I don’t think anyone ever imagines themselves ending up as an inpatient in a psych hospital. I know I certainly didn’t.
If you look at my life objectively, it would seem that by most standards, I am a successful adult. I am (almost) 24 years old. I have a well-paying job that is relevant to my college degree. I have been happily married for almost two years. My husband and I own a house. We have a savings account and an emergency fund. We have good credit scores, two happy dogs, and a lot of great friends.
For the past year, I have also been really honest about my mental illness in person and via social media. I post about anxiety, depression, attempts at self compassion, hard days, grief, etc.
I did not see this coming.
Looking back, a perfect storm was brewing. My psychiatrist has been away for four months on medical leave. My therapist has been away for two months on sabbatical. I stopped going to physical therapy because of insurance. My fibromyalgia has been bothering me. We lost Stephens’ grandmother to cancer very quickly and suddenly. I just completed a huge project at work. We have joined a new community and taken on new responsibilities and commitments. I am getting ready to start grad school next spring. Overall, I have experienced an abundance of loss and change. (Just typing all of this has my head spinning).
Somewhere through this process, I began drowning.
After graduation, I took a year off and worked very minimal hours to focus on my mental health. In that time, I did a lot of healing and learned how to cope and function with my anxiety and depression on a daily basis.
What I realize now is the wiring was still broken. My core beliefs about myself had not changed. Even though I know how to plan self-care in my calendar or how to breathe to get through a panic attack, I do not know how to truly believe I am worthy, lovable, unleaveable, significant, and capable.
I face each day with those negative core beliefs at play. It was only a matter of time till I ended up where I am now.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, August 8th, and I found myself not knowing where to turn. This was the third time in the last month I was dealing with suicidal feelings and thoughts. I spent hours trying to decide if I could “push through” or if I needed to get assessed at Vanderbilt Psych. In the end, my desperation won.
My husband drove me to the hospital. After being assessed, I was given two options. I could admit myself into inpatient (the recommended option) or I could leave and wait for an unknown amount of time to be admitted into partial hospitalization (an amazing program I am apart of now). I didn’t want to leave knowing I was all out of resources and not knowing when I would get the help I needed. My tools weren’t working anymore. I was tired. No, I was exhausted.
So, I cried and hugged my husband goodbye around midnight as I was admitted into the hospital and given my golden ticket for being there- the white hospital band around my wrist. The stories that follow are stories I never thought I would tell because I never that I would reach “that place.”
After the last few weeks, I believe anyone and everyone is capable of reaching “rock bottom,” “the end of their rope,” or whatever else you want to call it. Hospitalization for mental health is way more normal than I ever imagined. We would never question hospitalization over organs like the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys. But, when problems arise with the brain, our most complex organ, for some reason unbeknownst to me, there is so much stigma attached.
I’ve heard it expressed by others with this shared experience that they now feel tarnished forever because they were hospitalized.
I hope to be one voice among many, even though this voice is shaky, embarrassed, and afraid, that there is no shame in getting help for mental health or having a mental illness. Life is messy. Humans are complex. Shit happens.
I did what I needed, and there is no shame in that. And, I will keep telling that truth every time shame tries to rise up and re-tell the story.
If you find yourself in need of immediate help for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, etc., please reach out for what you need. I highly recommend Vanderbilt. Here’s their number (615) 327-7000. Click here for more information.