Last May, I was in the psychiatric unit of my university’s hospital. I was locked in, monitored every fifteen minutes, and not allowed to leave until a week later. This October, things were quite different. I went for a run with my friend on a trail with the hospital I once stayed in clearly in view.
It was a weird feeling, to be on a dirt path surrounded by trees, clouds, other people, and dogs, but also the hospital omnipresent through the branches. I kept looking up at it thinking about where I had been just five months ago.
I had been incredibly depressed, suicidal, and didn’t see a future for myself. Today I was healthy, future-oriented, and maybe even happy. I was making a choice to go outside and exercise. I was spending quality time with a friend. I was immersing myself in nature. I was coping.
While running (okay, there was a lot more walking then running), I kept thinking back to what it was like to look out from those locked hospital at the forest. We all yearned to go outside and breathe fresh air. I fortunately got to go outside twice while hospitalized, and I savored every single second before we went back to the unit. You don’t appreciate being outside until you no longer are allowed. Today, I felt incredibly grateful to now look up from the forest at those windows, instead of the other way around.
After just a few months, I am doing much better. It serves as a reminder that even when it feels hopeless, hope, no matter how small, still remains. As the author John Green says, “I’ve learned that there is hope, and when I feel like there isn’t hope my brain is lying to me.” By continuing treatment, using dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills, and making a choice to fight to be alive, it has gotten better.
That’s not to say it’s been a straight path up. I was hospitalized a second time in August, but it was a huge wake up call for me. I realized I didn’t want to keep living a life that was filled with crises, ER visits, hospitalizations, and misery. I wanted to fight to get better and really try my best in DBT therapy, instead of just going through the motions. I’m not convinced it hasn’t somewhat been the result of luck, but I have to say this change in mindset seems to have paid off.
And because I’m doing better now, I don’t have to keep going to the hospital. Instead, I can go outside whenever I want. I can run wherever I want. I can socialize with whoever I want.
I’m so grateful for fresh air, trees, friends, the sky, dirt, ladybugs, and the breeze.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.”
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar