I sat alone in the stone-cold room. Everything was white, the only color came from the wood stained cubbies where one could keep personal items. Again, I sat alone. The bed covered in white hospital linens was surprisingly comfortable, in a very hard and impersonal way. “What have I done?” I thought to myself as I looked out the locked sixth story windows. Everything outside was bright and colorful as falls tend to be in Michigan. Everyone was bustling around with no cares in the world as if blind to the prison above their head. I heard a faint knock on the door. As I turn, I try to hide my tears because I have to be brave. Brave, as if what brought me here wasn’t a terrible sign of a coward.
The two woman standing in the doorway did not look like anyone I would ever want to make acquaintance. The one in front was shorter, probably in her mid-fiftys. She had on a pair of blue scrub pants and a graphic tee that covered up her large braless chest. The other woman was around the same age. She looked like she was a mixture of angry and scared. Her blond hair was matted to her head. She adorned the same light blue scrub pants and a different graphic tee. “Where the hell am I?” I thought as they stared into my cold room. The one up front removed what looked like a short, unlit, plastic cigarette from her mouth. She cleared her chest with a raspy cough and began to speak.
“Hi, you just got here right?” I reluctantly responded though my instincts told me to do otherwise. “Why are you crying? You shouldn’t be scared. It’s okay. Come here.” She prompted but I decided to listen to my head and stay put. “Come here!” she said a little more forcefully. I felt obligated to move.
I met them in the brightly lit hallway. One man was speed walking back and forth from one end to another. I could overhear a loud conversation going on down at the nurses station. “Would you like to join us to watch tv? We have tv here. There is also a Wii. If you wanted we could color as well.” The bolder one asked as she inhaled on the plastic cigarette.
“I think I’m just going to stay in my room for now. Thank you.” I tried to be as polite as possible even though everything on the inside was screaming.
“That’s okay. I’m Barb and this is Nancy. We can help you if you need it. Come sit with us at dinner. It’s at six in the Day Room. I’m not sure what you’ll be eating but I ordered a pizza. It’s great. You can order whatever you want. Some of it is good, some isn’t. I’ll show you the menu later. Okay? Nice meeting you.” She explained in almost a motherly and nurturing fashion. I looked her over again making sure I didn’t mistake her. She was another patient, there was no doubt in my mind about that. I was confused and scared; mainly scared. Once again, I thought to myself, “What have I done? Where am I?”
“It’s really not that bad.” I heard Barb yell from the other end of the hall. I quickly realized I was standing in the middle of the hallway by myself. I scampered back into my room. I looked around once again and the white walls and the reality was setting in. I was in a Mental Hospital. I admitted myself. I’m probably not getting out in time to take my finals. My mom probably hates me or is worried sick. And the fact that truly drove me to my knees in tears: I wanted to die, I couldn’t die, and I was completely and utterly alone.
I guess I should take a step back for a second. It’s not every day that one would just find themselves in a mental hospital. Not every day for most people at least. For the most part my life was completely and utterly normal. My parents are still together. I graduated High School with a high GPA. I was attending my second year at a local University. I had tons of friends, many people said I was a socialite and that everyone loved me. The issue is, I sure as hell didn’t love myself. I hated myself to the very core of who I was. It’s not that I didn’t see good things in myself, its more that all my bad traits so deeply overpowered anything good in me it was as if I was a hollowed-out soul. My body kept moving but everything inside me was already dead.
Why did I hate myself so much? Well, that’s a question that took many years of therapy to answer. The reasons could easily be pinpointed to a few underlying details. For one, I was alone. Not in the sense of not having people in my life, but in the fact that I felt this emptiness inside me that would not go away. I thought that the only thing that would make me feel better was having a man to love me. That brings me to my second point. I thought I was ugly. No person could ever love someone as ugly as me. I had pretty eyes which I always made to be my only good feature. I was Fat. Not overwhelmingly so, but I wore a size 18 which will be found in the front end of plus sizes. My hair was blah. Nothing I did to it could make it look half as good as other girls. Did I mention I would constantly compare myself to other girls? I couldn’t ever compare is probably a better thing to say. So overall was my life hell? Well no, It just wasn’t great though. Pair that with a plethora of drugs and being raped in High School and well, you’d have me.
