When I meet other people who live with mental illness, it’s inevitable that at some point the topic of hospitalizations comes up. It’s as if the number of times you’ve been committed is like a badge of honor.
It’s not, but it is at the same time.
When you’ve been in the hospital, you learn how to fight to get well. You learn to have compassion for other people’s struggles. You learn to realize that your brain just doesn’t work like a plain old regular person’s brain works.
And so you learn coping mechanisms for how to manage your illness.
In group sessions you’re taught how to listen and be present in the moment. You're shown how to use art to express your feelings and work through your emotions in art therapy. During the exercise class you might appreciate the calmness that comes from the breathing exercises and stretching of yoga.
But it doesn’t mean that you’ll be fine when you’re released. For me, having been hospitalized for mental illness was... a very traumatic event, each of the four times it happened.
When I came home from the hospital each time, I’d hide my feelings of guilt and shame, not really opening up about what I had been through to anyone but my therapist. It would take weeks to return to stable, and I was constantly desperate to talk with someone else who understood what I had gone through.
Luckily, I have met some friends through support groups and other avenues, who have also been through hospitalizations for mental illnesses, and it’s always interesting to compare notes. But when it comes down to it, those types of stays are all the same. Meds, therapy, paperwork, release. Then you’re on your own.
Through blogging I’ve had the privilege of hearing from some of my readers who've reached out to me via email saying they’re so glad I’m writing because stories like mine are important to share. They’ll sometimes tell me how hard of a time they’re having, and how they wish they could just go to the hospital for a week or two, maybe it would help.
What I want those readers to know is that going to the hospital may help take the edge off momentarily. But when you get out, and you’re back at home, it’s sometimes easy to fall right back to where you were before you were admitted.
Life goes on. The world keeps turning. And we have to keep on learning to lead the dance with our conditions, lest they turn us in the wrong direction.
For me, this means protecting my sleep. Last night my allergies were in an uproar, given the change in the weather this past weekend. My fitbit displayed a horrendous sleep pattern. I went to bed at 9:15pm (the earliest I’ve been in bed for the past three weeks by an hour) but yet it was quite possibly the worst night of sleep I’ve had in that many weeks.
But I won’t give up. I'm working on staying on top of my triggers to ensure I stay mentally healthy. For myself, for my family, and for my community.
And on that note, it’s time for me to hit the sack.