Being hospitalized for a week was probably the worst experience of my life, hands down. The staff seemed to hate their lives (and me), everything was cold and sterile and smelled like Lysol wipes, we couldn’t go outside unless we wanted a “smoke break,” and when we did go outside it was in this little caged in gazebo.
Yep. A literal cage.
I remember, in a medicinal coma-daze, reaching my fingers out of the cage to pick a flower, and rubbing the flower on my cheek to remember what nature felt like.
(I will write more about the whole hospital experience when i’m ready, Scout’s Honor.)
But one of the worst parts about being hospitalized is not knowing what the hell to do with yourself after you get out.
I remember being terrified i would never return to myself. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t sleep through the night without waking up paranoid that someone would barge in my room to take my “vitals,” couldn’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, couldn’t remember how to shower.
I had completely lost myself.
Looking back, I wish that I would have had resources to prepare me for life after hospitalization. It’s a really scary process, and it can feel like you’re climbing up a never-ending mountain to get back to where you were before.
Here are a few things I wish I would have known:
1. You need to give yourself time for your brain to repair itself.
Unfortunately, you’re not just going to pop back to where you left off in your life and in your relationships. You’re going to have to take it very easy on yourself. If you can, take a leave of absence from work and/or school to gain your footing. Stop, breathe, declutter, write… do whatever it takes to feel safe again in your own mind. (I went on like a week long cleaning spree. It actually really helped.)
2. You have to learn how to trust your mind again.
You’re going to have some serious trust issues in your relationship with your brain. For a while. Typically, you will have an “I don’t know you anymore” crisis with yourself. You have to remember who you are. How were you as a child? What did you love? What bored you? What did you do in your free time? At your core, you are the same person you were as a child. Remember yourself 🙂
The best way I know to establish a sense of identity again is to write. Write your likes and dislikes. Write about what makes you feel alive. What you want to do before you die. What you would do if you had a million dollars. What makes you sad. What drives you nuts. What emotions are you feeling?
As you write, you will begin to remember who you are. Keep writing (or video blogging or voice recording or even Pinterest-ing) until you feel like yourself again!
3. You will probably withdraw from the people you love most during this whole process.
You may even be embarrassed because they have seen you at your absolute worst. You’ll have fears that they might view you differently now that they have seen you at your weakest point. You might ask yourself, “Do they think I’m fragile? Weak? Unpredictable? Scary? Do my opinions and advice even have credibility with them anymore? If I don’t trust my own mind, how can they?” Just remember to anticipate withdrawal, and that it is totally normal to focus completely on rebuilding trust with yourself first. Once you begin to trust yourself again, you can focus on your relationships. Until then, don’t feel bad about shutting yourself in your house like a cave-person.
4. OPEN YOUR MOUTH.
Make sure you share your emotions with your inner circle. Let them know that you will probably withdraw from them, and not to take it personally. Keep the few closest people to you updated on how you’re feeling. Maybe send out a weekly message on Facebook with a brief “this is how i am doing” paragraph. Maybe have them visit you once a week, if it’s not too overwhelming for you. Maybe send them pictures of your crazy self looking all erratic and shit.
Communicate what you need from them. Tell them that it may seem like you’re being selfish or that the relationship will be one-sided for a while, but that it will change. You’re going to need their patience and support.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
5.) You’re going to feel alone.
Join a support group so you don’t feel as alone. Plus, you won’t get as frustrated when none of your friends understand you because you will be interacting with people that totally get it.
Don’t hate on your friends for not getting it, though. They will never fully understand what you have been through. And it is not their responsibility to do so. It is your responsibility to share as much as you can with them so that they can have somewhat of an idea as to what it feels like to be post-hospital you.
6.) Get healthy.
Take your medicine, for god sakes.
Also, do things that nourish your brain, like walking, for instance. It has been scientifically proven that exercise can act as an anti-depressant. 30 minutes of brisk walking 3 times per week has the same effect as taking Zolaft. Isn’t that nuts?! Also: SUN (aka Vitamin D!) And GOOD FOOD! Get rid of that processed shit! It makes your brain crazy.
7.) Learn to laugh at yourself.
It just makes life worth living.
So there you have it, crazy friends.
I love you all. I wish you peace and goodness as you get your shit together!
HAVE A GREAT DAYYYYYYYYYYYY