It’s OK to admit it. You think only “crazies” end up in the “looney bin.” That’s what I thought, too – until I landed my ass in there.
What I remember most vividly about the psych. ward is that the doors lock behind you. No one goes in or out unless you’re let in by the nurses, visitors included. There was always one or two patients who hung around the doors, trying to follow visitors or the meal-delivery staff out. At times, the nurses had to call for the help of security; and those would be the most exciting times in the ward. For the most part, the ward was drama free and quiet.
I had envisioned there to be lots of “colorful” characters, but it was quite the contrary. To my relief, most of everyone suffered from severe depression and anxiety issues. Just like me. A dad with young kids who got laid off and couldn’t find stable work, anxiety and low self esteem paralyzed him; a retired mom with grown children who was constantly anxious because her husband had a bad temper; a young man who got into a work related accident on a job site that changed his personality, then turned suicidal…. and I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (more commonly known in short as PTSD) (thank you, mother monster!!)
The last few years, I felt too embarrassed or ashamed to even talk about this (besides the point that hardly anyone knows anything about mental health and often dished out stupid advice like “why can’t you just be happy?”) There’s simply so much misunderstanding (lack of knowledge) and bad stigma attached. Unless someone in your immediate family or you suffer from mental disorders, most of us don’t understand or care to find out about it. So, in writing and sharing my personal experience, I hope that at least the small audience here will now be a bit more aware and be able to spread the word.
Mental health illness is very much like a very bad cold which won’t go away. It can be hereditary, an imbalance of chemicals, triggered by a significant and traumatizing event, or all of the above. So, next time someone confides in you that they have depression, please don’t say stupid shits like “Well, at least you have a good job, or at least your bf is nice… ” Seriously, if it was so simple, we wouldn’t need medication. Simply say that you’re there to listen or to be supportive will suffice.
Don’t judge anyone unless you’ve walked a mile in others’ shoes. True story. I learnt this valuable lesson when I got my goodie bag of mental disorders.