Image: Theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy. Mosaic, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. The piece can be found at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori, first floor, hall of the Horti of Mæcenas. From the Baths of Decius on the Aventine Hill, Rome. Public Domain
In The Long Dark Contemplation of My Soul Part 1, I wrote about admitting myself to a stress unit in May because I was thinking about harming myself through cutting. I knew I would be there for at least four days and hoped I was doing the right thing. There wouldn’t be much else to do but contemplate my feelings and what I wanted to do to heal.
This was not my first time in the stress unit. Before it was much worse. I had scratched up my arms with my fingernails. When I filled out the forms for admittance I wrote “I have seen evil,” across my arm in large letters when the nurse wasn’t looking. This was in reference to several instances of childhood sexual abuse. This time, after some panicking in the ER, I was much calmer.
Writing this is one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m sharing it publicly for several reasons: I want others who have gone through this not to feel alone and know they can enter a stress unit for help. I want those who haven’t experienced this understand what it’s like and have more compassion for those who have rather than stigmatize them as insane. What is insane versus needing assistance coping with life when it is really difficult? When I was released I told many people that I was in the hospital because there were issues with my medication. I was afraid of what people would say behind my back. “Did you know she was in the mental hospital?” Medication changes were partially true, since while I was in the hospital they did put me on other antidepressants that improved my life significantly.
On day two, the doctor prescribed trazadone to help with sleep and my nightmares. It put me into a sleepy stupor where I still felt scared, but didn’t care. Though I only took it one time, its effects along with the burst of adrenaline I had made me sleep most of the time I was in the unit.
As a Gaian, part of my religion is being around plants. The green color soothes me and reminds me of the earth Goddess, the life force of our planet. The corridors smelled of antiseptic and the unwashed bodies of the depressed. I stood longingly looking out the windows onto the locked garden where I wanted to walk and inhale the fresh air. I didn’t hang out in the lobby, because the TV was always on and I couldn’t stand commercials. I’d go in there to be with the plants and try not to sleep, but inevitably someone would show up and turn it on just to help them tune out the world. How was I to overcome my depression in such a depressing place?
Each day there were two group sessions offered. In the sessions we talked about how to manage our anger, how to cope with depression and other topics. I felt though that what I really needed was one on one therapy. I needed to spill my story to someone and get it out into the open. The old wounds felt so fresh. I wasn’t about to discuss any of it with a group of strangers.
The message I did get from group sessions was I was the one responsible for how I felt and what I did. What had happened to me was not my fault, and I did not have to forgive my foster brother or my father. I did need to forgive myself for holding onto such emotional turmoil and release the anger — let go of the rage so I could move forward with the healing process.
Today, I’m in therapy about every two weeks and doing well on my new medication. Will my PTSD ever be gone? I don’t know, but at least now I have days were I am truly happy and not afraid. I’m no longer covering up a face of suffering with a mask of happiness. When I look in the mirror, I see someone who wants to live and has a lot to look forward to.