Three years ago, I left work for a therapy session. An hour later, my dad was driving me to be checked into a behavioral hospital.
My depression and mismanaged medications had ravaged the person I once was, leaving just a hollow husk of a person. And I was on my way to forfeit any semblance of control this person had left.
As we waited to start my intake, I shivered in the air conditioning as my dad held me. He told me that he loved me over and over and over. He gave me a handkerchief of his dad’s. A multigenerational token. A reminder I was loved and cared for whenever the need arose.
He later brought my car to the hospital. In fact, I could see it from my room. It’s an odd sensation looking out from a place where you’re literally locked away and seeing your car, a symbol of physical freedom, not 50 yards from where you stand.
It’s three years later, and traces of this experience remain. I towel myself dry after a shower and reach for the brush which still bears remnants of an ID sticker on the back. Handouts from the countless group sessions I attended litter my shelves. My grandfather’s handkerchief sits in my dresser.
It’s three years later, and perhaps the greatest remnant from my time at the hospital is how I have now decided to approach life. While I have done and experienced incredible things since that time, I feel as though, in a way, I’m just beginning my life in earnest. At almost 31 years old.
Why? Because, I finally feel capable of taking absolute control of my life. Of what I want my life to be and what it can be.
And my hospitalization helped me get here.
I learned how demoralizing and dehumanizing having no control over your life feels. And I have no tolerance for anyone or anything infringing upon my agency. Anyone or anything trying to dictate how I should live my life.
In other words, I am becoming a more intentional person. I am evaluating my life and understanding how each element of it ultimately serves me. If a part of my life doesn’t:
- excite me
- encourage growth
- give back
- spark joy (yes, I know, very Marie Kondo)
- provide opportunities for any of the above
I am letting it go.
I’m no longer listening to thoughts of sunk cost nor of respectability nor of profitability. I am striving for no more than to be true to myself. Not only because I know who that is now, but because I must honor the struggle and the literal blood, sweat, and tears I have shed in order to know this.
My time in the behavioral hospital was a quite literal and extreme example of being constrained. But one doesn’t have to be committed to feel this way. Nor even necessarily mentally ill.
It was certainly not the first time I (or others) had convinced myself to limit my life. Nor is it unique to me. Everyone experiences this. It could be how capitalism mandates you to work 40 hours a week as the only way to feel like a productive member of society. It could be heteronormativity and/or religion that instructs you that there is one way of having a romantic relationship.
It’s ultimately up to us to recognize our constraints. To understand the reasons behind why we behave as we do and behind the choices we make. And to decide whether these reasons are good enough.
Once we can recognize what is arbitrarily holding us back in life, we can make moves to rid ourselves of these obstacles.
If I got nothing else out of being hospitalized, I at least knew that I could never go back there. I knew that real and drastic change needed to happen. That it was up to me to finally take control of my recovery. And what a gift that was.
If you are struggling…
Take it from me, this? — this is not forever. It sure can feel like it, but that’s just the disease talking. Do me a favor and tell it to shut the fuck up. Write it down, even. There is so much that you contribute to this world, even if you’re not actively being productive. There are so many who love you, to whom you mean the absolute world. It’s a tough fight, but seriously, it’s worth it. And you, my friend, are beyond worth it.
- Please reach out to friends and family. You are not a burden. Let me say that once more: You are not a burden.
- Get professional help. Yes, I had shitty experiences with several mental health providers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good ones out there. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am without them. And sometimes what you need is just to be kept safe and stable on meds. Please remember that you deserve the best care, and if something doesn’t feel right, speak up and/or make a change.
- Feel free to reach out to me. Please. You are not alone in this.
- Call 1–800–273–8255
- Text 838255