When I was 13, I began self-harming. I was going through a lot of stress with school work, friend drama and pressure to be perfect (mostly the pressure I was putting on myself). When my friends found out about my destructive behavior, they began talking about me behind my back and abandoned me.
I felt lonely, left out and sad. It led to me self-harm even more.
This habit went on for years. I was self-harming almost every day to rid myself of the crippling anxiety and sadness I was feeling. My parents made me see a therapist, but that didn't help. The only way I could deal with what was going on inside my head was to hurt myself.
Fast-forward almost five years later to when I was 17. I knew self-harming was creating more problems than it was solving. I knew I needed to get more help than I was receiving.
My psychiatrist suggested I go to an inpatient hospital. I was hesitant to go, but I knew I needed the help.
In February 2015, I endured the long drive down to the hospital. When my parents and I pulled up in front of the old building, I was shaking with fear and anxiety. Was I really going to put myself through this? Was it actually going to help me?
I picked up my belongings and headed into the building. My bags were inspected to make sure I wasn't bringing anything inside that would hurt me or the others.
I spent 13 days in the hospital this time around. When I left, I felt I could carry the skills I had learned with me, and they would help me deal with the urges I was experiencing. They did help for a little while, at least. After a few months, I went back to self-harming.
When I went to college, I had a really hard time. After a few months, I couldn't deal with the depression and anxiety I was facing. I left school, and I wound up in another hospital to help me get through the problems I was experiencing. I was there for five days.
After that short stint, I was sent back to the hospital I spent time in February. This time, I spent 15 days there. After my stay there, I was required to attend an outpatient program at the hospital for 10 days.
Evidently, I have spent a lot of time in both inpatient and outpatient hospital programs. I've learned a lot about myself, the other patients, the staff and mental hospitals in general.
There is a lot to take in when you're there, and there's a lot to take from it as well. Here are 10 of the most significant things I've learned after spending more than a month in a mental hospital:
1. I wasn't the only one experiencing difficulty.
Before I went to the hospital the first time around, I hadn't met anyone who had self-harmed or thought about suicide. I learned there are other people going through the same struggles as me, and they are even having an harder time with it.
I really connected with these people on a deep level. I never had these things in common with anyone I knew. It really affected me in a deep and positive way.
2. I learned who really cares about me.
When I was in the hospital in the fall, my friends from college knew I was there. Judging from the people who called me and who seemed noticeably concerned with my well-being, I was able to determine who my true friends were.
The people who didn't give a sh*t about where I was or how I was doing slowly faded from my life. I was actually OK with that.
3. I started to feel better after I began speaking about how I was feeling.
I had the opportunity to meet with my therapist every day, and when I was back in the inpatient unit, I was able to talk to the staff. Telling these adults about the progress I was making and how I was doing on a daily basis started to make things easier.
I trusted these people, and they really did care about my mental state. Knowing that people wanted to help definitely made things easier.
4. I made some f*cking amazing friends.
I was super close to my roommates, and we stayed up late every night talking about our pasts and the progress we were making. I became best friends with these ladies, and our friendships developed even more outside the walls of the hospital.
We still talk to this day. Whenever I need to talk to someone who will understand how I'm feeling, I give either one of them a call. It's great knowing they're always there for me.
5. I learned how to express myself.
At the hospital, they had a music therapist and art therapist on staff. We spent a lot of time listening to music, drawing our feelings and doing arts and crafts. Doing these things really helped me connect with my feelings on a spiritual level.
When I got out of the hospital, I found myself making art or listening to music when I was having a hard time. Expressing myself artistically really helped.
6. I realized how much my family cares about me.
I spent Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving in the hospital in 2015. During both holidays, my family drove down to spend time with me.
I realized how much my family loves me and that they really wanted me to get better and make progress in the hospital. I began to value my relationship with my parents, and I really worked on making my life at home better after I was discharged.
7. I found out how much I love real food.
Hospital food is really sh*tty. I absolutely hated my dinner every night, and when I was able to go out to eat with my family, I realized how good food is outside of the hospital. This is one reason I never want to go back to an impatient program again.
8. I cried all the time, and it helped.
I learned that it's OK to let your feelings out. I cried when I missed my friends, when I wanted to leave and when I was talking to the staff. The workers there want to see you express your feelings, and sometimes crying is the best way to do it.
9. The people who worked there wanted me to get better.
I learned the staff is there to help, and they want to help. They will push you to succeed in your treatment and help you make progress while you're there. A lot of the workers helped me get over some of my fears and conquer a lot of difficulties I was facing.
10. The experience made me stronger.
I learned a lot from the time I spent in inpatient hospitals. I learned a lot about myself, my mental illness and how my past shapes who I am today. Overall, spending time in the hospital really helped me connect with myself on a whole new level. It changed me, and it definitely helped me.
I'm not proud of the fact that I had to spend time in a mental hospital, but I'm definitely proud of the progress I made while I was there. Getting help doesn't show weakness; it shows strength.
What I've learned through this experience is that you should not to be ashamed of what you've been through. Things will definitely get better.