Being hospitalized for a mental illness the first time is the worst

If you have only been recently diagnosed with a mental illness and are on the verge of having a breakdown, people may be urging you to go to the hospital and checking in. Even just thinking about something like that can be enormously de-stabilizing and frightening, adding insult to injury. But if this is the only thing which will keep you safe, please do it. Suicidal feelings are very frightening, not only to your loved ones who live in fear that you will do something irreversible but to the person who is experiencing them as well. No one likes to go through someone like that.

Twoimportant things to remember

First of all, you won’t feel like this forever. I know it feels like there is no escape and no way to stop feeling like this but remember, feelings come and go, they ebb and flow like the tide. They are transient. Secondly, even though you may be terribly frightened, the hospital is NOT a scary place. Yes, it will be unfamiliar and there may be scary-looking or -acting people there. But the staff are highly trained professionals and though it may not feel like it all the time, they are there to help over this awful time. They will not hurt you but you have to manage your behavior and not be violent. That is a very important thing to consider. For me, one of the worst things about being in the hospital was adjusting to the new routines and the awful food and scratchy toilet paper. If you have a friend who can bring you some snacks and some rolls of toilet paper you can keep in your room, a lot of those problems will be alleviated. Telling another person about your suicidal feelings makes you really, really vulnerable. People react because no one wants you to harm yourself. Most people rightfully regard a confession of suicidality as a “cry for help”. You may not see it that way but, in my experience, whenever I felt drawn to suicide it was because my life felt like it had spun completely out of control and I just wanted to escape it.

So, taking that step to confess your feelings to another person is actually a tremendous show of strength and a great leap of faith. A very good first step. Going to the hospital is also scary because of the way psychiatric hospitals and units are portrayed in movies and the media. It is NOTHING like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” I promise you. Yes, there might be some people there who look and behave strangely but most of that is related to their illness (schizophrenia) or medication. You don’t have to worry that you will end up like that. When I was in-patient for a year many years ago, there was a young woman there who had a terrible case of tardive dyskinesia. Her gyrations and grimaces were very frightening to watch. It was only when I learned that her condition had been caused by her intense medication with neuroleptics to control her schizophrenia that I was able to relax around her and be comfortable with her.

You won’t be locked away and forgotten

Many people fear the idea that they will be “locked away” and forgotten when they are hospitalized. You also know that there is terrible stigma attached to mental health problems. Think of this as your first step in learning how to care for yourself and love yourself, something many of us lack. In today’s world, I assure you that you will not be kept nearly long enough for anyone to forget you.One of the biggest things people deal with during a mental health hospitalization is boredom because government cutbacks mean fewer programs like wellness and occupational therapy. Because of this, most patients spend most of their time in the common room watching endless hours of television. If there are any groups offered, do your best to make use of them. Even a simple walking group can get you out into some fresh air and give you a chance to get away what can be a stifling environment.