I can fail perfectly fine on my own, thank you very much: my experience with hospitalization
Updated: Aug 19, 2021
One of the hardest things in life is asking for help. I know--I used to suck at it. Upon leaving the army, I insisted I was fine. Of course, after losing four jobs, I should’ve taken the hint that maybe something was amiss, but I’m an oblivious person. I’m so oblivious that once I was hit by a car twice in one night. And I say ‘a’ car, because it was the same vehicle both times, for some odd reason. Maybe I pissed him off? Anyway, let’s get back to the subject at hand. As I unraveled further, I insisted more and more that people should stop worrying about me, failing to assure others that my problems weren’t real. I’m fantastic at lying to myself but can’t lie to others to save my life. And lying to others to save my life was the absolute worst mistake I could have ever made.
As time went on, I was too disoriented even to know how to ask for help. Finally, my ability to hold a conversation began to die, along with my sanity. Then, I snapped. I curled up into a ball of sobbing misery, psychologically and emotionally regressed, and was living in flashbacks. In short, I fucked up horrendously.
After moving back in with my parents, it became clear to everyone that I was borderline feral. I realized that my suffering had become unbearable, and I was unable to save myself. I was at a total loss. Then, my family and a dear friend convinced me it was my best option to check myself into a hospital. The thought terrified me. I thought it was a prison for crazy people and didn’t want to be locked up with those guys. I couldn’t be one of them; it was too much of a blow to my pride. Well, fast forward two weeks, and I was willing to try anything, despite my preconceived notions of such facilities. I went to McLean hospital in Massachusetts, where I learned a couple of vital lessons. The first one was mental hospitals have magnificent cookies and endless chocolate milk, but what I learned next gave me some essential perspective.
The people there were chill as hell; they were just a bunch of laid-back folks who couldn’t take it anymore. There were some with other issues, but most people were just emotionally exhausted and didn’t know how to go on. Pretty soon, not only were we vibing, but I set up a blackjack table. We used Monopoly money for the gambling and a worn-out deck of cards that miraculously still had a count of fifty-two plus jokers. We had optional classes about how to cope and take care of ourselves, which were incredibly valuable. It was also Christmas time, so I celebrated my first ever Christmas that year. Everyone but me, the Jewish guy, was understandably disappointed, but they sang songs and introduced me to Christmas movies. All things considered, it was the cheeriest hospital I’d ever seen.
The next lesson was much harder: humility is a virtue. I had to tell all of my secrets, problems, fears, past experiences, and hard truths that I’d refused to admit to myself up until that point. Think of it as surgery. You can’t just get better; you have to tell the doctor your symptoms, and they have to cut you open to fix the problem. It’s excruciating, and the meds are only a minor anesthetic, but it’s the only way to get well. And it wasn’t just the army, either. The truth is, my childhood wasn’t fantastic. I had to get into over twenty-three years of trauma, and reliving it was far from pleasant, so asking for help wasn’t easy.
And yet, letting go of what remained of my pride was the best thing I ever could have done. Looking back, I realized asking for help didn’t make me weak. On the contrary, it takes great strength to humble yourself in such a way. I finally saw that I burdened others most when I refused their support. It became clear that problems exist whether I acknowledge them or not. I didn’t understand it until later but rejecting help actually becomes selfish after a point, and loving people means trusting and helping one another.
I’m going to level with you: I’m not great at judging what I can and can’t do on my own yet. I’m still trying to figure out how mentally functional I am and how my mind works, which is no easy task. It’s a long, complicated process of self-study along with a great deal of trial and error, but now, the errors aren’t the end of the world. I can fall without collapsing.