*NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT & RESPECT PEOPLE’S PRIVACY & IDENTITIES*
So, in case you were wondering where I’ve been for the past ten days and where I am right now, I’m currently in the process of treating my mental illnesses. Like any writer should (as stated above), I’m altering names of where I stayed and respecting other patients’ privacy and identities while telling my story at what I’ll call “Radley” (like in PLL, but much more comforting).
To start the story, I might as well mention that I was scared sh*tless. Naturally, I cried after my mom left. It was like the first day kindergarten, but this time, I was going to be a resident at “Radley” Hospital, unable to see my family until 12:00 noon or 5:00 p.m. — both for 1.5 hour intervals, and I’d be staying overnight.
*DISCLAIMER: I checked in to get a diagnosis for an illness that was interfering with my everyday life and the overall quality of my life.*
All I had in my room to entertain myself were various poetry books, my trusty journal, and my poetry notebook (not that I’m complaining, lol). They had group activities for us to participate in, like games, how to stay healthy, crafts, and my two favorites: open discussion and meditation. I’ve taken to meditating every night since I’ve been there and since I’ve been at home.
There’s one piece of advice I’d give to my younger self, and that would be to say, “you’re not damaged, you’re on a journey.” My mom said this to me as I expressed my anxieties about my diagnoses, returning to social media after being off-the-grid for 5-10 days, and finding out who my next roommate was going to be. After stress-crying, I was shortly introduced to my new (Spanish-speaking) roommate. So I had one weight to take off my shoulders. Just like all of us, she just wanted to go home.
There are many things I learned while staying at “Radley;” one of them is that talking about what was going on with me does NOT make me sound crazy person. But after going to an open discussion, I’ve learned a few more things: 1) I chose to be there, to seek help, and to get better and 2) it’s perfectly okay to say “I’m anxious,” “I’m depressed,” etc. I have a new one to add:
“I have PTSD.” There. I said it.
Go ahead, judge. I know most people will. But in the end, I’m not going to let my mental illnesses define who I am. Correction: they don’t define who I am.
All in all, there’s no shame in getting the help you need. Before I came to Radley, I didn’t like the idea of being a “mental patient.” But really, I’m getting the help I need to move forward in life — the type of treatment I can’t get at home or at school. I felt resentment towards myself for feeling what I feel, and for putting my life on hold in order to be there.
My roommate kept telling me, “you’re so beautiful and you’re so young, you don’t need to be here.” What I have to say to that is that you don’t know what a person is going through. You don’t know a person’s story until you hear it firsthand. One thing I challenge you all to do something: (and I know, this is beyond cliché) but I challenge you all to not judge a book by it’s cover. Another thing, don’t assume people have some sort of disorder based on the way they act or the things they do.
And, in terms of treatment, you can’t just pray your illness away. Treatment and recovery are like a fine wine, they take time. In order to make something happen, you have to be the one to make it happen. I put myself, or my demons, rather, in Radley, and I need to dig myself out of this hole that I’m in — that I’ve been in, I should say. That’s why I keep saying, “there’s gotta be more to life,” because I’ve been stuck in a rut and I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of it. For the longest time I’ve been ashamed of my depression because it prevented me from performing even the simplest tasks, like going to school, getting out of bed, concentrating, and just going out in general. What’s worse is that whenever something bad happens to me, I take it to my heart and let it stab me to let myself bleed. I once came to the conclusion that there’s no shame in being vulnerable. So again, I have no shame in my depression, but I’m so ashamed of how I would let the smallest thing cut me so deep. Even worse, I’m ashamed of letting unimportant things and/or people get to me. It’s like something I learned in my current outpatient program, “If you don’t know them personally, don’t take it personally.”
Looking at what I wrote in my journal, I’ve decided not to go into depth about what my mental illnesses have done to me while I was in the hospital or what affect they have in my daily life. But I will share a poem by my literary husband, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
What Is Success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.
Kyoko Escamilla once said, “your twenties are your selfish years.” One of my fellow inpatients told me that I have to be “selfish” sometimes. Not in the sense that you only care about yourself, but doing the things that will benefit you and your well-being. Right now, what’s important to myself and my well-being is that I treat these new diagnoses and to continue living a normal life. But, let’s be real, is anyone really “normal?” The term is overused and might as well be nonexistent. It’s just one of those words you wish you could ban.
I’m just going to add a conversation I had with my dad:
DAD: “What happened to me seven years ago?”
ME: “You were diagnosed with cancer at a late stage.”
DAD: “And the people at Tufts told me there was nothing they could do, because it was so late. And what happened to me?
ME: You’re still here.
DAD: That’s right. I beat it. Never give up.
I preached this to my group discussion one night, and I can honestly say that I’m seeing the world in a whole new light — a way I’ve never seen the world before. It’s as though I became a completely different person with an actually positive attitude instead of seeing things through “depression lenses.” For a long time, I thought to myself, “If I am giving, I’m giving up.” But not anymore. That group’s discussion was called “getting out of your own way.” I’m not going to get in the way of myself, anymore, nor am I going to let my anxiety, depression, and/or my PTSD get in the way of me living my life. Again, you have to be selfish at times and put yourself, especially your health, first. Just like my dad took all the necessary steps to beat cancer, I’m taking the necessary steps to create a new life for myself, like exercising more, eating healthier, reading more, and being on social media less. In fact, I’m giving up social media for 30+ days and giving myself a good cleanse.
So yeah. There’s my story about being an inpatient at a mental hospital. Now I’m just going to leave this here: My Fight Song “because I still got a lot of fight left in me.”☺☺☺
xoxoxo April ♥