In 2006, Steph found herself somewhere she never expected to be—a mental hospital. Steph had been using Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as a coping mechanism for a couple of years, but when a roommate issue escalated, her coping mechanism did too. All of the frustration Steph felt about the ways her roommate repeatedly disrespected her space and her wishes poured out in a cutting session that left her arm looking like “raw hamburger meat.” She was ushered to a mental illness clearinghouse and then to a mental hospital where she was fed medication with little regard for her actual needs. The experience altered her in surprising ways. When she finally sought help, she realized she needed to deal with the pain and confusion of her time in the mental hospital before she could deal with what sent her there in the first place.
In this episode, Steph talks about her trip to the mental hospital, including what landed her there, how it felt to be there, and what she wishes had been done differently.
Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do) you might want to use one of these PDFs. Choose the orientation that fits best in your journal.
Beth: Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast
Steph: Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different. I'm Steph!
Beth: And I'm Beth!
Steph: I've been in recovery for 13 plus years and recently wrote a book, Discovering My Scars, about my mental health struggles, experiences and faith.
Beth: I'm a lawyer turned pastor who is all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Steph: Beth and I have been friends for six years, have gone through a recovery program together. When I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as my co-host.
Beth: I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from honest conversations with Steph over the years.
Steph: We value honest conversations and we think you will too.
Beth: That's why we do this and why we want you to be part of what we're discussing today, which is Steph's Trip to the Mental Hospital. You ready to talk about this?
Steph: I'm ready.
Beth: Okay, ready? All right, so I think that we shouldn't delay, we should just get right into it. There was a time when you found yourself in a mental hospital, right?
Beth: And that was a surprise to you?
Beth: Okay. So tell us about it. You were living at the, in Orlando, you were a student at the University of Central Florida and what happened?
Steph: So I had been previously for about two years before I had been dealing with my unexplainable emotions and the things I couldn't control my life. I was dealing with those by using Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and I would you scissors to cut the left inside of my arm.
Beth: Not for the purposes of trying to end your life, which some people might think of when they think of cutting, but that wasn't the purpose of it at all. It had a completely different purpose, which is why you later came to know that that is called Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, right?
Steph: Yeah. It actually recently has become, that's the term that's in the official diagnostic that psychologists use. Um, but before it was just called self-injury or self-harm and um, which is still different from cutting, which is typically associated with someone that's trying to commit suicide in some way.
Beth: So at some point in your, in your personal journey, you took this on as a way to cope with life to cope with feelings?
Steph: Yeah. And it was something at the time I didn't, I understand why, but it was just something my brain said, you have emotions that you can't understand and you feel bad all inside yourself. And there was no nothing. I could see that like when you break your arm in, it hurts. Okay. It's easy to say my arm is broken, it hurts. I can understand that. But my whole body hurt and I didn't understand why. And I couldn't say my leg hurts cause there was nothing wrong with it. And my body said you need something to represent this pain. And that's when my brain told me to injure myself. And I usually use scissors on my left arm. And so when I started this, I would punch a punching bag in my bedroom for about 20 minutes and then I would use Non-Suicidal Self-Injury to completely just kind of, um, feel good or feel relief. Not necessarily good, but feel a little bit of that emotional relief because I could say, okay, it hurts there and I can see it in that would calm and satisfy me for, for a tiny bit.
Steph: So this was something that kind of went on and went on
Beth: But it's not something that anyone who was close to you knew was happening? There was a time when this was just a secret that you have to carry.
Steph: Yeah. I was living with my parents. I was going to community college here in Tallahassee and no one knew. I didn't tell it with any, didn't tell anybody about it. It was a really big secret that I didn't want people to know because I was, well, it wasn't for people to know. It was something personal. It was something I was dealing with. I wasn't necessarily scared that something, you know, that I'd be sent away or anything like that. I just was, it wasn't for other people to know and so they didn't know. But when I was about to go to university in Orlando, I realized I couldn't leave with my secret world of, of self injury still happening.
