It’s been about four months since the latest of my four psych hospitalizations ended. The past two months have been almost as difficult as the ones leading up to checking into the hospital.
You’d think, at this point, I’d be as cured as I’m ever going to be. You might think that after all that treatment, all those doctor appointments, and medication changes, that I’d be as well as I can be.
Except I’m still depressed. I still have anxiety. I’m still bipolar. And I always will be, whether my August hospitalization was the last or I go back a thousand more times.
And you know what? That’s okay. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’ve had to seek hospitalization. In fact, sometimes, I’m even proud of it.
It’s not that I’m proud of being mentally ill, it’s that I’m proud of having sought help.
The third time I went to a hospital, it was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made. In fact, I barely made the decision — I was hardly coherent enough to do so.
I felt like my mind had been overrun by depression, and it was a friend who insisted I go and seek help. I’ll never forget that, and never stop being in her debt for making that call.
Because it is a ridiculously difficult decision to make. Hospitals are expensive. I don’t know how much it costs for a stint in a hospital for something physical, but this last venture would have cost upwards of $40,000 for one week spent between the ER and the psych ward.
That’s a lot of money. A prohibitive amount of money, if you don’t have insurance or if the hospital’s financial aid doesn’t work out for you.
But there are other barriers to seeking this kind of help as well. Societal stigma, for one, which often leads to discrimination in the workplace or in school.
In the past, I’ve had bosses lose respect for me and my work, which they previously had held in high regard, after finding out the time I had spent in a hospital had been for my mental health, not a physical ailment.
It seems ridiculous, right? It seems obvious to so many of us that, just like if you break your leg you should seek medical treatment, if you have a mental illness you should also seek treatment.
But that’s not the case for so many people. Mental health stigma spans cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and familial relationships of all sorts. It may be that this is decreasing (though not disappearing entirely), but for now, it still exists.
And it often varies, person to person, whether you’ll feel the effects greatly. One person may have a great, understanding boss; the next may have a significant other who finds it shameful.
There’s no way of knowing unless you open up about what’s happening, but that, by its very nature, means opening yourself up to disappointment and potential heartache.
So why do I talk about my four hospitalizations, and why am I proud of them?
Because of the exact same things I’ve talked about above: seeking help is so difficult. And yet, four times now, in addition to all the times I’ve sought therapy, I’ve done it.
I’ve straightened my shoulders, taken a deep breath, and said: “I’m not okay. And I can’t do this on my own.”
That’s not just hard to do in a society that doesn’t respect vulnerability; it’s hard to do for someone who’s proud and wants to stand on her own two feet.
But the truth is, sometimes my own two feet are a little too wobbly to hold me upright. And you know what? That is okay.
It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask for help more than once in your life, once a year, once a month. It’s even okay to need help in the form of psych hospitalizations.
That’s a lot of what humanity is: holding each other up when we can’t hold ourselves up.
That, to me, is what my hospitalizations represent. Reliance on others, in a very human, very okay, way.