I started seeing a therapist a few months prior to being sent to the hospital. The cutting and constant wanting to hang my body from the ceiling sort of tipped me off to those around me. I started seeing Josh, a Psychiatry student going for his Doctorate. He worked at the University Counseling center. Students recieved ten free one-on-one sessions a semester, so really there was no point in not going. The sessions were a train wreck from the get-go. I didn’t want to talk and the dude was shy and awkward. It didn’t make for a great combo, but I didn’t know any better. We would work our way through each session seemingly getting nowhere fast. If anything, I was getting worse and worse. I became numb to emotion so I could walk out of their smiling ear to ear, strike up a conversation with a professor walking by, and in the back of my mind be planning my suicide. I felt as if I had perfected the art of depression.
Apparently, I didn’t perfect it enough because after 11 sessions (he thought I was such a desperate case he kept treating me even after my free appointments were up) he decided I was too much of a risk to myself to continue on the way I was. I sat in his extremely dark office as he was turned around on the phone speaking in hushed tones. It always bothered me that his office was so dark. I mean, it didn’t even have a window. How can someone treat depression in such a dark room? I think he tried to make amends to that by adding hundreds of different little stress balls he collected throughout the years. They seemed to make him happy enough. They just creeped me out. He hung up the phone and turned around. He said that University Police were on their way to watch and escort me out once the ambulance arrived.
Why did I need an ambulance? I could have a friend drive me. And the Police? I’m trying not to stand out as a freak. Talk about attracting the wrong kinds of attention. My mind was racing. I knew I had to tell my mom but I was worried about what she might say. “Hi Mom they are sending me away so I don’t kill myself. Xoxo Love you.” That did not sound like the thing a daughter should tell their parent. I did call her. She was as confused as I was about the ambulance but apparently, it was just procedure. She told me she didn’t know it was as bad as it was, that she loved me, and that she would meet me in the emergency department once we arrive at the hospital. I then handed my cell to Josh who explained to her more. That’s when I started sobbing. It was as if every emotion I had been holding in the past couple years have come pouring out. I wanted more than anything to die, especially now. Now I couldn’t. Psychiatrists and police officers surrounded me. The next few hours happened so quickly that I can barely even remember them. I was taken out by wheelchair even though I could walk just fine. I was put in an ambulance and after what seemed like the longest ride of my life, we arrived at the emergency room. Security came to meet the EMT and they looked stunned when they saw me step out of the vehicle. “Do you need a wheelchair?” they asked to me. Then turning to the EMT they asked quietly, “I thought this was a suicide case.”
“It is.” They responded as they all looked at me standing there. God, I was a freak.
My mom arrived shortly after they got me into a ‘safe room’ in the ER. Basically, the room had nothing but a bed in it. Not even a blanket was their because I could use it to hurt myself. If anything made me was to kill myself, it was this room. It was bone dry and cold. My mom walked in crying. We had some hard talks as we waited for the doctors and social workers to deliberate on what is best to do. Finally, after 6 hours, the word came that I was being admitted. Up on the sixth floor of the hospital was a Mental Health unit. It seemed like a silly place to put a psych ward since jumpers could have a heyday that high up. That was none of my business though. They had me stand up in my hospital gown and sit in a wheelchair. A nurse grabbed me the most comfortable pair of hospital socks ever and I waved goodbye to my mom. She said she loved me a would be back. That was that.
A few minutes and some long hallways later and I was entering the strangest looking hospital floor I had ever seen. There was crafts, puzzles, and games lining the window of a large room that had couches and a big screen tv that was locked behind a plexiglass wall. They took me into a room to file so much paperwork my head was spinning. Finally, the nurse showed me around.
The Unit was set up as on long “L” shaped hallway. There was the big “Day Room” where meals were eaten. That room held all the activities. It also had an exercise bike. Two smaller rooms lined the shorter hall. Both had fogged glass windows. They had wipe boards and appeared to be classrooms. Across from the dayroom was the nurses station. There was a phone with a short chord hanging from the wall where we could make calls. Down the longer hall were the patient’s rooms. Most contained two beds, each separated by a curtain. My room was at the complete end of the hall. I had the bed near the window which was nice. I also didn’t have a roommate when I walked in. She showed me my cloths that they had taken and examined for anything that could be dangerous and told me I could change out of the gown. As she left she said just to come to the nurses station if I have any questions. With that, I was alone. I quickly changed out of that awful hospital gown. I sat down on my bed and looked around.
That my friend is where I left off. This is only just the beginning of a very bumpy ride. The next few years of my life that are laid out in this book only grow more and more horrid. One thing that I’d like to say from the begining is this. You will see that through everything that happens, I come through alive. Not only am I alive but you will see how I am able to use each and every thing that I went through to help change the way people see mental health. Though this story is about me I wrote it for everyone. I want people to know this is all normal. I want people to see how sick I truly was and how mental illnesses are real illnesses. I also want people to believe in that fact that there is hope and it will get better.