My first hospital stay started November 16th, 2006, exactly one month after the birth of my daughter. Although I needed to admit myself to short term psych it was extremely hard for me to come to the conclusion that I was being hospitalized in a psych ward… It was hard for me to realize that I was indeed, now certifiably crazy. I was amongst so many other people in for various reasons… Depression, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Addiction. I thought of myself as the most normal one there. After all, I was only “crazy” because of the hormone drop from having a baby. I wasn’t like these other people!
But, I was and still am.
While there all of us patients had to attend various group therapies. We had Morning Meeting where we would pick inspirational quotes and our goal for the day. We had art therapy. We had actual group therapy where we shared our stories and then Wrap Up at night to see if we achieved our goals.
Day 1 that I was there still believing I wasn’t mentally ill I did not join group. By day 2 the nurses and therapists forced me downstairs. I went to group but remained exceptionally quiet. I just listened to all the “crazy” people speak. It still didn’t click.
Then, one day, an older gentleman spoke about his Depression and how because of holding out for help his wife and daughter had abandoned him. Years that he could’ve gotten help… Years he could’ve had with his family… just wasted. It wasn’t until he described his symptoms that I realized I wasn’t just crazy for the first time now. Sure the hormonal drop didn’t help but like him I experienced the anger, the verbal abuse, the crying, the sleep changes, the food changes and ultimately, the distancing.
He and I actually became good acquaintances while there in short term psych. I pushed him to call his daughter and he pushed me to get better for mine so I wouldn’t turn out like him.
I left 12 days after I admitted myself into the loving arms of my husband, daughter, parents, sister and inlaws. These are the only people outside of the hospital who knew my diagnosis. I was embarrassed to be labeled “Mentally Ill”… Certifiably Crazy. I fed the stigma. I didn’t tell friends for a long time because I thought they would abandon me. I mean who wants a friend with a mental illness?! After all it took me days in the hospital to realize I was mentally ill, that I belonged there. How would others feel when the stigma over mental illness just grew more and more over the years?!
Once I decided to tell other people, I was not abandoned but accepted. They wanted to help me. A few were mad I never told them I was in the hospital. They wanted to visit.
It was because of this overwhelming support that I became such an advocate to dismissing false information about people with mental illness. I decided to tell anyone who would listen to my story… Not just my postpartum story… but my story since my first bout of Depression at 14. I continue this now with this blog. Yes, I may be medicated under the eyes of a psychiatrist and in therapy, labeled with mental illness, but I honestly am a relatively normal person. I don’t exhibit behaviors of a crazy person stereotype but I am one. I am turning my experience into help for others… I am helping to tear down the wall called ‘Stigma’.