Enough is Enough
Updated: Jun 21
Its incredible to believe, but today is the one year anniversary of my coming home from a residential treatment program in Ohio, Hopewell Therapeutic Farm. In some ways it feels like so long since I left, and in other ways it seems just like a blink of the eye.
I think it was a difficult decision for me to go to Hopewell. The downward spiral started a year earlier. I was working full time in a job I loved, working with kids with ASD, but it triggered me, possibly because I was just working to much, and I started getting hospitalized for suicidal ideation. At first it was once, which is not a big deal, your work can see it as sick days, but over time it kept happening and I was forced to leave my job.
I was in and out of the hospital, trying every combination of medications possible, but nothing was working. I was labeled med resistant, and everyone decided that electro convulsive therapy was the only option. So for months, three times a week, I was put to sleep with my body paralyzed and my brain was shocked trying to teach it to function properly. At first it did seem to show some improvements, but then we realized that I had lost about thirty years of memories. Plus, I had maxed out the number of hospital stays my insurance would cover in a year, and nothing was getting better. That’s when my team decided to send me to Hopewell.
It's difficult to make such a big change when you’re already feeling suicidal most of the time. It was four hours away so I wouldn’t be able to see my mom or any of my friends, and it was unlike anything I had ever done. For goodness sake, when I first arrived, everyone was down by the stable painting the horses. That’s right, you read it correctly, they were painting the horses! I still have no idea why we did that, but it was a great introduction to my fellow residents and all the amazing experiences I would have during my time there.
Hopewell was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my bipolar life, mostly because they had such incredible support and a wide variety of excellent therapies. The therapy I found most helpful was Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP. It is a way of taking the obsessions or compulsions that are so overwhelming in your life from OCD and instead of avoiding or running away from them, running head on into them and tolerating the discomfort. The more times you do it the less the reaction will be. In my fifteen years of therapy I had never heard of such a thing, and I couldn’t believe how much it helped me!...or how much it was like writing a transition plan in my BCBA career.
So much about Hopewell was amazing, but it was so clear to me when it was time to go home. I had been doing a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group (DBT) and I noticed that people weren’t paying attention and weren’t even coming all the time. As a former special education teacher, I knew that I could make it more interactive, and I offered to be a co-facilitator. I started adding an interactive activity to every session, and suddenly people were excited to come. Also, people started to rely on me to provide support in other therapy sessions, and I organized a social group back at the cabins. I realized that I was giving a lot more to Hopewell than I was getting, which meant that I was ready to be off on my own. I am so grateful that I spent time there, and all that I learned, but I’m really glad to be home.
Transition is a lot harder for me than most people. For instance, we just had a power outage for a couple of days and I went to my mom’s and it took me two extra days to prepare myself to go home…even though I love it there, so you can imagine how big of a transition this was. When people asked me where I was going, I simply said, my house! No one could believe it. Everyone was sure that I was going to have to live with my mom for the rest of my life for support, but I didn’t even have to think about it twice, I was going home!
At first I was so determined to be successful that I tried every new strategy I had. I was riding a stationary bike in my basement, I was trying to learn to run a 5k, I was doing ERP on my own, and I was working on writing a book about DBT that incorporated some of my strategies and would help people across the country get more involved in their therapy. But I quickly discovered that it was a lot more difficult at home. I didn’t have the same 24 hour a day support, and without it my Bipolar slowly took over. I ended up in the hospital, twice, pretty close together. I felt like such a failure. I didn’t realize that the hospital is a tool that I will likely need to use for the rest of my life, I thought I had lost everything I had learned from Hopewell.
But that was also when I started writing. I realized that there were very few people speaking on behalf of people with serious mental illness, and that I could give them a voice. I started a blog, (obviously) and it has been growing a little more each week. I started learning about publishing, and I learned about advocating at the legislative level. I became determined to make a difference in the field of mental health.
Then I got sick. I got sinus infection after sinus infection after sinus infection and they determined that I needed surgery. For about seven months I have been chronically sick, so much so that I am barely able to walk around my house and sleep 18-20 hours a day. I had so much hope for changing the world, but this illness has just gotten in the way. I feel so defeated.
But then today I realized, I don’t need to do more, fight harder, I need to lower my expectations. Having only two hospitalizations in a year is enough. In fact, it’s amazing.
Starting a blog and contributing to it every week, even though I’m exhausted is enough.
Being able to make my bed and microwave some pre-made food (at least some days) is enough.
I am enough.
It hasn’t been the easiest year, but I am doing it, and that is enough. I am anxious to see what next year will bring, but no matter what it does, it will be enough. And just for the record…you are enough, too.