It has been just over 3 weeks since I was in the hospital. A lot has happened in that time. I have typed out 22 pages of the experience that brought me to where I am today, and I hope to share it with those who want a full account as I move forward. I am not ready yet and honestly, the logistics of sharing something like that without overwhelming others is something I am putting a lot of thought into. For now though, I wanted to give you all a basic rundown of events without so much emotion for the simple reason of explaining what I’ve been through and where I am at.
Here we go:
I was invited to a personal development seminar by someone very dear to me. This seminar company has been in this person’s life for 6 years and his whole family has benefited from it. They were aware of my struggling financial situation and offered to cover the cost for me. I took time off of work and ended up going to 2 of the 3 days required. The seminar was a 10 hour a day program, held in a group setting with breaks every few hours and a working lunch. The purpose of the course is to develop and improve the skills needed to create the best possible life for each person.
Over the course of 20 hours, in 2 days, we completed a myriad of exercises in many forms and with many different goals. Many of the exercises included a form of guided visualization, including visualizations from many challenging moments from our own past. We were asked to categorize our personalities and define who we are. We were asked to set SMART goals and to share them with our small groups. None of these things individually would have the power to harm anyone, in my humble opinion at least.
What ended up happening to me was that I relived every painful, harmful and difficult situation throughout my entire life that I could think of…for me, that was a lot. The speaker of the seminar also used negative reinforcement and shame in his teachings. I was even stopped from using the restroom at one point. The temperature of the room changed throughout the day as well, going from hot to cold. As far as I could tell, the staff did their best to regulate temperature, but many participants found it uncomfortable.
By the end of the second day I was overwhelmed and numb. I was not even able to listen to the radio on my way home as it was too much stimulation while I drove. I had a difficult time picking out food at the store for dinner, and by the time I got home, even though I had not eaten much all day, I was not hungry. I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed my notebook to do my homework and took a bath. As I sat there, my mind reeled at everything I had gone through. I began to lose control of my thoughts. When the person who invited me to the course came over, I was all but lost.
I tried to reconcile my thoughts, but I could not. I tried to talk through it, as that usually helps me. It felt like all of the coping mechanism and closure I had come to know from all of these painful memories had been erased and all that was left was this:
“I am bad. Everything is bad. Everything is supposed to be bad, so I might as well kill myself because the pain that my friends and family will experience is what life is supposed to be.”
At this moment, that was logical, and there was nothing left in my head to counter that argument. Nothing came to mind that would allow me to negate this thought cycle. Every positive thought I had was countered by what I had just learned. Although I still cannot recall this happened, I hit this person who was trying to help me. Knowing this now, I have so much remorse. They attempted to help me by bringing me paper to journal, hoping that if I just thought through it I would snap out of it.
When I got the paper I wrote the word “Why” over and over, page after page. They asked me what I was doing and I explained that it felt nice and I liked the rhythm of writing this word. I disassociated at this point and became the 7 year old version of myself. I spoke in the tone of a child and could not even remember my own name. This person did their best to take care of me as they began to realize the depth of trauma I was experiencing. They brought me to the kitchen and cooked us dinner while I peered just my eyes out over the couch as I watched them cook. I asked questions like “Are you a good person? Am I a good person? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite thing in the whole world?” I still had butterflies in my stomach. I ate a couple bites of food, but had no interest.
They lead me through one of the visualization exercises from the seminar based on healing. I improved, but was not able to fully recover after that. I wanted to watch a cartoon in hopes of letting my mind rest for a moment to stop the chaos in my brain.
After a little while I was able to speak in my normal voice again and I began to journal for real. This person tried to help me through and let me talk it out, but it soon became apparent that they were exhausted and sleep was the only option for them. I tried to wake them up a couple of times, but didn’t have much luck. I became angry and explained that I didn’t want them in my life anymore. (obviously, this was a poor choice in trying to ask for help by pushing them away when they didn’t know what to do). They ended up leaving, still being very sweet and thanking me for being in their life as long as I was. I lashed out again and thanked them for ruining my life.
I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I texted a dear friend of mine who luckily for me, called me soon after. I explained what was happening as best I could. She gave me an open ear and enough positive reinforcement that I felt like I could find my feet again, if only for a moment. I went to bed, sleeping for 20 or so minutes at a time from 2:30-about 6am.
