Three years ago next month I was in a psychiatric hospital after a major breakdown. Don’t be too quick to judge; one minute my world was in order and the next doctors were asking if I had any special powers or heard voices. They took my shoelaces, string from my running shorts, leg razor, privacy and dignity. For months doctors evaluated my mental health.
Psychiatric hospital/rehab center = worse.hotel.EVER. $10,000 a week gave me the privileged of no caffeine past 8 a.m. and no sugar? Ever. We made phone calls with circa 1970’s phones and communicated via the United States Postal Service. Our news came from real newspapers, the kind that make you fingers smell like an office supply store. Pagers, ironically the communication tool of 1980’s drug dealers, summoned us to appointments and reminded patients to take medications.
The only music on campus came from a sad little sound box hiding behind ancient magazines and crusty modeling clay in the art room. “Music” may be a generous term. The pre-recorded sounds were of nature and shitty zen pan flutes. I day dreamed of what it would be like to shove a pan flute down the throats of the happily croaking frogs in the sound machine.
The institution is paid good money to help its patients find a more beautiful life. Unfortunately the only way to accomplish that is by shedding light on the ugliest parts of our lives. It was surreal and I felt like I was drowning every day.
Multiple“methodologies” were used to help me get in touch with my inner child; Equine therapy, a ropes course, art therapy, yoga, tai chi, meditation, brain wave analysis, light therapy, spiritual reflection and countless hours of talk therapy. Eventually, diagnosis were made, medication prescribed and after two long months I was set free to bless the world with my newly enlightened self.
Now three years later I feel as if my personhood has been stripped of all the trappings that used to make it festive and bright; accomplishments, jobs, accolades, crowds, influence, etc. Adding insult to injury, therapy has taught me to pay attention to my feelings. So now I am forced to acknowledge my anxiety and depression that rolls in and out like the ocean in high tide.
My emotions are held together by pharmaceuticals, at least 2 appointments a week with doctors and therapists, spilled coffee, stubbornness and prayer. Making this a more weighty matter, the drugs have contributed to a fifty pound gain, mostly in my ass. Some days I feel like I’m nothing more than a yellow, round, sad faced emoji In yoga pants.
A mental collapse obligated me to focus on myself but now I choose to. To come to a place where you are forced to focus on yourself is a tragedy. To chose to is a gift.
Every day gives me opportunity to ignore or lean into my inner dialogue or to wallow in my pain and loss. Most importantly, each new day gives me opportunity to see how God may reveal himself and sustain me as I fight not to regain what I have lost but to grasp the hope peeking over the horizon.