I had dealt with low self-esteem, self-mutilation and an eating disorder for quite some years, but there were no symptoms of a severe mental illness. Up until three years ago. How many times in your life will you actually hear someone saying, "I've been admitted into a mental hospital"? Not a lot of people are willing to admit that they've descended down a spiral which led them to enter a rehabilitation centre... especially if the hospital has a stigma which has been stuck to it for decades. This is my story.
It first started as a sense of inexplainable happiness; contributing was the fact that at that time I had gotten with my then boyfriend. At the same time, I began feeling anxious and having panic attacks. A sense of uneasiness filled my whole body and I remember talking to my friends about it, who had encouraged me to seek help. A short while after, I had to stop going to work, as I couldn’t function properly.
In the beginning of August of 2015, at 19 years old, I entered Mount Carmel as patient.
I had a short stay of two weeks, after which I was enrolled into a rehabilitation centre for eating disorders. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a mental illness which includes episodes of depression followed by those of mania.
When having maniac episodes, I would go on for days without sleeping; my mind wouldn’t stop swirling with thoughts. I would have the courage to take risky decisions and I would have problems with trusting people, even my own parents.
"With these episodes, you never know when it's going to come back to haunt you"
It has been a rollercoaster for the past years.
I've tried to come to terms with the fact that I have to live with this condition, possibly, for the rest of my life. It took me quite some time to get back on track and there were days where I would cry all the time, for no apparent reason. There was more than one incident in which I found myself battling the maniac episodes of bipolar disorder. It was harsh, not only on myself, but also on my family and friends, who struggled with trying to understand my situation and the reason behind my behaviour.
I couldn’t be left alone and being locked in my own house became a nightmare for me. I could get no sleep at all and I kept writing all my thoughts on paper, while trying to put a meaning to the life and the experiences I was faced with. With these episodes, you never know when it’s going to come back to haunt you, however I can now recognize the symptoms and take the necessary actions to prevent any form of disruption from daily life.
I also struggled when it came to weight gain. I even remember crying in the middle of a session at the Dar Kenn Ghal Saħħtek because I had gained more weight than I wanted to. The patients at Dar Kenn Ghal Saħħtek were very understanding, as were the carers who took care of us and made sure we
had a shoulder to lean on when going through a rough patch during recovery.
Throughout the day, we had various sessions which helped us deal with our emotions and personal growth. No physical exercise was allowed to most patients (since we were in the process of regaining what had been lost), however we used to engage in yoga, meditation and pilates, which help with living in the present moment. We also used to have group sessions with therapists in which, with a bit of a nudge, we used to share as well as listen to each other’s stories.
We had to engage in exercises which promoted body self-acceptance. It was harsh for most of the girls, but we were given support and encouragement to embrace the feelings which come from such an exercise. Eating disorders don’t discriminate. Apart from being a large group of females, in recovery there were also males who, regardless of not being associated with such a condition, were still in rehabilitation for an eating disorder.
"There is no shame in going to a mental hospital, just like there's not shame in going to the doctor's when your leg is hurting"
I still consider myself to be in recovery, and I have a journey of self-discovery ahead with the challenges it brings with it. My anxiety at times is so high that I can barely do my work. My mind at times still thinks of lowering the number on the scale. I still have days where I get depressed, but all in all I’m moving
It’s vital to say that there is no shame in seeking help. There is no shame in going to a mental hospital, just like there is no shame in going to the doctor’s when your leg is hurting. You are worthy of recovery. It’s an ongoing process and there will be days in which you feel like giving up.
But as the saying goes; Fall seven times, stand up eight. Do to yourself as you would do to others; learn how to love, forgive and accept yourself. You shall see the light at the end of the seemingly ongoing tunnel. Believing your life can get better is the first step of letting go of the monsters inside your head.