Well, here it is loud and clear…today was not my first trip to the mental health department at. But today was different because it had one thing all of the other times didn’t have; hope.
Making sure I made it on time to the Partial Hospitalization Program, I set my alarm slightly early to allow me enough time to colour my hair, make a quick coffee and run out the door. I had no idea what to expect, I just knew where I was going; 3NC and I had definitely met before.
As I walked into the meeting room I felt like ‘the new kid in class’… because I was. “I hope you brought Starbucks for everyone”, yelled some guy from the corner. I found an empty seat and scanned the room. Everyone looks pretty normal, I thought to myself. How ironic of me! I came here to end the stigma of my mental health illnesses, but my very first thoughts screamed stigma through and through.
“What’s your deal?” asked ‘Starbucks guy’.
“Pardon?” I say, not immediately knowing what he meant. “Oh, why am I here?”
“Ya, and you look really familiar”.
Where do I begin? And how do I summarize this in a sentence? “I overdosed on Sept 21st”. Ok this will take a few sentences…”I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and I’m pretty sure PTSD is in there somewhere.”
“I have PTSD as well.” he replies. “I was in the military. But I know you from somewhere!”
“I’m a Paramedic.” I say, as this is usually the link to myself and anyone who recognizes me.
“I was your patient!”…….
Talk about a full circle, smack in the face! ‘Starbucks guy’ and I had not only met before, I took care of him! I felt awkward at first. How did this come to be? I had been the one helping others like ‘Starbucks guy’ for 11 years as a Paramedic. I was the one who spoke in front of classes filled with students eager to learn everything I could teach…but I was sick, just like ‘Starbucks guy’. I belonged there with him and I was ready to get better. The awkwardness subsided quickly as I reminded myself I was there because I had the courage to realize it was my turn to be helped.