I've been in a bit of a TED talk craze lately, so forgive me for referencing one for the second time this week. Lessons from the Mental Hospital by Glennon Doyle Melton made me laugh and cry and wonder if this woman somehow hacked into my own brain. Minus a few details, our stories are freakishly similar.
My eating disorder went through several different phases - from restricting to binging to purging to maybe eating somewhat normally here and there only to end up purging some more. Technically I was diagnosed with anorexia due to my dangerously low weight at the time of admission to treatment, but could have been diagnosed with several other things as well. For the final six months or so before entering treatment, my life was nearly identical to Melton's college years:
"The sun rose everyday and I started binging and purging, and when the sun set, I drank myself stupid. The sunrise is usually people's signal to get up, but it was my signal everyday to come down. To come down from the booze... I could not come down. That was to be avoided at all costs. So I hated the sunrise. I'd close the blinds and put the pillows over my head. While my spinning brain would torture me about the people that were going out into the day, into the light, to make relationships and pursue their dreams and have a day. And I had no day. I only had night."
Like Melton, I was a disaster. My life had been ruined. Thankfully, however, I was admitted to a short term mental hospital for four weeks to stabilize my health before my six month stay in treatment. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, I can now see those first four weeks in the mental hospital forever changed my life.
Don't get me wrong being admitted to a hospital for mental issues isn't the most fun I have ever had; however, for the first time in my entire life it felt like the people around me were speaking my language. Without knowing the details of each individual story, I could sense similar pain and frustration begging for relief and understanding. The people I met in the mental hospital taught me more about myself and this big, scary world than I will ever learn in a classroom.
Public speaking is not my favorite thing in the world. In fact, those of you who know me well know I'm not a real big talker in general. But for some strange reason, every time I go back to my treatment center to guest speak or just simply being in that group therapy setting, I feel at ease. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I have been through these struggles is so I could find a place where I feel connected to those around me... Even if it is in a mental hospital or treatment facility with "crazy" people.
"I still get very high and very low in life. Daily. But I've finally accepted the fact that sensitive is just how I was made. That I don't have to hide it and I don't have to fix it, I'm not broken. And I've actually started to wonder if you're sensitive too? Maybe you feel great pain and deep joy but you just don't feel safe talking about it in the real world. So now instead of trying to make myself tougher, I write and I serve people to help create a world where sensitive people don't need super hero capes. Where we can all come out into the big scary world and just be humans."
I love that for so many different reasons. Why have I grown up believing being sensitive and having feelings is somehow wrong or unacceptable? Most of the people in my life feel most like themselves on a baseball field and always thought I was wrong for not feeling the same way. I feel most like myself in a mental health setting, and although it has taken me awhile to get here, I can finally see my stay in the mental hospital wasn't such a bad thing after all.