Taking the first step on the road to recovery is often the most difficult step. The first step is the admission to ourselves that our lives have become unmanageable. We basically admit that we can no longer continue down the path that we are on and can no longer even lie to ourselves that what we are doing is harmful to ourselves. This first step began for me back on the evening of November 23, 2020 when I checked myself in to Wilmington Hospital for a suicide attempt. I realized I could no longer lie to myself and I simply wanted to die.
I was fortunate that there were beds open at 7 North which is the inpatient Behavioral Health Unit. I certainly had not planned on spending Thanksgiving in such a state but I realized it would be the beginning of a long and hard road ahead. It was clear that my depression and anxiety were severe enough and profound to the point where I would need Electroconvulsive Therapy in order to have any hope that medication would begin to work again. I signed my name on the consent to treatment form and was put on the schedule to begin on Friday, November 27th.
Electroconvulsive Therapy seemed to begin to work and the doctors were felt I was fine to be discharged on December 6th and I would do ECT on an outpatient basis. I truly had no idea how much easier it was to deal with ECT when I was under care in the hospital and didn’t plan on a re-admission so soon thereafter. Then on Sunday, December 20th I needed to be re-admitted and stayed through January 9th. I did not plan on spending Christmas and New Years inpatient either but I underestimated the difficulty I had in doing ECT outpatient and things began to unravel again.
This time my hospital social worker found a partial hospitalization program so that I had a nice gradual step down from being inpatient to a day program. The day program helped to provide some structure and make further adjustments in medication and observation. The day program really provided some intense education and included a nutritious breakfast and lunch so it relieved some of the burden of self care and allowed me to begin to establish a routine again. I only had to plan for one meal and I could make certain that I was showering, doing laundry, shaving, and brushing my teeth. That I knew would be difficult enough. I spent two weeks in this partial program from January 5th – 20th and it made a world of a difference. I learned of some resources available to me to help make life more manageable, one which is a housing voucher program which literally will save me 600 dollars a month in rent.
That first step was a long and hard one. Now I am facing repairing relationships with people who care about me that I have been less than honest with about my battle with mental illness. It was hard telling people that I was almost lying pathologically about my state of being but it was necessary. And it was very relieving to me to finally come clean and tell the full truth. But most importantly I learned that there is no shame in mental illness and it is not my fault that I am mentally ill. Furthermore, I learned that I must be one of the evangelists with the goal of ending the stigma of mental illness.