Last week, Thursday I had my usual appointment with my counselor except this appointment did not end the way they usually do. It ended with me being escorted to the hospital per my counselor’s suggestion. To an empty hospital room with a glass wall so I could be watched at all times.
While I do still maintain this was not exactly necessary, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
I had told my counselor that I suddenly had zero motivation, finding tasks like getting out of bed impossible and that I felt hopeless. I skipped all of my classes on both Monday and Tuesday (something I’d never do) and was not taking care of myself. On Tuesday I was so upset with my sudden change in temperament and inability to attend class that I decided to drive for a little to get away. While driving I decided I was going to let go of the wheel and didn’t care what happened.
But that isn’t completely true, I wasn’t completely apathetic. I knew that it would be traumatic for anyone driving behind me, it could potentially only damage my car which would result in more things for me to pay, and I knew it was stupid because it was an overreaction to the circumstances.
Regardless, my counselor still thought it best to hospitalize me. Until the moment she suggested I go to the hospital, I hadn’t realized how serious that drive could’ve been. I did not realize what I had almost done. This realization is what caused me to agree to go, I figured maybe I could use some help.
While waiting for the cab to take me to the hospital, my counselor called my mom to inform her of what was going on. That was the hardest moment of the day, I started bawling hearing her tell my mom the details we discussed. My mom immediately told my counselor that she was driving up and would meet me at the hospital. After the phone call, it was time to go.
The ride to the hospital was silent besides the music softly playing on the radio. It had been so long since I had ridden in the backseat of a car and been able to stare out the window, it reminded me of when I was a kid and would imagine lives for all the people we drove by. The whole experience was beginning to feel surreal. I kept asking myself, “is this really my life?”.
My time in the hospital was a blur of doctors and nurses, all repeatedly asking me if I was feeling okay and reminding me of how happy they were I had come in. The empty room and glass wall made me feel like an animal locked in the zoo, something for passerby to gawk at.
It was much more pleasant when my parents arrived, however, I felt so embarrassed of the circumstances they were visiting on. They kept me company and were there when the nurse delivered the verdict of inpatient therapy in the Behavioral Therapy Unit of another nearby hospital. I was absolutely shocked. I was under the assumption that I would be there long enough to be evaluated and maybe have my meds switched, not be placed under care elsewhere.
While I cannot give too many details of where I was or what it was like there, it made me feel as though I were in a prison. The room was devoid of anything you could even consider hurting yourself with and all the cabinets were locked, even the bathroom door. If you needed access you had to ask a nurse to unlock it and they would lock it up when you were done. My purse and its contents, including my phone were locked away as well and I was told I’d receive them upon discharge. I wasn’t even allowed any clothing or shoes that had string on them because it was considered dangerous. I was under constant video surveillance and staff frequently checked in on me.
One thing that really struck me about the room and bathroom was the lack of mirrors. I was already struggling without having my phone to look at but now I didn’t even have a way to analyze my imperfections. I thought I had been doing well compared to how I was before but being in this space made me realize how often I look in the mirror.
There was nothing to do for the first 3 hours so I napped and until my parents arrived for visiting hours. They were kind enough to bring me changes of clothes, a book, cards, and some nice snacks. They made the time much more bearable considering how overwhelmed and lonely I felt upon arrival. My partner also came and helped lighten the mood by joking about how I should scare the nurses by playing Blackjack with 2 imaginary opponents. It was nice to be surrounded by people who weren’t wearing scrubs.
Their presence helped relax me but I anxiously watch the clock tick closer to when they had to leave. My only connection to the outside was a phone much like the house phone my parents had when I was younger, only able to make and receive calls. They all promised to call the next day and honestly that is what got me through the night.
I was so scared and anxious that night, I woke up almost every hour until morning arrived. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into. However, I knew that if I wanted to leave then I had to give this place an honest effort.
The next day passed slowly, I attempted to make time fly with games of solitaire and endless episodes of reality TV. I had to speak with several staff members about why I was there and what I’ll do in the future, by the fourth person I felt like I had my answers memorized. I met with a doctor whom I told that I had only experienced these sudden changes after having my medication dose increased so he determined it was best to switch medications.
