I believe in insanity. True, honest, genuine insanity. Not the type of insanity a mother gets when her five children are screaming bloody murder and she thinks she’s going to have a panic attack, or when the person sitting next to you during your final exam is uncontrollably tapping their pencil against their desk and you think you might just lose your mind if you hear it one more time. I’m not talking about when you’re so angry your whole body starts shaking and you start to think that you can literally feel your blood boiling. I’m talking real insanity. Craziness. Schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, severe depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety. I’ve lived it, I’ve breathed it. I have been there.
When I tell people that I’ve been in a psychiatric hospital, they think I’m joking. They can’t believe that I, a social, friendly, happy, now 18 year old girl could have ever been in such a place. But, it’s true. Three years ago, I was admitted into Havenwyck Psychiatric Hospital in Auburn Hills, MI after an intense session with the hospital’s psychiatrist. The doctor labeled me “a danger to myself” and off I went. Off I went into the adolescent psychiatric floor of the hospital. Let me tell you, a psych ward is everything you’d imagine it to be. There really are big, white seclusion rooms lined with layers of padding, even on the floor. There are even bigger rooms with 2, 3, 4 beds for the patients to sleep. The nurses really do wake you up at 5 a.m. so they can check your blood pressure and ask you if you’ve had any bowel movements during the night. A psychiatric hospital is a very strange place, a place that I would have never dreamed I’d end up, especially at such a young age. I was just sixteen, yet I felt that my whole world was falling apart.
During my first group therapy session at the hospital, I learned that I was truly surrounded by crazy people. Since I was new to the hospital, the group coordinator had everyone sit in a circle and tell me why they were there. A few schizophrenics, suicidals, and anorexics later, it was my turn. “Im bulimic and clinically depressed.” It was strange hearing the words come out of my mouth. I had never actually admitted it before. What was even more strange to me was the girls’ reaction to my confession. It was like I had just told them that I was in high school or that my hair was blonde. It was nothing to them. They were compassionate and kind. They understood my pain, my fear. They understood me. It was a sense of understanding that I never thought I would experience. For the last year and a half, I had felt so alone and misunderstood. These girls were the only people in the world who could comprehend what I was feeling.
During the next three days, I learned more than I could have ever imagined. I listened to their stories, and they listened to mine. They let me into their lives, and I let them into mine. I listened and was listened to. I heard screams and cries in the middle of the night because of things that these girls had gone through. Horrible things. Unimaginable things. I learned about pain, abuse, and despair. I learned about grief and sorrow. But, the most important thing I learned from the girls I met was empathy. For the last year and a half I had been nothing but miserable about my life. I was dying inside. I was losing myself. I had given up. I never would have thought that a four day stay in a psychiatric hospital would change that. It’s something I cannot describe in words. Although I saw genuine mental illness within the walls of that hospital, I also saw and felt something wonderful. I was touched by those girls in such an amazing way.
In many ways, I feel that I owe my life to them. They saved me from myself. All I needed was someone to understand me, to understand what I was feeling. And they did. I will be forever grateful for that. I started off this story by saying that I believed in insanity, and I do. However, I also believe in recovery, and understanding, and kindness. I learned these things from being there. From my experience. From those girls. I believe in a new day. I believe in learning from people. I believe in second chances. I believe in life.
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