Around 3 years ago, I was admitted to Royal Glamorgan’s mental health unit. I reached an all time low, as in catatonic/hysterical – not the peak 2010 emo band.
My parents made an emergency call to my social worker whilst I was curled into a hysterical ball of tears and snot. I became non-verbal beyond the odd strangled and wet “I can’t”, and the decision was made that I needed hospitalisation.
I wasn’t thrilled at the idea, but thankfully I realised that I was a danger to myself and was voluntarily admitted; after a lot of me and my family arguing with the crisis team that if left to my own devices I would inevitably fatally overdose. I’ve attempted suicide more times than I’d like to admit, and each time was more and more dangerous. Researching how to effectively overdose isn’t an exact science, but it’s scary how informative the Internet is.
It was a tough time overall for all of us, I spent my mothers birthday in hospital and felt incredibly guilty. I still feel guilty that she spent it on a mental health ward.
That month taught me a lot about my life. The day I was released I applied to college, and I ended up passing my course a year later with a Distinction. I realised just how big my support network was, friends and family came every day with little bits of motivation and reminders of their love for me. They were instrumental in my recovery, especially my ever supportive and caring parents and siblings.
I also realised that it’s so important to articulate my feelings without anger or resentment.
I stopped saying “it’s your fault” and started saying “you did/said this and I feel this way about it”. Instead of placing blame, I explained how certain things affected me. If I don’t voice my feelings about issues and react with anger or blame, they would react accordingly.
Another thing I learned was that just because I’m ill, doesn’t mean I get a free pass to treat people badly. I still get overwhelmed, joys of Borderline, and yell and cry angrily – usually at my poor mum.
I always realise quickly that I was being a complete idiot and apologise, but I know that my apologies don’t have to be accepted. My mum could quite rightly not forgive my outbursts, because it’s not okay for me to act that way and expect forgiveness.
That brings me to the next lesson – never respond to an apology with ‘it’s okay’. That response gives people the impression that they can do what they want.
I forgave the people who treated me badly, mainly because of my beliefs, but I cut them out of my life because apologies mean nothing if you don’t at least try to change and correct your mistakes. Toxicity breeds in passive forgiveness. You don’t have to accept apologies, it’s okay to say “thank you, but I don’t accept it”. My partner has a great saying, “forgive but never forget”. Forgiveness makes you feel better, but don’t forget the harm that was done and be wary of repeating incidents.
My time in hospital was pretty easy going compared to most. There were a couple of runners, one patient attacked an auxiliary nurse, there was one predatory guy with boundary issues, and a patient karate kicked the patio window and smashed it. That last one was a good bit of late night entertainment though.
For the most part though, the other patients on my ward were amazing.
A couple of the guys looked like the type I’d normally be afraid of, but they looked out for me in my fragile state. One guy was nicknamed ‘Mental’ and he was like my guardian angel, warning the creepy guy to leave me alone and checking up on me when I was upset. I realised I was a bit judgmental at times, though I’m pretty friendly my world has always been a pretty sheltered one.
I also discovered that there’s a sense of community amongst us crazies, who else would get my gallows humour?
Recovery has been a long road and an emotional roller-coaster, to use my favourite clichés. It began in hospital and I still have a way to go. I had to drop out of university due to an extreme bout of agoraphobia and my declining physical health. That was a tough knock to take, but I learned that my health is more important than a degree. I made one inexplicably profound addition to a group therapy session in hospital, you need the sad parts of life to know what happiness is.
If we don’t slip and fall, how can we learn to get up? Without the references of the bad parts of life, how can we recognise the good?
This story doesn’t have a natural end, I’m still learning to cope and still looking back at my lapses. Now I know more, it’s easier certainly but it’s still a long way to go and a lot more lessons to learn. The most important lesson I learned is that giving up is never an option, and my loved ones will be there every step of my journey.