Why I Had to Walk Away From Everything Familiar to Recover From Depression

Stephanie Amandia
photo of woman sitting on bench near tree and beach while staring out to sea
photo of woman sitting on bench near tree and beach while staring out to sea

One year ago this week (at the time of writing), I was really struggling. I was unmotivated. I wasn’t taking care of myself mentally or psychically. I was tired all the time. I would get up, go to work, come home and crash.

I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be and nowhere near the mom I dreamed of being for my kids. I didn’t want to be a wife anymore and I truly didn’t know what I wanted or what was important. I was so lonely, empty, scared and half of the time I felt like I was dreaming. My night terrors and sleep paralysis happened almost every night. I didn’t want to be me anymore. I wasn’t living for me. I was living for everyone else.

I was in a relationship with little communication and we were not very nice to each other. I was too tired to spend quality time with my kids. I rarely talked to friends or family. I was in a really really bad place mentally. I didn’t like the person I looked at in the mirror. I didn’t like the voice that talked to me in my head.

Related:5 Habits That Might Be Making Your Depression Worse

I starting having horrible thoughts about how much better everyone’s lives would be without me in it. When I got to my lowest point, the point where I thought things could not get better and not possibly any worse, I could hear my nana. I could hear her telling me my kids need me. I needed to get help.

I drove to the hospital. I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I kept thinking, “Am I just dreaming?” I wanted to wake up. I wanted to feel better. I would have done anything to just feel better. I felt like I was losing my mind.

The nurses were all so kind. The doctor was so understanding. They brought in their therapist over a television because I went to a smaller hospital that didn’t have anyone on staff. She was very direct. She asked me what was going on in my head. She asked me what my plans were. I lied so I didn’t seem as “crazy” as I felt. She knew.

Related:I Take Psychiatric Medication to Feel OK, and That's OK

She called my husband and asked him what was going on. She came back and told me that she understood how much I just wanted to go home and be with my kids. “But based on everything, we are going to ‘blue sheet’ you.” I had no idea what that meant. I had a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. She told me they were going to get me help immediately so that I could go back and be the mom I wanted and needed to be. The ambulance arrived and they took me to a behavioral health center. I cried the whole way there.

When I arrived, they took me into a private room. They told me to write down any phone number I would need for the next few days. They told me to call my husband and have him bring me clothes for a few days. I felt betrayed and lied to. They told me it would only be 24 hours and I would see a psychiatrist immediately, and when I arrived they told me I would possibly see one the following day and usually “blue sheeted” patients stayed for at least a week. Nothing felt real. I was having a nightmare.

Related:What It Really Means to Have 'Treatment-Resistant' Depression

They took all of my personal belongings except for my underwear. They made me strip and they wrote down every mark on my body — every tattoo, every mole, every scratch. It was the most uncomfortable I had ever been. They then took a polaroid picture of my face while I sat and sobbed. I wasn’t allowed to see my husband when he brought my clothing. Then, they told me that while I was an inpatient, I would not be allowed to see my children. My heart broke.

They gave me a giant sheet to wear until they could search through and modify all the clothing my husband dropped off. No underwire, no shoelaces, no ties on sweats.

Then, they took me upstairs and gave me medication they said would help me calm down. There was a room full of people doing puzzles and coloring. They took me into my room so I could lie down and get settled. There were two beds. The bathroom was a half door so they could still see you at all times. I lay in bed sobbing for an hour and then they brought me more medication. I have no idea what they were giving me. I just did everything they said because I needed to be home with my family.

I lay there and planned an escape: How can I get out of here? I can’t stay here. I need to be with my kids. I am so incomplete without my kids. My husband was so mad at me. I finally fell asleep. They woke me up and told me it was time for medication and breakfast. They allowed me to change my clothes. They made us all line up and took us to the cafeteria. Every time I looked at the nurses, they were taking notes. Once we got downstairs, another patient sat next to me and asked if I was OK. I said no. I felt trapped. He explained to me that they monitor everything you do and report it to the psychiatrist: How much you eat, if you refuse to eat, if you refuse medication, if you don’t participate in the daily activities such as yoga, artwork and group therapy. I was freezing so he gave me his sweater. I was so, so grateful for him.

I called home as often as possible. When I finally got to speak with the psychiatrist, they started me on several different medications. They diagnosed me with a handful of different mental illnesses. I agreed to do extensive outpatient therapy in exchange for getting to go home.

When I was released, I was so embarrassed of what my family and friends would think or say. I made everyone who knew promise to keep it a secret. Some who knew just didn’t understand. In fact, my boss was upset that I missed work for “Women Problems.” I still didn’t feel normal. I was so upset about what I had just gone through. I remember thinking: next time, I won’t get help.

I started outpatient therapy the following Monday evening. It was three hours long. I dreaded going. I remember going and introducing myself but when it was open discussion, I didn’t want to say anything. It really helped me to listen to the others in the group talk about what they were going through and being able to relate. I felt less “crazy.”

The next couple of sessions, I finally started to open up and talk about what I was going through. I cried a lot. Others cried with me. We understood each other and how difficult everything was. They taught different ways to self-care for my mental health. I started with one simple thing: Every morning when I woke up, I looked in the mirror. I looked myself in the eye and would say, “I am enough! I am enough! I am enough!” It helped. I was a little more motivated each day. Each day, I was a little less tired and a little less scared.

I would go to therapy and talk about my normal day to day, only to find out that what was happening in my marriage was anything but normal or healthy. I started to work on my marriage. I tried to open up more. I tried to be a better mom. Towards the end of therapy and having my partner refuse to get marriage counseling with me, I finally decided it would be better for the whole family if we separated. I was scared. I didn’t want to be alone but being afraid to be without a partner was the only thing stopping me or keeping him there. That wasn’t fair to either of us.

I graduated from therapy after a few weeks. I made it a point to pay attention to myself and the way I was feeling. I spent more time with my kids. I started exercising and eating better. I made sure to drink water.

Each day, I was learning more about myself as a person and a mother. I learned what I wanted to do with my life — what was truly important and where I wanted to go. I made goals. I made checklists. I wrote in my journal often. I meditated. I made sure to go to all of my follow-up psychiatrist appointments. I kept taking the meds I never wanted to take.

Having an actual diagnosis was not as embarrassing anymore. It helped me learn how to properly take care of myself. I got on the right meds which also took a while but the night terrors stopped with them allowing me to get more sleep. The other meds helped me think clearly.

A year later, reflecting back is really humbling. Being admitted inpatient in a psych ward was so fucking terrifying. I would never want to do it again, but I am so glad it happened. It saved me. It saved my soul.

I had to leave everything that was familiar to me. Everything that was normal. I had to walk away from all the negative and I started welcoming all of the positive and looking toward my future.

I am thrilled to be where I am. There were so many bad, hard days in the past year. They were all worth it. It was a spiritual awakening. I believe in so many things that I didn’t before. Most importantly, I believe in myself. I know my worth. I know how to take care of myself. I know how to be the dream mom I always wanted to be. I am now the partner I wish I would have been all along.

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

When Mental Illness Makes It Feel Like You've Accomplished Nothing

How I Made Self-Care a Reality as a Single Mom of a Child With a Disability

When It Feels Like Having Treatment-Resistant Depression Is Your Fault