The Terrible Beauty of Freedom

Nobody tells you how terrifying it is to leave a psychiatric clinic. They tell you how much good it will do to go there, how comfortable and safe it is in there, how intensive the treatment you receive will be there. Making the decision to go is terrifying, because you finally have admit to yourself what you’ve been trying to avoid: you need help. But not a single person tells you that coming out of there will be almost as difficult as going in.

It took me three months to get to the point where I admitted this was something I had to do. During that time shit got rough, and increasingly so. I didn’t want to deal with any of it anymore. The clinic was so safe and sheltered. Physically and mentally you’re being cared for by a team of people who learn your name within a day. I hated having to go to classes with names like Life Skills and Coping Skills, but I was given very little choice. I hated it even more when I had to admit that those activities and everything else in the clinic had a positive impact on my well-being, that I had gained something valuable from them even if I couldn’t put a name to it.

Clinic wristband

Then I slowly came to the realisation that when I left that place I had to go back to everything I had left behind, everything that brought me there in the first place. Outside the clinic, nothing had changed, and I knew this very well. So what would be different this time? The answer, which dawned on me some time after the dilemma presented itself, is that I am the only variable in this situation. Well, me and my medication, which is an internal mechanism and therefore I guess still me. I had to make it work, because the world out there was still just as fucked as it was when I left it. The knowledge that you are going back into a place that drove you to your lowest, most extreme point, that brought out the worst of you, and that above all is inevitable and inescapable, is unnerving to the point of petrification. I almost decided to stay in the clinic.

My first outing was simple. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store to buy veggies for dinner. My heart was beating a million times per minute. I didn’t see the products on the shelves. Everything looked the same. I trembled when I had to pay. For the next few days I hid away and saw very few people. Only on the 5th day did I manage to go out in public again. I made it quick because I was still shaking when I had to interact with people. It wasn’t just that I was afraid of them, although I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t and am not, but also that I was afraid of what they would and wouldn’t ask me. I didn’t know what my answers would be. I still don’t.

Spending time in a psychiatric clinic has had one unexpected upside: I now know who the people are that really, truly care, and I am surprised at how many there are. In some cases I was even surprised by who did and did not show up. Being out here is terrifying. These people keep me in the game, not because they want something from me, but because they want me, simply put. As scary and as painful as this life is, they make it worth it, and without them I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m slowly finding ways to make it work, and leaving behind what doesn’t.

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