Years of depression, self-injury, alcohol abuse and destructive behavior took its toll and I got hospitalized. Twice.
This didn’t use to be something I would talk about openly. I only ever discussed it when someone else mentioned that they were hospitalized and then we would usually laugh about the stupid thing we did to get in there. But you see, it wasn’t stupid. The alcohol abuse, self-abuse, suicidal thoughts, they aren’t stupid. They are a part of my brain chemistry and at the time, I didn’t even know I needed the help. I just thought I was crazy. My loved ones didn’t know what else to do. The hospitals did as they are trained to do, and I ended up in the hospital against my wishes twice.
It’s interesting how when someone says they were in the hospital for a physical illness, everyone frowns and asks how they are and wishes them well, but when you are in the hospital for a mental illness, it’s very hush-hush and if you do happen to tell someone, the reaction is typically one of shock, pity and fear. There may be whispers or sad looks, like you are doomed for misery forever because of what you did.
“She must be crazy”, or “I wonder what she did”.
These were my thoughts exactly.
I must be crazy.
What did I do to get myself into this?
No one would say these things for someone going into the hospital for a physical illness. No one would say,
“Geez, that’s a shame they had a heart attack. They must have brought it on themselves.”
It should be same way with mental illness hospitalizations.
We don’t DO this to ourselves. We have an illness and we need treatment, that’s what hospitals are for. Treating us, getting us stable and setting up follow up care. Just like someone with heart problems would.
When I was hospitalized, I was humiliated. I was so ashamed. I felt as if I was a freak who couldn’t control her life, a loser who had no sense of responsibility. I didn’t understand that I had an illness. I really thought it was a choice. I would try to talk myself out of depression. I would try to stay away from a drink. I would feel so much shame when I would fail, that I would injure myself and then I would drink and get depressed and it was a vicious cycle. I would even say to myself,
“Why are you so stupid? Why are you doing this?”
If someone came to me and said they have to go to the hospital for chest pains because of their heart condition, I would never call them stupid, tell them it’s a choice to feel chest pains, ask them what they are doing wrong in life.
It’s been years since my hospitalizations, but I have learned it’s okay to talk about it. I choose who I tell this information to wisely, but I am no longer ashamed. It’s a part of my story of recovery and recovery is the triumph after the tribulations. If someone asks questions, I no longer change the subject or run away from it. I try to educate them, help them understand and in the process, I heal a little more each time. Each time I talk about it, share my story, my recovery gets stronger and it gets a little easier.
I was hospitalized a third time, this time I checked myself in. I was aware of my symptoms, my triggers, the things that may make me slip back into a deep depression and the dangerous thoughts that may cause self destruction and I chose to follow my gut and go to the hospital. This used to be something I would joke about.
“yeah, i was feeling crazy, whatever… haha”
But now, it’s a memory of strength. It’s a memory of how my treatment in the past hospitalizations has helped me become more aware, has helped me realize when I needed treatment and the follow up care after that has helped me learn how to recognize the triggers that may mean I need help.
Illness isn’t a choice, but recovery is. I choose to take my medications everyday, I choose to talk to my spouse about my struggles, I choose to see a therapist, I choose to talk to others who support me and I choose to get out of bed and at least try. That’s all that is expected and that’s all that is needed. It sounds easier said than done, but I do have a choice in my recovery and I have a choice of how I want to recover.
Not everyone understands, but they don’t have to. All I need is for someone to listen, educate themselves on my illness and support me in my recovery. All of this helps me to feel stronger, less ashamed, and able to start the conversation.Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the company or product I am reviewing.
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