What I Learned from Checking Myself into a Mental Hospital

What I Learned from Checking Myself into a Mental Hospital

With the mental health crisis at an all time high right now, the question “Can I check myself into a mental hospital?” Or “how do I know if I should?” may have crossed your mind once or twice. For me, not only did it cross my mind, but I did just that. After dealing with anxiety, depression and a host of other things for longer than I care to admit, I decided to seek help from professionals and checked myself into a mental hospital. 

Why I Checked Myself into a Mental Hospital

Why would you voluntarily commit yourself into a psych ward? There’s actually a lot of different answers to this question. And after I give my answer, I hope it will help someone. I have shared about my postpartum depression previously on my blog and social media.  So it should come as no surprise that that was the driving force behind my decision. 

One of my worst fears is one of my children getting hurt. Me being the cause of such pain is unimaginable. But when depression hits, and those thoughts start to creep in, it can be hard to think clearly. Since becoming a mother, all I have ever wanted to be was a good one. I’ve spent countless hours “researching” how to be a better mother. How to raise what I considered to be “good children.” And while deep down I know there is absolutely no such thing as a perfect mom, some days those fears of inadequacy come back to haunt me. 

After months of therapy for my marriage, I have learned to be more conscious of my own emotions. Taking time to monitor how I am feeling and how my thoughts play a role in my day to day life. When things started to get dark. With the thoughts spiraling out of control. It surprised me that I was clear headed enough to call someone for help. It’s because of this mindfulness that I was able to go to my local crisis care center and speak with a licensed therapist versus committing suicide as I had planned. 

How I Ensured My Baby Had Enough Breastmilk

Pumping While In a Mental Hospital

But what if you are a breastfeeding mom like me? Having never been to a mental health facility I was unaware of how I would continue to provide my youngest with breastmilk. I didn’t want this “unknown” to stop me from getting help. But I also didn’t want my issues to keep my child from being fed.

Preparing for Unexpected Scenarios While Breastfeeding

Now having breastfed five children my number one question is always how will this affect my ability to breastfeed. My first time flying without my child I Googled what to do. When I went to work after my first, I spoke with as many other moms I knew (or could find in my mommy Facebook group at the time) on what I could expect. But in this particular scenario, when dealing with my mental health crisis, I had no one to turn to for first hand knowledge.

It was hard for me to even consider going because of this. I wrestled with it for a few hours before I finally went. And even while driving over there I was still very much afraid that this would be the end of my breastfeeding journey with my youngest. So I reassured myself that even if it was, him having a mentally healthy mother was far more important than me meeting some arbitrary breastfeeding goal. However once I got to the crisis care center, I was pleasantly surprised!

Before admittance into the hospital I expressed my concerns to the therapist who had done my evaluation. I told her that my mental health was very important to me, but that being able to pump for my baby was equally important. To which she replied it wouldn’t be an issue for them to set aside adequate time and places for me to pump. As long as I had someone who could come collect the milk each day they were willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure I received the services I needed to help me on my road to recovery.

So that’s what we did. I was able to breastfeed my youngest one more time before I was taken to my room. Later on my husband brought my pump to the hospital and I was given a quiet room away from the other patients to pump supervised. Due to the severity of my diagnosis (extremely severe PPD and PPA) I was unable to be alone with anything that could pose a health risk. Since my pump had wires that could potentially be used to harm myself I was allowed to pump with a female nurse present. 

At first I was a little annoyed by this. But just because I said I wasnt going to kill myself using my pump parts does not mean they knew that. And with that in mind I understood and was happy to be fortunate enough to be able to pump. 

Signs You May Need to Seek Professional Help

 I Checked Myself into a Mental Hospital: Here’s What Happened

Back to how I knew I needed to seek help. While I do know if I can for sure say there are some specific universal signs you need to go to a mental hospital, as everyone is different. I do believe that there comes a point when things become too much and checking yourself into rehab for depression may be the best answer. For me, it was when my thoughts became more negative than positive. Let me walk you through that day specifically and hopefully that will give you more insight. 

While it started pretty much like any other day I noticed that I didn’t feel quite right. Not physically but more emotionally. At first, it wasn’t anything major. I wasn’t overly down or even overly sad. I was more bleh than anything. But I had been this way for a few days. Nothing really excited me. Nothing really angered me either. It was as if I was devoid of all emotions. I was just existing. Going through the day to day routine that is my life with no real feelings either way.

While I had made note of this earlier in the day, I did not recognize it as a sign that something could be wrong. I just thought I was off. 

After taking my older four children to school and daycare I came home and laid my youngest down for his morning nap. At which point I realized I hadn’t eaten. But I also wasn’t hungry. Which happens a lot so again not something I took note of. I decided I’d take a quick shower and hopefully shake this bleh feeling off. Shower had always been a way for me to rejuvenate myself when the day seemed to be headed in a negative direction. So into the shower I went. 

As soon as I got in, it was like everything seemed to just implode. Those bleh feelings quickly turned into inadequacy, sorrow and feelings of despair and regret. It felt like it was literally almost from nowhere. ( I have had a chance to reflect on this day and realize it was something that had been brewing for a while and had I paid attention to my triggers I may not have had the experience I did.) I remember thinking I couldn’t feel the water.

No matter how hot I turned it, I didn’t feel anything. 

I slowly began to realize things were escalating at a rate I was unprepared for so I got out of the shower. Hoping this would bring it all to a stop. Yet it did the opposite. As I stepped out I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and immediately that hate speech started. “I wasn’t good enough.” “I wasn’t being the mom my children deserved.” “ Look at me, I wasn’t even strong enough to fight off PPD by myself. “ “All I did was let others dictate my life and bring me down. How did I expect to raise children who didn’t do the same?” It was in this moment that I began to think of how I could kill myself. With my baby home I wanted to make sure he would be okay. And so I called my husband.

