My thoughts after my first day at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric InstituteLast month my wife took me to the local emergency room because over the previous two weeks, the occasional suicidal thoughts I was having were becoming strong, instantaneous impulses to kill myself. The morning I went to the ER, I was holding a saw in my hand when one of these impulses hit. I looked at my other wrist and thought, “I could just do it here. Do it now.” That impulse scared me enough to get help.

I journaled throughout my week-long stay in the hospital. The following are some excerpts that have stood out to me in reading my journal since my release. I write this now, knowing I had a positive experience in the hospital, to let others suffering with mental disorders know they are not alone and that things can change for the better. And, to raise awareness in those who have never had to feel this pain.

(Day 1) My thoughts after my first day at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute…I haven’t thought about killing myself since I got to the ER yesterday. Around here, that makes me a lightweight. Seems to me that I’m the only one who hasn’t attempted. I could be wrong, but…Some people walk around here like zombies. Spaced out from either current medication or past abuse. T-, the guy I sat across from at dinner, looked like he was going to fall asleep any second. Some people here don’t really speak, rather it seems a struggle for them to spit their words out – or slur them, almost everyone seems affected by something. I feel like the black hood’s just been lifted off my head.

The world out my window would look wonderful to me if it wasn’t covered in metal mesh. But my eyes are open. I have a disease – Type II Bipolar Disorder – and I am seeking treatment for that disease here. Your perspective just changes when you come to a place like this. I haven’t changed my meds yet & I’ve only had a brief visit with a psychiatrist, but I already feel like I’m looking at things differently.

(Day 5) Appearances can be so deceiving when it comes to mental health. When I first got here, I thought P- was the person who was the most far gone. Probably in his sixties, he didn’t attend many groups, and when he did, he didn’t really participate. He has a lazy right eye, needs direction when feeding himself and he can only walk with assistance, even when he uses a walker. T-, on the other hand, in his late forties or early fifties, has from the first day been pleasant and polite. He’s one of those people who enunciate so clearly, making him sound like he’s had a privileged upbringing. At first, I couldn’t figure out why he was here.

I don’t know the official diagnosis on either man, but I got the first indication I was wrong about the two of them the other night. That’s when P- was taking a long slow walk, holding the arm of one of the male behavioral specialists. They were deep in conversation, and P- spoke clearly and intelligently. It turns out, on top of everything else, he can’t see very well, either. No wonder the poor guy’s depressed.

T- announced to us recently in a group session that he knew the FBI & CIA were watching him because they left their used orange juice containers around his apartment; he could also hear their helicopters flying outside the hospital, waiting to snatch him from us so they could push him from the helicopter to his death. T- also talks to Jesus, who tells him to tell us that he’s been saved. At any time, T- will stop what he’s doing, cross himself, kneel and pray. I often wonder if he’s really inside that body and if he knows how terribly wrong things are with his mind. I hope he’s ignorant. To be otherwise & aware would be the worst kind of torture.

(Day 3) After meeting with my psychiatrist, it looks like I will be here a few more days – going to increase the dosage of one of my meds, and if that goes well, I’ll get to leave. A small part of me is disappointed I have to stay, but in all honesty, that’s probably the part of me that got me here in the first place. The point of coming here wasn’t to be the one to make the quickest turnaround or to be the first one out, it was to become a healthier person.

Reprioritizing my life has been on my mind a lot today and it’s really not reprioritizing the more I think about it – it’s more like actually living the priorities. In the past, I’ve let lines blur in the way I live. What I need to do now is live in a way that strengthens the lines – take care first of myself, then my family & then everything else. If I live in a way that keeps self and family first, the other things will fall into place. I can’t keep thinking that taking care of the rest will take care of self and family – because I’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t work.

(Day 2) The thing that’s deceptive about being locked down on a day like this is the luxury of time. There’s an abundance of it here & it makes me painfully aware of how much I’ve wasted at home due to this disease. Not that I’ve had a choice in the matter – I’ve done what I felt has been necessary for me to survive.

Today I’ve found myself wanting to do things that I normally struggle to do or have sadly, simply taken for granted. I want to go for a run, spend time with my children. I want to cook in my kitchen, snuggle up with my wife. It’s been in having these things removed that I’ve come to see their value.

Something else that struck me today is the amount of pride I feel in my wife & kids. It seems that the capacity of their love for me is endless. It is a gift for which I am so grateful and one that I will always cherish. E-‘s strength, courage and love continue to inspire me. I am grateful for her in my life above anything else.

Jason Large, Harrisburg, PA, USA.

Daily Zen.

Jason has been suffering from depression and anxiety for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge on the subjects.

If you wish to contact him, he can be found here –