I am writing after having spent the last two months in a treatment centre for mental health. I did not have a crisis that led me there; well, I did, but it was a long time ago. I had been on the waitlist for this particular program for about four and a half years (the joys of no money and no insurance!), after having spent a short time in another unit at the same place back in 2006, after my first suicide attempt. I filled out referral forms every six months to keep my name on the list, had doctors call the treatment centre each time I was admitted to the psych ward in my hometown’s hospital, made frequent phone calls to the admitting department, and, after moving back to Guelph, began simply showing up in their office to demand they let me in. After a brief visit to the ER this winter, and two months in a not-entirely-useful outpatient program, my name finally came up. They gave me six days notice. I came back from a trip to Chicago for their annual zinefest, slept just a tiny bit, and checked myself in early the next morning.
I’m not going to write about my time at the hospital; I’m still processing it, and right now, there’s a lot I want to keep to myself. What I do want to write about is the transformation I feel I am currently undergoing, and daily life “on the outside”, after having only been out for a short time. Whenever I am hospitalized, I expect myself to emerge a new person. This has happened, but unfortunately, it rarely lasts. Depression creeps in. Lethargy takes over. I get totally jazzed about stuff like early mornings and bike rides and exercising and finding reasons to live. And then it just fizzles out. That kind of enthusiasm just never lasts.
For awhile, I was very bitter about the amount of time I had to wait to be admitted. I thought that if I had only been admitted to the program within a few months instead of a few years, all this terrible shit that had happened in the meanwhile would never have happened. That may be true. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been homeless that winter, wouldn’t have become a full-fledged alcoholic, wouldn’t have attempted suicide again and again, wouldn’t have become the horrible person I know I was back then. But maybe not. Maybe it would have happened anyway. I’m inclined to believe the latter. Even had I been admitted within a reasonable period of time, I know that I would have been extremely resistant to what they were trying to teach me. I would have scoffed at the very word “recovery.” I would have continued to destroy myself no matter what.
Right now, that just-outta-the-hospital enthusiasm is still bubbling within me. I am getting out of bed early in the morning, drinking yummy coffee, spending an hour stretching and exercising while listening to community radio, tending to all the plants I have recently gathered, showering, going outside, and keeping my apartment neat and tidy. I am having some really good days, I’m eating healthy food, I am paying attention to each moment instead of ruminating on the past and worrying about the future, and I am making plans. But it’s only been a few days. I know my history, and I’m not sure if I can keep this up forever, but I will try to do it for as long as I can, and if I can no longer keep it up, I’ll have to figure out where to go from there.
Over the years, I became absolutely entwined with my identity as a person I’ve begun to call “Hospital Girl.” I recently did a bit of an inventory of myself, attempting to name all the people I could feel inside me, so I could begin to have some conversations with them and put those pieces together into one whole being. I am still working on it, but I am much further along that path than I’ve ever been. There was Hospital Girl, the girl who is in and out of these damned places all the time, pretty much unable to get better since she relies on her own sickness to know who she is and doesn’t trust herself to take care of herself consistently. I also found The Goth Girl, The Journaller/Documenter, The Writer, The Angry Feminist, The Outdoorsy One, The Agoraphobic, The Genderless, and others… and more are lurking in there, I’m sure, currently unnamed. And everyday since I named them, I’ve been imagining them meshing into one person, Maranda, and no longer acting as though they are separate, unwanted, broken, bitter. I have this image in my mind of all them holding hands in a magical forest and meshing into one person, finally. It might sound silly, but it’s true. So I guess that’s one of my current ongoing projects – not tangible, like other projects, but a core aspect of what I’m going through right now.
Where was a I going with that? Oh yeah. The waitlist. Everything Happens for a Reason. I understand that now. I know the system is fucked up and a waitlist that long simply should not exist, but I also know that my stay at the treatment centre came at the perfect time in my life, and that I was not at all ready for this back in 2006 – I was an entirely different person, naïve and lost and trapped, and no one could have helped me. Everything that is happening now is happening just when it is supposed to, and I am having all these wonderful realizations about myself and my life that I would not have been able to understand and accept when I was, say, twenty-one. And now I am finally becoming the person I am supposed to be.
Somebody asked me if I thought I’d end up back in the hospital. I don’t know. I know that I don’t want to. I was very grateful to be in the program I was in, but by the end of it, I was sick of that place. Sick of the grey walls, the awkward bed, the lack of control over my own schedule. Sick of lining up at the med counter, sharing bathrooms with fifty people, eating in the cafeteria. But at the same time, all those things and more were exactly what I needed. The hospital got me back on track: it gave me a safe(r) place to sleep, a routine, three meals a day, people to talk to, and a hell of a lot of information. But I’m done with it. I’m ready to use these skills in what we call the Real World, in my own home and in my own life, and I don’t want to wear that plastic bracelet again for a long, long time.
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