If you followed my original blog you will be aware of my first hospital stay with anxiety. I shared some of the confronting elements of checking myself in and what it was really like. Now I have been hospitalised twice, people close to me often say ‘I don’t know how you do it’ ‘I don’t know how you get out of bed each day’ – this is not to boost myself up, this is to create some context for the sheer reality of the stress and pressure I have been under for several years.
I smile, I laugh, I try to be the best mother I can be, I have wonderful girlfriends around me BUT like it or not, in three years I have faced all of the massive life stresses with the only exception a death, touch wood. I have been under financial hardship, had a newborn baby and toddler, my marriage fell apart, I have faced more litigation matters than I can count and had to fight for my home and to keep a roof over mine and the boys heads.
So as you can imagine, sometimes I don’t sleep much, the odd time I have a panic attack, might be a bit of a banshee mum, maybe the sometimes poor Wayno has copped the wrath of my stress when really he has done nothing to deserve it or as he would say it ‘have the anti-christ’ unleashed. See if I don’t make light of it, I would be in a very dark place. There are many things that have happened over recent years that honestly I have either had the choice to crumble or raise my wine glass a little higher, cheers it a little louder and hope for the best.
But now there is some context, I will share what a mental health hospital is really like – two stays, two different people entering.
First stay – unmedicated, shaking with anxiety, breaking down in tears constantly, very very underweight, not eating much, had just given up breastfeeding, had surgery for retained placenta following birth, very scared for the future, unsure what to do with my life, not a lot of support other than from my mum and one or two friends.
Second stay – medicated, fibromyalgia diagnosis, slipping into depression, exhausted, aching tummy and back from being too anxious for too long again, losing appetite, lots of support around me.
The first stay was confronting, you are monitored when you first enter – put on a 24 hour hold where you cannot leave the hospital, all medication taken and stored, no locks on your doors and unsure about what you face. My second stay I obviously knew what I was in for and went with it and definitely wasn’t as scared. Partly too as I knew I would see my boys and I had SO much support behind me. Support is KEY to recovery of a severe mental health episode – you need it! You need the phone calls, the laughter, the visits, the hope, the judgement free zone.
But what you find once you get past your fears is a safe place – a place you can be vulnerable, a place you can sleep, a place you can cry, a place you can practice mindfulness, a place with professional support, a place where YOU are looked after. It is absolutely not what you have in your mind a “mental hospital” looks like – there are not crazy people yelling out or people that medicated they can’t function. These are voluntary facilities – one way or another someone has entered because they recognise there is an issue and want to try and get their life back. Don’t get me wrong, there are people that are in a very bad way – extremely long term severe depression, lost their families or livelihood, have complex mental health issues that are not an easy fix and take significant time. But what you find in group therapy is you become inspired by not only your own progress but the progress of others. One person may come each day and state their mood is a three then they will come the next day and say their mood has shifted to a five out of ten – everyone celebrates this – supports one another.
It is a place where you learn true empathy for others hardship, a place where you learn more about the “why” with what is happening with you, a place where you find you can rest and reset your baseline. I received treatment from a psychiatrist, psychologist and group therapy with counselors. I had the opportunity to work with a woman that promotes the work of Brene Brown here in Australia – I am on team cheer squad for Brene – have a look into her stuff, it’s amazing.
I was able to weather the medication changes and the horrible feelings these bring throughout this process in a safe environment, when I felt groggy or sick from the meds – I could go to bed or lay down.
You get fed, albeit hospital food but I know as a mother, I didn’t have to think. My needs were first; I didn’t have to just survive. It is not a place to be fearful of – it is a place to take your life by the proverbial reigns and get yourself on track. We only get one life and living in the cloud of mental illness is no way to live it. I will never feel shame about my stays, that’s not to say I haven’t before but I won’t ever again. I will always share with someone who wants to know; I will always say it has been some of the best decisions I have ever made.
If you have any questions about where I was specifically, or anything at all about the process just reach out – I am more than willing to share whatever you would like to know including some of the more private details about what led me to be admitted in the first place.