I just wanted to talk to you all about something that has impacted my personal life, and how it has affected my life and my writing.
I was recently hospitalized because of suicidal impulses. I was in the psych ward for three and a half weeks, and when I first checked myself into the hospital through the walk-in emergency, I was in a very bad place, and it took all my willpower to get me to the hospital.
I was diagnosed with depression and minor psychosis, but for a while, the doctors were worried I might have early symptoms of schizophrenia. Thankfully, the doctors have decided I’m at a low risk for that now.
Up until the point I went to the hospital, I was barely functional. I hardly even managed to go to work, never mind do all my grad school applications or anything else. The everything else I’m talking about is largely writing, which I used to do lots of and enjoy. What happens with depression is that things you once loved doing are somehow tedious and take more work than you feel like putting out. In fact, you don’t feel like doing much of anything, and it’s not just that you don’t feel like it, but your motivation to do so is completely gone. Depression makes a person think, “What’s the point of this?” about every single thing.
I also had symptoms of psychosis, which the doctors suspected because I couldn’t differentiate whether a thought I had was my own thought or not. The doctors explained psychosis in this way: your brain takes past memories of thoughts, sounds, and sights and recycles it back through your brain in a huge feedback loop. Fun times.
So, I was in hospital for a while, and was put on some medications with an interesting list of possible side effects.
Why am I telling you all this?
I’m telling you this because I am one of the 20% of people who have depression, and I am here to tell you that once you get to the point that you can’t function, you need help. Please, for the love of all that’s holy (or not, as the case may be) make sure your mental health is taken care of before it takes care of it for you. Do it, because if you ignore it, like I did, it doesn’t get better, it gets worse.
You do not want to end up in hospital. Trust me on that one.
That’s not to say that the psych ward is anything like “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” I spent three and a half weeks with the nicest, most sincere, most supportive people you could ever meet. And that’s just my fellow patients, never mind the psych nurses who were always there to talk to no matter what time of day or night, and the doctors, who patiently talked me through my symptoms and reactions to medications until we found the right combination.
I was committed to the hospital under Canada’s Mental Health Act, and that means that I couldn’t leave the ward. It means that if I had left after the point which the doctors decided I was a danger to myself, then the police would come track me down. It means that I wasn’t allowed to wear my own clothes until the doctor was sure I was safe to have them back. It means sleepless nights, hospital food, and only seeing your loved ones at certain times of the day.
I am telling you this because, for some reason, having a mental health disorder is still seen as a stigma. I am telling you this because we need to have this conversation.
I am telling you this because people have died without the proper treatment, treatment that they didn’t seek because of social stigmas against mental illness.
Mostly, I am telling you this to let other people with mental illness know that they are not alone, and that lots of people are going through a similar journey. Mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even addiction are somewhat common, and the reason you think they aren’t is because no one talks about them.
I’m talking about them now.
My time on the psych ward is over now. I found the right medication, and it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. I feel brighter, lighter, and more optimistic (also less voices in my head. Very helpful). Medication is only half the battle though, and the other half is all me. I’m trying my best to overcome mental illness by finding better ways of coping with negative thoughts and feelings, thinking positively, and finding ways to reroute my thought patterns.
As for writing, I’ve even been able to start working on projects again. It was so hard before, because nothing, no matter what idea, seemed interesting to me. I’ve already got back on track by doing NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t allowed my phone or my laptop while in hospital, so I’ve been writing by hand. I’ve got 25000 words so far! Not bad for getting back into the swing of things.
It’s hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fighting mental illness is very, very difficult, and getting back to your old self is a lot of work.
I’m open to questions, and also to writing more on any subject related to this if requested.
Please stay safe everyone, and take care of yourself, body and mind.