Don’t Glamorize Mental Illness

“stop romanticizing things that hurt”

The following is a rant-introduction draft that I’m working on for my memoir project.  It still needs some work, obviously, but it’s a valuable start.

Putting a teenager in a psychiatric hospital is, in a word, problematic.  I’ve heard accusations that claim it’s not real life; it’s easy to fix problems in a controlled environment, but that it’s not representative of what those problems look like outside of a hospital setting.  I’m here today because, as it turns out, it’s not so easy to fix something a delicate as your mind, even in a controlled setting.  And, let me tell you, there are very few things that are “controlled” in an adolescent unit.

I, for one, needed the break from real life.  And if I needed it, I’m not the only one.  But it wasn’t the first choice.  Aside from drastic events such as virtually out-of-nowhere suicide attempts, hospitalization should be the last resort.  By the time I got to the hospital, I felt like I had exhausted my capacity for life.  I was a freshman in high school and had been battling untreated, misdiagnosed mental illness for years.

I’d like to tell you that I entered the white walls of the hospital and things were instantly washed clean, but if that were true, I wouldn’t have spent months of my time in and out of lock-up, in outpatient therapy groups, and in one-on-one therapy after I finally reached the point where I no longer needed inpatient intervention.  If everything had been washed clean, I wouldn’t be writing all of this out for you.

None of this is glamorous.  Facts are facts: I was so down for so long that I wanted to be dead. None of this is quirky, or cute.  The media tends to do this to stories of mental illness, but there is nothing desirable or romantic about hospital gowns and not being allowed to shave your legs and waking up at eight in the morning to stand in line for some pills.  There’s nothing hauntingly beautiful about deciding that you have nothing left to offer this world.  Don’t make this into something it’s not.

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