I’ve had a lot of things on my mind lately and I began to think about last year, roughly around this time. Sometime in the summer, I began struggling as far as my mental health went. I had looked into getting into a group therapy to see if that would help, as I had really benefitted from being in a group therapy setting before. So I searched and finally found an Intensive Outpatient Program for mental health that I immediately signed up for. I began going to group therapy 3 times a week, for 3 hours EACH day, after an 8-hour work shift. I was there for every session for a few weeks. I was SO scared to attend this group for many reasons, but I pushed through it. I met the therapist who ran the group who was also going to be my individual therapist, a very sweet woman with an amazing heart, I learned that quickly. Along with work and the group therapy I picked up one and sometimes two individual sessions a week with the therapist. I was really struggling with my anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. I was self-harming more than I’d like to admit and I just wasn’t able to “get it together,” as I often told myself. After a few weeks, my therapist and I discussed the option to “step up,” which was going inpatient and staying in their facility full time for a while. Was she crazy? I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t take off from work and be away from my family, etc. I was instantly scared and even though I felt that was probably best at that point I kept flip-flopping in making my decision. What do I do?
I sat in my room feeling horrible. Feeling hopeless, depressed and really anxious. I was just feeling like I wasn’t worth it, life wasn’t worth it. I felt like my goodness give up already. I didn’t “pray” at the time, but I sure was praying for God to just take me already. I finally realized tormenting myself was not going to help and maybe I couldn’t do this on my own and maybe, just maybe I needed more intensive help. So the next day I emailed my therapist and told her that stepping up into inpatient was our next step it needed to happen. She emailed me back and said get there at a certain time and let’s do this. I packed a suitcase full of clothes, books, and journals. I grabbed my pillows and suitcase and drove myself to the rehab center where I was admitted. I cried the whole way there. Questioning if I was doing the right thing. Wondering if I would lose my job. I wouldn’t have social media or my cell phone. There would be rules, certain times I could use the phones, bedtimes, medication times, groups ALL day long, individual therapy sessions, and psychiatrist sessions. Fun right? I had to do what I had to do. But boy was I scared and feeling so alone at that point.
I got in the swing of the way things worked at the facility and seemed to settle in okay after a few days. I met wonderful people with beautiful souls. People just like me who were just struggling mentally and emotionally. I finally fit in somewhere. Don’t get me wrong I still wanted to go home but knew that staying in there was the safest for me at that point. I attended groups every day, but I also missed some because I couldn’t find it in me to get out of bed some days. Some days I wouldn’t eat. Some days I wondered what I could find and use to self-harm. Some days I felt great and on top of the world. This was the problem, the illness. The ups and downs on this roller coaster. It was so frustrating and certainly discouraging. But I pushed as much as I could and kept going to groups, individual sessions and spent time with the friends I made there. Also, I was so lucky that I got to keep the same therapist that was working with me when I was in IOP. That was a major blessing! She truly was amazing with me and we worked well together. Along with everything else, I was going through many medication changes and withdrawals during the first week or so that I was there. So that didn’t help much either. I really was going through a lot during this time.
One of the things I struggled with most while in inpatient care was that since I had a history, a long history at that, with self-harm, I had to be checked DAILY. So someone that worked there had to check my legs, arms, stomach, back, chest, you name it. They had to check that I was not self-harming. I will be the first to admit I am the most uncomfortable in my own skin. So it was very embarrassing to have to go through that every day. Eventually, I got kind of used to it, but it definitely still sucked to have to do. I get why it was being done but it still sucked!
I ended up staying at this facility for a few weeks, almost a month. I missed my friends, my family, and my dog!! I had family and friends visit but time was limited. The phone calls weren’t long enough. I just wanted to be home. I began feeling better and was finally on a decent regimen of medications. I was finally sleeping better and not having as much anxiety. I was going to more groups, participating more, and really letting it out in my individual sessions. But I felt I had a long way to go still. I was progressing and was super proud of myself nonetheless.