Steph: And so I got up the courage to tell my mom. I knew she would be supportive. I knew she would care. I have a good relationship with my mom and I knew she would like do everything she could. It just took a lot for me to sit down and admit, "Mom, I have this problem and have been hiding it from you and I need help." But I did just that one day after church, uh, we were sitting in the parking lot of, um, of a restaurant that we'd go pretty much every Sunday and they weren't open yet. So we're just sitting there waiting and it was hot in the car because it's Florida in the summertime. And I finally got the courage and I said, "mom, I have something I need to tell you." And I told her, and right away she said, "we'll get you help. We'll just go to your doctor this week. We'll get you counseling. We'll make it happen."
Beth: Did your mom know that you were dealing with depression?
Steph: I don't think she did. I actually would love to have her on the podcast so we can ask her these kinds of questions so she can tell us for herself. Um, but I don't believe she knew because you know, when we talk about it now, she's like, she had, she had no idea that all this was going on. She herself actually struggles with depression and that's something that is, um, in our family. And so that was part of why I was a little, not scared to tell her, but why it was hard to tell her because I knew that she struggled with depression and that I was struggling with it. I just didn't want her to think me having, it was related to her having an I, you know, I just was trying to, I didn't want to hurt my mom and I felt like this had the potential to do it.
Steph: But I also knew that me getting help was the most important thing. She would want that for me as well.
Beth: You were right because when you told her that day and in the parking lot, she didn't hesitate to say, this is not a, this is not a character flaw and this is not something to be ashamed of. This is something that we need to work on.
Steph: We went to see my primary doctor that week and she prescribed, um, a depression medicine. And then I went to see a psychologist and I had six sessions to my psychologist and it went really well! I was able to talk and that's when I first learned that crying was okay and that I needed to stop working so hard at not crying because, um, it's a way of just cleansing and getting that stuff out there. So before I went to college, I had that counseling, I was on depression medication and I felt ready to go to college.
Steph: And uh, I did, I went to UCF, University of central Florida. I had three random roommates assigned. We, I had a really nice dorm. I got to say, it was really nice. It was apartment style. It was brand new and I had my own bedroom and my bathroom, but we had a shared common room. Uh, the three roommates that I had, we were all around the same age. We actually all had come from Community College into UCF. So we're all kind of in the same like life-space. But they were all very different from me, which was good and bad. Good 'cause I got to learn like new things about people, but bad because they didn't respect me. Well one specific roommate didn't respect me. Like I had respect and my house and when I was growing up I'd never lived with anybody but my parents and brother before.
Steph: So that was something new and different from me and I didn't have calm and peace and security in my dorm like I did at my house. I had a roommate that didn't respect me and would eat my food when, when I asked her continuously not too, and had you know, roommate meetings about the importance of respecting each other's property. In college, my goal was to eat really healthy. I didn't want to gain that freshman 15 and I wanted to really be healthy because I had struggled with being overweight as a child. So I wanted to be healthy. And so I had planned out my meals. I had certainly, you know, this is my Turkey for my Monday meal, you know, a little crazy, but that's what I'm, what I had been doing and I was feeling really good about, um, my health, my food choices.
Steph: And one day my roommate again ate my food and I was--
Beth: Let me get you to pause right there because I think when people hear that, "oh, my roommate ate my food," they might think, well this is just like a normal college roommate thing that happens and you know, gosh Steph, why weren't you just better at sharing? But it really wasn't about that at all. It's not as if it's not as if she came to you and said, "I love the way that you're organizing your food. I can see that you're really striving to be healthy. I would like to join in that process." It was more like she was derailing your attempts to keep yourself healthy.
Steph: Yeah. And it was for me, I had spent a lot of time scheduling everything out and, and getting everything in the proper place. And you know, I have class at this time, so I'm going to eat at this time. So yeah, it was, it was derailing the process I had put in place. And we also had talked about like getting shared food and what that would look like. And she said, oh no, we don't need to do that. So I mean we had had countless conversations about this, so it wasn't something that was new or new or different for any of us. We had been having conversations about this. So, so one day I had just got back from a sorority event and I hadn't eaten all day, which is not good for me. I need to eat my regular meals. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and I was running home cause I needed food. So I went get my, my Turkey for my sandwich and it wasn't there. No Turkey was left. I was really furious. I was furious because I was hungry.
