For my Doula Training program the big first assignment is the communications assignment. This paper is long and took some time to write. Through the process of reflection I learned and remembered a lot about my one and only hospital stay. I think reading my assignment could inspire you to go through your own journey of reflection. I find reflection so key in recoveries. I find stopping, looking back and analyzing really helps the process of healing. You may notice patterns of behavior, bad habits, things you do really well and maybe some things that you can tweak. I believe that if you dont reflect you miss a huge opportunity for learning. All it takes is a little bit of time and willingness.
A quick snippet of the instructions for the assignment: This assignment will assess your ability to use reflective practice effectively. This is an opportunity for you to consider an event that had lifetime significance for you, most likely resulting in a major change to your life. You will have the chance to discuss how that event has changed you and how it fits in with the rest of your life.
For the assignment you had to use a 5 step reflection process and thats how my paper is structured below.
When I was 10 years old, while I was in Fourth grade, I started starving myself. I stopped eating because I was bullied and didn’t know how else to cope. In fourth grade I first discovered that when I skipped meals, my anxiety was better. By sixth grade I was cutting and during the summer between my sixth and seventh grade school year, I attempted suicide for the first time. I tried from 2009-2011 to get better but nothing ever worked. I ended up living with a family from my church and I finally found the breakthrough I was looking for.
Around 6pm on august 14th, 2011 I was sitting in my room. I found a bottle that had 18 ibuprofen in it and I had some dull razor blades. The next morning I had an appointment at a therapy place set up to start counseling. I decided I wanted to end mental illness with a “bang.” I cut myself a whole bunch. There was a family friend that came over and came in my room and asked what I was doing and so I told her. She told me she had to tell the family I was living with because I was breaking there house rules. They didn’t want me cutting in their home. I got really mad at her because I felt like she set me up. When she left I snapped and I took 10 of the ibuprofen. I didn’t necessarily want to die; I just wanted the pain to go away. I just wanted to feel better. I wanted life to stop being so painful. Within 5 minutes I hadn’t felt anything so I took the other 8 pills. Eventually I couldn’t really feel my legs and I felt pretty out of my head. My mom came over and knocked at my door and asked what I was doing. I told her some pretty answers that got her to leave me alone. The family I was living with called me upstairs and asked how many I had taken and I said I had taken all of them. The wife of the family I was staying with and my mom took me to the hospital for a blood test to make sure my liver wasn’t shutting down. The people at the hospital were convinced it was a suicide attempt and they transferred me by ambulance to a hospital downtown Minneapolis. I was admitted to River Side Hospital at around 3 am on August 15th. I spent the week in the psychiatric ward. I had all kinds of tests done from psychological testing and blood tests. On August 20th at 2pm I was discharged.
The whole week in the hospital was crazy. The first day I stayed in my room the whole day. I didn’t eat anything or talk to anyone. I think I may have had some staff check on me and take blood but I was not social and I was not doing well. On day 2 I attended all the groups that were offered that day but stayed in my room during break times. I don’t think I ate that day either. On the third day, Wednesday, I went to all the groups and was out of my room for 12 hours. I finally stopped fighting the process and gave in. I had made a whole bunch of friends. By day four I was making my own activity groups and encouraging others to join the groups. Day 5, Friday, I learned I had lost seven pounds that week because I wasn’t eating or drinking any water. If I wanted to go home I needed to gain all that weight back. So Friday and Saturday my mission was to gain all that weight back. On Saturday I had my weigh in and I had gained 10 pounds back. I was discharged and they let me go home.
When I took the pills, my only goal was to feel something other than emotional pain. Where I was at in 2011 I was so numb. I had so much pain that I became numb and cutting caused me to feel something and it released all my anxiety. I took the pills because I just wanted to feel something and for the anxiety to leave. Cutting did release the anxiety but it was starting not to work. I didn’t expect I’d go to the hospital or go to the psychiatric ward. That night, august 14th, my goal was to never cut again. When I went to the psychiatric ward it was required to have a daily goal. I didn’t really know what to expect while I was at the hospital. One of my goals was to leave the psychiatric ward having a place to start for my recovery. I wanted to have something to go off. I had tried to get clean and free since 2009 and nothing worked. During 2009 I was clean for 6 months and then relapsed. I was hoping to get something that would help me while I was at the hospital. I was hoping that I would learn a skill or something that I could do when I was triggered. During one of the groups I got a lot of skills that helped me with my triggers until I got into therapy. I didn’t expect much. At that point in my life, if I had hoped or expected something it usually never happened. I just expected to live in pain and misery.
