Today marks the one year anniversary of my release from the hospital. I’m incredibly torn. Part of me feels frustrated and let down that ever since I left the hospital, my family has put in their best effort to pretend none of it ever happened. They don’t seem to understand how significant the day is for me, or that I might want to be open about how I am feeling in my own home. Over the year as well, my folks have made hurtful and ignorant generalizations about mental illness not seeming to have gained any understanding from what I’ve been through.
On the other hand, part of me wants to celebrate. The day I left the hospital marked a brand new beginning where I was much more equipped to tackle life on my terms rather than on my illnesses’ terms. I went through hell and emerged on the other side victorious. Why shouldn’t I celebrate that?
I wish I lived in a world where I could celebrate out loud and not be judged or feared, ridiculed or looked down upon, scorned or invalidated. I want to shout to the cosmos that one year ago today, I got a fresh start on life. For now, I’ll settle for a few words on the internet on an obscure blog. Chances are that only those who understand will ever read this, and that’s okay. I don’t need the world’s permission to be proud of who I am and how far I’ve come.
A list of things that have changed since I got on a medication that was right for me:
My sleep schedule is regularized and so much healthier. I go to bed and wake up almost the same time every day without developing high levels of anxiety at bedtime or being pinned to my bed in the morning by the futile weight of depression.
The feeling of anticipation has returned. Weird as it may seem, anticipation is a big indicator for me of my mental health. When I’m depressed, everything on my list of events carries a similar bland, uninspiring flavor. Whether I needed to get to a boring lecture or I had planned on attending a Christmas party, my plans had the same lack of drive. Now, that sense of looking forward to something brings the impulse of excitement that most people would never expect could disappear.
I can drive without having an anxiety attack, which is huge for me considering I had previously never been able to do enough practice driving to get my license.
I developed my first celebrity crush–it may seem silly or unrelated, but realizing it hadn’t happened before suddenly showed me how my mind really hasn’t been functioning properly for years. I had started to believe the fun, fluttery, crush-y feelings of my very early adolescence were imaginary since they had been gone so long. (Before you ask… Matthew Gray Gubler’s character on Criminal Minds.)
I’m not constantly battling intrusive and frightening thoughts, including suicidal ideation. It should never be normal to be forced to maintain an ongoing battle with your own mind in order to stay afloat and function, but for a while, it was my “normal.”
I’ve recognized that some people who were in my life were toxic and emotionally abusive. Being mentally in a better place showed me that I did not deserve or warrant their treatment, and that it was okay to cut them out of my life.
I have the energy and motivation to take other steps for promoting my health. For example, I’ve started learning martial arts and work out twice a week. The exercise is helpful for maintaining my health both mentally and physically, but I did not have the stamina or strength to get myself doing anything like that before getting on the right medication.
Because of the stigma against medication for mental illness, I fought against going on meds to help treat my depression for a long time. Now, however, I recognize and celebrate them for what they really are–an important weapon in the fight against mental illness that, for me, was an essential part of recovery.
“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”
Five months ago, I was hospitalized. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t keep food down, and was experiencing extreme suicidal thoughts.
But today? Today I am halfway through my second week as a professional in my field. I am a college graduate, despite it all. I have my joy back. I love what I do. My faith in God is my guiding light. I discovered some true friends throughout it all who are still there for me, and I have a loving family supporting me as I move into the future.