Steph: I was furious because we had had this conversation countless times. And so I called my resident advisor for the hall to come mediate with us again. She came, sat down with my roommate and we were having a conversation and she just wasn't responding. She wasn't respectful and it was super frustrating. I was just at the end of my, this is over with and I, I had unexplainable emotions that I needed something, needed to do something with them. And I went to my dorm room, closed the door and I, um, use Non-Suicidal Self-Injury again on my left arm.
Beth: Did you, did you punch your punching bag first?
Steph: That's the thing, I didn't bring that with me to college. So I took the anger that I would have taken out in a punching bag., I took that out on myself. And so this time my injury was way, way bigger and way deeper than it ever had been before. I, after I got through, I think there's about seven slashes after I got through to the seventh one, my arm was just red. It was covered in red and I panicked and I yelled for the roommate that I did get along with, Megan. And um, she came in and I had already told her some of my struggles so she knew exactly when she saw what had happened and she called 9-1-1 and a long story, But, uh, paramedics came, wrapped my arm and said, said my arm was fine and--
Beth: Long story that you, um, that you do get into in more detail in the book that's going to come out. So we don't want people to think that this is information that isn't being shared. It's just--
Steph: yes, every detail is in my book. I don't want to um, make this podcast too long. But, uh, all that detail is there a, so the paramedics came wrapped my arm.
Beth: They didn't give you stitches or anything, they just wrapped it?
Steph: Wrapped it with like gauze or something.
Beth: Right. And then there was a, a resource officer, a police officer there. And what did he, how did he react?
Steph: So he was, he was kind of fresh and new to his position at UCF. And I learned this later, but he had, um, had a little bit of training on what to do if someone presents with, um, my kind of issues, um, meaning in his mind it was mental illness of some sort. And so he was instructed to take me to a place called Central Receiving Center. And from there, he didn't know what would happen, but that's what he was instructed to do. So he asked me when he came to the dorm room, he said, "Can I take you to a place that will help?" And that's all he asked me. I was sitting on the floor and my arm wrapped in gauze. I'm looking around like, where am I? What's happening? Is this real life? And I said, "okay." Because I thought he meant he would take me to the ER to get my arm taking care of more, because I was kinda thinking like my arm really hurts and there's only gauze on it, but, okay. Um, so I didn't know, I didn't know what any of that entailed. And--
Beth: But do you think even in reflecting on it, do you think that he really have your best interests at heart? Like he really did want you to get help or do you feel like you were in the, in a system somehow?
Steph: I feel like he didn't know what to do and he had very little training. Um, and I actually have talked, I talked to him years later. And so this is also my thinking is coming from what he's told me, he had very little training on what to do in this kind of situation and this is the way he's told to do. So this is what he did. I don't know that he would have had any other option really. Like I don't know what I would have rather him have done. But, um, I do know I would have wished he had said, "I'm going to take you to a mental hospital. Is that okay?" You know, use those words instead of--
Steph: help. Because that was misleading. And if I had, I don't know what I would have said if he said mental hospital I, but I would have at least been in a different mindset and would've had more context to understand where I was. But technically where he did take me was called Central Receiving Center, which wasn't actually a mental hospital, although I never, I honestly didn't know that until I got out. I didn't know that I was in a, it's basically a holding facility for anyone in central Florida that presents with a mental health issue. This Is where they take them and they just keep them in this holding space until they have a place to transfer them to. And I was transferred to a mental hospital from there.
