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6 Year Anniversary of Involuntary Commitment June 23, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment.
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Today is the 6 year anniversary of the day I was released from Fairfax Hospital after spending over 3 weeks involuntarily committed there. A lot has changed.

Fairfax Hospital
Before I was committed, I had only vaguely heard about mental illness. I knew one person who claimed to have bipolar disorder, but I had no idea what that phrase even meant. The guy with that diagnosis was emotionally unstable, and made poor decisions in his work life and especially his personal life. I attributed his poor decisions to a lack of moral character rather than to any mental illness he might have been suffering from.
As a large portion of society does, I classified depression as something other than a mental illness. My mother and sister both suffered from depression, and it seemed like a lack of moral fiber rather than something they had no control over. I considered them weak because they took medication to ally some of the symptoms.
When I woke up in the hospital, I had no idea where I was. I had never heard of Fairfax and never in a million years would I have guessed such a place could exist a mere 5 miles from where I used to live. Mental illness was invisible to me.
Like many other people, I only heard about schizophrenia as it relates to someone’s bizarre and dangerous behavior in the news, never having knowingly met someone suffering from that illness. I thought all of those people should be locked away somewhere in an insane asylum where they couldn’t harm anyone.
As a productive, innovative, and intelligent member of the working world, I was used to calling the shots, in both my personal and professional life. I had money to spend however I saw fit. That all changed once I was released from the confines of the mental hospital.
While hospitalized, I wanted my family to tell everyone where I was. I was so psychotic I didn’t fully realize the ramifications of my incarceration on the social fabric that was our life. Only weeks later, after the medication started to take effect, did I have to come face to face with the stigma of having a mental illness. In fact, I thought it was all a giant mistake. I couldn’t possibly have a mental illness. I was too intelligent and too stable to have such a weakness.
With time came the realization that I do indeed have a mental illness. It’s not my fault. It’s not my family’s fault. And there are things I can do to mitigate its effect on my personal life, although there is no hope at this point of mitigating its effect on my now non-existent professional life.
I have come to terms with my new existence. Although I don’t suffer from depression, I have come to accept that depression is a chemical imbalance of the brain, just like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I even learned there is such a thing as schizoaffective disorder, which is now my latest diagnosis.
My world is much smaller now, but I’m relatively happy in my new existence.

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Comments»

1. Stephanie Allen Crists - July 9, 2014

I became aware of mental illness at a younger age and through less dramatic circumstances. In my case, the grappling was to accept that there was stigma and then to try to figure out what I could and could not do about it. The more I learned the more I came to question the assumptions I’d been taught and discovered that I had indeed imbibed some of that stigma.

I’m sorry your professional life got stripped away, but I’m glad you’re finding happiness. It’s not intended as a statement of pity; I just regret the way our society treats people who are different and I very much regret the time it takes to make the kind of changes necessary to improve upon it.


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