Written by: Brianna Whitbread
The first time I was hospitalized, I did everything I could to be able to leave. I lied and pushed aside all of my dark and scary thoughts so that I could go home. At the time, I didn’t even really understand my mental illness so I wanted to avoid dealing with it at all costs. After discharging, I managed to stay out for 3 months but during that time period, my symptoms significantly worsened. At age 14, when I got readmitted to a psychiatric hospital, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be home for more than two months in the next four years. I resisted treatment. I fought so hard to push people away. This landed me getting transferred from treatment center to treatment center for the next 4 years. It got to the point where because of the severity of my symptoms and behaviors, places started sending me to other places because they weren’t equipped to handle me. Every time I would admit to a new treatment center, I was shortly transferred because of the fact that they weren’t going to do all of the work for me and because I was way too big of a liability. I will never forget the day that one of my doctors told me that I wouldn’t live to see my 18thbirthday. Because of the mindset I was in, I hoped he was right. But sitting here today, I am so glad he was wrong.
In May of 2016, I was admitted to Children’s Hospital Colorado on their inpatient psychiatry unit. Expecting the same results, I shut everyone out when I first got there. My treatment team would try to get me to open up but I was just so resistant. I think for about my first month and a half of receiving therapy from the woman who I now look at as my life saver, I would not speak during our sessions. I would sit in silence, hoping that she would just leave me alone. I wanted them to see that there was no hope for me too. Finally on a Friday afternoon, I let my walls down. I told my treatment team everything. I told them about the dark thoughts that I struggled with. I told them about my past. I figured after they heard how “messed up” I was, they would transfer me out to some where else.
That’s where I was wrong. The difference about Children’s compared to other treatment centers I had been to is that the staff and everyone else there believed in me. They had hope that I could get better. At first, I didn’t know how to take that so it took a while for me to actually accept that they cared. As soon as I got there, they reached their hands out to me and the day that I finally decided to grab them was when my life changed. I heard so many times in treatment that it will “get better”. Every single time that I heard that, I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and thought “if only they knew what went on inside my head.”
After discharging from my 5 month stay here, I saw a new life ahead of me, a life that I never thought was possible for me. Walking out those doors, I had goals. I wanted a future. I had a smile on my face that was no longer fake. Now I know that it does get better. The people who told me that knew what they were talking about. Today, my mental illness isn’t gone. I still have negative thoughts. However, I now know how to cope with those thoughts. I don’t set expectations for myself because mental illnesses are so unpredictable but I do set goals. Not always long term goals but sometimes goals that I can accomplish in five minutes. Realizing that life outside of mental illness exists was the most refreshing feeling I have ever felt. And now that I feel a happiness that I forgot existed, I want to use my stories to help others. I want to show them that things do get better. I hope to inspire those who have no hope that they can recover. Because as cliché as all of the things professionals tell those struggling, they couldn’t be more true.
And I can now tell you that because I am LIVING PROOF.
Recovery is possible.