Remembering my first time…

I have a hard time truly disclosing to anyone how I am doing on the inside. Mood charts were very vague for me and the more I got used to the typical mood rating conversation, the easier it was to not disclose my thoughts and feelings, especially if I wasn’t directly asked. The typical conversation usually went like this:

Doc: Can you rate your mood for me? 1 is the lowest your mood can be and 10 are the highest it can be.

Me: 4

Doc: Oh so, somewhere around the middle?

Me: Yeah, I guess.

[End of mood conversation]

This was a cake-walk in mind as I technically wasn’t lying. If they don’t ask, don’t tell. Right? 

Why wouldn’t I want to tell? I wanted help, so why was it so hard to just be honest about what I was thinking and feeling so many times? Why were mental health professionals the ultimate enemy to me?

I can trace it back to my first inpatient visit. I wish it had faded a long time ago as it was 10 ½ years ago, but I still remember it so vividly. I remember I had been self-injuring for a while, struggling with bulimia, and seeing a counselor. One evening, I posted a status on IM to leave me alone with some extra choice words added. My door was locked. I heard knocking, didn’t answer. Soon, I heard knocking and it was the campus police. I was escorted through the dorm hallway and downstairs, put in the backseat of the car and taken to the campus health center. At the health center I was confronted about the self-injuring and whether I was suicidal. I said I was not suicidal and self-injured but not that much. When asked to show my arms, the room got gloomy as my friend and the nurse saw it wasn’t a little. I was escorted to the hospital in the police car only to have a long wait and having to decide to do voluntary or involuntary. The point was I couldn’t leave and not stay overnight. Because I had just turned 18, 3 months prior I was placed in the adult psychiatric unit at the local hospital. It was a very traumatic experience the night leading to the hospital, being in the hospital. This was especially true as people watched, discovering I had to stay for 3 more days after signing discharge papers, screaming, yelling, odd characters, and having to call my parents to tell them where I was and why. When I got out I promised myself to never go back inpatient again. This promise made out of fear hardened my ability to disclose anything but what was on the surface. 

Looking back over the time since that first visit and the many talks I have had the privilege to give to a variety of audiences about my experiences living with a mental illness during my work with NAMI Howard County, I have only talked about this twice. But, I see it as an important piece of information and tool for understanding my past problems with disclosure and trying to work on the future.

I know wholeheartedly, when my family mentioned inpatient in May of 2011 I said no. I will do better in a PHP program and I told them I still am traumatized by my very first inpatient. The main point is not all treatments and treatment settings are universally helpful. Some people get no benefit from individual therapy but thrive in group therapy. Just as recovery and treatment should be based on the individual, traumatic experiences associated with previous treatment should be considered on an individual basis when forming/discussing treatment options on both sides (the individual & the medical professional). 

Treatment, including resources, tools, and much more should be helpful. If it is not helpful and in some cases hurtful, it can be counterproductive to the recovery process.

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