It’s been 365 days. One year since I lay strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance. It had finally happened: I was headed to the psych unit of a distant hospital.
Even though I knew it was to help me, during that ride in the dark all I felt was despair, grief and guilt. And those feelings are still painful to recall. When the door to my room was closed behind me the feeling of abandonment was so acute that, if I hadn’t already been suicidal, that moment would have pushed me over the edge.
The ward itself was pleasantly bland, nothing remarkable in its strive for neutrality except that we detainees could not leave. “You can check out any time you like, but…” We also weren’t allowed our shoelaces. The hoody with a string. My night mask with its flimsy elastic strap in case I tried to hang myself.
I have never felt so naked, so stripped of my rights and privacy, as during my time there.
I’m still thankful I didn’t have a roommate. Roommate. As if we were in a college dorm. Just there for a good time.
I was overwhelmed by feelings of shame when family and friends came to see me. The voice in my head told me I had let them down. I hadn’t been strong. I’d hurt them. I could no longer be trusted to act as a normal member of society.
That journey from normalcy to psych unit took almost a year. Those words again. One year. How could so much have changed in such a short span? A staggering loss coupled with a bout of depression and anxiety sent me reeling into a black pit. People tried to help but I could not see their outstretched hands. I wanted out of the dark and the only way I could see to do it was by suicide. I honestly thought I’d be doing everyone a favor.
Those thoughts (plus hiding behind the exam table at the doctors) got me my membership card to a club I hadn’t wanted to join.
Fortunately, being in the hospital helped. Through new meds, therapy and time (so much time!), I began to see the light. Blackness at first, yes, and for a long time drops of blackness penetrated, but still — that glimmer of lightness. And that glimmer, I learned, was Hope.
Hope was a start, not an ending. I was cautioned about thinking in black and white terms, against thinking I was “cured”. For me, it’s not a cure. It’s a way of life, working hard to keep my head above the darkness. It’s about following a new pathway. It’s a new beginning.
As I slice my anniversary cake and celebrate where I am now, I remember the tools and skills I learned. And as the clock slowly churns forward, and the season begins the transition to fall, winter, SAD and depression, I carry Hope with me, a small but steady candle glow.