Beth: Is it a holding place or is there some level of assessment that happens? So they kind of, and I know that you're relying on memories from a time when you weren't emotionally healthy and so it may be fuzzy. You May, you may not remember, but--
Steph: I actually like when you ask me questions and when I'm like telling the story, I'm actually like, I can see it in my mind. I can see when you say "assessment," I can see the little room they took me to. And they asked me who five questions and they didn't let me see a actual psychologist. They had a college student asking me questions and no one ever asked if I was trying to commit suicide. No one ever asked if I was suicidal. Um, the questions were very vague and I didn't give him be able to give a lot of detail. And it was very strange to me because I'd never knew what was going on during the whole time. Now reflecting back, I can, you know, see the series of events, but, um, and it kind of makes sense at the time it was traumatizing and it was, um, terrifying and I felt like my rights and dignity were being taken from me because, um, I, I mean I was being treated like you would treat a child maybe worse, like, you know, just taking them around to places because you're the parent and this is what you do. Um, I wasn't being told anything about my life, what was happening when I was getting out. I was barely allowed to make phone calls. Um, and even when I was allowed to make phone calls, I didn't know anyone's phone number because we all have cell phones, but they took that from me, so I couldn't actually call anybody.
Beth: I've heard you describe your time in the CRC as "time without time."
Steph: Yeah, for sure. The biggest thing, so I was taken to, yeah, when I was taken to CRC, since receiving center, um, I was there in, the first thing they did is take all my belongings, I'm away. And then they had me put on paper scrubs and then eventually they took me to a nurse assessment and the nurse looked at my arm and said, "this looks like raw hamburger meat. We can't do anything for you here. You have to go the ER." That was the next thing that was frustrating to me is that I,
Beth: Your arm didn't get worse between being in the dorm room and being brought to the CRC. It was an assessment that the paramedics could have made hours before any of this.
Steph: It got worse in the sense that it was just dried and fresh blood and also really gross.
Beth: But it didn't, the cuts didn't get deeper than for stitches. Didn't change in some way.
Steph: Yeah. So that was frustrating. I waited and waited and they brought a mini bus to pick me up to go to the emergency room. And um, I was in the emergency room for a couple of hours and they did stitches there. And then many hours later I was sent back to Central Receiving Center. And again, I wasn't being told what Central Receiving Center, I thought the Central Receiving Center was a mental hospital, but all we were doing, I was sitting in a room, there's about 30 or 40 of us sitting in a room and there was a TV on with soap operas and we're just sitting in a room. That's it. And this was, this was hours. I mean, this was a whole day I was sitting in this room.
Beth: I feel like I've seen that in movies. These, um, open rooms with people wearing clothes that obviously aren't there. So there's some sort of scrub or uniform and that there's a TV on as if just to numb everything out. And, and it's that, that's the overall feeling is just numb. Yeah.
Steph: Well think of the worst doctor's waiting room you've ever been in. You know, just in general doctors waiting rooms or just kind of depressing and just kinda like, Eh, we'll just wait and see a doctor, think of the worst you've said in. And then double that. And that's where I was. I mean, that's what it was like. It was just like that horrible medical feel and medical smell and just it was, that's what it was. And there was probably too many of us in that room and all with varying levels of, um, of issues you could see or not see. A lot of them, you could see, you know, people that were talking to people that weren't there, people that were, you know, just staring at the walls, staring at other people. It was, it was scary. I was 20 years old. I had never experienced anything like that. I'd never gone to a place I'd never even been to a hospital. Like I'd never had a broken bone, never had stitches, never had anything, and never even had teeth pulled or anything. I've good teeth, so nothing, nothing medical ever. And so this was the first time and it was jarring and it was scary. And I, and so after I was in Central Receiving Center for over over 24 hours, um, I got word that I was being transferred to. Um, the Florida Hospital Psychiatric Treatment Center, I believe it had a long title--
Beth: The Psychiatric Intensive Treatment Unit at the Florida Hospital Center for Behavioral Health?
Steph: Yes, maybe.
Beth: Yeah, it was a lot of words.
Steph: It's a long title and I only know these things because I actually did get paperwork. Um, when I left I got paperwork for all the places cause I had to sign countless papers. I had no choice. But I finally looked at the papers and they're like, oh, that's the name of this, that's the name of this. And that's where I learned about what CRC was, is after the fact when I read the paperwork. But yeah, so I was transferred to a psychiatric unit, which is a also known as a mental hospital. And like I said, I was voluntarily taken to the central receiving center. So I was technically a voluntary admit to the hospital, which actually means that they can keep me longer, as long as they want. If I had involuntarily gone, it would've been called "Baker Acted." And that's the Florida term for someone that's involuntarily admitted into a mental hospital. And if I was Baker Acted, I would have, they would have had assessed me in 24 hours if I was a danger to myself or others and they would have had to release me. So that was also getting frustrating, more frustrating to me. The fact that I was held longer because I voluntarily came, although I didn't know what I was volunteering voluntarily agreeing to.
