Name: Nathan Dlugopolski
*This article contains dialogue on the topics of suicide. If you are having active thoughts of suicide and/or self-injury text "TALK" to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your life matters and you are not alone.*
My Life In A Mental Health Residential Treatment Facility
I wrote this story for The Odyssey Online a little less than a year ago when I was in treatment at the facility. This is the story of my stay.
This place is hope, and hope is NOT a prison.
Making the choice to leave the familiar comforts of home, family, friends, and social media behind for two months of intense therapeutic care was not a choice I made gleefully. However, it is a decision that was ultimately necessary. When your life is quite literally "on the line," you've got to be willing to fight for yourself and give yourself a chance for something better.
My name is Nathan. I'm 20 years old and I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and attention-deficit disorder. I've spent the past three years of my life attending college and working full-time in the summer. This year, in 2019, I'm spending two to three months of my life away from all of that, and instead, I am currently living in a residential mental health treatment center for mood disorders. After having gone to inpatient care twice over a period of two months, I decided that I needed a full reset on life. I needed a place where I could finally shut everything out and focus solely on my well-being.
When I arrived at the hospital complex about three weeks ago, I had one million different thoughts, fears, and "what if's" cycling through my mind.
"Will this really help me? Am I strong enough to do this? What if I don't fit in? What if I hate it here? What if this doesn't help me?"
However, as I went through the check-in process, some of these fears began to fade away and turn into a newfound sense of reassurance. Every staff member I encountered was incredibly friendly, supportive, and clearly enjoyed their job. Once I finished check-in, I was taken to the residential building to meet my fellow residents.
As before, anxiety was still coursing through my mind of body. The staff made my introduction to the other residents upon arrival and I was then shown to my room. All the residents helped me get acquainted with the new environment and alien surroundings. I cannot explain just how kind and helpful everyone was to me, I knew at that moment that this was a place for safety, compassion, support, and growth.
A lot of people make the assumption that those in residential care are incapable of higher-function or cannot live in the outside world without 24/7 care. After nearly three weeks of living here, I can unequivocally say that these assumptions are dead wrong. This group of humans are some of the most intelligent, creative, empowered, and capable people I have ever met.
When one resident leaves, we all line up to give hugs and say our goodbyes. When a new resident arrives, we are nothing but open-hearted, helpful, and inviting. We are all here to learn and grow and take our lives back. We all have our own unique stories and experiences, and we are all individuals with mental health struggles. We are also all warriors and we choose to battle our demons head-on, despite the pain each of us feels. We defy the expectations, we defy our diseases.
I once heard a song by the band, "Architects", in which the vocalist sings,
"My friend, hope is a prison."
When I arrived at this program, I expected a prison. What I got was a place of freedom and hope. This place is hope, and hope is NOT a prison. Hope is the shining star in the midnight sky that tells me, that tells us, to keep holding on and keep striving to defeat the darkness inside our minds.
Change is just as scary as always feeling like death is knocking at your door. I have learned that you cannot fight change if you want life to get better. There is indeed gray between the black and white. To quote Architects once more,
"You can't hang on to yourself. You don't have to try not to hang on to yourself. It can't be done, and that is salvation."
Swim with the current of recovery, don't try to fight it.
To every single person on this earth who struggles with a mental illness: The sun shall rise, and so will you. Hang on through the night. Hold onto the hope within your heart, and let go of the fear that holds you captive. Flow along with the change that is necessary to better your tomorrow. You, I, all of us, can and will defy the odds.
Thanks to residential, with new medications, skills, and support, I know I can. Thanks to this wonderful place, I once again know hope.
My story is not over.