Then, my insurance decided they didn’t want to pay for my stay any longer. I felt like that came out of left field, although I did know that was a possible thing that may happen. I panicked big time. The night before I was supposed to discharge I panicked really bad and that sent me into this downward spiral that I was not going to be able to pull myself out of. I sat talking to someone I had met there a few weeks earlier and told her I really feared that I was being discharged too early and needed more help. I was in panic mode. I also expressed to her that I really felt that if I went home right now that I may not make it and I was afraid that I would harm myself. Well, let me just tell you this, that didn’t go over very well. As a concerned friend, she let a staff member know what I was feeling. To sum that up a bit, I ended up being on suicide watch and had someone sleeping outside of my door the whole night. How fun does that sound? Not fun at all. I didn’t feel safe going home. I beat myself up for that a lot too. How could I not feel “safe” at home? This wonderful home with a family who loves me. The thing was, I didn’t feel safe from myself. I could get to a lot of pills and overdose again. I had the access to razors and could really hurt myself. So no I was not safe. Insurance decided to step me down to the Partial Hospitalization Program, which meant I was able to go home but had to go back to the facility every day from 8-2 to attend group therapy sessions. I did that for a few days and it just wasn’t working for me and I was feeling really suicidal. I had a check in sheet that was honest on and admitted I was self-harming again and having severe suicidal thoughts. Well, guess what happened as a result of me being honest? I was told my best option was inpatient again. So back up to inpatient is where I went for a few days, I think maybe 4 at this point. I seriously couldn’t get my crap together!
Weirdly, in my opinion, my insurance felt it was necessary for me to skip Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient and just go straight to outpatient therapy, where I would see a therapist weekly. So that is what ended up happening. I began seeing an amazing therapist at the end of September of last year, who I am still with to this day. She’s incredible and I am so blessed to have found her.
I did eventually have to re-enter the Intensive Outpatient Program a few months after I was released from inpatient and just doing outpatient therapy. Again, I began struggling but took action right away and got myself back into that program for a few weeks and completed that and have felt a lot different since. Sometimes we have to experience things a few times before we really get it!
What I have learned from this experience is that I have an illness that seriously can screw up my mood, my thoughts, and even actions, but ultimately I really am in control. I went through so many emotions and feelings during the time I spend in IOP, inpatient, PHP, and inpatient again. I had to learn that I truly was and am in control. I think it really did take me getting to that suicidal point again and re-entering inpatient to realize that I had to really take control and I had to stop allowing my feelings and emotions to run my life. I began my outpatient therapy and have pretty much gone every single week for the past year. I learned that I can push through some intense fear. I learned that so many people do struggle and need help at times and that is okay. I learned that I could feel safe with myself. I learned that my body is a temple and I had to stop destroying that. I learned tons of skills to help me get through intense feelings and emotions. I learned how to take care of myself a bit more. I needed that. I’m not perfect and still struggle at times and that’s okay. I fight to respond to that differently now.
I feel like its human nature to not ask for help when you really need it, for fear of judgment. I was blessed to have incredible people to really help me get through this extremely difficult time where I honestly thought I was going to give up on myself. That is a terrible and scary place to be. I asked for the help and I was blessed enough to get it. I struggle still but I can catch it quicker than I have been able to before. If I need that help, I will go to the people I trust most and ask for it. Ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in that. Honestly, the way I see it now, having gone through a lot of things that I have, it takes more courage to ask for the help than it does to not ask for it.
I encourage anyone who is in a place like that to reach out and ask for help. I have learned so much from this experience and I will carry that with me for a lifetime. Asking for that help and taking that step into inpatient care was me ultimately choosing to LIVE and not give up on myself. Don’t ever give up on yourself. I don’t plan on giving up on me…
God has bigger plans for me and I need to discover who I am in the eyes of God. Giving up is not an option. Never allow that to be an option, it can really hold you captive. It held me captive for many, many years. Allowing myself to leave that option on the table really consumed me at times. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. My life is worth it and so is yours…Hold tight 🙂