I struggle with mental illness.
If you felt mentally out of balance, would you consider going to University Psychological Services?
I was afraid to write that. Writing it down makes it more real.
I’ve talked about it for months. In therapy, through tears. I’ve lied about it too. With family, friends. I lied because I didn’t think anybody would understand.
The mind is a most misunderstood thing. Months of trial and error with therapy and medication proved that to me.
Through it all, I’ve grappled with regrets. I could’ve done this … I should’ve done that… The best thing I’ve learned from therapy is to banish these words. When there is no I can , there is only I will try .
Last February, I admitted myself to the Psychiatric Emergency Service at the University Hospital.
Insomnia, nightmares and sleep paralysis had plagued me for more than a year. The worst nightmares started with me waking up in my bed, everything lifelike, and ended with somebody harming me. I didn’t know when I was in real danger or dreamland danger. My best friend had to routinely remind me of the real. But eventually I didn’t believe her. I nearly floated to the PES.
My first visit was disappointing. I waited for hours, I gave my personal information and bodily fluids until, anticlimactically, I was given a dose of anti-anxiety medication and sent home.
The medication increased my detached feelings, but at least it made me sleepy. I went home and napped for a few hours, and when I woke up, I went to a party. At that party, I drank. The thought that I shouldn’t be drinking on the medication didn’t cross my mind. A few drinks later and I was standing in front of a mirror with my thoughts racing until one emerged clearly: Wouldn’t it be funny if I didn’t wake up tomorrow?
But I did wake up the next morning, in a state of disarray. I was so disarrayed that I abruptly left a lunch with my family, leaving them worried.
I wish I could say that’s when I turned it all around, told my family everything and admitted I was afraid. Instead, I went back to my apartment and spent days in bed.
But for all the lows, there were high points too. Some days I would ride a wave to intellectual and creative peaks. But then, crestfallen, I’d go down the barrel again.
I haven’t always felt this way. The emotions I’ve experienced lately aren’t normal, and they aren’t me. It’s like a blackout.
Last April, I came back into focus at the Psych ER.
It was my fifth visit, and the staff admitted me to a psych ward out of town. I was assessed to be a suicide risk. It wasn’t that I actively wanted to die; it’s just that living had become too difficult.
I was involuntarily committed for two days. I stayed three more because I knew I needed to.
My parents drove hours to attend therapy sessions with me. Friends and family called every day to tell me how much I meant to them. Even the University was understanding, sending a representative to the hospital to help me deal with the classes I’d missed.
I was not alone.
For too long, I wanted my problems to be mine alone. I thought getting help meant failure. When antidepressants and sleep aids made everything worse, I wrote off all medication. Even when medication had me stable after my hospitalization, I took myself off it “just to see” if I was okay on my own.
I could beat myself up over these mistakes, but instead I’m trying to be my own best friend. I used to think mental illness wasn’t as legitimate as physical illness, but I’ve learned the impact is the same. There’s nothing weak about asking for help. There’s nothing strong about suffering alone.
Unlike the other works I’ve written, I can’t write this from an outside perspective. Truthfully, I’m afraid last year will repeat itself again. But this time I’m prepared. I will try my best.
Kaitlin Williams is an LSA senior and a deputy magazine editor for The Michigan Daily.