Trigger warning: Suicidal Ideation
I am a 34-year-old in a loving marriage. I am the firstborn to an upper-middle-class family and I had the privilege of having easy access to education. I am studying to become a pulmonologist and critical care physician. I was born in Mumbai and thereafter brought up in Kerala.
Growing up, I looked up to the amazing doctors in my family and aspired to be them. I remember begging for a mock doctor playset. I have come a long way from being a little girl aspiring to wear the doctor’s coat, to actually working as a doctor for the last almost 11 years.
Then how did I, a privileged young woman, following her passion, reach here, as an inpatient in the psychiatry ward? How did I get to the point where suicidal ideation became intrusive enough to merit admission? I was advised admission and since my insight is intact, I knew that I need to get admitted. I acquiesced.
The first thing that hits you when you get admitted as a patient, is the power dynamic that exists in a doctor-patient relationship. I, who have almost always been the care provider, feel the disquietude that comes with the territory of being a patient. This is thousand times more pronounced when you struggle with mental illness. Why? Well, for starters you cannot trust your mind to be your friend. That, in my experience, is probably one of the worst fall outs of being mentally ill.
I was initially admitted to the general ward aka a dormitory for patients. When you get a bed assigned to you, you immediately become a number. Your bed number becomes your identity. Your diagnosis becomes you.
My cubicle had two other patients and their relatives. Once you organize your belongings and sit on that bed, you become acutely aware of the inquisitive glances being thrown at you. I decided to visit the washroom and realized that the toilets lack latches. Privacy is no longer part of the equation. I hated it, yet I knew it was necessary.
I started with the interview; the one where your psychiatrist learns how messed you are! (Just kidding 😉). He asked me about the first time I felt depressed. This has always been the most difficult part for me to answer. It’s especially difficult because I’ve been to two psychiatrists and two therapists over a period of 5 years. It was difficult to narrate the first time and that narration never gets easier.
I generally start by speaking about the young girl who would feel “blue” for no good reason. The child who regularly witnessed domestic abuse (physical and mental) and alcoholism at home. The adolescent who thought she looked perfect until society told her that she was too fat.
The young woman who was slut-shamed for being friendly. The woman who entered medical college and found passion in her studies. The woman who (in spite of loving her work) experienced emptiness and dejection. The woman who experienced toxic relationships, abandonment and thereby a strong fear of instability.
The woman who thereby became hypervigilant by default. This narration doesn’t get easier. I meet the psychologist who wants me to be easier on myself and maybe learn to love myself? I wonder whether that will ever be possible.
Today it’s day eight. I have gotten used to being here. I am committed to feeling better. I am ready to do the work. If not for myself, but for my family and my friends who have enveloped me with the most unimaginable love and support. Till I get better, I try.