Beth: It's hard to agree to something when you don't actually know what it is that you're agreeing to. It's hard to actually call that consent.
Steph: And being given the, well I don't think it is. I, I don't think that they had the consent, to consent to send me there. If I had been Baker Acted, it would've been 24 hours.
Beth: So when you got to the actual psychiatric intensive treatment unit, how was that different from the CRC?
Steph: It was actually nicer. Um, it was, it was definitely, it was like, um, it was probably more like a, an er, like the look of it. Like it was a hospital look like a hospital, but they were a little bit nicer there. I think there were nicer because they actually knew what they were doing. They were more medical professionals, like had training a new, you know, a little bit more of how to, how to treat patients. Uh, it wasn't anything wonderful and special. I, I let me not paint the picture too much there but um, they did give me my clothes back which was nice. So I didn't have to still be wearing the paper scrubs. Yeah it was, it was a mental hospital. There was patients sitting around. I'm just kind of staring off in the distance. Like I said, some talking to themselves, some you're kind of like, "what are they here for?" Um, I didn't have a lot of interaction with the patients because I was just so like I want, my goal was to get out because I didn't understand why I was there. Now looking back I can see that they wrongly thought I was trying to commit suicide. To me that wasn't even, I was just so confused because that was not in my brain space. That was not why I use self injury and I didn't use self injury to, you know, try to end my life. I didn't use it to try to bring attention to myself. I didn't want people to know about it. Um, I just, I used it because I had emotions that I had. I had to say this is where it hurts and that's how I used it.
Beth: So while you were at the mental hospital, when you were actually at the second place, not the CRC, but the--
Steph: actual mental hospital--
Beth: Did they, um, they medicated you, didn't they? Yeah, so, um, I was also in communication with my, my parents, mostly my dad and my psychologist, Doctor Jill. Um, that I had seen successions before I went to UCF.
Steph: I was in communication with them and with my roommate that I really got along with Megan. Um, she was like, I'm ready to come get you if you need me to come get y'all come and get ya. That was, that was a tough time because my dad is actually a psychologist himself. He works in a, um, in a facility similar to where I was. It's a way better facility, but he works somewhere similar to that. So he was encouraging me to follow the system, do what they say, take the drugs. And I was very frustrated because: A. I know drugs can really zone out and do things that I didn't want to happen to me. And B., I was like, I don't need to be here. I just, I needed to get out and he just told me to follow the system and that was very frustrating to me because that didn't feel like an answer to me. That just felt like a non answer. Um, so I had some really tough conversations. My Dad during that time, I used some very strong language, uh, which you'll see in the book when, um, when I was talking to him and had some, some intensity that, um, it affected our relationship for, for many years after and me trusting him again. Um,
Beth: He was able to, he wanted to, trust that system in a way that you couldn't trust the system as someone who was being held within it. Right?
Steph: Yeah. He was trusting the system and not trusting me is what it felt like. Um, I've talked to him many times since and um, I can see where he's coming from, but then at the end of the day, I just needed, I needed my dad to say, "I'm so sorry you're there and I want to do everything I can to help you and to get you out." And that's really what I needed to hear. And I just wasn't getting that. I was getting my dad, the psychologists saying, do this, do that, do this. And um, and
Beth: Meanwhile maybe your dad is thinking if she refuses to take this medicine, she's going to get stuck in there even longer. And I know she wants to get out. Right? Is that possible?
Steph: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think we were saying the same thing. He was just saying in a different way, in a way that I couldn't, couldn't understand and couldn't, it wasn't useful to me at the time.
Beth: So eventually you were released from the mental hospital and at that point you were completely mentally and emotionally healthy, right?
