Last summer I made one of the most difficult, but life-changing decision I could have never anticipated. With the support of my husband and pastor I decided to self-admit into a mental health rehabilitation center to try and get a better handle on the severe depression that was taking over my life.
It was the best thing I could have done.
I suffer from clinical major depression and borderline bi-polar. I have possibly suffered from depression since I was a teenager, definitely since I gave birth to my first child back in 1991. But I never recognized it as such. I had migraines that started back then, and horrible mood swings, but never thought about depression. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my 3rd child (2002) that I gave in and said it was more serious than just moods. I started seriously seeing a psychiatrist and therapist in February of 2005.
Then last summer my youngest child (now 2 ) began to figure out ways to escape the house. He is Houdini reincarnated. No matter what locks we put on the doors, he could figure them out – and he would do so when I was either doing chores such as washing dishes or say trying to use the restroom. (You can’t go potty when you are a Mom)! I actually had to call 911 twice because he completely disappeared.
We found him, he was safe. I had a complete breakdown. My mother took my children to her house because she wanted me to “calm down”. That was actually quite a bad mistake. I would never put my children in jeopardy (intentionally at least), so I would not entertain the thoughts of harming myself with them in the house.
However, with them gone, I decided everyone would be better off without me. It was a typical suicidal pity-party. I had everything planned out. My husband couldn’t raise 3 kids by himself, but that was OK, because the oldest 2 would go live with their Dad (my first husband) if I were dead. My husband could re-marry a sane woman who didn’t have breakdowns. My children would be safer without me. And I wouldn’t hurt anymore. But, I have already had someone in my family commit suicide, and it almost killed the rest of the family along with him. So instead I called my pastor and told him what I was thinking. And then we all started talking about what to do.
My psychiatrist saw me immediately. The hospital I wanted to go into is overseen by the psychiatrist that treats my oldest son for his Asperger’s; and he agreed to be my physician while I was “in-house”. Part of me was terrified. This was the “loony-bin” What would people think? Would I be strapped down in bed? Forced drugs? But the rest of me was more terrified that I wouldn’t call my pastor next time. And if I didn’t do something, there would
be a next time. So I self-admitted the next morning.
I took all of my medications with me, so that they could see what all I was taking for various medical concerns – high blood pressure, migraines, depression. That way they could check and see if any were interacting badly and causing the depression to worsen. But the nurses kept all my meds at their desk, obviously!
They took my suitcase upon check in and went through it to make sure there was nothing in there that I could use to harm myself – OR that others could use to harm themselves or others. They took my razor (hairy legs – Uck!), makeup bag (I could get it at the nurses desk each morning), and all drawstrings out of clothing and shoes (flip-flops are the best things!) No belts either. They had no problem with my ear plugs (good thing – my room mate snored like a sailor!). I also got to keep my books, papers, and Bible. Although I don’t smoke, for those that did they would have smoking breaks and would hand out the patient’s cigarettes, although the nurse or orderly would keep possession of the lighter.
Our days were divided up between classes (sessions) on how to deal with everyday stressors and situations. We also got to spend one on one time with our individual counselors and doctors each day. But what helped me the most were the other patients, one in particular.
He and I admitted about 30 minutes apart. Neither of us knew what the heck to do, so we were just sitting on the couch. I had actually gotten left behind at dinner, because they (being the nursing staff) had forgotten I was a new patient and didn’t know anything! So the new guy and I started complaining together about our lack of understanding. Then we started comparing notes.
“So why are you here?”
“Well, I was kind of thinking about killing myself.”
“I just get in these down moods, I can’t seem to get out of.”
“My wife just doesn’t understand why I’m depressed all the time, she gets so frustrated.”
“My husband does the same thing. And I have no idea why I’m depressed, I just am!”
It almost turned into a comedy routine, with every other answer being, “Me, too.” But it was the first time I had ever spoken with anybody
who understood what I was talking about! I felt like 50 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Someone understood me! Then other patients joined us, and they understood, too! It was a revelation and such a relief; to be with people who knew what I was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, my loved ones tried their hardest, and they stood by me – but they just could never understand and I couldn’t make them. These people did. They had been there in that same dark pit as me. I wasn’t alone anymore!
I think that was the greatest thing I took away from being an in-patient at the hospital. I stayed for 3 days, and was almost afraid to return to the “real” world. It had been so sheltering and safe with those that understood. But I did return. And then I started in the out-patient program for 2 weeks. It’s kind of like going to college classes. These were more in-depth sessions of the kind I had been in for the 3 days. It also helped ease back into the daily routine. And now I continue in an EA (Emotions Anonymous) program, to help give me that little bit of support and camaraderie I need so that I don’t feel so alone in the dark places anymore.
Michelle Taylor regularly writes for BellaOnline's Spirituality Site