I guess my main goal in all of this was to get better and to find permanent freedom. Due to trying and not finding freedom so many times I had begun to give up. I never thought I could live a life where I was happy, healthy and stable.
First and for most I was mad at the family friend that came down to my room, asked me a whole bunch of questions, and then told on me to the family I was living with. I was so scared of everything. One of the main reasons why I used unhealthy behaviors is because I didn’t know what else to do. I had no control or comfort in my life and so to have the things that brought comfort and control being taking away was so hard. At times I was really confused why I was even at the hospital because I never took the 18 ibuprofen to die. I never wanted my life to end. I just wanted my life to stop temporally. I wanted all the pain and disappointments to just be done with. I was angry with my parents because I felt like they should have taught me how to cope with things and I felt like they should have been better parents. My parents and I just recently started a relationship and I have been able to process and talk to them about growing up and mental illness. My parents tried really hard but they didn’t know how to parent. My mom kind of withdrew when I was in teen years because she knew she wasn’t helping. Anything my parents did I rejected because I blamed them for everything. My dad came to the hospital every night to visit me. They love me and care about me so much. It broke my parent’s heart to see me in so much hurt and pain. In general I was so angry with everyone. I felt like everyone let me down. I was mad at myself. I was really confused what was going to happen next. I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. I didn’t know if I could have a life where I was happy, where pain was not a constant thing. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be able to recover and be ok.
Right after I took the ibuprofen I felt, finally, a sense of peace and relaxation. I felt like all the pain was going to be over and that all this trying was going to be for something. I felt so free that I wasn’t going to have to deal with all this crud anymore. I really didn’t want to die that night; I just really wanted all the bad to cease. When I told the people I lived with what I did, I felt kinda confused. I wasn’t really with it mentally. I was kinda lost and far gone. I was in a really bad place in my life. When I was at the hospital I just got really angry. I didn’t want to be transferred and admitted. I didn’t want to be taken away. I mean I wanted to get free but leaving what was comfortable was so scary. When I was at the hospital I had so much anxiety. I had a lot of urges to cut but I couldn’t. I didn’t eat which kind of helped me but didn’t help my case at the psychiatric ward. Throughout the week I found things that produced some life in me. I discovered I loved group activities and being in groups in general. I found that I like being a leader and engaging people. I found I am really social and that I can have friends. I discovered that I am strong fighter and I am determined. Throughout the week I gained some confidence. At the end of the week at my weigh in I had lost 7 pounds and they wouldn’t discharge me. I was really sad and upset because all I wanted to do was go home. When I gained back those 7 pounds it was very bittersweet. I was really excited because losing 7 pounds in a week is what anorexic’s want. I was heartbroken because gaining back 10 pounds is not what anorexic’s want. I knew that starving myself was bad, but it gave me such comfort. I was anorexic for 8 years. It was who I am. To this day I have to be careful because I can go back to not eating and being just fine.
When I was discharged from the hospital it was only the beginning. I had a huge journey and challenge ahead of me. I had to rewire my whole brain with new mindsets and new ways to think. I was so scared when I was leaving the hospital because I knew what was ahead of me, or at least I thought I knew. If I knew what these past 2, almost 3, years have held, I am not sure if I would have done it. It’s been a great two years but if I knew how much strength I would need it would have scared me. I would have gotten overwhelmed and I am not sure if I would have carried on. I am so glad that I did carry on and that I didn’t know what was ahead for me. I knew not cutting was going to be hard because I was doing it for almost 6 years, but I never knew how hard.
My action to take the pills did meet my goal of feeling something other than pain and feeling numb. My choice to be admitted to the psychiatric ward helped me meet my goal of getting clean. My choice to participate in groups during my stay at the psychiatric ward helped me meet the goal of learning something that I could use to stay clean after I got out until my therapy would start. Choosing to stay and fight helped me meet my goal of making it through that week. I feel like my choices were aligned with my goals and exceptions from step 1. In terms of my general goal of wanting to get better and find permanent freedom I think my actions helped me. I feel like taking the 18 ibuprofen was almost a cry for help. It was the bridge that got me to the place that I needed to be to get connected with resources for the treatment I needed. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. I think that night in my dark bedroom saved my life. I am not sure if I would be here today telling my story if I didn’t go to River Side. I feel like choosing to go to groups, choosing to gain the weight back, choosing to make friends all helped me reach my goal of getting better. Finding the permanent freedom came later. But I believe River Side is where my healing really took off.
