“Because the only way out is through, Brian…” Those were the words uttered by my friend, Kristi, as she and my friend Brittany sat with me in the Emergency Room that fateful night I was admitted. Their eyes stared back at me concerned but tired amidst the 2 a.m. hustle and bustle of the hospital. I felt uncomfortable and exposed in the dark green hospital scrubs they made me change into; I wasn’t even allowed to keep my underwear on underneath. A security guard stood nearby within sight to make sure I “stayed safe.” My head spun from exhaustion, fear, and sadness. “What is going to happen to me?” I wondered.
“Ok, Brian, we’re going to go now.” It’s Kristi again. “I don’t think the hospital really allows for us to sit here with you this late.” Brittany gives her a look of apprehension, to which Kristi returns a firm nod. Brittany relents and then turns to me.
“Try and get some sleep, ok?” She said getting up. “And remember, be honest with the therapist when they come to assess you in the morning. Tell them what’s REALLY going on and how you REALLY feel. It’s time for you to get some help. You deserve better than this.” She urges, gesturing to the self-inflicted cuts on my arms.
And before I knew it, they were gone. And there I was alone, in my thin hospital patient scrubs being watched constantly by a hospital security guard.
That night was the climax of a rollercoaster of a journey that I am on with mental health. To give a little more background information, I always struggled with extreme depression and anxiety all my life. To the world, I was a ray of sunshine, striving to make everyone’s day. But behind closed doors, I retreated to a very dark place, which led to very destructive behaviors including self-cutting and suicidal thoughts. Clearly, it hit a point where I could not hide it anymore as my friends caught on and took action by checking me into the Emergency Room as a danger to myself. Talk about true friendship.
Fast forward, I was assessed by a therapist the following morning, where she determined that I needed to be placed on a 72-hour 5150 hold at the psychiatric hospital. It was while I was on this hold that I was further assessed by a psychiatrist and diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (aka Depression) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was while I was on this hold that I was prescribed medication to help me with this condition. It was while I was on this hold that I realized that all of this WASN’T my fault, and that I CAN be happier. Kristi was right. The only way out of this jungle in my head was to face it and go through it, one day at a time.
At the end of my hold, I was discharged, and immediately entered an intensive outpatient program where over the span of two weeks, I received counseling and skill-building. Fast forward again to today, where I am doing better and still trucking along. I’m still working with my assigned psychiatrist on trying to find the right combination of medication for me. I have also had several attempts of trying to find the right therapist for myself, and with the most recent person I met with, I think I’m finally onto something. Also, I’m happy to report that I have not cut myself to this day. I feel urges to do so every day, especially when I’m stressed, but I use the coping tools I was taught to help thwart it. Needless to say, I’m still at “through” right now.
So, why all the graphic details, you ask? Because we need to talk about it. Mental health issues plague so many of us. Yet, they remain hidden. There’s this silent expectation or pressure that to be a functioning human, we have to constantly “hold it together.” When in reality, that’s just not possible. Life is beautiful, and it’s also messy. As humans, we are beautiful, AND we’re also messy. It’s ok. I’m telling my story to spread a message that it’s ok to not be ok.
Because I wasn’t ok with not being ok, I held in my demons and they grew to the point that they became bigger than what I and my loved ones could handle. I was lucky that my friends possessed the compassion and initiative to say something and take action. But in the end, I had to help myself. I had to be honest about what was going on with me, and ultimately ask for and ACCEPT help.
So, if you’re struggling, please speak up. People care about you more than you know. And if you’re worried about someone, also speak up. They need to know that you care. Silence can be deadly in these situations. And no one should ever have to suffer silently alone. When it comes to mental health, we have to be there for each other. We have to help each other see that it will be ok. There is always a way out. But the only way out is through.