I watched the summer tumble into autumn from the window of my hospital room. The colors seemed to burst, all at once, like a firework. Autumn was always my favorite season and always the best time of year for my mental health. Every year, with the falling of the leaves came the lifting of my depression. The breeze swept the heartache away. The colors filled me with hope.
Not this year.
Suicidal thoughts had plagued me for weeks. I had the day and time set when I would do it, but instead, I went to the Emergency Room. A cold curtained cubicle is where I spent that weekend. Alone with my tears, alone with my fears, alone with the thin emergency room blanket stretched around my body where my toes still stuck out the bottom end; alone with the psychotic old man and the depressed young girl on either side of me. Alone on the opposite side of the glass walls around the nurses station. I felt isolated, like I was the only one in the world who felt the way I did.
Two days later, with puffy eyes, I was admitted to the psychiatric unit where I would spend the next 8 days. I had just been in the hospital 3 months prior; I felt like a failure being back there. I felt like I was destined to be alone in my pain forever.
My stay in the psych ward was sort of like a mental health boot camp. If I didn’t show up for Group, my name would be called on the loudspeaker. Sometimes for meals, too. If I didn’t want to talk in Group, I was forced to talk about why I didn’t want to talk. The patients weren’t scary, the medication wasn’t scary, but opening up and sharing my hurt was the most terrifying part.
In the psych ward, each day feels like a lifetime. Every minute is a test. If you pass, you get the gift of making it to the next. The moments when I so desperately wanted to be silent and disappear into bed, the moments that I felt most alone, I realized, were the moments I actually needed people the most.
During my stay, I realized the importance of human connection. I was pulled out of my head and into the lives of others. Spending time, hearing their stories, and getting to know them reminded me how small I am. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me believe that we’re all just pieces in a bigger picture: a picture with me in it, where I am important and worthy and vital. A picture where I belong. A picture that is so much bigger than just me and my problems. It reminded me of the resilience of humankind, and how I can be resilient, too, because I am no less than everyone else.
I became so wholly aware of the fact that regardless of life circumstances, as humans, we are all one. I learned that speaking up is hard but necessary and the absence of the weight on my shoulders is worth the lump in my throat and the shaking of my voice. I remembered that a diagnosis is just words and does not define or change who I am. I learned to trust that things will work out just the way they’re supposed to, even if it’s not in the way I imagined.
When I stepped outside those hospital doors at my discharge, an amalgamation of past autumns wrapped itself around me, around the beating heart I had taken for granted. I remembered how I don’t have to have it all together in order to move forward. I felt scared, but I felt free. The colors around me became a kaleidoscope, a tapestry, a puzzle with pieces I learned to believe would fall right into place.