What I Learned After Spending Christmas in a Psych Ward

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This holiday season, while many will be celebrating with cocktails and carols, parties and presents, some might find themselves in the same place I was nine years ago on Christmas Day: a psych ward. If it happens to you, or maybe you’re reading this and you know someone who may go through a similar scenario this year, here are some things to remember.

 

Don’t blame yourself.

Things happen which are beyond our control. Pointing the finger at yourself only makes the initial stage of recovery more challenging. Instead, point your finger three months down the road and remind yourself that it takes time to heal from a psychiatric trauma, and that is just what you intend to do.

 

It will get better.

A new year is a new start. Be sure to carve out at least a tiny chunk of time each day just for you to do something you enjoy. Go to a yoga class, meet a friend for coffee, or read a book in bed. You are important and it’s okay to remind yourself that you need attention too. Always putting the needs of others before your own and ignoring self-care can be detrimental to your mental health.

You’re not the only person this has happened to, even though it may feel this way at the time. Sometimes a stint in a psych ward is just the prescription we need to reset our recovery.

 

Go easy on yourself.

The transition back to “normal” life will be hard. Take lots of warm baths, soaking in the luxury not afforded in the psych ward. Read books that nourish your soul. Write in your journal until you begin to understand your journey. Someday you may want to share it so that others don’t feel so alone.

 

It’s going to be okay.

The first Christmas after {aka the first post-hospitalization anniversary} will be the toughest. All the feelings will come back. Don’t push them away, because that’ll only prolong the experience. Just let them come. There will probably be tears. There will definitely be sadness for the Christmas that wasn’t. But try not to dwell on what was lost, and focus instead on what was gained. Do your best to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Chances are, you don’t have many, if any, from the year before.

 

Know that this doesn’t define you.

If anything, the experience has made you stronger, more compassionate, and maybe it has paved the way for you to find your voice as an advocate. The truth about living with a mental illness is that once you’re diagnosed, it’s yours to live with for the rest of your life. It’s yours to manage, to curse, to medicate, and in time, it’s yours to appreciate.

There is no erasing a mental health condition. Therein lies both the beauty and the beast. The beast launches us up to heights we never thought possible, then hurls us crashing to the ground with a flick of his wrist and an, “I told you so, sucka.” But the beauty lifts us up and helps us lick our wounds, teaching us we are more than our diagnosis and we have important work to do.

 

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Our Love Survives Mental Illness

View More: http://staceywindsor.pass.us/marshall_familyPhoto Credit: Stacey Windsor Photography

When I got married at the age of twenty-four, I never imagined I’d be looking back at our past ten years of marriage with the realization that our love has survived mental illness.

But the reality of mental illness is that it doesn’t discriminate. Like cancer, it strikes without warning. Like cancer, it’s life-changing. Like cancer, it tests the strength of the important relationships in your world. It’s ruthless and heartless, and at times I felt as though I were drowning and I’d never come up for air.

I met my husband when I was nineteen years old. We dated [Read more…]

The Year I Learned to Jump

Year-Learned-JumpPhoto Credit: Jimbo N via Compfight cc

“ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ARE AFRAID TO DO.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even in the midst of my intense wrestling match with bipolar disorder, right smack in the middle of the chaos of a frazzled mind and rattled sense of self-worth, I somehow knew one day I’d take the type of jump where there’s no looking back once you launch yourself into the air.

I knew I’d face my fear.

Today, in these moments when I type here in my makeshift office and upload my words to this space which has become my launching pad for jumping off my cliff of fear, I’m [Read more…]

The Thanksgiving Clock

4236278556_cef6edb710Photo Credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

Last year at Thanksgiving time, our world was turned upside down when our daughter’s health was threatened by a disease neither my husband nor I had ever heard of. She spent ten days in the hospital while the doctors tried to figure out what was causing our baby all that pain.

It was one of the hardest, most scary times in our life as a family.

Finally, after tons of tests, three different IV antibiotics including vancomycin {traditionally known as the drug of “last resort”} and no changes, they moved forward with a 12-hour procedure called IVIG. The morning after the treatment, she perked up and her personality returned. The relief we felt was immeasurable. Forty-eight hours later we were going home.

 

In our daughter’s hospital room, there was a huge digital clock displayed on the top of the wall opposite the bed. You couldn’t miss it. The numbers glowed red as you watched the seconds of your life pass you by, morning, noon and night. It didn’t make a sound, but it didn’t need to.

There were plenty of moments I caught myself staring at the clock while my daughter napped. I wanted to reach up and snatch the seconds that were slipping away. Time was moving too fast. It was disappearing before my eyes. If I could only grab onto time and tuck it away, I’d make sure I didn’t waste it.

 

Watching time that closely changed me.

 

The big red hospital clock taught me to count my blessings. Not just at Thanksgiving time, but every single day of my life. Because I’ll never know when my time will be up. It was a brilliant reminder that even when we’re not paying attention, time is passing silently in the background of our lives. I want to make every moment count.

These days I sometimes stand by the clock in our kitchen to hear it tick. It only takes a few seconds of listening to the tick, tick, tick, to be reminded of how precious life is and how it’s important to savor as much of it as I can and to be thankful for all the seconds which when added up equals my time here.

I’m thankful for time this year. Time with my family and friends, time to work at what I love, and time to admire all the extraordinary people I’m meeting along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be sure to count your blessings. Tomorrow and every day.

 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

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