Personal Essay #10

Illustrated by Jacqueline Davis Moranti

There comes a time when your world is flipped upside down. Occasionally you'll think to yourself and say in reassurance, "You got this!" Now what do you do when the opposite happens? When it feels like the avalanches of avalanches is falling right on top of you, what can one do?
When it comes to mental health, it's often overlooked as nothing serious, yet in America one in five people are diagnosed with some sort of mental health problem. Think about it, that's about 15% chance in everyone. This is something that should require more attention but that's just the way things are currently. Let me tell you about the week I just had....

What do you do when you wake up in a hospital emergency room, then get transferred to an institutional center? I guess not much especially when your limbs are strapped down on a stretcher. It's hard to imagine that hours before I tried to take attempt to take a life away, my own. I'm fortunate that nothing actually happened, and that I didn't harm myself. I'm also fortunate that I still have today to ponder about it. But this story isn't about me, more about my experience after the incident.

There's nothing quite like bare bones body/ face lotion and shampoo products to put you in your place. I had no cold cream, no moisturizer, no conditioner and no makeup products in sight. for a whole week I felt like I was in prison. And I admitted myself in. I quickly learned that participation was key, any form of "acting out" or  negative emotions would tack on more days to your unwarranted stay. I never fake smiled more in my life than in that week! It wasn't until I got to know the other patients, the wonderful and ambitious young women in my unit, that i truly earned something from my stay, my experience.

Imagine yourself playing Monopoly with a group of people considered to the rest of society,"Loony." I met the most articulate and smart women at this particular Hell, which opened my eyes to the fact that sanity can be found anywhere. Nothing quite like a conversation over a game of Monopoly while one player cries constantly about her medications and another is haggling me for my Park Ave property while justifying why stabbing her ex boyfriend was okay. I found myself over and over again weeping in my "cell" and every time I shook myself out of it I realized that talking things over with my newly found friends was as much therapy as talking to an actual therapist. For a week I was crazy and living in the looney bin. I didn't accept it at first , but as I realized that there was no getting out, 24 hours in to it, I had to blend in and conform to the rules of the institution. Eloping would bring greater consequences that neither party would like. Attuning myself to the rules meant no makeup and rotating between a pair of Current/ Elliot Skinnies, Lululemon Tights and three random band tees (thanks to my boyfriend for picking out my clothes!) really humbled my fashion girl persona. With only a landline to share amid the other patients to communicate with the outside world. In other words, I was really stuck!

With no phone or computer access to the outside world, I felt like I had blinders on. Moments when I thought of great captions for photos in Instagram, or clever quotes for Twitter had to go astray. Social media is my schtick, and not being able to use it made me feel unnerved.

The other patients in the unit became my comfort zone. When I had my moments they helped me get through them, for a week the 8pm Lifetime movie became a daily ritual in the community room. when it came time for one of our members to discharge, we all mourned but wished her well. For a week, I was cool with crazy, I worked through my breakdown and in turn created a new family of friends. Even though I spent my birthday in a not so ideal location, my newly acquired friends made it special and unique. I learned not to suffer silently because that has a way of keeping you isolated. Communication is ideal to help you get out of your head. If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, don't do it. The most important thing I learned is that I never want to go back there.

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Thanks for the sweet whispers! XO