No, I'm Not Ashamed to Be the "Girl Who Went to the Hospital"

I remember the moment I knew: hospital bracelet on my wrist, needle in my veins, and a pastel, cotton gown covering my naked body—I was sick. And more importantly, I was, and forever would be, the “girl who went to the hospital.”

Growing up, mental health was a ground to tread on lightly. Depression wasn’t talked about over casual dinners. Mental illnesses took a back seat to the physical wounds of broken arms and sprained ankles. Therapy sessions were simply dirty laundry, to be kept in the back of our metaphorical closets—and it all seemed blissfully normal.

Though I had combatted anxiety for longer than I could remember, I had no problem rolling my eyes at the mental health epidemic that was unfolding around me. I gladly joined the crowd of scoffs, and all the voices that assured me that, “depression could be fixed with a positive attitude.” It didn’t matter that I had spent hours in therapy. It didn’t matter that I had spent years looking for the right medication, and had painstakingly tread through the side effects of every big name anti-depressant from Prozac to Zoloft. I was truly convinced that, “sucking it up,” was my best option, and there was no one else to blame for my anxiety than myself.

For the better part of my diagnosis, I continued with this attitude. Only few knew of my after-school therapy visits, the little orange pill I took at night, and the sound of my uneven breaths during a panic attack—and I had no problem keeping it that way. That was until I found myself looking into the eyes of an emergency-room nurse, forced to tell her that I wanted to kill myself, fearful that if I didn’t, she would be the last person I ever looked in the eye.

And before I knew it, I went from star-student to psych ward patient. One minute I felt like I had a managed to balance the whole world on my shoulders—work, an almost perfect GPA, an editor position of a magazine, and two internships on the side. The next, I was eating hospital cafeteria food, rating my mood from one-to-ten, and spending my days completing “mindfulness coloring pages.” In an instant my life could be summarized by the ever-so-brief sentiment of “oh, how the mighty have fallen.”

While there are still some days that I am embarrassed to be the “girl that was in the hospital,” I know that if I hide my diagnosis, and my story, I am only feeding into the culture that tells us sweep mental illness under the rug. And I refuse to play any part in that. So no, I am not waving around my illness for attention, or sympathy. And to be quite frank, I don’t want the awe’s and I’m sorry’s. I want people to recognize mental illness for what it is: a serious problem. Even more so, I want the world around me to stop devaluing mental health, and instead, give it the recognition it deserves.

My name is Kiana. I was a psych ward patient, and I am not ashamed. I have accepted my diagnosis. I received the very treatment I needed. And yes, I can still laugh at myself. I am not afraid to make jokes about being the “crazy psych patient,” but I am also not afraid to take the stigma of mental health head on. 

Sources: 1 , 2 , 3