The light can always turn back on.
On April 13, 2016 I stood in the shower and let the water soak my hair and skin. I trembled, and I wailed at the disconcerting numbness that had overtaken me in the past weeks. My depression had reached a level I had not yet experienced, though I had come close. I had been suicidal on and off for the past however many years. I lived my life on the verge of the plunge, always tiptoeing the line between alive and dead. In the past few weeks I had finally stepped into the dead zone.
Over the course of those weeks I chose harmful coping mechanisms, and took them to new levels. Alcohol and ill formed relationships were my most abusive ways of dealing with my new level of numb. In the past, how I was coping would have scared me, and I would have shied away, aware I was entering dangerous territory. This time I felt nothing toward it. I seeped further in.
Water dripped down my body and out of my eyes. I heard a sort of shouting in my gut to “Go. Run. Now.” I knew that if I didn’t get help right then, I would not make it through the night.
At the campus counseling center, I texted my friend who had been in the hospital for depression before. I told her I was scared, but I didn’t know what else to do. She told me I would be scared, and that it would not be easy- but it would be worth it.
That night I found myself there. I felt alone and scared. The bed was uncomfortable, the pills they gave to help me sleep made me more anxious and awake. I’m not sure I slept at all that night.
It took me a day to get the tears out, and to accept my situation. However, I soon came to realize I was safe there. I was away from the outside world- my phone, social media, pressures from school, friends, and family. I was somewhere I could be taken care of. Where I could breathe, talk openly, and meet others going through similar emotional trials. I was there for five days, and in those five days I met incredible people, made a wonderful friend who I still talk to and see, found myself on medication, which is something I was strongly trying to avoid in the past, and I was receiving real help from professionals who understood that I was hurt, traumatized, and scared.
Two months later, I am realizing how my stay has impacted me. How my low dose of medication has calmed and eased me. How I see people and situations more clearly than ever before.
Two months after hospitalization, I have graduated from college. I have started a new job that, dare I say it, I am actually enjoying. I am spending time and building relationships with more people than ever before, both old and new in my life. I am reading, I am exercising, I am slowly rediscovering my spirituality.
After nearly a decade of self deprecation, I see myself as worthy. Worthy of enjoying life and having a fulfilling job. Worthy of beneficial friendships, with people who actually care about who you are, and don’t hold you back, or put you on frequent guilt trips. I realized that some people, even individuals you thought of as your closest friends, will do anything to believe they do not have to take responsibility for their actions. I also realized that no one owns you, and in all reality you don’t owe anything to anyone. You’re allowed to be hurt, or angry, or sad. You’re allowed to stand up for yourself, and admit that something just does not feel right.
Two months after my hospitalization, after the hardest decision of my life, I am breathing again. I am feeling like myself, like Shannon, again. I actually am taking back control of my life, and it is all because of the social workers, the experience, and the medication the hospitalization granted me.
I am not saying there aren’t dark moments- of course there are. But there are more bright moments than ever before. Moments of color, even- excitement, wonder, passion, lust, intrigue, calm, and the list goes on.
I understand why anyone would be afraid to go into the hospital. But whatever your fears are, your fear for your life should always come first. Your family, your friends, you will figure out who is there. You will find out who actually cares and wants to help, to understand, and make the effort. It’s hard. It really is. But it is entirely worth it to receive help and take back who you are. Going to the hospital has the potential to grant you your life. It gives you on service counseling, 24/7. It gives you access to professionals 24/7.
This means a safe and secure place for healing. This means watchful eyes while you begin a new medication, or, if you are a virgin to it like I was, a first medication.
Professional counseling services means validation. It means the opportunity to begin telling your story. It gives you a genuine place to start.
And the people that you meet- guys, we aren’t alone. There are so many of us in this world, and we all have stories that we are willing to share if we are given a secure place as an outlet. These people you meet, they will understand your pain, and appreciate your courage.
If you’re in a place where you’re not sure what to do, please consider hospitalization. I won’t say it won’t be scary, because it is. I was terrified. But you owe it to yourself to treat your depression, or bipolarity, or eating disorder, or any other mental struggle you’re going through.
We are here for you.
And, who knows. You may just find yourself addicted to Lorna Doone cookies afterward, like I was 😉 .