My Next Step with Mental Illness

Where am I now? Going to the Hospital.

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I was given a bit of instruction regarding my personal responsibility in managing my mental illnesses. Initially, I was a little taken aback.

The responsibility bit that I mention, as it was put to me was this; you know that you have an illness and therefore you can become more aware of yourself in hopes of catching the warning signs and hopefully with self-care, lessen the impact of the next rollercoaster rise or fall.

 A mental health hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico with outreach clinics around the island.

A mental health hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico with outreach clinics around the island.

It seemed to me as though the mental illness showed up one day, destroyed my life, and left me with less than ashes to rebuild. Now, however, from a different standpoint a few years later, and looking back through the lens of diagnosis, I can see where the mental illness had been hindering my life for my entire life. I’m willing to agree that I have a personal responsibility to manage what I know can create devastation for my myself and others. I am not saying this to in any way express that I have power over my illnesses, nor that anyone else suffering with mental illness does or should.

The sufferer is not to blame*. Mental illness, though present my entire life, became unmanageable when my coping techniques failed to keep pace with my life experiences and brain chemical changes. I need professional help. I am scared to death to take this step, but it is a step I am compelled to take. It sounds selfish, doesn’t it? Oh, poor me, I can’t handle life so I’m just checking out.

Am I able to talk to my neighbors, put on a smile, wander around like everything’s just fine? Why, yes, I sort of am. But if experience a moment of happiness, why am I then fully wracked with guilt? It’s a tricky dance on the head of a pin. You see, I’m okay, but I’m not okay.

Hospital? Why?

I’ve been an advocate of the destigmatization of mental illness for several years, in-between bouts of my own highs and crushing lows. I have clawed my way kicking and screaming through the last few years, and one thing I will say for certain is that I am tired. In addition to tired, I have identified some red flags for myself and then have verified the red flags through a few trusted people in my support network.

The red flags are coming faster now. I know that it has been quite some time that I have been feeling the need for acute treatment, but it wasn’t until I was posting the shows from TanTalk Radio that I had participated in that I realized I had actually discussed the need with the host, Tiffany.

 Lantana Camara - Miniature flower boquet

Lantana Camara - Miniature flower boquet

Tiffany asked me how long I had been feeling this way. I told her that I had been feeling that way for about a month. The last radio show was in August, and now here we are in December. To put it simply, life has just been so busy that I’ve just had to keep going to fulfill commitments, and in my mind, there really hasn’t been time to go in for treatment. This is in my mind though, because there have been plenty of days that I have not been able to get out of bed, let alone leave the house.

If I were to take the cumulative of days spent in bed, and transfer those into mental health treatment days, I would have been in the hospital by now for two weeks. I have been intimidated by the submission forms on the website. It’s almost as though you’re applying for a job instead of trying to get into a hospital to save your own life. So, what am I doing? I’m procrastinating. It’s not like I’m going in for a month. I’m really only looking at three or four days.

I can’t take my dog with me. That may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but I don’t even go to Walgreens or the grocery store without my dog. She is my stability. When I start to lose control, I pet her and she looks at me, and life is a little bit more tolerable.

I’m getting off the fence now. I’m taking the steps, and I’m going to the hospital. I would love to give you a great before and after picture of the whole process, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. Already I’ve made a bit of a mess describing the before. Maybe it’s my state of mind. Maybe when I get out, I’ll feel like writing a more detailed account of the experience.

I feel that it’s a necessary step. It is not likely to fix the problem of feeling like I’m about to go over the cliff into the abyss and darkness, but if I were to fall, or heaven forbid, have another manic spree, I can at least assure myself that I tried. As far too many of us know, the ability for shame to creep into our brains can be catastrophic, and shame tends to loom large following an episode. I won’t go into the specific details about why I am checking myself in to a hospital, but it is related to several diagnoses, and possibly the biggest reason of all, a desperate desire to not repeat my past.

Here’s to the next step. Salud!

*that needed an asterisk, right? Because who usually takes the blame?