I just watched the season finale of The United States of Tara. (Spoiler alert) At the very end she was in the car with her husband on her way to an impatient psychiatric hospital. The ‘Logical Song‘ by Supertramp started playing and played on into the credits. It hit me like a ton of crazy bricks and I just started crying. I have decided to tell you why.

Please know that doing so is very difficult and I have never spoken publicly about what I am about to say. I am taking a lot of risk by sharing this. A lot. I hope it does notembarrasss my family or make me look even moreloonyy than I doalreadyy. But it was a moment in my life which carries a lot of importance. I have shared a ton. Much more than most people do – especially in such a public way. But there are still a number of big things I have held very close and this is one of them.

When I was a junior in high school – 16 years old, I stayed in what I refer to as a ‘mental hospital’ for a month. I had been very depressed and was already seeing a counselor. But it got to the point where I cried all the time, felt horrible about myself and even had thoughts of suicide. Now, when I say that I want it to be understood that I never would have killed myself. It was never quite THAT bad. But I had fleeting thoughts and made threats in hopes to be heard and understood. It was decided between my parents andcounselorr that an impatient setting would be helpful to me. They were right.

I was scared to death. I was leaving school and my friends for 4 weeks with no explanation. Only 2 friends knew where I was and they told no one. One day while I was gone, my English teacher in front of several students made some kind of vague implication about me being gone due to pregnancy. I was a virgin. My best friend heard this and he quickly defended me. This is according to him, of course. But I believe him. Anyway, no one knew where I was. Not even my teachers.

When I walked into the unit I could feel all the eyes scoping me up and down. It was clear I was moving into strange territory and I would have to acclimate to these people whom have already considered this home. After going through all the intake stuff with my folks, they left and I was on my own in thisbizarrer world. I was terrified.

When a new person came in (all teens by the way) there would be this greeting circle. Everyone would introduce themselves and kinda explain why they were there. Eating disorders, depression, addiction…it was a well rounded group. Thehospitall was in Brookfield so most of the kids were from the Milwaukee area…andstrangelyy enough – many from Whitefish Bay.

Anyway, each person shared a room and a bathroom with one other person. No TVs but we were allowed radios – on which I listened to TV LOL. They all thought it was so cool when I showed them how to do this and by the time I left everyone was listening to Cheers at 10 pm every night. I think that was my link to home and I am only realizing at this moment that must be why that show meant so much to me. For those who don’t know…the Cheers theme song played as I walked down the aisle at my wedding.

Our days were completely scheduled and there really was very little to no free time. Individual therapy, groups, art therapy and school took up most of the day. They had a ROPES course there which made me almost piss myself. We’d sometimes go to the gym. And of course the cafeteria to eat 3 times a day. We even took a field trip one day to go bowling, for ice cream and to some park by the lake.

We has no phone calls in or out. My parents visited a couple times. I was there over Thanksgiving and I got a pass for a couple hours one day. My parents came up with my best friend Tony and we all went to dinner. It was very weird. I appreciated Tony coming so much though. He was a very important person in my life. Always will be even though I never see him. His support and nonjudgmentt was crucial to me.

In a setting like that, I am sure you can imagine, you become extremely close to people. They know everything about you and you them. You hear their stories and often times – it puts things into perspective.

I went there thinking I was the ugliest most unworthy person. But I left with much more confidence (clearly I need a refresher course LOL). I went in so very concerned with my appearance, how others thought of me…I hated being so much more poor and uncool than “all” the other kids. But I met people who had these eating disorders who so obviously saw themselves much differently than they actually looked. I met people who came from really bad circumstances. I met people with serious drug addictions. Like I said – it became about perspective.

I will remember some of those people for the rest of my life, but I haven’t seen or spoken to them since. There were 3 people I was particularly close with – Jon, Kate and Jed. I exchanged a few letters with them soon after, but that didn’t last long. I had a big crush on Jon. He was very cool but sensitive. Kate and I were so much alike. Very similar sense of humor and I always wonder where she is and how I could find her. Jed was a kid – younger than me. First gay person I ever knew…like KNEW knew. I loved him. He was so sad and having such a hard time. But very out, open and brave. And VERY funny. I wonder if any of these people would even remember me. I missed them a lot when I left.

