“Alone in my car, an empty McDonald’s bag on the floor and in front of a mental facility.
This was clearly not my finest moment, but my most defining.
I was drunk on sadness, actually paralyzed by fear. I had a haze over my red eyes and nothing could relieve it.
My mom had called earlier in the day to set up an appointment with the intake nurse. I thought how baffling it was that you needed a time to come in and get checked out.
Like people who were probably about to jump off a bridge needed a certain time to come get help.
I had missed class the entire week before I finally dragged myself out of bed and thought to go get help. I first started with my usual therapist on campus, but found it no help and no use in walking the 1/4 mile to see her again, telling her I want to die.
I spent eight hours trapped in a room, given terrible meals like every patient there. I was talked to by three different people which probably only took up an hour total. Panic attacks left me frozen, my usual reaction, and heaving for an hour and a half.
They don’t give medicine out until you’re an official patient, so I was stuck with my typical techniques. I remember being embarrassed at some point too.
How had I allowed myself to get to this point?
I thought I didn’t need this. I demanded I was fine and tried running off – but a security guard stopped me. I was fine. I was fine. It had been 30 minutes since I last cried.
They suggested I stay for at least a week, but because of the outrageous prices of private mental health facilities and my father’s protest, I found myself at his home that night. They strongly recommended that I go to partial hospitalization though, which is a step lower than in patient treatment. Eight hours a day, seven days a week, you go to group therapy, individual therapy, back to group therapy and then a seminar.
My father, a big nonbeliever in psychiatric treatment, refused.
I told him about my state earlier in the morning; how I couldn’t move without crying and was about to ram his car into others. He said fine.
I was terrified, I ate lunch alone by myself, outside or in my car. I couldn’t talk in group therapy because nothing would come of this. But treatment is scary. It’s supposed to be scary. It’s not a vacation to get away from things. It’s not a simple program that cures you when you go. It’s work. I heard others bravely tell their stories, fears and dreams while I contemplated even talking.
Within a few days, the others’ opening up affected me.
I was actually moved to talk and share, no matter how scared I was or how big or how little my problems were. I realized that people can’t undermine my feelings. I don’t need to apologize.
One of the first days in group, we were asked what we liked about ourselves. The people who had been there longer said many things and new people like myself said nothing. This guy I befriended sitting next to me raised his hand and said,
“Everyone who is here and new is brave. You guys had the courage to say you need help.”
I carried that through the rest of treatment, sitting on it, wondering if I was actually brave. Was admitting I wasn’t fine, brave? Was sitting here, watching my parents’ wallets burn money because I was about to break, brave?
Saving people’s lives is brave. Doing work in foreign areas to help people, even if it puts you at risk, is brave. I didn’t register the fact that staying alive when you want to shut off your mind and body is brave; not doing the very thing that sounds so wonderful in that moment. And I don’t think a lot of people do either.
With one in four adults experiencing severe mental health issues, it’s not taken as seriously as it needs to be. It’s seen as weak. I used to have a hard time just admitting I went to therapy, let alone a mental facility. What if we were to treat a mental illness just as a physical one? That’s not to trivialize an illness, but to take both seriously. To be healthy in every way you could possibly be?
To make yourself happy and okay? Is that a brave thing?
I have to remind myself of how brave I am even when I’m sitting, in bed, crying and unable to move. I guess you could say I’m saving my own life.”