As I drove out, looking at the beautiful, old brick buildings with black shutters I thought about my history here. My grandparents both worked here. My grandfather as a haircutter and my grandmother in the laundry department. My grandfather would tell us that crazy people lived there. He shared how they would have to tie them up, how they were locked in rooms, which was sadly true, but I think he embellished to scare the crap out of us. He liked doing that.
I have driven in and out this driveway now too many times to count. Starting in the 80’s for a few years weekly or biweekly, then sporadically over the years. I’ve been pretty steady the past couple of years going once or twice a week, sometimes three times. I lived there for 2-3 weeks a couple years ago this month, and back in the late 80’s.
Today I drove out thinking how different I feel now. I’m becoming a person who has boundaries, who has coping skills, who for the past couple days is very excited about life. Today I am not consumed with pain, distraught from loss, depressed to a point I could not function. Today I am vibrant, I am very much alive and I am very grateful for my therapist, psychiatrist, very grateful. I’m in my 50’s, I want the rest of my life to be peaceful, serene, I want to throw away the wet blanket of depression and be happy. Today I am.
By now you’ve figured out, it is a mental health hospital. When my grandparents worked there the ignorance of mental illness was immense. Patients with mental illnesses are no longer treated like they were then. It wasn’t just this hospital but all. Thank god for awareness, for research, for advanced education and treatment available today for those with mental illness(s). The stigma remains, and ignorance is always present in any aspect of life.
In 1988 I was hospitalized there for my 2nd severe clinical depression. Back then you could have day passes, where as now it isn’t allowed. Well, on my day pass I spent the day with my then husband. Anyway, the depression was still weighing heavy. Upon discharge I went immediately into outpatient therapy. Thus started the difficult journey of anti depressants. The side effects, the month it takes to kick in, what will insurance pay for, what can I live with? A few weeks after discharge I asked my psychiatrist if the med I was on would alter my menses. Nope. The woman who wasn’t able to have children from disease in my teens, surgery after surgery… well, she was surprisingly pregnant. I went cold turkey from my meds. Was so sick, a mess, my psychiatrist was upset because you are supposed to ween off such heavy drugs. I will share with you that my psychiatrist at the time, researched and suggested EST (Electric Shock Treatment). I was a mess, but I couldn’t do this. I was pregnant. Talk about an “awakening”. “One flew over the cuckoos nest” flashed in and out. Nope… let’s find another way.
Weeks later I miscarried. What a whirlwind, and then plummeted lower than I thought possible. I could go on and on, just don’t care to. Not even sure why I’m sharing this today, I haven’t thought about this in years. It’s funny all the thoughts and memories that flash before me in a seconds time.
Let’s move ahead to today. To driving out the driveway, smiling, accompanying Bob Dylan, happy.
I drove out happy and a person who has direction, gratitude for where I am right now, and hopeful that the next time (not to be negative) the clinical depression comes to bite me in the ass, I will already be in treatment and have learned coping skills, warning signs, things I can do every day to help myself. I am very very grateful.
On my drive home I thought about how fortunate I have been to have the care I have and am receiving. I no longer feel “less than” anyone else because I struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADHD which was diagnosed just this past year. I don’t feel shame or embarrassment, thus why I share such personal things. I am not unique, I am of a large population of people who struggle with mental illness. Today? Today I feel like a person who is doing her best, given the cards dealt, and today? Today I am doing well!!! Today I am ready to rejoin the world, my career, and even thinking about perhaps dating. Wouldn’t that be something! I’m aware that the “waiting for the shoe to drop” cynical thoughts are present, but this morning, waking to familiar and frequent dread, I was able to use the skills I’ve learned and turn my day around. HUGE! HUGE! We’re talking HUGE!
I am grateful, I am focused. I know this isn’t just a fluke, this is the result of hard work, changing my behaviors, thoughts. I hope I remember, the next time this shit knocks on my door (which could very well be tomorrow) how to help myself, how to bypass the crap, how to merge from this hellacious road into Hope Lane. Gratitude. Self respective, worth, and even some confidence! Who would have thunk?
As I’m getting ready to end this blog “The Circle Of Life” came on. I smiled. Yep, “The Circle Of Life!” As I drove out, looking at the beautiful, old brick buildings with black shutters I thought about my history here………. so so many.