I really think this was God. My mind was so all over the place. I was ready to end my life but I had the clear enough thought to call my husband first. I am positive that had I not done that I wouldn’t be here today. And I thank God for this. 

After calling him, I called my cousin and it was with her help that I decided I was having a mental health crisis and needed to seek help from a therapist. It was never my plan to admit myself. My main reason not to was because I needed to breastfeed my son. Once I got there the receptionist did an assessment to see what threat level I was and based on that gave me two options.

I could self admit and speak with a therapist immediately as well as attend group therapy with others experiencing similar mental health issues. Or they could put my name on a list to have someone call me in a few weeks.

Knowing what I had gone through that day, I knew a few weeks wasn’t the best option for me. 

As a note, mental hospital admission criteria vary a bit but overall they try to assess if you are a danger to yourself or others. If they come to the conclusion that you are, depending on what level of threat they believe you to be, they can recommend voluntary admittance or do a 72 hour hold. 

Below are the five most common mental health issues for mothers and their symptoms. If at any point you experience these, it may be in your best interest to seek professional help or admit yourself to a mental health center:

Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that is generally attributed to the drop in hormones during and after birth. You can begin to experience symptoms during pregnancy or in the weeks after having a baby, according to ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Symptoms can range from mild sadness, trouble concentrating, or difficulty finding joy in once-loved activities to severe depression and even suicidal thoughts. Mothers with pre-existing depression prior to or during pregnancy are more likely to experience PPD. With proper mental health care, it is treatable. Making the risk of severe depression preventable. However untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum  Anxiety

Worrying about your baby can be completely normal. But if your anxiety is more than just the baby blues it could be PPA. If getting those fears out of your brain seems unmanageable, or your thoughts become overwhelming, speaking with your doctor is recommended. Around 10 percent of women will develop anxiety during pregnancy or after, according to the American Pregnancy Association

Some of the most common symptoms are restlessness, racing heartbeat, inability to sleep, extreme worry about the “what if’s.” Concerns about your child suddenly falling ill, or your baby experiencing SIDS are common fears mothers with PPA have reported. I, myself, even had a vision of me finding my youngest cold and blue during his nap.  

Pregnancy and Postpartum OCD

Growing up, having OCD always seemed like a good thing. It meant you were tidy and most likely kept your house clean. So it is definitely fair to say I was completely ignorant to what it actually was. Symptoms of postpartum OCD include Intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that are repetitive or persistent. They’re often upsetting and related to the baby. For example, you might fear that you’ll hurt or abuse the baby, he’ll become sick, or he’ll get exposed to dangerous contaminants.

  • The urge to do certain rituals (compulsions) over and over again to relieve mental obsessions. You might, for example, believe that turning off the stove five times will prevent your house from burning down and harming Baby.
  • Anxiety and fear surrounding your obsessions and compulsions
  • Intense feelings of protection for the infant 
  • Fear of being alone with your baby

This affects 3 to 5 percent of women. 

Birth Related PTSD

A large percentage of women feel as if their birth was traumatic in some way. And this can often lead to post traumatic stress disorder. In fact, 4 percent of mothers develop PTSD after giving birth. This type of PTSD often comes as dreams or thoughts of the traumatic event. Fear filled flashbacks that may even dictate how you celebrate your child’s birthday. And even down to the decisions made about subsequent child’s births. 

Common Questions (That You Might Be Too Afraid to Ask)

What happens if I check myself into a mental hospital?

While I can’t say for sure your experience will be the same as mine. Putting yourself first in order to be a better mother to your child is always the best decision. When thinking about checking yourself into a mental institution, make sure you have a clear outcome you are looking for. Having this and being able to talk with someone about it while there will ensure everyone is on the same page. I knew going in I wasn’t the biggest fan of medicines (due to previous family history) and therefore requested alternative treatments to try first. With the understanding that, if those did not help, medication would be the next best option. One I would then be willing to try. 

Understand that you are ultimately still in control. No one can force you to do anything. Especially if you were voluntarily admitted. This truly goes a long way in their outlook on your treatment. 

How old do you have to be to check yourself into a mental hospital?

While I was there a story of a three year old having been admitted due to his worrisome behavior was told. Which goes to show that mental health affects everyone. From all walks of life. And seeking help does not have an age limit. 

How much does it cost to check myself into a mental hospital?

This will vary based on your health insurance. However most state issued insurance will provide full coverage for treatment of all mental health conditions. 

When you check yourself into a mental institution, can you check yourself out?

This was something I was concerned about. Would I be held even if I no longer wanted to stay at the hospital? Well to my relief, my release date was something myself and the attending therapist agreed upon. What this means is, while I couldn’t just up and leave because I felt like it. I had some say so in the length of my stay and it felt more like a collaborative effort. Rather than a dictatorship. 

How long can a mental hospital keep you?

As I mentioned above, they can request a minimum 72 hour hold on you if they deem it necessary. For your safety and those around you. Personally, my stay was 48 hours. However there were some patients who had been there for longer. The longest you would stay, in my particular unit, was 5 days. 

Bottom Line? Don’t Be Ashamed to Check Yourself into a Mental Hospital

There’s a lot of stigmas around mental health. Even today in 2021, after the entire world faced a pandemic that turned everything upside down. So I completely understand if you are hesitant to speak about your mental health. Let alone check yourself into a crisis center. Shoot, I was extremely concerned about what others would think the entire time. But that’s okay. Being scared of the unknown is natural. It’s what makes us human. 

At the end of the day there may be many reasons to check yourself into a mental hospital, just don’t let there be any that stops you. 

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