Two readers emphasize the brighter sides of their time in psychiatric care:
My experience after checking myself in at a mental hospital was almost entirely positive. I had been diagnosed as bipolar at 25. At the time, I was fresh out of a top-10 law school, but I had managed to endanger my career through a series of poor decisions.
After a brief round of treatment with lithium, Prozac, and Tegretol, I decided that sanity was overrated. I quit all my meds and slipped into a five-year period of uncontrolled mania. It was, in all honesty, the happiest time of my life.
I was completely manic (and happy) for five years of marriages, near marriages, and one-night stands. I slept one to two hours a day and salsa danced until five in the morning.
But after five years of partying, drinking, and dancing, my professional life was in ruins. Then one day, I woke up tired. The mania was over, and my thought space became a maze of reflections upon poor decisions, broken commitments, and manifest incompetence in both professional and family life. Bedridden, I slept and cried for months. Finally, I begged my mother and an ex-wife to drive me to a mental hospital.
As soon as I was admitted, I was given the hospital rules, a mountain of blankets, and a schedule. After years of making bad decisions, it was liberating to be told what to do.
I met other patients who, like me, had made messes of their lives. We reassured each other. We told each other we we would fight our mental illnesses together. And we proved to each other that we were not alone, that there were other people like us, and worse off than we were.
There were arts and crafts and shared TV. But above all else, there was joy—because we had plucked ourselves away from our lives and could rest and look at our existences from afar, and make decisions about our lives as if we were deciding for someone else.
I remember thinking, at the time, that checking myself into the hospital was the only good decision I had ever made. I even promised myself that I would do it again every year during vacation time. I never did, but that does not change my conviction that being at that mental hospital saved my life, and that hospitalization is the best option for many people at the end of a very short rope.
This next reader details his “quite positive” experience in a psych ward, noting several moments of kindness and support from strangers:
I’ve found the whole thread on psychiatric hospitalization to be worthwhile; I’m grateful to Eva for starting it. The story told by the woman who took her boyfriend to be committed was of course especially harrowing. I was sorry to read that she would intend to complete suicide rather than go back to a mental hospital. I really, really hope she never faces that situation. If (God forbid) she ever does, I really, really hope that she has or finds some motivation to endure it.
I’m not sure if there’s much I could say to her to talk her out of her intentions; she formed them in response to her own experiences. But, having read her story, I would like to share my own story of being hospitalized.