There was a lot of choice I could have made. I could have chosen to not cut that night; I could have chosen to not take those pills. I could have chosen not to be admitted. I could have chosen to not participate in the hospital and what the hospital was offering me. I could have been super stubborn. I could have chosen to cut while at the hospital and after I got out. I could have chosen to find enough ibuprofen that would lead to my death. I could have chosen to not go upstairs and talk to the people I was living with. I could have chosen to lie to them and tell them I didn’t take any. I have a hard time lying to people. I was taught while I was living with the family, that lying doesn’t work and doesn’t get me anywhere but more trouble.
In life there are so many choices, so many options of what to do. I think deep down I wanted a better life. I think I saw that when I chose to come out of my hospital room it was actually fun and enjoyable. I am an extrovert and I love people. When I would talk and start being friends with the other people in the hospital, I finally felt understood and accepted. I finally felt like people weren’t judging me. Note: I use the word friend’s very loosely. I think all of that helped me continue to choose to participate. I think deep deep down I wanted to be better. I had been cutting since 2006, starving myself since 2003, depressed since about 2005 and suicidal since about 2006. I think I was ready for a happy healthy life whether I had admitted it or not. I don’t think I wanted to stay in pain; I think I wanted to know a better life. It was just really scary choosing a better life. Sometimes it’s easier to stay in our comfort zone even if our comfort zone is unhealthy. It was always easier to just cut instead of asking for help with problems or asking for help with what to do with all my anxiety I had had. It always caused more anxiety to step out and find freedom. I was never taught skills growing up. I was never taught what to do when you have anxiety or what to do when you get a trigger or what to do when you have urges. I think while I was at the hospital as the week went on it was easier to choose to participate. I was finding freedom and breakthrough even by day 2. I was discovering that I am social, that I am liked, that I love art and painting and that I love helping and leading. I think right off the bat, for the first time in a long time; my choices were almost instantly rewarded. It wasn’t negative to choose to participate and choose to come out of my room. I think I was really blessed because that week in the psychiatric ward could have been really really negative and could have been the finale straw for me.
I haven’t cut myself since August 14th, 2011. The last time I cut was when I was sitting in that room. I think that week in the hospital was the best thing for me. It was a huge wake up call. I realized how bad I was, but I also realized how good I could be. I remember being at the hospital and there was a guy being admitted who had just been discharged a few days ago. When I talked to some of the residents at the psychiatric ward I learned that this was there 8th time being admitted. I made a vow that day that this stay in the hospital would my first and only. That I would never be admitted anywhere again and I have stuck to that vow to this day.
I attended almost 6 months of intensive therapy after I was discharged. I had a group therapy for 6 hours a week and a one on one therapy for an hour a week on top of finishing high school 5 months early. To say the least I was very busy and very active. In my therapy I finally learned skills and I finally learned what to do when you get triggered or upset. I finally learned how to live a happy healthy life. I finally learned everything I missed and needed to succeed. If it wasn’t for the hospital I don’t know if I would have learned about DBT, Dialectic behavioral therapy. DBT was the therapy that taught me almost all I know about skills. I feel extremely thankful.
I feel extremely grateful for the family I lived with for all their patience and kindness. I feel so loved by all my friends and family. I put them through hell that week and probably for months before and after that week. It was an extremely selfish act but I have learned so much. I have only been extremely tempted once to go back to that mindset but I won’t let myself. It’s such a selfish place to live. And what sucks is that the person with that mindset can’t see it. There blind to other’s feelings. It’s a hard mindset to live in.
I learned so much that week. I learned how to fight, I learned that I have great strength and I learned how selfish I actually was. I realized how good my life actually is. I learned that my life and issues could have been 10x worse. I learned that instead of just cutting I could have been fighting a drug addiction or something like that. That week in the psychiatric ward was a reality check. It helped me get my perspectives right. I am so thankful for that week. I learned so much about myself. I learned that I loved groups and group activities. If I wouldn’t have discovered that I loved groups I would not have gone to my churches youth group and met one of my mentors. Who is still in my life this to this.
