No shoe laces. No belts. No essential oils because they come in glass bottles. No dry shampoo because the can is aluminum. No phones. Your door doesn’t lock. Yes, you can have your books. Here’s some socks. It stays cold up here.
Being an inpatient in the psych unit is like being on a different planet. Most of the rules that guide our every day lives don’t apply. There are no alarm clocks to push you out of bed. There’s no reason to worry about what you look like. Someone makes sure you eat and take your meds. No one expects anything of you.
There is no producing. There is no performing. No one is pretending here. We all know we are broken. Nobody asks “How are you?” Because nobody is going to respond, “I’m fine!” We are all just trying to get back on our feet.
There is no social media telling me I need to do something about this, be angry about that, or telling me I need to take a stand. There is no job by which I can measure my worth. There are none of the unfortunately toxic voices in my life that challenge my worth and invalidate what I feel. The only voice really left is mine.
At first, I felt really disoriented without having something I needed to do. It was really uncomfortable. Through the continued silence, my voice could finally rise to the surface. Suddenly, things felt really clear.
Being in the psych unit was an oasis for me. It felt like finally all the other voices had been turned down, so I could hear my own voice crying out “Hey! I need help! I’m tired. I’m really sad, and I’m hurting. I’m scared. I need to be taken care of!” I finally had space. I could think. I could feel. I could breathe.
After being discharged from inpatient, I have been in partial hospitalization for two weeks. This means I’ve been going to Vanderbilt from 9AM-3PM Monday-Friday for a variety of intensive group therapies. I have learned so much. I have loved having a space where words like “panic attack” “obsessive thoughts” and “depressed” are normal and accepted. This has been a safe place to be honest about what is really going on. I have felt so validated, comforted, and loved. I have been given so much direction. The truth is, I really do not want to leave.
Honestly, the temptation is to admit myself back into inpatient to just get away. The “real world” feels scary, loud, insensitive, and overwhelming. Where will I find solace? Who will ask how I am doing and want to know the real answer? Who will listen with empathy instead of judgement or solutions?
“Because, the truth is, rarely does a response make something better. What makes something better is connection”- Brene Brown (See more of that amazingness here.)
I don’t have answers for these questions, but I am seeking out ways to find the safety, security, solidarity, and silence I have found in the psych unit in my every day life.
So what does being on the “outside” look like next?
Baby steps. Lots of grace. Setting boundaries and staying consistent. Learning to say no sometimes, so I can say yes to other things. Unlearning that I’m not worthy or valuable. Most of all, making space for my voice and letting it speak.
It feels as if finishing my time at Vanderbilt should mean that a journey is over. I should be all better now, right? On the contrary, I believe a journey is just beginning- one devoted to finding my voice and learning to use it.