I was asked the other day what my most influential life moment was. Without even thinking I said “when I spent 3 days in a mental hospital”. It is an experience you never forget and you never stop being influenced by.
Today is the 5 year anniversary of my admittance to Hyland Behavioral Health for suicidal ideation and severe depression.
I remember that Monday morning like it was yesterday. Just two days prior, I had gotten all dressed up and attended my high school best friend, Sarah’s, wedding. I took photos, danced, and cheered along with everyone else. You would have never known that I was quietly dying inside. But looking back at photos now, I can see the despair in my eyes. The sadness and the void that I was desperately trying to fill. Back then though, I thought I was masking it well. (If you don’t know the full story of my mental hospital stay, you can read it here.
I have been mentally preparing myself for this day for weeks – not being sure of how I was going to feel or what my mental state would be reflecting on the lowest point in my life. And now that the day is here, mentally I’m fine. Physically, I’m exhausted. My body remembers the trauma.
Just a few days ago, I found out that Sarah and her husband are expecting their first child (while I am getting divorced and starting so many things in my life over again.) Purely coincidental that some of the happiest moments in her life coincided with some of the saddest points in mine but it definitely got me thinking about the state of my life and where I was five years ago vs where I am now.
So many things have happened in my life in the last 5 years, good , bad, and ugly. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Perfection is a social construct. Let it go. – You will never be perfect. No matter how hard you try. So stop trying. Embrace your flaws and imperfections because they make you who you are.
2. It’s ok to walk away from things that no longer serve you. – Deciding to get a divorce was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I worried about how it would look or what people would think. But ultimately, my mental health and peace was more important that other peoples’ perceptions. And it’s turning out to be one of the best decisions I could have made.
3. When the chips are down, you will learn who really has your back. – Simply put, everyone ain’t your friend. Learn what box to put people in. Sometimes it will take a bad situation to help you do that but when you feel it, take note.
4. Admitting that you need help makes you stronger. – The perception that asking for help makes you weak is a lie. Ask for what you need. Don’t struggle in silence.
5. A good glass of wine makes any day better. – This one is self explanatory. I wouldn’t have survived half of my hardest days without wine.
My therapist asked me this week if I could go back in time and redo things, would I change it.
My answer? No.
Of course I would not have chosen to go through that experience but the lessons and growth I have also experienced are irreplaceable and continue to influence my life to this day.
So here’s to those life experiences that grow us, that we don’t want to ever repeat but that will live with us forever. May we never forget what they taught us.