My first visit to a psychiatric unit was during my freshmen year of college, I had just turned 18. I had begun college with all the hopes and dreams of the picture perfect college experience…I didn’t even give it a thought that issues like depression, social anxiety, etc. would get in the way. I didn’t know to even think of it, although I had struggled with these issues long before, I really had little experience in handling it, defining it, or understanding it.
I went through rush, joined a great sorority, met a lot of fun people. I had a boyfriend, and all was good, right? But before I knew it, I was moving out of my dorm room into a single because I was isolating, then I found myself staying home at night, watching tv and avoiding everything… school work, friends, my boyfriend. One Friday night, I couldn’t take the internal pain and conflict, the anxiety (although I did not know what to call it) was too much for me to bear. I started swallowing pills, anything I had… it was a pretty pathetic concoction and I got really sick. I panicked and I called my mom. Long story short, I ended up on the 6th Floor (the psychiatric unit) of a well known hospital in my home town. I was there for a month. It was November when I entered, and December when I left. I “celebrated” Thanksgiving there and I came home just before Christmas.
My second experience in a psych unit was just about 4 years ago. After enduring months of relentless chronic pain and learning of a new diagnosis, fibromyalgia, something snapped inside. Again, I turned to pills, but this time taking a more aggressive approach. And again, I ended up in a psychiatric unit. Another long story short, I wound up on the trauma unit of a particular psychiatric hospital in my metropolitan area, to spend a month as an inpatient.
As you may know, I am diagnosed with major depression, anxiety, and ptsd…but I am an on a path of wellness, most often dealing quite well with my health issues and working hard to keep it that way. I would say that 4 years post treatment, I am a success story. Although my story is very far from finished, and in many ways it begins new each day, I am, dare I say, “out of the woods” at this point in my life. Undeniably though, there is always the possibility of “relapse”.
So, when I saw this article here: “Peers bring hope to the mentally ill” I could not help but wish I could participate in something like it. The program described takes place in New York, where previous patients are being utilized to help current inpatients. Finally, some people are “getting it”…the great value of peers and the knowledge that peers have what sometimes quite educated professionals are lacking…the personal experience.
Having experience in a couple of different facilities as a mental health patient gives me a unique perspective, the “I know, I have been where you are and I made it through” kind of perspective. It’s a most valuable vantage point when those who are hospitalized are feeling all kinds of alone and frightened, not to mention hopeless and confused.
By no means are the professionals lacking in value, but the inclusion of peers in the treatment process seems to be invaluable. I hope more facilities will embrace this opportunity and provide a way for those who have previously received treatment to continue their healthy journey while providing a service to their patients.
Did you read the article? What do you think?