How a Mental Hospital Saved My Life

By: Jordyn Sharp

To many people, mental hospitals are something seen in movies or a theme for a haunted house around Halloween time.  But for some of us, it’s a very real place.  A place that we don’t ever want to have to go to, but a place we sometimes need to go.  It’s a place for healing, just like any other hospital sections.  This is a positive place, but when there are so many stereotypes around it, it's hard to be willing to go to a Mental Hospital, because if you do, people might think that you’re crazy, or stop hanging out with you.  But why is this?  If someone needs to have surgery, and they're going to be in the hospital for a couple of weeks, no one thinks they're crazy.  People bring them flowers and balloons, they send them “get well soon” cards.  Why when it’s our mental health that needs fixing, everything is different?

September 28th to October 14th of 2015 I was in a program called Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP for short).  This is a day program for youth aged 13-17, and they would go from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm to get intense therapy for mental illnesses.  Even though I was going on six years on struggling with mental illnesses, this is a place I never thought I would end up.  It was a place I feared because in there, there is no putting on your happy face and pretending everything is okay.  You had to face these demons head on, and no one likes having to do that.  Little did I know that this place would forever change my life. 

There was about 10 people in my group for the two and a half weeks I was in the program.  Our group was always changing though, with people leaving and coming the whole time.  Every day we would have a little bit of a different schedule.  The first hour was always for us to work on our school work because even though our mental health was being put first, we still had a lot of school work too since we were missing about two weeks of school.  After that, we had check-in group, which was just a time where the therapist in charge of check-in that day would ask us questions about how the night before went.  They would ask us if we hurt ourselves the night before, and would ask us about how much we ate, and slept, things like that just to make sure that nothing bad happened while we were home.  

After that, the day was different every day.  We had yoga, art therapy, music therapy, a writing class, and DBT.  All these different therapy classes were so much fun and also so helpful.  The one class I was extremely worried about (and I later learned that almost everyone was their first day)  was yoga.  I have never done yoga before, and I am not flexible at all. My anxiety was so high thinking about having to do yoga in front of everyone. Once we started it was so much fun, and my anxiety was completely gone. We learned a lot of different ways to control our breathing for when we have an anxiety attack.  We did very simple things, that mainly focused on our breathing.  Then the last fifteen minutes of class, the yoga instructor would play calming music and we all laid on our yoga mats for a relaxing time.  Most of us ended up taking a nap.   

Another class I was worried about was Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), because I had no idea what it was. Basically, it was just a class for use to learn skills to cope with our everyday lives. Things like how to control an anxiety attack, alternatives to self-harming, numbers to call if we are having thoughts of suicide, and so many other helpful tips.  The other classes were more about us focusing on our feelings, and actually accepting that we were sick, and needed help.  DBT was usually towards the end of the day and the main focus was teaching how to handle our mental illnesses, and how to get better.

The last class of the day was check-out.  We were asked if were felt like we were going to hurt ourselves when we went home, if we felt safe to go home, and a word to describe our mood.  We also had to make a goal for the night.  Something to better yourselves. Maybe to talk to your parents about how as a family, the can help you get better, or to write down ten things you love about yourself. This was a great way to end our day.

People always ask me if PHP really helped me, or if It was just a fun break from school where I got to draw and play music.  They think that because I talk about it as a good place, I didn't take it seriously. The reality of it is, is that it was a great fun place, but at the same time, I cried myself to sleep some nights because everything felt too real. I was really in a mental hospital.  There were days I came home emotionally drained because I spent all day talking about my feelings. So yes, is was a fun time, a break from school, but it was also very challenging.  People ask me if I would go back if I could, just for fun.  My answer is always the same.  Going into a mental hospital is not fun.  I hope that I never have to go back because that means that I once again lost control of my life.  If I do however get to that point in my life again, then I will take that step, if I think I need to.

Going into a program like this may seem scary. It is scary. But I can honestly say that this program saved my life.  I was in a downward spiral, and I wasn't going to make it much longer living like this.  If you struggle/have struggled with mental illnesses you know that you aren't even really living. Your mental illness takes over your life. PHP gave me my life back.  I’m not going to lie, it took a while to get to where I am now.  Once I was out of PHP and back at school, it was an uphill battle the whole time to fully get better. PHP gave me the tools, and the confidence I needed to get better.  It also gave my friends, that I still talk to this day, over a year and a half later.  Getting better is a lot easier when you have people your age, going through similar experience there to help you get better.  If you feel like you need this help, please do not hesitate.  Mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of, they are out of your control.  Take this step to get better, to get your life back. 

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