’m working toward preventing any relapses, going back into treatment is not a sign of failure or “giving up.” Choosing treatment means choosing myself and leaning on my support system when I don’t have the capacity to be able to lean on myself.

To any of you who have been discharged from the hospital, a treatment center or dual recovery program, please know I’m sending you virtual hugs. I know you are trying your best and there will be dark days ahead, but don’t forget the sunshine when it rains. You’ve always had yourself in this; you have been the most constant and consistent thing in your life. Hold onto yourself tightly, be gentle with yourself and have reckless imagination for the future. I don’t know if things will all be better, but we can certainly do our best to make the most of what we have.

Getty image by fizkes

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