May 15, 2014
I was free to go. I had been asking pretty much my entire stay how long I would be there. Finally the day came, I was free to go home. Free to go outside. Free to go live my life. Except there was a problem, I had absolutely no idea what to do and I was scared to death.
It’s like when I had my first baby. I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital and get home. Then once I was home for about 10 minutes, I realized I had no clue what I was doing. I missed those nurses and the security and support the hospital offered. All the sudden the annoyances of the hospital didn’t seem so bad and there was a part of me that wanted to go back. This was completely confusing as I spent most of my stay wondering and counting down the hours until we were free to go home. With subsequent children, my experience was so different. I relished my time in the hospital, it was a vacation of sorts. I knew once I went home, I had to face real life and I wanted to prolong that as much as possible. OK, I digress. 🙂
I was free to go, but had absolutely no idea what to do with that freedom. Trembling, I walked out into the daylight, the first time I had been outside in two weeks, clutching my generic plastic hospital bag with my belongings. I was free to go and wear my underwire bras and use my hairdryer, I-pod and phone without supervision.
Slowly during my stay, my mental health and clarity improved. I realized that I was free to disagree with the doctor and refuse any treatment that I wasn’t comfortable with despite strong push-back and pressure from those in white coats. Those days were huge victories. I realized that I was free to reject a hasty diagnosis by someone who barely knew me.
I was released out into the world and I felt like a baby bird being shoved out of the nest and told to fly. Yes, I had learned much during my hospital stay and it seemed that an effective medication regimen had been found. But even though I was free to go, I was not ready or prepared to enter the real world. I didn’t go from being suicidal to ready to jump back into life in two weeks.
What I did leave the hospital with was a commitment to extreme self-care and the revival of the inner strength that I have always had. I remembered that I was free to fight for what I needed. I was free to say “no”. I was free to accept the love and support of those around me. I was free to ask for help and to be completely honest. I was free to let the pieces fall where they may and not turn cartwheels trying to keep everything together. I was free to live my life whatever that looked like.
It has been so important for me over these past six years to acknowledge and celebrate this two week period in my life which seems like another lifetime ago. Although it was a traumatic time, it marks a significant turning point in my life’s journey. That mental health bottom was one of the best and worst things I have ever experienced.
I would love to say that my life has been on an upward trajectory ever since, that depression and anxiety no longer haunt me or linger in the shadows, that I’m cured and life is grand. That would be a flat out lie.
What I can say is that my hospital stay marked a turning point in my faith and the beginning of a truly intimate relationship with God. I gained a commitment to myself that I never had before. I became more empowered to find out who I truly am and live from that place. I started trying new things and slowly breaking free from the cages I was confined to. I was free to go and live my life.
I also learned and came to accept that my mental health was not my fault, it was not a character flaw or something that I could fix on my own. I was not broken and didn’t have a weak faith.
I have an imbalance in my brain chemistry that requires a medical solution accompanied by emotional and spiritual practices. This was not something I could solve on my own nor was I supposed to. I was free to let go of the guilt and shame that had plagued me for so many years prior. I was not defective. I simply have a medical problem that requires a multi-faceted treatment plan that I was now free to follow without condemnation.
Walking out of the hospital that day was like walking into a completely different world than the one I was in two weeks before. It wasn’t a new world, but I was becoming a new me. I was free to go…….