I have wrestled with the idea of how to write this for quite a while now and have never really been sure if it is “time” or not. Looking on it, like the foreign object it is, I realize that there is no optimum time to let loose. It’s scary. I gotta let it go so please, bear with me, as I muddle through this muck.
I have found, in general, that anytime anyone is in the hospital it’s not a good thing. Unless you are:
a. Having a baby (which really isn’t a whole lot of fun in and of itself…the baby makes it all worth it–of course.)
2. Having breast augmentation. (Which I haven’t seen in my hospital, so that just leaves us letter “a”. Again, yay for babies!)
So, needless to say, hospitals generally can be ruled out of “It’s-my-favorite-place-in-the-whole-world-to-be” category. Unless you like that sort of thing. I guess.
I have also found that a hospital stay can be especially dreary if you are there to be treated for something that can’t be x-rayed or seen with the naked eye. Which is EXACTLY what mental illness is. Though I have tried to work this through quietly, by myself, I realize that it is time for me to share with you the fact that I am mentally ill. (Suspicion’s confirmed?)
My depression is no big news. What you may be surprised to learn (as I was) is that for those diagnosed with depression or bi-polar or other some-such brain disorder, they are also diagnosed as mentally ill. So, that is me.
I admitted myself into the hospital on a spring day in 2009, after a breakdown which left me suicidal and unable to return to my little family. It was after the infamous trip to Oregon (see earlier post) that my brain decided it had been given enough and wasn’t going to take any more. My husband and I went to the emergency room and after time waiting and talking with personnel, it was decided that I would be admitted to the Psych ward. I don’t think I realized the extent of my illness until I heard the social worker ask Jason what his thoughts were. He responded with a simple “I want my wife back.” Never have any words struck me with such force as that sweet and painfully concise sentence. I had been missing; missing from my own life and from the lives of my family. To hear it put into words was something terrible and sad. But no matter how sad it was, it was what I needed to hear.
Thus began my experience in the Psych ward.
No shoelaces, no glass. No bobby pins, no tweezers. Everything that could be used to harm myself or another was taken from my possession. I had to take the cord out of my hoodie and leave my shoes and other belongings at the nurses station. We were under observation 24 hours a day and were accounted for at 15 minute intervals around the clock. Medication was kept in locked steel drawers behind wired glass and given through a small window from a nurse who documented everything. Prison.
I have read in the scriptures when Christ talks about “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” As I sat in the common area at a table by myself, dressed in a hospital gown and avoiding all eye contact from anyone that would even glance my way, the tears fell. They fell openly and freely and unabashedly. It was while the tears were flowing that my heart started to break. This heart-break was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, only I didn’t recognize it. Whatever shred of composure I was trying to maintain, kept me from fully feeling what it was in me that I would encounter while I was to be there.
It was during the many talks with nurses and caregivers and the answering of questions that I had someone say to me: “You are mentally ill. Depression is a mental illness.” Again, that feeling in my chest. Again the tears came. There was sorrow and anguish. “This couldn’t be! This just couldn’t be me! I don’t belong here!” I repeated those words over and over again as the realization rang through my brain that I was now classified with those “scary” types–the people who no one really likes to think about. I was mentally ill. A crazy. A loon. All of the unkind things that I have ever heard or spoke about someone who is “mental” was now suddenly true of me. “How did I get here? How could I get out of here? What did I do to deserve this? Why?” were the words I repeated to Jason that night when he came to visit me for a brief 10 minutes. Short of begging him to take me out of that place, there was nothing I could really say that I hadn’t been saying to myself internally since my hospital stay began. Again, my heart tore open. My sorrow was full to overflowing. I had never felt so broken and forsaken.
It was a long evening. I was given medication to calm me and help me sleep. I can remember laying in my bed and feeling as if I could just roll over towards the wall and die.
Upon waking, I began to understand what it was I had been feeling the day before. As I sat in the chair in my room and looked down the five stories to the pedestrians and the traffic below, for the first time I recognized that my heart was broken. Good and truly broken. I looked at the grass trying to green up from the long winter and the trees shooting out their buds and pondered something else. Christ was there, in that ugly place, walking the halls and taking note of his brothers and sisters. He had come to do what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He had come to help heal. Along with the medical attention and the work of the staff, Jesus Christ was there to fix those places deep inside each of us that none of us knew existed. Yet at the same time, His touch and his grace which go far beyond any medical miracles, were there to comfort us and mourn with us at the loss of those things that couldn’t be replaced. I left my room that morning to attend my first of many counseling sessions, and at last felt…hope. The hope that had abandoned me so many miles before I came to this place. Hope had come for me.
During the next 3 days, I spent time with others in the ward, we discussed our problems and listened to each other. I learned that my problems were small in comparison to some and that I would gladly keep them all for myself if it meant I could avoid going through what others were suffering. There was a mother who was having Electric Shock Therapy and who was beginning to forget chunks of her life because of it. There were those who had attempted suicide, those who were bottomed out in depression after their mania subsided and those who had to be on 24 hour surveillance because they were in such dire straits. There were those who had no one to visit them and home to go to as well as those who had the same visitors night after night. Old and young, male and female. We were all in it together. We sat next to one another in counseling sessions and at mealtime. We did crafts together and laughed and cried together. We became close without knowing last names and details about each others lives. I watched new patients come in, arriving in the same state of mind I did, and I watched old patients go home and leave me behind. I was living an emotional roller-coaster. My heart, still broken, was beginning to change. I wanted to get better.
On the 4th day as I talked with my Psychiatrist, I told him what a good day it would be for me to go home. You see, it was March 20th. The first day of spring. The world was waking from it’s slumber and bringing forth life. He agreed. That day, I went home and promptly had an anxiety attack. Baby steps, you know.
And now? Now it’s been 16 months since the spring day I came home from the Psych ward. It has been a long uphill battle and at times it has felt as if I was backsliding and pulling everyone with me. I have learned and changed and grown in even the most unnoticeable of ways. I take my medication faithfully and have learned to deal with and recognize what I will be fighting against the rest of my life. Mental illness. I still don’t fully embrace it and most of the time I don’t like it. But at least I’m not an enemy to myself anymore. I don’t know that I will ever approach someone and introduce myself as mentally ill, because I won’t let it define who I am. But I have now walked the path of others and have come to know my Savior and His mercies better. For that I am most grateful.
I am able to laugh as I once did and be just as rambunctious as ever. I feel and taste the joy in life again but best of all–the VERY best of all–my husband has his wife back.