I’m so excited this morning to have my first guest post! Let me tell you a little about the author: her name is Crystal Hinojosa, and she has been my best friend for almost 20 years (that’s not even an exaggeration there!). She’s a mom of four adorable kids, a Navy wife, cheerleading coach, small business owner, and one of the most amazing women I know! Today she wants to share a very personal story with you about her struggle with depression.
I sat in a cold hospital room with the door open and a stranger sitting in the hallway just watching me. I felt so ashamed and like a complete and utter failure. I was crying when my husband walked into the room. I couldn’t even bear to look at him. They had taken my shoes, jewelry, purse and cell phone away. As he sat on the bed next to me and put his arms around me, all he said was “It is going to be ok. Everything will be fine.” As I sobbed into his shirt all I could ask was “How? They are going to keep me.” He just held me and let me cry.
I was being admitted to a mental health treatment facility.
This day had been coming for a while. I have been in some form of depression for what feels like my entire life. My father, the man I worshipped as a child, was an alcoholic who eventually abandoned us when I was 13. I felt like I was never going to get my mother’s approval growing up, and as the oldest child felt like I was a disappointment for not being able to do more to help.
As an adult I married my high school sweetheart. He graduated a year before me and joined the Navy. While I was (and still am!) extremely proud of his service, I spent most of my time worrying and longing to be with him. He joined the military in July of 2001, just months before 9/11, when our whole world changed. I wish I could sit here and tell you all that I am the picture-perfect military wife, who never stresses and just goes with the flow. However, if I told you that I would be lying. The Navy has given us a very good life, but there have been many times when I simply hated it! Usually these were the times the words deployment or INSURV come up in our house. We have four beautiful children whom I adore. Let’s face it though, 4 against 1…the odds are not in my favor! And, as any military wife will tell you, that little bastard Murphy sure likes to hang around the second your service member leaves.
I had been trying to be everything I thought I was supposed to be, which was everything to everyone. I think I forgot how to use the word “no” at some point. In a time of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest shoving the notion that your child’s birthday party needed to be something magazine-worthy, I felt incompetent, to say the least. After a while I began to make excuses not to do things. “I have a headache,” or “The baby isn’t feeling well.” And pretty soon I just stopped answering. Throw into this mix struggling financially, dealing with my husband’s internet-based sexual addictions, and attempting to take on-line college courses as a full-time student, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
One day my children were being normal children, but at the time I felt like they were out of control. They were excited because school had started, and they were happy to see their friends. My son had his very first football game coming up and my daughter would be cheering. All I wanted was to go to bed and stay there. Instead I yelled at them and called my husband to yell at him for not being home. Somehow he got off the ship early and came home. He was going to take all 4 of the kids to the football field for my son’s practice and I could have the house all to myself. Sounds great, right? Was I grateful? NO! I was furious! How dare he take those kids out to have fun when they were acting the way they were?
In hindsight this really should have been the point where I knew something was wrong. The kids were doing nothing wrong at all. Some very small voice told me I needed to take a break. I went to my bathroom and locked the door. While sitting, rocking myself, and trying to calm down I looked over to see my husband’s razor on the counter and thought, “I could just pick that up and cut myself.” And just like that I was surprised by my thoughts, confused, and most of all scared as hell. I jumped up and ran out of the bathroom. My husband knew something was wrong but didn’t know what.
No one ended up going to the field that night. I can’t tell you what we did, it all seems like a blur. All I could think about was that one thought. I have never self-harmed in any way, but a couple of siblings have. I remember one saying “I just want to feel something.” I never understood that. When the kids went to bed I told my husband that I had run out of the bathroom because I wanted to hurt myself. I was still so confused by the thoughts. I knew I didn’t want to die or even to hurt myself. But I couldn’t figure out where the thoughts came from and what they meant. I felt out of control. My husband didn’t know what to do, so he lay there awake for the whole night, afraid that if he went to sleep I would harm myself.
