I’ve been receiving treatment for mental illness since early high school. People jokingly call me the “hospitalization pro” because of the number of times I’ve been admitted to the ER and inpatient psychiatric units.
However, I recently found myself in this situation but from the other side: recommending hospitalization for someone I love.
I never really thought about the complicated emotions and difficult choices from the perspective of the support person before. You cry when they pour their heart out to you and express their desire to die. Then, you wonder if you can handle them on your own without alerting professionals. You question yourself if recommending hospitalization is the best solution and worry if taking them to the emergency room will only worsen the situation. Eventually, you fear that this loved one will hate you and blame you for everything once they complete their stay. The thought of letting them out of your sight fills you with panic. You crumble and feel inadequate; you feel like you should be able to save and protect them from all the heartache and desperation that led them to this moment.
It’s intense and often happens all at once, making it overwhelming and nearly impossible to process.
I also never realized the immense heartache that occurs when you watch someone that you care about walk through the doors of a psychiatric unit. Although I’ve done it as a patient and cried as I said goodbye to my friends and walked into the unit, something about being on the other side of the door is incredibly difficult, too. You hug your loved one for what seems like an eternity and, at the same time, a split second, then timidly say goodbye. The door closes in your face with that person on the other side.
You’re left in the hallway… alone. Your heart shatters, and your sobs break the silence as you slowly make your way to the exit. You wonder if they will be ok and sleep soundly during their first night. You question if you did the right thing as you worry when you’ll even speak with your loved one again.
I struggled with letting go of control in these situations and allowing my loved one and the people entrusted with their care to make decisions. When you feel out of the loop, you panic and worry if everything is happening as it should. You wonder if your loved one is remaining honest with their caregivers and if those caregivers really know what they’re doing. You question if the care being provided is actually the best the person could receive and if you should be advocating for more (or less). Mostly, you feel responsible and know that you’ll feel at fault if the person doesn’t receive exactly what they need during this troubling time.
In the end, despite all the difficulties and fears involved, I know in my heart that I made the right choice at that moment to take my loved one to the hospital.
No matter how much you love someone, there are times when you can’t handle situations alone. If someone expresses suicidal thoughts, always trust your instincts and consider reaching out to professionals. Remember that the most important thing is your loved one’s safety and life. Also, know that they’d do the same for you without hesitation if the tables were turned.