*Trigger warning: If you have a sensitivity to mental health you may not want to read*
Sometimes life will change at what seems like the most inopportune time, but looking back you realize that there was no better time to fall apart than that moment. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for longer than even I realized. Statistically, 1 in 4 adults suffers from mental disorders in a given year.
It’s not easy to admit it, but here I go.
“I am 1 in 4”
It took me a long time to get over this statistic and feeling like it was all in my head. However, to quote one of my favorite books, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Mental illness is such a common issue especially among young people in our society, so why do we treat it like it’s not real.
I hate to be that person, except I don’t, and I’m going to point out that you can’t smile away your sadness, you can’t exercise the emptiness away, you can’t just stop having anxiety because you say everything is going to be okay. Guess what, I just popped your bubble, that’s not how you treat mental illness. The next time you break something or have an asthma attack just think it away it’s not that big a deal *insert eye roll here*.
It has taken me a little bit to be able to write about this issue, not because I didn’t want to but because sometimes the time hasn’t come yet and let me tell you when it came I knew.
*Flashback memory graphic of a shimmery fade to the moment I found myself on the edge of the metaphorical cliff, complete with the chime sound effect*
It was the most normal day I could imagine, woke up that Monday, November 14th, and went to my first class, nothing seemed off. I did feel a little more anxious than usual. You see I had gotten myself into a little trouble, but for me, there is no little. Anyway, I pushed these feelings into the glass bottle where I kept all the emotions that made me crazy and showed people that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with my life. I went to my event planning class where we were doing our practicum parties, it was laid back, I got a test back and it was an “A”. I had a decent lunch that day, and then I went to do homework in the music building until my photography class started….this is where it started.
Though everything in that recap seems normal, typical no flags or indication that in less than 2 hours I would find myself having a panic attack in the hospital about to be admitted into a Psychiatric hospital. My class started at 6 and around 5:30 that day the bottle that I had been collecting all my self-hatred, anxiety, negativity, and stress started cracking. I found a little space alone with my computer and began to write a business article review, how could that be triggering? With this time with and an idle mind, the thoughts were seeping out fast and suddenly I was rushed with emotion like I had just been hit straight in the stomach by a stampeding bull, knocking the wind out of me. I was able to pull myself together to go to my photography class at 6 and half-heartedly lie that I was tired. This class lasted probably 20 minutes as we were moving into the final as at this point we were 2 weeks from finals happening.
Totally normal, nothing crazy, typical Monday. I make my way back to where I live. I uncharacteristically use the side door to go inside, then find myself in the study room downstairs in an armchair so big that it makes me feel like a child sitting in it. Nothing happens, it was just blank. Then like a tidal wave the entire bottle of emotions I had kept to myself for more than 2 years, about everything I have ever hated about myself, my situation, my life, public perspective, it shattered into a million pieces and for the first time I was truly an emotional wreck worse than I could ever imagine.
*Quick note* my friends and I have a mental health code when we aren’t doing well, which is the green emoji heart. I was able to stop myself long enough to send it to my best friend and essentially little sister, and incoherently call my mom.
I was terrified, for the first time, I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t glue back the pieces. I needed help, real help, the help that tv shows and society make you fear. I needed the hospital. This wasn’t the first time, however, the first time I was able to fake it out and not go, but not this time. Not even 20 minutes later I’m sitting in the front seat of my best friend’s car while my other best friend comes across us and just jumps into the car no questions asked and they take me to the place I feared the most.
The closer to the entrance we got, the more scared and anxious I got. We get through the door and Lauren writes my name down while they try and ask me through the sobs why I am there while I just work myself up more as there are so many people witnessing my all-out breakdown. They were going to admit me straight away except, apparently when your patient’s heart rate is so high they are facing serious issues you kinda have to keep them a little bit longer.
*This is where my greatest blessing and worst nightmare come together*
When you have to go to the hospital for (*takes a deep breath*) suicidal ideations, that wasn’t easy to say then and it still isn’t easy to say, you are watched like a hawk, all your possessions are taken you change into these freezing cold scrubs that have no strings or anything you could hurt yourself with, and you wait. The scariest part having a security guard outside of my room and waiting not knowing what was going to happen as they give you an IV and some sedatives to bring you to a normal level. I am there for hours before they move me to the most surreal 4 days I am about to experience.
It’s a little after 1 am when I am admitted to the psychiatric ward of the hospital, its a separate unit with 3 different units, one for adults, one for adolescents, and one for non-functioning cases of mental illness that essentially cannot live without care. They immediately take my vitals and give me a room, it’s cold, my roommate just got there about my age, and I have no extra clothes. I think I only didn’t cry because at that point I was out of tears. I looked like a Chihuahua shaking and confused.
I loved and hated my time. You may not know this, but when you are heavily addicted to caffeine and suddenly all you have access to is Pepsi, which is disgusting, and Gatorade, you get a little grumpy and just want to leave. Second, if you have the pallet of a 4-year-old, which I do, food is going to be a little rough while you’re there. However, when I was there I met some of the most amazing and funny people. Most people were there for substance addiction, there were a few of us that it was only our mental health, it sounds crazy to say I made friends there, but I really did. For once, these total strangers understood my every feeling and I wasn’t alone. We were all at different times in our lives, but we were all on the same page starting a new chapter, a chapter called recovery.
The days were so structured everything happened exactly the same every day and there was so much free time I found myself learning a lot about drugs also playing UNO, which by the way there are about twenty thousand ways to play it. I was only there 4 days, but I could have sworn it was like 2 weeks. Every day I met with my doctor and therapist and we discussed medication and how I found myself at rock bottom. It was there that I realized it wasn’t me that was the problem and I had the power to change it. While meeting with the most amazing therapist, she found in my nonsensical babbling about unimportant and trivial things that I didn’t want to go to my school anymore. In fact, my school was why I was there. I hadn’t even considered the thought that I could leave, I was so close to being done, but I hated every second I was there. The very thought of returning was so stressful I tried not to think about it.
This begins the new chapter in my life. I think I am going to call it uncharted. Everything until this moment has followed a map, a timeline, an idea of what was supposed to happen. Well, my life’s compass is broken and I am having to pave my own way. I am terrified to deviate from the path, but sometimes in order to find out who you are, you have to leave the pack.
I left school and moved home immediately, I withdrew from the semester and had to announce to my best friends that I wasn’t coming back to finish out the year and that school wasn’t my place right now. So this serves as an announcement to anyone who wasn’t aware, I am leaving Brenau my senior year and I’m not going back (to the women’s college at least). The decision to leave Brenau was possibly one of the easiest decisions I made, I had gotten all I could from them and there was nothing left for me. Saying goodbye to all the people, traditions, and memories I had there….not so easy, I still struggle with it but in time, it will get easier.
I learned the most important lesson about myself and mental illness in the days after I left the hospital and was getting all my affairs in order and saying my goodbyes.
It is okay to not be okay.
So many people, myself included, are so consumed with the idea that you have to be okay all the time. What does that even mean? I’m okay? It means I’m pretending so I don’t have to face reality. So if you ask me how I’m doing I’ll say better, but I won’t say I’m okay…because I’m not okay and for once I’m okay with that.