I went to bed hoping the day before would just be a bad day, and that I would have my right mind again. This was not the case. All the bad thoughts were still there and I still had no connection to my coping skills. I had enough sense in me that I knew there was something wrong and I reached out to the person who had left the night before. I asked them to come hold me. They said no and that after how I treated them I couldn’t get them back. As I later found out, they thought this was a power play and that I was trying to manipulate them. I really just needed help. I kept sending them messages, hoping they would understand that I was not ok.
Without giving too much detail as it may trigger others, I will tell you that this person did end up helping by calling 911. This was the best thing that could have happened, and I am eternally grateful that they did this. The police came and took me to the hospital. I cried and shook uncontrollably for a good hour.
I was admitted fairly quickly at the hospital, maybe 20 or 30 minutes. They had a nurse come by and take down what was happening. A social worker came next. The hospital was all extremely helpful and allowed me to go through this without any shame or judgement. They were all very kind. The social worker allowed me time to explain everything I needed to, and helped me understand that I could decide to essentially throw out everything I learned at the seminar and allow back my life before that happened. It somehow clicked that I could regain control over my thinking and disregard the trauma from the past few days that wasn’t helpful to me.
He offered to put my in the inpatient program, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital. I wanted to be at home. He then offered me an outpatient program as long as I had someone who could stay by my side until I began treatment the next day.
The friend I had spoken to the night before offered to do this for me. She came and picked me up, got me food and let me process in my own way. She took care of me, watched movies with me, went on walks with me, and listened without telling me what to do. I slowly began to come back into my right mind.
By the next morning I was out of the “danger zone” with the self harm thoughts. (They have not returned, and there is nothing to worry about as far as a chance of me harming myself by the way). She came with me to the treatment center and stayed with me while I met with the therapist.
I explained what had happened and all of the trauma from my past in that first hour. Somehow, with this setting, it wasn’t traumatic to explain. She listened, took notes and told me it wasn’t my fault. She explained how dangerous these personal development courses can be and how there are lots of other people who have gone through similar breakdowns due to programs like the one I had just been to.
For the next 2 weeks I worked diligently on self care- making sure I ate at least something 3 times a day, going for walks, stretching, journaling, reaching out to family/friends/online support (thank you by the way). I spent 4 days in the outpatient treatment program over 2 weeks and I met a lot of wonderful people who were also experiencing difficulties in their lives.
I have slowly begun to reincorporate work back into my life and I do feel like myself again. I am taking much better care of myself now, even taking days off. I am back to eating meals instead of a bite of this or that. Still going on walks and working hard to listen to my intuition on how to take care of myself.
A few days ago, the last piece of trauma surfaced from all this and I lost my relationship…or at least he needs a break. This is totally fair and acceptable, but now I have to decide if I have room in my heart to hold hope for that future that seems but a distant memory. Today I am going to meet with a therapist outside of the treatment program for ongoing support. Hopefully he can help me understand myself and my thought process better so that I can continue to make progress and be even healthier than I am now.
Life changes in the blink of an eye. A lesson I seem to learn over and over. Right now, I have the opportunity to redefine who I want to be and what I want in life. This is something I will not take for granted.
Over these last few weeks I have had to ask for help and support in ways I have never been able to before. The biggest lesson I have received is that it’s ok to ask for help, yes, even I get to do this. I don’t have to feel guilty or reciprocate when I don’t have it to give. We all need a turn once in awhile to be the one who needs help. I am so grateful for all of you whom (no matter which version I use, it always sounds wrong haha) have reached out a hand and allowed me to rely on you. The whole point of my business is this:
We all go through moments in life when we feel unloved, unappreciated or just plain lost. We provide a safe and comfortable space for everyone to know they matter.
Now, I have gained this insight for myself as well. Thank you.
I hope to use this blog as a way to continue to connect with all of you and to build a community of support. I will eventually share the 22 pages…or some version of it with those who want to see it, but for now you can expect to see more of what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and where I’m going. I hope you will tune in and share this journey with me.
Life is good with the eternal 7 year old.
Peace, Love and Cuddles,