Steph: Yeah. So I was, I was in the whole system, I was there for over 70 hours. And uh, so the span of four days, yeah. I mean I worked so hard to just get out and I finally got out. I did have one person that actually advocated for me in the hospital, was a social worker that was assigned to me and she really cared. And, um, I wish I knew her name so I could say "thank you" because she was somebody that I can still remember like a shiny shining person in there in like this hell that I was in. So I did eventually get out. My roommate, Megan came and picked me up and that was that. I was, was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was scared. I, um, and I tried so hard to make people think I was fine now and then I was okay. Although I never received any actual counseling or therapy or support that was actually have any value. I mean, we, we, we played sports outside in the tiny little covered patio, but it wasn't super helpful to my situation. So for the next five years actually I was so scared. I was scared to tell anybody about how I really felt. I was afraid to tell anyone that I still struggled with self injury because I still was struggling with it because being in that hospital really didn't do anything to help me with those, um, those feelings and
Beth: I want to pause you right there because I think that that is a really important takeaway for folks that you are in this situation where you were surrounded by people, by patients, who needed help. You were in the place where someone like me as a complete outsider to the process would think that's where someone who needs help would need to be. But, in fact, you left there without any additional understanding of why this was a coping mechanism for you. You left there without any additional tools that you could use instead of self injury as a coping mechanism. Right? You just, it was like time was up finally and they decided you were "stable" and so they released you?
Steph: Yeah. I think um, people think mental hospital, they think they have like a perception either. Some people might have a perception of, oh yeah, anyone that has a mental illness needs to go to one and they'll get help. Or people will think, oh, mental hospitals are for crazy people and they just lock people up and, and drug them. Well both perceptions are actually pretty accurate because they're all very different. Um, there's no like one size fits all there. They come in many different forms. Some are short term, which is where I was, where you wouldn't really even be there, I don't know how long you could be there, but you know, a week or two I don't think is the, I would say is the max. Then there's some more long-term hospitals where they would keep you for, you know, months on a tie at a time where I was with some place that is just trying to deal with the immediate situation and get you back to out in the world. Yeah.
Beth: It's really different in that sense from um, from a hospital-hospital. So like I had to have surgery in December. I went to the hospital for a short period of time. They performed the surgery, they patched me up, they sent me home. But the problem was fixed, right? The, the issue that took me to the hospital was resolved in Steph's Trip to the Mental Hospital, that wasn't even a goal.
Steph: I use self injury for coping and that was, it's not a healthy coping mechanism. You would think that is possibly something they would have addressed, but that was not addressed.
Beth: So let's fast forward a few--
Steph: And they don't have time in those kind of facilities to really do any of that. The only time they have is to give some drugs and be on your way. And that's typical of these, these types of facilities. And that's what's frustrating is that's not a facility that probably could have ever helped me truly get to where I need to be. I would have needed to be outpatient, which is outpatient treatment is when you see like therapist, you know, on a Wednesday and you, do you remember life during the rest of the week? Um, inpatient is where I was, it was inpatient where you're in living in a facility.
Beth: And we're not saying that that kind of approach is never right. Right? I mean someone could be having, could be having like a psychotic break. Like there could, there could be mental illness conditions that that could be addressed in that way. Yes. But for someone dealing with Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as a mechanism for coping with life, that sort of short-term, let's give you some additional medication, let's not do, let's not do any talk therapy, let's not do any of those things. It didn't, it didn't make a, it didn't improve your overall situation. Right?
Steph: I don't think there's anything wrong with medication. I personally tried to be off as many minutes as I can and I am not, I'm no longer on any kind of medication. Um, but I'm a firm believer in medication. Um, paired with therapy. Both of those I think are key. Medication can be a great way to help deal with some short term issues into help you, why you're in therapy. But I, I'm a firm believer in, in both. I definitely think just therapy is great too.
Beth: Several years after this experience, you were still dealing with depression?
