“We’re going to have to admit you. I’m going to make a call, just prepare yourself because you could leave in the next day or so.”
This is what I was told by a psychologist just after spending a few minutes in her office. Scared, confused and emotional. I looked at her as if she was telling me that I was a crazy person. “Is my case that bad that a psychologist’s solution was to refer me to a psychiatric hospital? Can’t we sort this out in a few sessions?” Well, I guess not.
You see, five years ago I was raped by a stranger. I spoke about my story here. This is the same situation that led me to a psychologist’s office in 2017 because I felt as though my life was falling apart.
Things had gotten so bad that I was a mess all the time. I was crying everywhere – at work, in my car, at church and at home. As much as I thought I’d dealt with the emotional scars that come with being a rape survivor, it turns out, I had barely scratched the surface. You see, publicly opening up about my experience resulted in a lot of people reaching out to me and sharing their own painful experiences. Their emails touched me so much and I wanted to be there for all of them, to tell them that everything would be fine and that they will overcome.
So now there I was, responding to emails and encouraging others who had faced a similar situation. Meanwhile, I was asking myself: “who is pouring into me while I’m pouring into all these people.” This left me so empty and things just went downhill from there. I felt like a fraud. I was telling others that they’d be fine, while I was dying inside. I was a mess.
It was time to do something about it. I prayed one of the most emotional prayers of my life. I said: “Lord, please heal me. Do whatever it takes to heal these emotional scars.” I even wrote this prayer on a sticky note and stuck it on my bathroom mirror.
About two weeks later I found myself in a psychologist’s office and she referred me to a psychiatric hospital, which now, looking back, was exactly what I needed.
Before being admitted, I had all kinds of ideas about this kind of hospital. I had negative expectations and even believed that I was too “normal” to be in such an environment. I then drove myself there and I was crying all the way. However, when I arrived I was so surprised. The place was beautiful, clean, it had “normal-looking” people just like me and it was peaceful. So what was the big fuss all about? I guess it all comes with not having enough knowledge.
I was then taken to my room – there were three other people in the room and they were all much, much older than me. Two were old enough to be my mother, while the other one was old enough to be my grandmother. These women were all dealing with pain – whether it was the loss of a partner of more than 40 years, or being unhappy in marriage. It was so hard to take it all in.
There’s something about depression that makes you feel like you’re alone and that nobody cares or understands what you’re going through. But you see, being in that hospital made me realise that that is one big lie! You are never alone, no matter what your situation might look like.
I suddenly felt like for the first time, I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what I was experiencing. I could talk about my pain and no one would judge me, or suggest that I was exaggerating my feelings or pain. I met so many amazing people – young working professionals and older people (black and white) who, just like me, had found themselves at a breaking point in their lives.
Here’s what I learned:
You are never alone
No matter what you’re going through, just know that there’s another person who’s gone through the same experience and has felt exactly what you’re feeling. I know this doesn’t make it better or even make the pain disappear, but it’s good to know that there’s someone out there who understands exactly how you’re feeling and what you’re going through.
Healing comes in waves
There’s this quote I found on the internet a while ago. It says: “Healing comes in waves, and maybe today the wave hits the rocks, and that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” For me, this means that days are not the same. One day you’re in a good mood and you’re happy, and the next day you’re feeling like your world is falling apart. And that it absolutely fine.
They say healing is a process, and this is very true. You should allow yourself to feel everything that comes, whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger, or whatver. Feel it. Stay in the feeling. Don’t run away from it. Don’t try to distract yourself from it. Feel it and then let it pass. Cry if you have to. Scream if you must. Do whatever it takes and feel what you need to feel. Trust me, this is all part of the healing process. Healing is uncomfortable, that much I can tell you. But it is necessary.
Acknowledge and accept what you went through
The first time I shared my incident with the psychologist at the hospital, she said something that I hadn’t realised. “You went through something so terrible and the way you’re telling your story is so casual. Why? You have detached yourself from the story,” she said. And she was right. After our session, I went to my room, got my journal and started writing. My intention was to understand why I was showing absolutely no emotion about what I had gone through. And then it hit me: I still had not accepted it. It was as if the incident never happened and that’s why it was so easy for me to talk about it like I was talking about drinking a glass of water – something that happens everyday. This, it turns out, was my brain’s way of dealing with what happened to me.
I started crying uncontrollably. I had to go back (in my mind) to the day when it all happened, watch the whole thing, acknowledge and accept that it did happen, and that it was no my fault. I think the fact that I accepted that it had happened somehow changed something in my brain. I don’t know how to explain it, but all I can say is that from that day forward, things changed for the better.
Don’t be ashamed
I think a lot of people who go through traumatic experiences feel as if talking about it is embarrassing. However, I feel that the more you own your story, and talk about it, the more powerful you become. The incident doesn’t and should never define you. Speaking about it also helps with your healing and it also makes you realise that you’re not alone. Also, by sharing your story you’re also encouraging and empowering others to share their stories. Don’t let shame silence you. Speak up, you never know who you might help in the process.
It gets better
I wish I had taken before and after pictures of me when I arrived at the psychiatric hospital and when I left the place two weeks later. Oh, the difference! I went in there feeling hopeless. I honestly no longer saw the point of living, life just felt like one big disaster that needed to end. However, this changed as I spent more time there. We had regular sessions with psychiatrists and psychologists and were taught so much about wellness. I felt empowered and I was hopeful again. And I’m not just saying this, I really mean it.
That place changed my life so much that I would recommend it to anyone who is going through a tough time right now. I’d say take a break from work or whatever you’re busy with, and make healing a priority. We go through so many things in our lives and we never really take time to deal with things and heal because “life goes on”. Yes, life does go on, but that doesn’t make the pain or scars go away. The only way to deal with pain is to face it. There are no short cuts to healing, unfortunately. In the end, you will be fine. It will get better. Trust me.