Columbus Day 11 years ago found me sitting on a roof, smoking cigarettes with a friend who was in for the weekend, talking about life and love and fear and illness.
The following week, after telling my counselor for the first time that I had been sexually abused, and after the meltdown that ensued, I found myself sitting listlessly in the chair of a psych ward. The same psych ward, in fact, that I was in last week.
After 4 days, I emerged. Much like this visit to the psych ward, I came out of the hospital medicated and calm and feeling like I could *maybe* do this thing called life. I went back to my family, back to my work, and back to my life as if nothing had happened.
Three people knew outside of the doctor: my husband, my best friend, Angela (who drove me to the hospital herself), and my mom. Those three people held my secret and no one else ever knew I was different. No one ever knew there was anything WRONG with me.
I also told the support group I started online, but none of those people knew me in my real life and I could be real with them. They supported and loved me. I imagined that they were (are) the most caring, non-judgemental, loving people in the world. I wasn’t wrong.
I didn’t tell my boss at the time (although he was a licensed psychologist and might have known a thing or two about my problems). I didn’t tell my closest friends except one. I didn’t tell anyone because I was ashamed.
Last week when I went to the psych ward (heretoafter referred to as the “crazy house”), I didn’t hide it. When I got back, I wrote about it on my public blog. My boss and the entire staff at my job knew. My colleagues knew, my friends and acquaintances knew. Everyone knew.
I was shy about telling people… there is still a lot of shame around telling people there’s something WRONG with you, that you can’t handle everyday life anymore, that you need to surrender your rights to think for yourself for just a few days so that your head can be restored to sanity.
But, I bit the bullet and told people.
I thought that you might judge me. I thought that you might think less of me, or think of me as incapable or unpredictable or different than you.
What I found instead was an outpouring of love and acceptance. People reaching out and encouraging me. My boss actually flew my co-worker out to hang with me for a week so I wouldn’t be on my own. My co-workers sent messages of support and love, my friends emailed and called. There was endless support for me.
I found strength. It wasn’t because I was brave or courageous enough to stand up and tell the truth, to stand up and tell my story. It wasn’t because my struggles were so unique and because I pitched a case that pulled sympathy from people.
The biggest difference between my first stint in the crazy house and my second was that I gave people the chance to be strong for me. And you guys pulled through in such amazing ways for me –
from handwritten cards, to phone calls, to emails and texts, and facebook encouragement. You guys told me that it meant a lot to hear my story. You said it was ok. You gave me your strength. I am so incredibly grateful for the community I’ve been fortunate enough to become part of over the past years. I am so grateful for a professional community full of human beings who care about other human beings – even colleagues and professionals I work with, even friends I haven’t met in person but only know online, even people who don’t see me every day. You were all so supportive and generous. I am so grateful. Thank you.