Steph: Yeah, so depression has been a ongoing issue for me and when I'm really depressed, the self injury is even worse as well. For the next five years after I got out the hospital, I was scared to see medical professionals. I was scared I was going to be sent back to a mental hospital. I was scared I was going to be locked up for good and I had all these irrational fears and thoughts that kept me from fully living in embracing life. And I'm, I was a girl in my twenties I was, you know, you know, 25 five years later and I was just afraid every day and I, it could, I could go to work and that was it. I worked at the Apple store in Orlando and I loved it, but that was my whole world is that was all I could do was work and then crash at night because it was so much emotional work to put on happy, "healthy" human face, go to work. I finally, after five years, I realized I can't do this anymore. Like I have issues that I don't know what's going on or why they're there and I can't do it alone. So I took a month off from work and I went back to Tallahassee and I went to see Dr. Jill again.
Beth: And, and she had been your, she had been your psychologist before you left to go to move to Orlando, right?
Steph: Exactly. Yep. So I made appointments with Dr Jill. And in our very first appointment I was telling her the things that were just happening in my life and the things that were living in my head on a daily basis. And she said, within the first 10, 20 minutes, she said, "well, you have post traumatic stress disorder." And I was like, "what?" And she said, "yeah, you have posttraumatic stress disorder from the mental hospital. You have flashbacks at any given time, uh, of being back in the hospital. You're afraid of, uh, medical professionals. You're afraid to live life. You're afraid to do this, you're afraid to do that. And I was like, oh my gosh, that is where this all stems from. I didn't know exactly what my issues were. So these were, these are new issues because I didn't have post-traumatic stress before I was at a mental hospital, but that's what I had PTSD from. So during that month we worked on PTSD and I thought, oh, PTSD, that's a, that's a disease I've heard of, so there must be some cool treatment for it. So I was all excited, I was like, what's the treatment? What's the treatment Doctor Jill? And she said, "well you're going to talk about it." What? Wait, we're going to talk about it and just talk about it. But, and she said, we could put you back on medication, but you have gotten off of it and you've been doing well off of it. And so I said, "oh, okay so you want me to talk about the things that just tears me up and kills me inside. You just want me to talk about it? Oh, okay. Okay."
Beth: Because it was sitting there waiting for you, for you to actually, deal with it.
Steph: It was always right there. Exactly. And so I didn't love the treatment plan, but I also, I understood. So I, um, I talked about it and she encouraged me to write letters to the people in the hospital that harmed me and forgive them and well write mean letters to them, like really mean nasty letters and then burn them up. Don't send those. Uh, but really be able to forgive those people, forgive myself and forgive the people involved. I was able to really work through that, that month off from work and, and deal with the PTSD. And I still, um, I still have flashbacks. PTSD does not just magically go away. It doesn't affect my life on a daily basis in the sense that I can't function in life. I mean I wrote a book, I do this podcast, I have a full-time DIY business and I can definitely function, um, way better. But I still have flashbacks. Actually this week I had a flashback and right after it happened I was like, Ooh, I can talk about on the podcast. Isn't that nerdy?
Beth: But well, well tell us, cause um, what I'm learning from you is that a flashback is different from a memory. So kind of explain that distinction to us.
Steph: For me, my flashbacks are actually when I'm taken back to the hospital, that's a flashback for me. So this week I had a mole removed at my dermatologist and they, they stuck a needle in it, which was not comfortable and I think they put numbing agent with a needle, but, um, it was just kinda like stick in that needle around. And I was like, oh, that's uncomfortable. That's uncomfortable. Okay. And then it was over and I was like, okay, wow. That was hurt more than I thought, but okay. And then I was driving home after the appointment and as I was driving, I was transported back to the, um, emergency room when they stuck multiple needles in my arm to numb the area before they put 24 stitches in. And I was back there and I was feeling the pain and I was feeling the fear that I had at that time. And I was, I was there, it didn't last a super long time. And right when I came back to and saw where I was, I just had to remind myself, you're okay, you're safe, you're driving, it's going to be okay. You're not there anymore. You're here, it's okay. And then it was over. And then I thought, oh, I'll share it on the podcast. So, um, they are, they happen still randomly. I have no control over when they happen, but they don't debilitate me and I handle them as they come. And then I move on.
