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Reflections upon being discharged from the psych hospital
Sometimes what is most healing is just to have been through. I am on the path of the wounded healer. Every trial is an offering; every survival, a gift to give. I am convinced that education, too, is a form of care and healing: the growth in (un)learning, the recovery in each return. Sometimes what is most healing is just to be among. Without identity, my heart draws me towards affinity, the affine, lines parallel to that which crosses the origin of my angst, my amour. My kindred spirits know me better than I think myself. Yet my own genius, the originating, knows me better than all else. When kin doth kindle inner Light, I am becoming. Sometimes, what is most healing is just to pause and wait. What lies dormant within me, to (re)awaken today, tomorrow, someday? What dreams may my dozing spirit-parts live, unbeknownst to "I," and gift me in their wake? What madness roams my spirit and makes it roar and rave: at full moon in midnight, amidst light and dark, in the fiery margins of life and death? What tears may I coax and crave, the life-loving waters of grief? Where there is loss, there is love, and where there is love, there's life. My soul knows, blind as Tiresias, my way, my Dao. I step forward, heart heavy yet full.
Today I was discharged from a psych hospital, after a 10 day stay. Although in many areas of life, I had been highly functional, I had also been spiraling into crisis. So my therapist requested that I be hospitalized, and I consented.
This was my third time in a psych hospital; I was hospitalized twice in 2021, when I was intensely struggling with gender identity confusion. My first stay was actively traumatizing; the hospital, Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital, was transphobic and generally antagonistic towards patients. The second, at Sun Behavioral Health in Delaware, at least provided some needed respite, but did not actively contribute much to my healing and growth. This time, I was in the LGBTQ unit at Malvern Behavioral Health in Philly, and my experience was much more positive. I was not only accepted for who I was, but also actively supported — by both staff and fellow patients — in practicing and learning coping strategies and working towards long-term healing.
(I am mentioning the names of the hospitals I’ve been in so that other people may know in case they find themselves needing to be hospitalized. If you have a psychiatric advance directive, you can list on it hospitals you would prefer to go to and hospitals you would prefer not to go to. That can be useful in the ER where they otherwise send you to the first hospital they find that has space.)
I also did a lot of work independently, in my journal and through artistic practices. I wrote poetry (including the poem that begins this post), journaled about my feelings, sang songs, created visual art, penciled letters to Self-Doubt and Bipolar (oddly, we were allowed to use short and pointy golf pencils, but not pens) — sometimes simply to pass the time, but often also to connect with my intuition and self-guidance. I connected both casually and deeply with my neuroqueer kin; almost everyone was very eager to get to know one another and to support one another when any of us struggled; several of us have planned to connect “on the outside” as well. Now my spirit feels full, and I am ready to restart at life.
I think it is remarkable that I eventually accessed a deeper vein of healing, for actually in my first few days at the hospital, I got worse. The night prior to admission, I had not taken my meds, and the first night at the hospital, my usual meds apparently had not yet arrived at the nurse’s office. Skipping at least two days of meds can cause me to become manic, and that’s exactly what happened the following day, and it was particularly bad. Luckily, I got on new meds that night — I requested to have my medications changed to less soporific ones than what I took before hospitalization — and that soon settled me down.
Yet I think that actually in a way, I needed that brief experience of terribly dysphoric and agitated mania to ground me in the reality of my illness and thus give me a stronger foundation for healing. Since early this summer, I repeatedly got angry at my meds and would stop taking them for a few days, feeling like I did not need them, or just not wanting them to make me sleepy. I wondered if the (hypo)mania that would happen when I stopped taking my meds was merely a withdrawal response rather than “rebound symptoms” of bipolar.
Even this spring, it wasn’t clear whether or not my bipolar diagnosis was accurate; my college psychiatrist took the stance of not making a diagnostic decision of any sort. I had come to an understanding of my Madness and Neurodivergence independently of DSM/ICD labels, describing myself as a dynamic and intense person of yin and yang. Thus I didn’t want to now be confronted with “bipolar disorder,” health-wise or identity-wise, and I felt irritated at having to take meds. My irregularity with the meds caused me to be unstable and may have contributed to my crisis.
Thus, I wrote a letter to Bipolar. In the dining room were instruction sheets left over from a group that must have happened before I arrived. The instructions were for writing letters addressed to your “problem,” however you defined it. I liked the prompt and decided to write one to my Self-Doubt and one to my Bipolar. By writing to Bipolar, I coaxed myself to fully acknowledge its presence while also embracing the complexity I feel towards my Madness and Neurodivergence. It’s not all illness, but it is a dangerous gift that Madness bears.
You are new to me. When did you first plant your feet at the door of my mind? I don’t know for sure, and that’s okay. All I know is that you’re here now, and you’re here to stay.
I welcome you, my flame-ful friend. And yet I will not give myself up to your devilish powers.
I take meds because I want to love you for your gifts, the intensity, creativity, and brightness that you impart to my personality. The only way I can embrace your gifts is to calm your conflagrations. Fire is excellent in a fireplace or underneath a pot of soup, but not in my bed, and not in my garden. Fire can also reinvigorate the grasslands, and now you have reinvigorated me, allowing me to restart. But too much of you destroys the ecosystem, endangers my life.
I have always had a fiery personality. And as ND Stevenson wrote, The Fire Never Goes Out. I love you, fire. I will not let you destroy me.
More to come relating to mental health and my personal healing. May you find peace and healing in your own journey, however it meanders.