The next morning, I called a very good friend and asked her to stay with my youngest kids while I went to the doctor. I don’t think she knows what she did for me that day. After telling her that I wasn’t right and needed to be seen I never felt one bit of judgment from her. I am still so thankful for the love and support she gave me that day and in the months after.
I drove myself to the emergency room. Let me tell you, when you tell the nurse you had thoughts of harming yourself things happen pretty quickly. I had a new best friend who got to stay with me at all times. I had all my belongings taken from me and placed into a bag. I had a nurse come and check my bra to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything I could harm myself with. And then I had a blank wall to stare at while I was waiting for the doctors to come see me.
At this point I had figured out that the worst of my feelings happened in the days immediately before starting my period. I had always suffered from cramping and PMS but this was nothing like that. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I hated feeling so out of control over my feelings. After talking with the doctor I was told I probably had Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. When I read the description I was handed, I felt like someone had been watching me over the last few months and wrote this about me. It was exactly what I had been feeling. I was so relieved and thought I would be getting a prescription and sent on my way home to enjoy my son’s football game and my youngest daughter’s birthday. I was wrong.
The doctor returned to tell me they had no room on the Psychiatric floor so I would be sent to another facility. My world stopped. How could I be sent away? I couldn’t be away from my kids And how would people treat me once they found out I had been in a mental hospital? I begged and pleaded for another option but was told if I fought it I would only makes things worse. It was best to admit myself rather than be admitted forcefully. I thought I would never get over having to go to that hospital. I was terrified.
When I got to the hospital I was immediately put into the step-down program for emotional recovery. The psychiatrist and physician fully agreed with the diagnosis of PMDD. They recognized that my symptoms had already passed with the start of my period, and helped me to understand that daily birth control pills and an anti-depressant would be the best course of treatment.
I was still scared to be in a mental health center. But as I joined in the group discussions I found that the others who were there were also just looking to be better. They all had different stories and reasons for being there. Every single one of those people helped me. Some I listened to were agonizing stories of lost loved ones, other the stories of debilitating anxiety. I realized that not only was I being helped, but I could also help others. There were absolutely no judgements from anyone in these group sessions, and that was amazing!
Something I feared would ruin my life turned out to be one of the biggest blessings I could have asked for. I learned that it was ok to be me and to walk away from things and people who were not making my life better. I learned that the best therapy can be listening to someone else who needs to talk. I didn’t need to have all the answers, I just needed to be there.
That was 2 years ago. I left feeling better than I had in a while. Of course, those feelings and lessons are hard to hold onto in the real world. It has been a struggle of ups and downs in those two years. I kept everything I was given during that time in treatment, and I refer back to it often. I have to remind myself that I cannot take care of anyone else unless I am taking care of myself first.
When I first had the idea of writing my story I immediately pushed it aside. There are only a few people who know about my hospital stay and I was still afraid. Now I look around my life and I am in awe. I feel better now than I can ever remember feeling. I still take my medication every day, and I have recently begun a natural treatment regimen that has lifted me to where I am now.
I know this is the right time to share my story, and I hope that if there is someone out there who is struggling they will read this and know it is ok to need and ask for help. I never understood my siblings saying they cut to feel something. Now I know that it isn’t the sadness or anger that get to you, it is the numbness. It wasn’t until I began to feel better that I realized I had felt so numb for so long. The only emotion I felt was the out of control feeling, usually masked as anger. Now I feel joy, happiness, ambition, and most of all hopeful of the future I am working towards.
I thought I wouldn’t survive those days, and now I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t taken those steps and asked for help. My whole life is richer, fuller, and I know that if I can reach out and help one person then I have done the right thing by putting my story out there.
Depression is real, and it’s scary. It’s not something that should be shrugged off, and it’s certainly not something to judge someone for. Crystal is sharing her story to let others know that it’s okay to not be perfect, and it’s okay to ask for help. You need to ask for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of!