April 2010 wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t even the second or third. It was the fourth time I had to be hospitalized for psychosis, and it was a turning point for me in the understanding of my illness and what it was going to take for me to find and stay in recovery.
My husband and my dad sat with me in the tiny holding room as we waited to be called into the conference room for the trial in which a judge would determine my sanity and capability to leave the psychiatric ward of the hospital. It was in those moments, talking with the two most important men in my life, when I knew what needed to happen. They were urging me to stay in the hospital a few more days, but I was desperate to get home to my little boy.
I looked down at the handcuffs around my wrists and ankles and tried to engrave the image in my memory. I was not a criminal. I had been brought to the hospital under a temporary detention order which is issued during a psychiatric crisis and this was the way they transported all cases. My dad snapped a picture of me with his cell phone as I sat on the couch across from him. He wanted it to serve as a reminder of what I needed to do: commit to my treatment plan for myself and my family. Not the type of picture you’d frame for the mantle, but in my mind it’s always front and center.
I was only six weeks pregnant with my second baby at the time, and since that episode, with the unwavering support of my husband, my family and my close friends, I’ve made a full recovery and am thriving. But it hasn’t been an easy road. Not in the least.
It’s a scary thing to have to deal with mental illness. It can rock you to the core. Make you question your future. Turn your world upside down. Turn your family upside down. Your friends may even shy away from trying to help. Not because they don’t care about your well-being, but because they don’t know how to help. They are clueless as to where to start, even though they want desperately to have their old friend back. They feel helpless.
The same emotion the person who has been handed the mental illness card feels: Helplessness.
When a chemical imbalance occurs in someone’s brain, of course the first thing a person feels is helpless. A band-aid won’t fix this. It’s not something visible from the outside that a regular doctor can address. The brain is mis-firing. Something is deficient within the cells and synapses and it will likely take some time, effort, therapy, and a good doctor to figure out how to get things back to the baseline.
It took me many months after each of my four hospitalizations to get back to the old me. The confident, out-going, social butterfly I had always been was devastated by mental illness. But I got through it with hard work and time. And these days, I’m appreciative of what I’ve gone through.
Because I now get to help people realize that they can get well too.
I still have my moments of insecurity in regards to disclosing my mental illness. Sometimes I wonder if other moms would think differently of me if they knew I was living with Bipolar Disorder and that I had experienced postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child.
Would they think I’m crazy? That I may have harmed my children because of my illness? Would they not include me and my kids in their mommy groups?
I’ll never know exactly what the other moms think about me. And that’s okay. I’m not concerned about their preconceived notions as I’m too busy advocating for people living with mental illness to let my feelings get hurt by someone’s ignorance or prejudice.