Finding Inspiration in a Mental Hospital
Tuesday, September 5 2017 Hannah Blum
Inspiration? A mental hospital? It would not surprise me if you had to read the title of this blog post twice.
In my story living with bipolar 2 disorder, these words are connected in a meaningful way. The inspiration I found trumps the negative parts of my experience at the mental hospital.
I found inspiration in four other patients, our bond, and their stories. In this blog post, I am going to share my experience with one in particular. To respectfully maintain her privacy, I will refer to her as Susan.
Inspired by a Young Girl with Schizophrenia
I was 19 years old when I was involuntarily placed in a mental hospital and diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. I met Susan, a 13-year-old girl who lived with schizophrenia. On paper, Susan and I are completely different. She is African American, raised by her grandmother, and came from a poverty stricken household. I am White, raised by both a mother and father, from a middle-class home. However, Susan and I had one major thing in common. We both struggled with a mental health condition that landed us in a psychiatric hospital at the same time.
We had an instant connection and in the short period we were roommates, built a strong friendship. Susan always wanted to play the role of the listener. She had little experience in life outside of a mental hospital and her circumstances prevented her from being a typical teenager.
The part of my life Susan wanted to hear about the most pertained to the drama of high school. She loved when I described my high school crushes, prom festivities, weekend parties and all the other things you think are meaningless as you get older. However, there was so much meaning behind those experiences for Susan because she had spent years in and out of the psychiatric hospital.
I encouraged her to live out that experience in her imagination and share with me the stories she gathered. Until the day I was released, Susan talked to me about her dreams of the future, not as an adult, but as a teenager living a high school dream.
The Mental Hospital: The Effect of Stigma Up Close and Personal
The mental hospital was where I saw the impact of mental health stigma (bipolar stigma) up close. The way it prevents capable and gifted individuals from flourishing and living an authentic life. I did not plan on sharing my experience living with bipolar 2 disorder, but after I came forward a couple of years ago, I realized that my stay in the mental hospital is where sharing my story went from a sacrifice to an obligation.
The negative impact of stigma sat with me and the anger I felt increased over time. The thought of people, such as Susan, not being able to thrive in life due to the ignorance of others fueled my fire.
Thankful for Finding Inspiration in a Mental Hospital
Every person you meet along your journey has some purpose, whether good or bad. I did not come forward about bipolar 2 disorder as a kind gesture; I did it with an overall objective that would benefit those struggling with mental illness, society and myself. The individuals I met at the mental hospital and their stories are what keep me humble and dedicated to the cause. Finding inspiration in a mental hospital is not easy, but it is when you are fortunate enough to meet a person like Susan.
It is important to know that everyone's experience in a mental hospital is different, and unfortunately, many people have extremely negative memories. This problem is something that I hope we can change about the mental health care system in the future.