During the last few weeks of December, I, unfortunately was admitted into the emergency room twice, and a behavioral center for about two weeks. I spent the first few days miserable, angry, anxious, frustrated, relieved, and scared.
For some odd reason, I found myself at home and what felt like vacation. Lucky for me, I was admitted into Highlands Behavioral Center, a renowned mental institution in my area. Not going to lie, by the end, I barely wanted to even leave.
I had finally found a home and a support system. And, just when you did not think that I could learn more about myself or be more self-aware, I found myself learning more and more about awareness, trauma, anxiety, natural therapeautic mechanisms that I could use outside of the institution. Life was easy. I was fed three times a day, allowed three cigarettes a day, and participated in group therapy, trauma therapy, experimental therapy and art therapy. My new found skills, knowledge, and curiousity led up to finding myself at peace, which resulted in a better sense of self and self-confidence.
Beyond that, I met a group of unforgettable people, since I was there for two weeks. After a while, I realized that I had made friends with other patients and the staff, as well.
This experience opened my eyes up to numerous things, such as, not letting your mental diagnosis define you, learning to remain calm during times when I would normally flee, learning how to use coping mechanism skills effectively during times of crisis, how to face my own trauma, and the realization that there are many people in the world, who have been diagnosed, who suffer through similar things such as I do, and are relatively “normal.”
The oddest part of the experience was being the youngest patient that had been admitted there. I spent a lot of time with those, who I would have never met otherwise, who accomplished the goal of letting me learn to begin trusting people. I also learned to trust my own intuition and gut feelings about certain things, and beyond that, I learned how to challenge myself in an environment that was bland, unsatisfying, and slightly depressing. The power of positivity, kindness, and happiness goes a long way in life. I made so many new friends and pals, who all shared souls that radiated love.
After the traumatic year I had, experiencing the deaths of many of my closest friends, I was beginning to find it hard to trust people, and let people into my heart. This resulted from the fear that had been placed in me when I finally came to terms with the fact that not all friendships or relationships last. I built a wall greater than the Great Wall of China, to close myself off from the public. I would not say that I was quite a pesimisst, however, I was definitely not being a realist.
Closing others off and pushing people away has been a reoccurring issue for me, as I do not like to expose my true self and appear vulnerable to anyone around me. I was nicknamed “young thug” by one of my friends at the insitution named Caleb. He celebrated my existence, went out of his way to hang out with me, even when I pretended that I wanted to be in solitude and acted like I did not care. Caleb was one of many who broke down my walls, as I soon came to accept the fact that not all people are bad.
Care, compassion, love, happiness, and kindness are all rare gifts to be found in many countries worldwide, including Asia, America, South America, Africa, etc. We all struggle, some differently than others, but we all face hardships that result in overwhelming amounts of stress and anxiety. To say that every single individual feels anxiety and stress the same way is ignorant, wrong, and offensive. Though I was not admitted for suicidal reasons, rather overwhelming anxiety that led to a mental breakdown, I encountered so many beautiful souls, with extreme mental diagnoses, that taught me how to love again. Love myself and to pass on love to others. I opened up my heart, and even found friendships within the staff.
This experience was one of the most painful, excruciating, difficult, amazing, and enlightening experiences that I have ever faced. I had to overcome many challenges, as well as leave everything I know behind me. When you are admitted into a mental institution, they have the right to put you on a 72-hour hold that does not allow for you to be able to check yourself out, which is something I learned very quickly.
Though I spent the holidays in solitude, without family, I found a family within this community. Not only did all the amazing human beings celebrate me, but they went as far as to truly care for me and wished only good things for me. This was a very humbling experience, as I realized that the whole facility was filled with individuals who I looked up to, who exuded qualities that I could only wish to have.
The trip to Highlands Behavioral Center may have been the best Christmas gift ever, and the best place for me to spend my holidays. Sometimes, it is okay to need a break when the pressure gets to you. Chances are, you are exactly where you need to be at this very moment and there’s always a reason for the events that occur in your life. Highlands Behavioral Center shielded me from my unrealistic stressors, and allowed me to find a home, family, and support system that I did not think I would ever have.
Trust, perseverance, and positivity warmed my soul, during my stay there. These were all unfamiliar to me, so I reacted negatively and angrily. At first, the reactions I had towards others at the facility were filled with anger, rage, confusion, distaste, and egotistical. As time went on, I ended up being one of the longest admittted patients, often being asked by the staff when I was going to leave.
Finally, after about two weeks of anger, I switched over to embracing the experience. After all the denial, rage, and malevolent behavior was out of my system, I finally realized how much courage and drive it takes to want to seek help, and get better. Better does not mean fixing one’s self, it means bettering the skills that you already have and using them to your advantage. At the mental institution, I used art therapy as my main release and channeled my artistic abilities towards calm, meditative coloring. This is something I still practice today.
I learned so much about myself, the world, strangers; the list only goes on forever. Who knew that being contained within three rooms, and sleeping on poorly constructed beds, for two weeks would end up being the best experience of my life?
As I continue to learn about mental health issues, I become more and more concerned about the treatment of patient’s and individual’s struggling with mental health problems. Mental health issues do not need to be “severe” for one to have to take it seriously, but society makes it seem that mental health issues should only be addressed when one is considered suicidal. This was not the case for me, as I mentioned above, as I was admitted for anxiety purposes. My anxiety in itself landed me in the behavioral center longer than those who had been admitted for attempting suicide.
It does not matter how big or small your “issues” may seem, everyone’s inner peace and mental clarity is important. My experience at an institution greatly differed from others that I have spoken with, because as far as I was concerned, no one at the institution was remotely concerned for me, just due to the fact that I was not considered suicidal.
The only complaint I have is that mental health institutions and behavioral centers are quite an expensive vacation. Two weeks of mindless coloring, group therapy sessions, and experimental therapy landed me with a bill that my medical insurance would not cover. Let’s just say it was not a cheap vacation…
If you find yourself feeling lost, anxious, suicidal, or anything at all and need a breather from life, consider taking a leave of absence from the overstimulated society we live in and try exploring options, such as entering a behavioral center. Contrary to societal norms, stigmas, and attitudes, checking yourself into a mental health institution or facility is not nor will ever be embarrassing. It does not matter how big or small your problems seem in comparison to others, if you are struggling and need help, SEEK IT.