4 Life-Saving Lessons I Learned After 5 Days In A Psych Hospital

by Haley Vickers
Warner Bros. Television

“I spent a week in a psychiatric hospital,” is not a statement most 20-somethings can say.

I've noticed a lot of people shy away from this topic when it's brought up in conversation.

The subject of mental health tends to have such a negative stigma around it.

Some think that because I spent time in the hospital, I'm “not stable.”

Others think I finally lost it and fell off the map.

Then, of course, you have that classic “she’s crazy.”

On September 22, 2014, my father took me to North Kansas City Hospital to be evaluated by Signature Psychiatric.

After talking with a social worker, she said, “Well, you definitely qualify to be checked in.”

I thought, "Oh great, thanks lady."

However, looking back, I can understand why she said this.

The next five days saved my life.

They made me who I am today, and today I love myself.

To say I felt like a prisoner in the beginning of my hospital visit would be an understatement.

I felt like I was being punished.

I thought karma was coming back to haunt me.

I would have done anything to not be locked in that place.

I felt like God had finally had it with me.

I cried the entire week.

I stared at the blank hospital walls that overwhelmed me.

But, most importantly, I tried to piece my life together one aspect at a time.

Life is filled with so many goals, opportunities and failures.

So many things come into play, especially for someone involved and really active like me.

Some things are lessons, some are rewarding and others are just a downright waste of time.

Keeping everything balanced while sustaining sanity can be a challenge.

Trust me; I would know. That’s what led me to this place.

I was stressed, I pushed myself beyond my limits and I was in a terrible emotional state.

I didn’t like myself, and I hated my body.

I didn’t have good friends. I resented my parents.

My love life was miserable because I was numb.

I would zone everything out, and I would harm myself.

I drank, smoked and popped pills.

I had a borderline eating disorder.

This was all on top of having major depression, anxiety and dissociative episodes.

Nothing — and I repeat, nothing — in my life was healthy.

The sad part is I thought I was okay.

I didn’t think I needed to be pulled from school or put in the hospital.

I didn’t want help. I didn’t want it to be my reality.

I never realized how awful my life was until things started to get better.

Those five days were filled from 8 am to 9 pm.

I took every opportunity to get better.

I attended group therapy, individual meetings and AA meetings, and I took some time to myself to journal and collect my thoughts.

I took my medication.

There was never an aha moment when I was just magically better.

It took time and patience.

I needed to redesign my soul. I had to resculpt my life.

I learned by socializing with other people who were struggling just like me.

My spirits lifted a little, and I felt like I could breathe for the first time in two years.

Here are four things I learned from being in the psychiatric hospital:

1. It’s okay to ask for help.

I actually regretted not telling anyone I was struggling sooner.

Everything finally came out to my parents over a phone call.

I should have told them months earlier.

I learned it’s natural for people to want to help each other.

After my family got over the shock of me learning I was such a mess, they tried to understand my life a little more.

My family began to shift a little bit, and they made adjustments for me.

I needed help, and they noticed and reacted positively because that’s what family does.

I am forever thankful for them, and I’m not scared to ask them for guidance anymore.

2. Be true to the person you are.

By the end of the week, I had made friends in that hospital.

Half of the time I was a zoned-out zombie, but people still liked me.

I wore my hair in a messy bun, didn't put on makeup and hadn’t shaved in 10 days.

Patients gave me compliments. Therapists encouraged me.

Everyone still liked me as a person without my expensive clothing and my sassy personality.

I didn’t tell jokes, and I wasn't overly outgoing like usual.

People just liked me for me, for my blank slate.

They liked me for my input, the things I had to say and the ideas I had.

This gave me some confidence, and it helped me rediscover who I wanted to be in this world.

The nurses, doctors and patients saw the real, broken me, and they accepted me as a person.

3. Never be ashamed of your past.

Your past is unique to you; it makes you.

I used to try to keep my depression a secret because I was scared of what others would think of me.

I didn’t want anyone to know I had problems.

I used to not talk about what I had done, good or bad, until I realized this was my life and I had the control.

I made the mistakes, and I had to come to terms with them.

I have overcame a lot as well, and I should be proud of myself for that.

I now openly talk about the past, from my hospital days to the fact I’m now excelling at school.

Every detail of my past adds up to the person I am now.

If someone sincerely asks, I’m pretty much an open book.

4. Sudden change can be a good thing.

No one likes to be rushed into things, but sometimes a dramatic change is what we need.

My dad picked me up from school the night of September 21, and the next morning I was in the hospital.

I didn’t have time to react, and I think it played out for the best that way.

It was fast, drastic and in my face.

I didn’t feel sorry for myself or throw a pity party because there just wasn’t enough time.

I was in the hospital to get better and improve myself, and I couldn’t throw that away.

So far, it’s worked out pretty well for me.