A major part of my mental health journey occurred between June and December of 2013. During this time, I was hospitalized 5 times, spending nearly 3 months total in the hospital. Since my psychiatric disorder was so sudden and severe, I had to have multiple tests done, medication adjustments, and diagnostic evaluations. For a long time, I kept that part of my story private. Only my close friends, close family, and therapists knew. I thought if people found out, they would make judgments, avoid speaking to me, or change their minds about the kind of person I am.
I joined a writing group in the fall of 2015 called the TMI Project where we wrote about the stories in our lives that we were afraid to tell. It was the first time I was opening up to people about the subject. The night before the public reading of our pieces, I got really nervous. I said to my mom, "People might think I'm a loser." She replied, "Allie, people will think you're a hero." From that moment, I knew that my story could help others.
So many are afraid to seek help because they are ashamed, scared, or afraid of what people might think of them. I have been in many hospital settings, and I can promise that it is not what most would think of when they picture a mental hospital. I was once writing a piece about my experience and Google image searched "mental hospital," and the images that came up were terrifying; they looked like they were from a nightmare. I thought back to the months I was inpatient and couldn't think of a single time that I witnessed anything like I saw in these pictures. When people think of a mental hospital, most of the aspects they would describe are either from a horror movie or the methods practiced 100 years ago or across the world. It's now 2016, and we need to update our ideas and opinions about mental hospitals.
I've been a patient in several hospital environments. I have been in an outpatient program, spent a week at a small private mental hospital, stayed at a local hospital in the psychiatric unit, and even at the best mental hospital in the country on the most secured and monitored floor. These experiences changed the way I thought about mental illness. These people are there because they need help, just like someone would be in a hospital for help with a physical illness. As a person who went through it, I feel like I can tell the truth, dispel the myths, and open peoples' mind about mental hospitals. It could end up helping those afraid to seek help and those looking for acceptance and support during a difficult time.
I will be writing about different parts of my experience in separate posts. The subject is vast, and there are many topics and events that I'd like to share and provide insight about. Please stay tuned!
Mental illness doesn't discriminate. Neither should you.