Later that day we had a therapy session where I could not stop crying. We did a love and kindness meditation where you send feelings of love and kindness to loved ones with various kind phrases, and later to yourself. As I sent those positive thoughts to the people I loved, I began to cry. I felt so stupid and guilty for almost putting them through so much pain and being so selfish, I couldn’t believe myself. I went back to my room, determined to not put them through that kind of pain again.
This day passed just as slowly as the day before but I at least had some hope regarding my departure. The doctor told me if I went to the therapy sessions and started my new meds, I could go home over the weekend. Determined to leave, I made sure to follow the doctor’s orders.
On Saturday we did art therapy and at the beginning of the session, we were informed that we would be sharing the meaning of our art at the end. Our directive was to sculpt something out of clay that embodied our feelings or served as a way to contain them. My immediate thought was to create a tree and while it didn’t initially match the directive, it felt right so I figured I’d find meaning along the way.
I realized that the tree symbolized my growth. As much as I disliked being in the hospital, it was actually beneficial; I felt as though I had a fresh perspective on life. I had sculpted branches and roots as part of my tree, to illustrate my newfound understanding of the need to actually reach out for help when you need it and to connect to those around you.
When I shared this meaning with the group, it felt so cheesy, like something you’d expect to hear in therapy but I knew it was true. Cheesy doesn’t mean something is fake and it isn’t something to be embarrassed of. It truly represented what I was feeling regarding my life. One woman pointed out that my tree resembled the Tree of Life at Disney World and it felt like kismet.
As the others shared about their sculptures, I felt another revelation. As a society, we are very individualized people who focus on ourselves, leaving us blind to what those around us are going through and vice versa. I had not paid attention to what these people were sculpting nor did I know the hardship they were experiencing. It really reiterated that need to reach out to people if you need it because people become so wrapped up in their own life they forget to reach for help or look at those around them to see if they need help.
I’m guilty of this self-centeredness too. I was overwhelmed by my own hardships and feelings that I had not considered how this would impact those around me or how they themselves were doing.
This isn’t to say that you don’t deserve to feel stressed because other people have it worse. It means that you should talk to people about it because they are likely going through or have gone through something similar and you can help each other get through the tough times.
I left the session feeling enlightened and was quickly called to the doctors office. I was deemed as ready for discharge, I only had to wait on the paperwork. I was so excited to see my family and be away from there.
Despite being in the hospital for a short amount of time, I think I learned a lot. Here is a summary of all the conclusions I came to after hours of thinking and boredom.
- I have a LOT of people that care about me. All the messages I later saw on my phone proved it!
- I constantly compare myself to people on social media, making me feel even more unsatisfied with my life.
- After not looking in the mirror for days, I actually like how I look. I was so used to how I looked that I could only see the imperfections but having those days without seeing myself literally changed my perspective.
- There are a couple things in my life that make me unhappy but it isn’t too late to change them. You shouldn’t be miserable just because you feel like you don’t have any other option.
- I have not been mentally taking care of myself. I have been pushing away feelings for the sake of getting through the day and that is not healthy.
I feel refreshed and ready to tackle life again. While I am stressed about all the classes I missed, I can only hope my professors will be understanding. I know that I can get through the stress as long as I take it one day at a time. When you focus on all the things you have to do, it is easy to get overwhelmed. The best and simplest way to avoid this is to choose a relatively easy starting point and go from there.
I believe it was the medication that had affected me so badly and I’m hoping I’ll respond better to my new one. I am so thankful to the hospital staff and my family for being so supportive and having faith in me.
I never want to be in that situation again and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. When you feel down and alone, remember the tree and reach out to someone you trust. It can be so easy to be consumed by the moment so it is important to take a step back and breathe or call someone to help you through it. The bad times are only temporary and they’re easier to bear when you have someone to help you through them.
I’m sure most people have heard Logic’s song “1-800-273-8255″ and one of the lines that sticks with me most is: ” what’s the day without a little night?”. While it isn’t pleasant to go through the hard times, you have to get through them to get to the good times. You just have to wait.
If you feel like you can no longer wait for the good times, call someone you trust, contact me, or if you truly feel alone, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are needed, wanted, and would be missed if something were to happen to you. You are enough, you are so enough, it is unbelievable how enough you are.