My Mental Hospital Experience
Warning: this post has graphic descriptions of self harm and thoughts of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
Imagine being so desperate to be put out of your own misery that you purposefully consume something you’re allergic to. That is exactly what happened to me last Sunday. I felt my world collapse and thought that the only way out was for me to finally die. I ate a coconut snowball and hoped it would work.
Spoiler alert, it was way more miserable than I thought it would be. My parents found me having an allergic reaction, and when all was done, I told them about my plan. For weeks, I had been talking about the goodbyes I had to say and will I had written. Suicide playlists filled my Spotify. I had songs and poems ready for my funeral. This time, they finally took my attempt seriously.
The cops were called and came to my house. They asked me a few questions and then talked to my mom. I was so scared. While the cops were nice people, they were still men in uniform with authority. After talking to my mom, they determined that I was not mentally stable and a threat to society. They put me in a cop car. I sat in front. The three block drive felt excruciatingly long. I walked in the way that ambulances usually drive into.
The way that general hospitals treat mental health patients is completely horrendous. I felt less human because I had something wrong with my mind instead of my physical body. They put me in a purple “suicide gown” and took my phone, license, and I.D. away from me. I lost the ability to talk to my support system and felt more alone than I ever had. Then, they determined that I needed to get to a mental health facility. I felt my life start to shrink in the sterile walls of the hospital. I waited for ten hours before they found a place for me. I had been crying, I was alone, and I was scared shitless. They told me to change into baby blue paper thin scrubs with bright yellow socks. I had nothing other than my rings as my belongings. They put me into a car and I was driven, at four in the morning, to a place in the middle of nowhere.
When I got to the place, I was escorted in. I was scared. I had no numbers to my support system and was treated as a prisoner would be. All of a sudden, they were asking me questions like, “do you hear voices in your head?” I thought my world had collapsed. Then, they told me that I was guaranteed to be there for 72 hours. I had plans for the week. I had people to see. Yet, there I was, in those damn scrubs, feeling like a waste of time and space. They gave me something to sleep, and by 5:00 AM, I was in bed.
The first day, I slept the day away. Techs came in every fifteen minutes to check on me and I skipped meals. I felt uncomfortable and disoriented. I wanted my phone, but more importantly, I wanted my support system. I so desperately wanted to talk to people who were on the outside who could help me while I was there. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. I questioned whether or not I was crazy. The first day, I saw the Doctor for the first time, which happened every day I was there. I was intimidated and scared, and went back to the safety of my room.
The second day looked like the first, but I felt more stuck on the second day than I did on the first. Being in the mental hospital had lost its charm, and I wanted to go home. While it was starting to become something I was getting used to, I was ready to see my family and talk to them. Luckily, I had their numbers. I wished for a routine. However, it was odd wishing for a routine in a place where order was not reality.
The third day, things started to look up. I actually started socializing and getting to know people in similar situations that I was in. I am also an introverted extrovert, so socializing gave me a little recharge. I met people who were in worse off situations that I was, so that gave me a sense of gratitude. That day was my “things may not be so bad” day. I began to have hope for the first time in my experience in the hospital.
The fourth day, I got my discharge date. When I got my discharge date, I nearly cried. I was so happy to be going home to Hattiesburg. I craved an iced caramel macchiato from T Bones, the front of USM’s campus, and to see people I love. I knew that I would be headed back to a place where my heart was happy and that I was loved. It was a priceless feeling. I also knew that my mind and body would be as safe as the location. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I had a definite date as to when I would never see the sterile walls and hallways again.
The second to last day trudged on. I thought it was never going to end and hoped I would get to go home. By the last day, I counted the hours until I could head on I59 and straight to Hattiesburg. When the moment finally came, I was elated. I drove down the interstate with the latest Mamma Mia soundtrack. When I finally reached exit 65A, I started crying. My heart was happy again. And yes, I did get that iced caramel macchiato from T Bones.
Coming home was quite difficult, which was unexpected. I opened my computer to see the will and suicide letters I had written before I left. I realized that I was yelling on the outside but screaming on the inside. I was in an incredible amount of pain, and even those close to me could not see it. Rereading the suicide letters and my will was painful because I thought of the people who would have been on the opposite side of it. Reading my epitaph was painful, too. Knowing that those would have been the words forever memorializing my troubled life scared me. I don’t want my life to be a dash on a gravestone. I want my life to impact people, and I think I have more to live than just my 21 years. The difference in my before and after is that I know how much love I have now. The ones who have stuck by me are valuable resources, and they’re not going anywhere. I learned in my experience in the hospital that I can’t go anywhere, either.
How am I doing? Honestly, not so great. I’m really fragile and sort of feel like nobody gets it. Adjusting to a new normal after being in a place where normal was far away is difficult. I’m not okay right now. I need to rest and reorient before going hardcore “life mode” again. I do know who to reach out to. I know it is okay for me to rest and rejuvenate. I’m getting there, but I have to focus on the eventually. I am no longer a patient in a facility, or a case on paper. Now, I am a woman who must face the challenges that life throws at her. It is so scary, but I know I can do it. It just may take a little more effort on my part than others do, which is okay.
I hope that I made my support system proud when I got the help that I needed. I also hope, to them, that it makes me seem stronger for breaking down, if that makes any sense. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt at first because I thought that they would be mad at me for not reaching out. I got the help that I needed while in the hospital, but I now need them to help me define a new normal. I hope they are as ready as I am to completely slay alongside me.
I want people to know that there was no amount of love to bring me out of a suicidal state. Love is not a cure all drug for everything, and unfortunately it wasn’t in this case. I have all of the love I could ever want in the world, yet it was not enough. I was so desperate to die that I was unable to focus on living. It was scary. I wanted to use the love to build me up, but all I thought about was how people would love me after I was dead. The only ray of hope I had was when I hoped people would come to my funeral. It was a scary, dark place in my life, and I never want to go back.
The most common question that I have gotten since getting out was, “how did you make it through?” The answer is simple: Wordsworth. When I memorized “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” to recite at his grave, I never could have imagined that I would use it to get me through the darkest days of my life. I wrote that poem and “My Heart Leaps Up” down early on in the experience. I would read them as I got up in the morning and right before bed. Even in my darkest days, I knew I could dance with the daffodils and my heart could find comfort in the simple joys of life.
So, why have I chosen to go public about my mental hospital experience? I want the stigma surrounding mental hospitals and mental illnesses gone. We have a negative stigma associated with mental illness and I hate it. It bugs me that we cannot talk openly about an issue that so many face because society says so. Screw that. I went to the mental hospital and I was helped. Let’s come together to start talking about this issue. I also wanted to go public with my experience because writing is my refuge. Even when the world around me crashes, I know I can turn to my way with words to make it all better. To those reading this, though, never be afraid to reach out for help. There are people who love you, and I love you, too.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1–800–273–8255.