Beth: You learned that you are, you were actually diagnosed with PTSD and that that relates to Steph's Trip to the mental hospital, but that's actually completely separate from the Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, right?
Steph: Correct, yes. So even after dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, which is my new diagnosis diagnostic, um, I still hadn't fully dealt with Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and why I coped with it. Um, so even, you know, this was six, six, seven years later, I still hadn't dealt with, um, the true reasons why I use Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. And I still used it for coping. And I still felt shame for using it for coping. And I still, I didn't feel the same satisfaction that I did do, you know, seven years prior. So there's definitely more to the story. Yes. And actually, uh, so my book Discovering Our Scars, is the full story of me finally deciding, discovering why I dealt with NSSI. And there's, there's a whole another layer to my story. But when I first wrote my book, I only wrote about the mental hospital because I thought, oh, that's a real intriguing story. And I had a whole book only about the mental hospital and I sent it to my publisher and they said, you know, I feel like there's more here, there's more to this story. Well there is, but I thought that'd be a second book. And they said, I think it's part of the first. So, so there's way more to the story. Uh, I don't know that we have time today to talk about it, so I think we'll hold off for a, another episode.
Beth: I think we, I think definitely that we should save that for another episode. Yeah, we will get into every part of this incredible story. We will, we will hear about how you turned to God in a really, um, vulnerable way and we'll, we'll hear what that revealed to you and, and more about that whole journey, um, for you in terms of understanding why you dealt with things by using NSSI.
Steph: We want to thank you guys for joining us today and we want to let you know that we both actually have a newsletter that you can sign up for on our websites. We send out weekly newsletters and we'll have a link to the week's podcast. We'll also, uh, Beth writes some amazing blogs about God and church and all of the great stuff that we love and some personal stuff. So, uh, you can sign up for her newsletter at www.bethdemme.com and then my newsletter will have, um, I'm starting blog entries, so I can't say that are brilliant because I've never actually read anything. I'll have the podcast and I'll have some updates on what's going on with me. So you can sign up for that at StephanieKostopoulos.com and we'll have a link to both of those below.
Beth: Yeah, just check out the show notes so that you don't have to worry about how to spell all of that. So we have a voicemail line and we want you to call in and answer a question. We're going to offer a question in each podcast episode and then we want to actually receive your answers to that in this really, um, modern fancy way called voicemail.
Steph: We want to hear from you. So you are welcome to call a voicemail on your phone. And the voicemail number is (850) 270-3308.
Beth: And the question we want you to answer this week is: "What honest conversation would you like to hear Steph and Beth tackle?"
Steph: So, Beth, uh, today we talked a lot about my trip to the mental hospital. Um, did you have any personal takeaways from today?
Beth: My personal take away is that sometimes life feels out of control and that that actually can bring new understanding and new awareness with time and with courage. What's your takeaway? I know this is a story, you know well, but what is your takeaway having shared it again today?
Steph: Um, I think my takeaway is it's scary to be vulnerable and it's, um, and I, I still have doubts in my head about sharing my truth in my full story, but I feel like bigger things in me in place. That is the reason I need to share. And I am just taking this one step. I can't look at Episode 10, I have no idea what that's gonna look like, but we're all here on Episode 2 and I, um, I can do, I can do episode two. So, um, thank you for letting me share.
Beth: Thanks for being courageous.
Steph: Thank you. And we want to give you all a chance to, um, answer some questions for yourself. So we have written some Questions For Reflection that relate to today's episode and these are, um, you're welcome to answer these in your head, or on paper. We have a link on our website where you can download a form, a pdf that has them written on it, but this is just an opportunity for you to answer some questions and if you don't feel like you want to, then we will see a next episode, but Beth is going to read them and she'll leave a little bit of between each, each of the questions so you can pause the podcast if you're in your car or you want to be able to answer the questions right away to yourself. And then we'll see next time.
Beth: Questions for Reflection. Think of a time when you felt misunderstood. Were you able to advocate for yourself? If not, why not? Have you ever felt emotionally locked up? When you're at your lowest, where do you turn? Do you see God as a safe place to turn? Why or why not?
Steph: This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thanks for joining us.
Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.