Leaving was even harder than coming. I had to figure out how I was going to get back into the real world. How was I going to explain to people where I had been? I knew I was going to miss these people, the schedule, the safety, the comfort. It was really hard leaving and I bawled the entire way home.

Luckily they made sure we were caught up on school work – I was actually ahead by the time I returned. But they made me take an IQ test when I was in there and my parents realized that all those report card comments were right – I was not working up to potential. Great. Now I had no excuses for Cs and the occasional D. I think it was a 131 if I remember correctly. I am sure it has gone down. There was this guy in there, Ben, who was SUPER smart. Like, freakishly. He loved to rub it in my face that his score was better than mine. He was funny.

When I got home I did feel different. I was healthier. I grew up. I had self worth and a voice. It really was worth it.

The night I returned, two “friends” and an ex boyfriend egged my house. They didn’t know I was home or where I had been…it waspurelyycoincidentall. I knew it was them because that is what they did for kicks. I got into my car (which had just been given to me when I returned – it was my grandma’s car that she could no longer drive) and drove over to Andy’s (the head egg tosser) mom’s house. She was very nice and there was no way I was going to egg HER house. So I knocked on the door and just handed her an egg and asked her to give it to Andy when he got home. I learned a few months later that it worked like a charm…his mom gave him the third degree and he felt like an ass. Perfect. I never would have done that before my stay in the mental hospital.

After that I had different friends. I became opinionated, started writing and quit worrying so much about fitting in. I actually LIKED that I didn’t fit in. I think that is what ultimately made me coolafter alll.

If you read my blogregularlyy you are probably aware that these confidencesdidn’ttnecessarilyy last. I would love to have that feeling back. And I think I can, really. I am older and know myself much better than I did at 16. I have experienced a lot. A LOT. I am wiser. There is no reason I cannot be in that place again.

So, watching the ending of Tara tonight really hit me because – and yes, this is very odd – but that morning driving up to the mental hospital, Supertramp’s ‘Logical Song’ came on the radio. We all acknowledged how strange it was. To see that same thing happen on Tara was just too weird…I mean, talk about hitting close to home!! Just…wow.

So, in a nutshell, that is my mental hospital story. Take it how you will. It is a part of my truth and I am quite certain it isn’t as rare as one would think.


The Logical Song by Supertramp

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable,respectablee, presentable, avegetablee!

At night, when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run so deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.


5 thoughts on “My Month as a Mental Patient (Never Before Shared)

  1. Heather…you rock. My wife (of whom I’ve been married to 31 yrs now) also spent 2 extended stays in the hospital for emotional issues when she was about 16. She told me later the rumor was that she had also become pregnant.. and it hurt her to think some of her peers actually believed it. She was a year behind me in high school,…I knew she had been missing from school but didn’t really know why until we started dating the year after she graduated. She told me her story (much like you just did here) when it looked like we might start to get serious. It made me love her more.
    ps I love that song by supertramp. bought the album right before I took a road trip to California..probably listened to it 40 times by the time we returned to Iowa. it has such a haunting melody. again, thank you for telling your story. I can feel your inner strength come through the words of your blog. DM

  2. Anonymous – thank you very much!! I appreciate that.

    Chris – I do remember you going. I came over the day before you left and talked to you all about it (it was right after I had gotten out). We sat at your kitchen table for hours. Did you find that it helped you?

    1. I do remember now, I was such a mess back then. As a warning, I find a lot of those memories coming back as my step-daughter is nearing the age that I was during my stay. I hope she never needs what we did, but will make sure she gets what she needs.

      Thanks for sharing – most of us don’t tell anyone about this part of our lives.

      Keep it up – I love your honesty and openess.

  3. We had more in common than we probably ever knew – thanks for sharing. I know how hard it is. My top “on the outside” memory was the first class that we had to do a project and I couldn’t believe that the teachers just gave everyone free access to scissors. Weird, huh?

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