I have been hospitalized in psychiatric facilities more than I can even guess. My rough estimate is 80 to 100 times since the age of 18. Usually I was there because of cutting, but there were times when I was so debilitated by depression or so consumed with racing thoughts, that I was unable to function in “the outside”. I have always felt very vulnerable in this world and anxious by the day to day life. Things that seem trivial to some make me crumble in fear. Things are much better now, as I have worked very hard on healing but at times I get a reminder of what it was like within the confined of hospital walls.
At 22 years old, because I landed myself in the psych hospital monthly, I put myself in my state’s facility. I thought that a long-term stay might fix me. I always saw myself as broken back then…in many ways I was. I think that I was hoping the doctors could glue the pieces of my heart back together again so that I could carry on. I was there for a short time for what stays usually are in that place. Three months and I was so starved for the love of my family that the psychiatrist thought it best if I was released. Those months, though, were the longest I have ever known. What is ironic is that I have very few memories of that place which is for the best.
I do remember feeling defenseless. I was very medicated on old anti-psychotics that I developed trembling limbs and involuntary movements in my face . My body was so slow that when i walked I shuffled and had so little energy that lifting my foot enough for the next step was a slow and arduous process; it’s coined the Thorazine shuffle. There were others on the ward that did not like me. One girl regularly told me in expletives, that I should die. Another used her size as intimidation to get me to give her my belongs. She also exploded into rants late at night and I had the misfortune of sharing a room with her. I remember I tried to stay up throughout the night and if I dozed I would jolt wide awake at any sound.
Day after day, 50+ people in a room with two televisions on different stations with there volumes cranked up. I believe it was enough to make any person crack. This and other memories are such a small part, I suspect, of what went on there in the state hospital. I have faint memories of the grounds outdoors and one blurred picture in my head of being in restraints. The two things that bring my mind back to these moments are the smell of coffee mixed with the odor of stale cigarettes, maybe that is why today I neither drink coffee or smoke.
These things happened and it was a horrific time of my existence . When I reflect on certain hospitalizations, my heart burns and tears bulge in the corners of my eyes. But then…I have to remember that I am shaped by my experiences. I was not weak during these times, but just the opposite…incredibly strong and resilient because I survived. I not only survived, but I grew and now thrived! I would not change my life in anyway. I have gained from my losses and built on what was taken from me. I am who I am because I thrive in adversity!