In the Spotlight: John M
I never really understood the gravity of my actions that could be deemed as “self-destructive”. I was aware of the consequences, yes, but not the depth of them. I acknowledged and accepted those consequences, but I lacked the understanding of their effects on myself and other people. Drinking liquor when I’m on medications, being passive even though I’m being mentally and emotionally assaulted, isolating myself when I should be with people, dissociating, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Growing up undiagnosed and without access to mental health care and support, I’ve learned and developed - even nurtured - these coping mechanisms. I am still in the ever-evolving, never-ending process of unlearning these ways to cope, even though I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for over half a decade now. And if it wasn’t for the causality of an incident, incidents rather, that made me realize, and then finally fully understand the weight of my self-destructive behaviour, I wouldn’t have gotten my life back on the right track. I wouldn’t have had the epiphany I had in the psychiatric ward that I have got to take my own mental health care even more seriously. I stepped up.
Two years ago, I was committed to a hospital’s psychiatric ward for an overdose, a suicide attempt. It was the second attempt in less than 48 hours. On the first night, I remember not really wanting to die - I just wanted the feeling of absolute loneliness and the void in my chest to cease to exist. I was awash with a sense of desperation that I lost control of, effectively allowing the depression to fully take over every fibre of my being. The reason for the second attempt was, for a long while, a question mark that bothered me. My psychiatrist later posited that it was the effect of the Alprazolam I overdosed on the night before wearing off, plunging my mood to dangerous levels.
I woke up from that second overdose, in my bed, with immediate regret hanging over my head. Hours later, I was in the hospital emergency room. And half a day later, despite being told that I was to be transferred to a private room, I found myself in a bed being wheeled into the blue double doors of that hospital’s psych ward. It was the dead of the night and at that moment, I realized that it was what needed to happen, that I needed to be there. I didn’t fight my fate, nor did I have any misgivings on what may happen when I get out. It wasn’t resignation, mind you, but an acceptance and understanding that, yes, I needed help. That I need help. And I’ll always need help.
While I was in the psych ward, there was a sense of feeling that I belonged there. I was surrounded by people with similar conditions and backstories that, I will admit, piqued my near-obsessive interest in psychology and the human condition. In hindsight, it also appealed to my preference for structure and a stable ecosystem that I didn’t have in my life. That feeling of belonging inside there lasted for a long time, and I had to train my thoughts to rest in the uneasy comfort that I belonged out here in the world. Despite the comfort and solace that I found in the structure and stability of the ward, which in itself is its own world, I had to reassure myself that my place is in this world where I am now. I had to remind myself that I can learn to take care of my mental health much better out here.
That’s the ultimate lesson that I learned with my experience in the ward: that by completely understanding every action that I do and their effects on this world, and on every aspect of myself especially, I can tend to myself better.
Which means that I am one step closer to recovery.
Every step counts, after all.