getting through a mental health relapse
possible trigger warning: depression + passive suicidal ideation
I am a little late to the party with the May, Mental Health Month awareness. But is it really ever too late for awareness?
[This post is not as much of a “how to get through a mental health relapse” it is more so my story as I try to get through the triumphs and grief that come with my own.]
Here’s the story.
I didn’t finish my junior year.
I was in pain,
I had surgery.
I missed days to recover;
but I went back.
I made it 75% through and I crashed. Not typical college student crash- I really needed help. Depression creeped its way back into my life. I was just done. In the past I self-harmed and didn’t sleep. This time I was sleeping up to 17 hours and going days without a meal. Any thought or memory I avoided in the past came to surface. I hated myself. I just didn’t want to be here anymore.
I’ve been down this road before, so I know this pain is temporary. But I just felt so stuck. So scared.
In the post, Endometriosis Surgery Recovery + Mental Health, I wrote that I visited the emergency department for an assessment of my depression. I even wrote that I did not need to be admitted. Maybe I did-
Having depression and anxiety is a nightmare because on one end you don’t care about anything, but you also care A LOT. You don’t have the energy to show up, but anxiety shakes you when you miss out.
After my ER visit, things did not get better. I was not in danger. I was not suicidal. But I was afraid things would get worse if I didn’t seek help.
I also wrote in that post that I would go back to the hospital if I needed to. That was true. I went back.
I can say I had a positive experience with the emergency department staff. I was not treated any differently for being a “psych patient” among the rest.
I met with two psychiatrists and was then asked what I thought I needed.
I didn’t know.
One asked if I wanted to know what she thought would be best.
I nodded. Knowing she wanted me admitted so things would not get any worse.
I was hospitalized in 2016. I remember the fear of being in the emergency room and being told I could not go home. I can hardly put to words what that fear felt like. I had never been that scared before. I asked them to medicate me because I could not calm myself.
This time, I agreed to be admitted. I knew I could not go home and return to my responsibilities without difficulty. Another part of me just did not care. I just wanted to feel better.
The hospital visit weeks prior, I had asked the doctors to draw my blood. Given my thyroid disease, I wanted to know if that was a component to my depression. I was told there was no need, and that it was unlikely my levels were off. This annoyed me. The doctor said they could if i really wanted but it would take another few hours. I had already been there for 7 hours. It was 3 in the morning. So I didn’t push it. I wanted to go home.
This time, they did draw blood. They also thought it was odd it was not done the first time, as it was “standard procedure.” Clearly a different shift..
And what do you know.. my thyroid levels were VERY low.
If you don’t know anything about the thyroid, know that if levels are off depression can be a symptom of hypothyroidism, especially Hashimoto’s Disease.
Being admitted for your mental health is not a quick process. I just assumed because it was Boston that there would be a bed at one of the many hospitals there, but no there are not as many psychiatric hospitals as I thought. I waited all night for them to find me a bed at another hospital.
I had chipped off every last bit of my white polish. I wiped my sweat and stared blankly at the hospital wall-and the woman, who’s job was to watch me. And all I could think about was the responsibilities I was not attending to.
Anxiety trickled in. I will miss another day of my internship tomorrow. I can’t believe I’m missing class right now. I’m already so behind. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t. My thoughts were right. I couldn’t do this. Not like this. I needed help.
I had thrown my hands in the air. THIS IS TOO MUCH.
I didn’t realize how depressed I had gotten until I was admitted. Until I was back on the stretcher being transported an hour away. Until I could no longer get away with sleeping 17 hrs, and had people reminding me daily to try to eat something. Until I stepped on the scale and saw a number I haven’t seen in years.
I actually worded it as “not wanting to die, but not wanting to exist.” I just wanted time to stop. I wanted a break. By being admitted, I was getting the break I needed. Safely.
The truth is.. I never beat depression. It’s always been there. I have managed it before, and managed it well. But this time I needed some help managing it again.
I was discharged the second week of May.
My second hospitalization. I had done so well for several years, and there I was again.
Coming home was a new challenge. I remember it being an emotional rollercoaster the first time in 2016. It was a rollercoaster this time too. No, you aren’t locked in a cage, but when you get out it does feel like a smack from the “real world.” It is overwhelming. You spent so much time being crushed and created again and again, and now it is time to return to responsibilities. Life just..goes on. When you last remembered wanting it all to stop.
I did not go back to my apartment, I went home with my family. My first day home I curled up in my bed and sobbed. I wasn’t ready, I wanted to go back to the hospital where I had gained peer support, made great friends, and felt emotionally safe. I did not want to think about school, or work, or the future. I texted my best friend, “I need you.” Within minutes she was on her way to my house and curled up in bed right next to me. Just holding me. I thought I was going to spend that entire day crying but she helped build me up. I didn’t feel like it, but to perk myself up a bit we went to get our nails done and after being hospitalized for a few weeks, I was eager to shave, and get my eyebrows done! We ended our evening with frozen yogurt. I am just grateful to have a friend like that who was more than ready to be there to help me pick up the pieces. If I wanted to stay in bed, she was prepared to stay there with me. If I wanted to try to get out, she was ready to do what I was comfortable with.
In my first week home I got my nails done, my hair colored, and two new tattoos (one that I had been planning on for years). I felt very pampered, but you know- a change was needed. I felt as though I could begin to heal as a stronger version of me. Feeling beautiful isn’t a crime. When you are in the hospital you don’t feel beautiful. You feel stripped from your identity. I wanted that back. I wanted to feel better, but different. I was discharged knowing I could go back if I needed to, but my ultimate goal was to focus on making this life work.
I still am not too sure what triggered this. I believe it was a lot of factors. I was dealing with so much already, while battling a debilitating medical condition. I don’t doubt that caught up with me too.
I am grateful that my school has been supportive. I have been given incompletes for my courses, which I have until the end of summer to complete. I am also working on an online class right now to make up for the course I dropped when things got too tricky with my surgery date. I am back to work, I have a lot on my plate, but I think it is a good thing that I am back to a schedule.
The biggest debate has been with my continuing education. I don’t know if I should take the fall semester off or be a part-time student. I don’t enjoy the idea of graduating late, especially when I am so close. I also know that thinking about going back in the fall gives me the sourest gut feeling of “I’m not ready.” Maybe I’m not now, but maybe at the end of summer I will be.
My family has been amazing considering all I have put them through. I know it hasn’t been easy for them as well. Especially since none of them really saw this coming until I was in a hospital. As I settle back into things I am living in CT weekdays and driving to my apartment in Boston for work on weekends. But home is where I have the most support. My best friend, my family, my fluffy cat, and my doctor being a 20 minute drive away.
My aunt had told me that I am the type who fights, who holds it all together for so long, who is go-go-go until I crash. I crash, and it’s big. When the trauma, or the illness, is over and all should be well- that is when I break. Maybe because I know I am safe to do so. You can only stay strong for so long. I have re-learned the lesson that it can be healthy to allow yourself to break down sometimes. There is strength in that too. You don’t need to have it all together always.