The Hospital Badge

3498888736_510d06cd2dyyellowbird via Compfight cc

When I meet other people who live with mental illness, it’s inevitable that at some point the topic of hospitalizations comes up. It’s as if the number of times you’ve been committed is like a badge of honor.

It’s not, but it is at the same time.

When you’ve been in the hospital, you learn how to fight to get well. You learn to have compassion for other people’s struggles. You learn to realize that your brain just doesn’t work like a plain old regular person’s brain works.

And so you learn coping mechanisms for how to manage your illness.

In group sessions you’re taught how to listen and be present in the moment. You’re shown how to use art to express your feelings and work through your emotions in art therapy. During the exercise class you might appreciate the calmness that comes from the breathing exercises and stretching of yoga.

But it doesn’t mean that you’ll be fine when you’re released. For me, having been hospitalized for mental illness was… a very traumatic event, each of the four times it happened.

When I came home from the hospital each time, I’d hide my feelings of guilt and shame, not really opening up about what I had been through to anyone but my therapist. It would take weeks to return to stable, and I was constantly desperate to talk with someone else who understood what I had gone through.

Luckily, I have met some friends through support groups and other avenues, who have also been through hospitalizations for mental illnesses, and it’s always interesting to compare notes. But when it comes down to it, those types of stays are all the same. Meds, therapy, paperwork, release. Then you’re on your own.

Through blogging I’ve had the privilege of hearing from some of my readers who’ve reached out to me via email saying they’re so glad I’m writing because stories like mine are important to share. They’ll sometimes tell me how hard of a time they’re having, and how they wish they could just go to the hospital for a week or two, maybe it would help.

What I want those readers to know is that going to the hospital may help take the edge off momentarily. But when you get out, and you’re back at home, it’s sometimes easy to fall right back to where you were before you were admitted.

Life goes on. The world keeps turning. And we have to keep on learning to lead the dance with our conditions, lest they turn us in the wrong direction.

For me, this means protecting my sleep. Last night my allergies were in an uproar, given the change in the weather this past weekend. My fitbit displayed a horrendous sleep pattern. I went to bed at 9:15pm (the earliest I’ve been in bed for the past three weeks by an hour) but yet it was quite possibly the worst night of sleep I’ve had in that many weeks.


But I won’t give up. I’m working on staying on top of my triggers to ensure I stay mentally healthy. For myself, for my family, and for my community.

And on that note, it’s time for me to hit the sack.


  1. I do think it’s wonderful that you’re writing your stories, sharing your experiences.
    I’m so sorry your sleep wasn’t good, I hope it improves this week!

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Thank you so much, Alison. Some days are harder than others to keep on sharing. But I am passionate about helping others, so I keep on going. Sleep was much better last night and I expect another good night tonight. :)

  2. I’m glad you posted this, Jenn: Not only does it cast shadows and light onto hospitalization with a mental illness, you share the difficulties associated with the stigma against you for being mentally unwell so commonly accepted of the physically ill. I had always wished I had been hospitalized for the manic psychosis I endured as a teenager–in order to have been stabilized sooner–but the ignorance around me had been thick with stigma. Your peek into what hospitalization is like–the trauma, the shame–makes me accept that it just wasn’t my path to be hospitalized. Mental illness requires incredible strength; thank you, Jenn, for sharing yours!

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      You are so right, Megan. I write to help shine light on the shadows of mental illness, as well as the trauma and the shame associated with hospital stays.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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