After I fell down the rabbit hole so far that only a weekend in a mental hospital helped me, I realized I wanted one thing. To talk to another mom. I needed to know that my crazy wasn’t permanent. That I was okay, normal, and I would be well again. Even if I wasn’t going to be well again, I told myself, I need to know I’m not here in crazyland by myself.
During my stay, a psych nurse told me something which has stuck with me for over six years and I suspect will stay with me for quite some time. She told me I didn’t have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. I know, you’re hearing the record scratch in your head too, right?
It’s a moment in my story I have discussed several times here at my blog. But it’s an important moment, I think, one which truly sums up the state of mental health awareness in our country, even among those who are involved in directly treating those struggling. The message it sends is chilling.
Sssshhhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone you’ve been to the crazy house.
Why the fuck not?
Why would I remain quiet about this? Why do I deserve to be judged for something which is no more my fault than the breast cancer? Would a nurse dare tell a patient in for Chemo they don’t have to tell anyone where they’ve been?
I get that health is private, HIPAA and all that. We have a right to remain quiet about our health, physical or mental, but to suggest to someone that it’s absolutely not necessary to tell anyone where they’ve been is simply neurotic. This did not happen while signing papers or during admission. No, this happened during a casual conversation during my first day there.
What, was I supposed to go home and pretend I’d gone to Bermuda? Would I be given parting gifts to help fake my weekend tropical get away? Quite frankly, if they wanted me to believe I’d been in Bermuda, they should have given me stronger drugs. But I’ve digressed.
The more we give into this culture of silence and stigma surrounding mental health, the more we enable the stereotypes to stand. Yes, I had depression and a whole slew of other issues (OCD, PTSD, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts…) but you know what? I’m a perfectly normal person. I’m just like you. I think, I eat, I breathe, I function quite well most of the time. I hit a rough patch and needed help to get through it. It’s no different than someone being hospitalized for a serious injury or infection. At least, it shouldn’t be any different.
This is why I write. I write because it’s important to acknowledge that people with mental health issues aren’t of the insane Hollywood variety. We are normal people you see every day. We are your sisters, your wives, your cousins, your mothers, your aunts, your friends, your co-workers. We are human too. Treat us as such.