What I Learned in the Psych Ward

Around the Way Ness
5 min readOct 23, 2019

When I went for the first follow up appointment with my therapist a week after being released from the psychiatric unit, she told me she was proud that I got help and that at our last visit, two months prior, she had wrestled with the idea of calling the police after I left and having them come to my house. I was suffering from suicidal ideations and I was 7 months pregnant.

During my first trimester, an overzealous nurse practitioner working in the women’s clinic discontinued my anti-depressants and chastised me into quitting cold turkey. I had had two children previously, but I didn’t start taking anti-depressants until my youngest was about 6 months old. I had taken them for 2 and ½ years before I got pregnant and the pregnancy was unplanned. I was in unchartered territory. Fearing for my baby’s well-being and terrified of the harm I could be causing, I didn’t give it a second thought. A sounder and more rational me would have done some research but heightened emotions and guilt will turn the best of us into fools.

A few months into cold turkey, I started having severe mood swings. This was far outside of the range of the usual pregnancy hormones. I could feel rage coursing through me. The feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness ran rampant. I imagined driving and being hit by a truck, the impact enough to kill me but spare my children. I didn’t want to take my own life because I loved them, but I wouldn’t mind being dead and being removed from the psychic pain I was in. Depression, for those who are unaware, is deeper than sadness. It is a hollowness that eats you from the inside out. My life feels as if I am wearing dirty glasses and earmuffs when I am depressed. Nothing is clear and everything is muffled, except for the deep ache in my heart. I begged a psychiatrist to put me back on medication. My previous psychiatrist had left and in his place was a woman who knew nothing about me. She prescribed me Zoloft, despite my constant protests that it hadn’t worked for me in the past. I tried it and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. The more I begged to be heard, the quieter my rationale became. Now things that seemed like last resorts were starting to feel more and more like the obvious choice. I was becoming suicidal.

I pressed forward, hoping I could survive until my baby was born. Some days I imagined having him and falling, conveniently and immediately, out of a window. I just wanted peace. About two weeks before delivery, I got into an argument that triggered my PTSD. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was shutting down. My oldest child came to me for something and I yelled at him so loud I could feel his teeth rattle. When I looked in his eyes, I could see his fear and that was the moment I knew I had to do something. I called my parents and I told them I had to drop the boys off and I needed to get help. My mom, who usually says no, must’ve heard something in my voice because she said, “bring them.” I drove to my parent’s house sobbing. I didn’t want the boys to think that it was their fault, so I explained that my heart and head were a little sick and I needed to go to the doctor to get it checked out. I dropped them off and raced over to the hospital. There were no parking spots, so I pulled up on the lawn and parked. My dad would later say that he didn’t realize the severity of what I was going through until he and my husband went to pick up my van later that day and saw how I had parked. All I know is that I needed to get in so I parked where there was space and I marched in. I was shaking.

I knew in my heart that I had reached a crossroads. More importantly, I knew from my past that I was looking into the abyss. In 2007, I had a suicide attempt. I knew how dark my thoughts could get and I was determined not to go back down that path. The receptionists in the mental health component of the hospital could see my agitation and got me in the back to speak to a psychologist almost immediately after arriving. The psychologist recommended I do a 72-hour inpatient stay with round the clock monitoring. I agreed and asked could I call my husband. I was terrified of how he would feel, of hearing his disappointment in me. When he answered and I told him where I was and what was going on, he said something I will never forget. My husband told me “Baby, you fought as hard and as long as you could. I’m proud you’re getting help and I love you.” At that moment, a weight was lifted off me. I felt free. I turned in my jewelry and phone to the intake nurse. Some moments I cried from sorrow and other moments I cried from joy- joy that for the first time in my life, I had fought for me. There were moments when I was incredibly ashamed to be there and I feared that the nurses were judging me and probably thinking I was a terrible mother to feel the way I felt. One day, a nurse came in and while she was taking my vitals she told me she was truly impressed with me and that she thought my boys were lucky to have me. She went on to tell me that her mother committed suicide when she was a child and that she wished she would’ve gotten help. That day, I stopped caring if people knew. I stopped wondering what they were thinking. I realized all that mattered was that I did what I had to do to survive. At about the 48-hour point, the doctors decided that with counseling and medication, I would be fine. For the first time in almost 9 months, I felt like an actual human being.

Sometime after I was released, my husband told me he felt that he hadn’t loved me enough. I was quick to tell him that “if his love was all it took, I would’ve been cured”. It took 22 years of depression, three failed suicide attempts (two before the age of 11), two sons (the third was born healthy two weeks after my release), and six years of marriage to learn how to fight for my life. I’m grateful for my stay in the psychiatric ward. For the first time in my life, I had finally mustered up enough self-worth to fight for me. That had never been an option before but since that moment, that’s all that I know.

Dedicated to my fellow semi-colons.

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Around the Way Ness

Both a keeper and a weeper. A writer, a wife, a mother. A former, yet forever, librarian. Currently, a mental health therapist and an adjunct instructor.