I tend to play the what if game with my life a lot. It all ways turns out that those four months with that family and going to the psychiatric ward set everything off in my life. It was such a catalyst to who I am and all that I have learned. Every day I learn something new about myself and about life in general. I learned that I am more than capable to handle life. I learned all about ANTS (Automatic negative thoughts). Your mind is like a picnic. When there’s one ANT you have to squish it because with one ANT comes thousands. It was one of the most profound things that I learned from that week. For a while after I was discharged I would squish the ANTs that were in my brain. I would actually clap my hands or stomp my feet to kill the ANTs. During that week in the psychiatric ward I learned that I didn’t want to be mentally ill anymore. I learned that I actually wanted to live life.
This process of reflection really showed me just how far I have come. It has shown me a new perspective on this event. I remember details and things that I had forgotten about. Sometimes there are so many gems in a story that you don’t remember until you start retelling the story. That happened with me and this assignment. I started remembering all the fun convo’s I had with the other residents. I remember all the wisdom they had shared with me. I remember all the things I had learned about myself like loving groups and loving art. I hated art before I went to hospital because I was so much of a perfectionist. While you are at the hospital you have to attend all the groups if you want to be discharged. One of the groups was Occupational Therapy which is doing arts and crafts. Since I was really committed to changing myself completely, I let go of all control. When I wasn’t worried about making the project perfect I found joy. So when I was typing out this story I was remembering that key moment when my mindset shifted and I finally found joy. I also was remembering the time when we had an exercise group and no one wanted to go. I went around the hospital getting people to sign up and attend the group with me. I found my leadership skill and I was quite good at it. I really liked spending the time going through my story. My heart is for writing and for sharing my story with others so that they wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Or so they don’t have to walk down the same road that I did. This is just one way to write and share my story. It gives me practice to write it all out and share it.
The process of reflection has helped me see things in a new light. I knew that that week was crazy and a lot had happened with me, but writing it all down and going through all the different reflection steps, I saw so many things that I never realized before. I saw how selfish I was during the time I was living with that family. I saw how foundational that week was to my recovery. This whole process has helped me be really thankful and not take life for granted. I see how special and how valuable life is. Every day I wake up and am thankful that I woke up and get to participate in another day of life. Going to the hospital for that week really helped me get over some of my biggest fears and really showed me I can do anything I set my mind to. It really started shifting and changing my mindsets. These new mindsets are essential to being a doula.
The event has changed me and caused me to be a better doula because now I am this strong, confident, stable, independent woman who could actually help people; before I could have never handled being a doula. The week in the psychiatric ward was a catalyst for my recovery. I am not sure what would have happened to me if that week at the psychiatric ward didn’t happen. I may not be a survivor of mental illness. That week started teaching me the things I needed to be successful in all my dream goals. I feel like my past and background gives me something to connect to my clients with. I am sure I will run into people who have dealt with mental illness and I will have an inside scoop. I will be able to relate to them in a different way. I think my history is what makes me unique and versatile. I have learned a lot of skills in my therapy (DBT) that I will use every day at work and that I can even teach to my clients. If a client has a whole bunch of anxiety I can teach them some of my skills that have helped me with anxiety. I think my past and my history sets me apart. Everyone needs something unique that sets them apart in their jobs and careers. Going through what I went through really helps me not judge people. I give people the benefit of the doubt. If someone is crabby I tend to not take it personally. I just think of four of five possible reasons and I give them grace to be crabby. Unless they tell me I don’t know what there day or week was filled with so why would I take it personally. I am also able to see things from different perspectives. I am able to zoom out of situations and look at it from a whole, not just from the details. I feel like this skill will be really helpful when I help my clients. I will be able to help them see a fuller picture of the situation at hand. Instead of them just being concerned about symptoms there having I will be able to help draw a better conclusion for them.
For this assignment I reflected on my week in the psychiatric ward. Through this assignment I realized that I have had so much inner strength from the very beginning of my road to recovery. I described my week in the psychiatric ward and talked about what it was like being there. I talked about how my choices affected and changed some outcomes. I guess one of the biggest things that I had learned through that week was that I am a social person who can be a leader and who can make friends. I learned if you make a bad choice but then start making great choices great things can come. That week in the hospital was so foundational and key to my freedom and mental health that I have today. If it wasn’t for the week I am not sure that I would be a survivor of mental illness. That week has made me a better doula because it saved my life. It opened doors for a therapy I didn’t even know existed, DBT. In DBT I learned a whole bunch of skills that I use every day and that I can teach my clients. The hospital started a domino effect in my life. One of the biggest things that have come from the domino effect that will make me a great doula is that I am a strong, confident, independent -woman who can actually handle things. I really just want to help my clients and share my knowledge with them.