The Trauma of Forcible Hospitalization

The other day, with the help of my spiritual teacher*, I realized that I’m still dealing with the trauma of being forcibly hospitalized. Of course I knew this on some level, but I’ve admittedly been trying to bypass the healing process. Why? Because, to put it simply, healing sucks. It’s necessary and feels great afterwards, but during, it’s no fun at all.

Thinking about the hospital and its surrounding events still triggers shame and grief in my being. Of course, avoidance never works forever. We live in a culture steeped in deep avoidance, which is something I would love to see change soon. Since I can’t make that happen on a wide-scale, I’m starting where I can: With myself. In an effort to face that trauma, I’m going to share some of the feelings I experienced while in the hospital.

I don’t know if posting this will help me to release anything, but I’m going to do it anyway. There’s been a tight/blocked sensation in my throat for over a week now, and as I continue to watch it, I know it is indicative of something I’m not expressing that needs to be expressed.

*My teacher’s name is Jim Tolles and his website is I have referred back to his website more than any other to help integrate my awakening. He’s amazing and I recommend reading his blogs and/or reaching out to him for a session if you feel you’re ready for a teacher.

First things first: Being hospitalized during a spiritual emergency is really traumatizing, and that should not be dismissed. A spiritual emergency can be something like an ego collapse/death, a psychotic break triggered by the use of drugs, or any other variation of someone’s “reality” breaking down that they simply cannot cope with. What these people need is compassionate care from those who understand that the human being is much more than a collection of chemicals. They need truly nonjudgmental care, not the kind that calls itself “nonjudgmental” and then literally labels us “disordered.” That is, pardon my language, a fucking judgment.

From the outside, it seems “right” to sedate those who are having a psychotic break/spiritual emergency. From the inside—well, you honestly have no idea until you go through it yourself. Not even a little bit.

The following paragraphs flew out of me. I’m aware they may sound hyperbolic, but they are accurate in regards to what it felt like to have my physical body restrained and my consciousness altered against my will:

Basically it felt like I was processing the sins of humankind through my own being. I felt the rape of every human who has ever endured such trauma and the persecution of every prophet. I felt the shunning and isolation that every outcast has ever experienced. I felt extreme, undeserved rejection. I felt the harsh punishment of every child who has done something their parents deemed wrong, even though they had no idea what they were doing. I felt horror and fear on levels I did not even know existed.

I felt like a baby whose leg had been cut off, and like everyone around me was standing by laughing as I tried to crawl around. I felt like this especially afterwards, when my friends (and myself) tried to joke about it out of discomfort, or when my loved ones expressed relief that I’d “finally accepted” I had been “crazy.”

I felt like every prisoner who was about to get their hands chopped off by the state. I felt like every person who had been in a concentration camp, subject to unthinkable injustice. It seemed like everyone around me was unconscionable and cruel and merciless—and stupid. Really, really stupid. To me, the hospital staff were no better than Nazis (I’m pretty sure I called them that, too) in the sense that they were “just taking orders,” “just doing what they’d been trained to do.”

Honestly, I still don’t see much of a difference between a Nazi and those who are still just moseying about life today, refusing to challenge a culture as murderous as ours. I recognize that it’s all fear and unconsciousness and so it is forgiven, but we are still killing each other. It is happening everywhere all the time for no reason other than widespread insanity. I don’t feel as though we have made much progress in this regard.

Being forced to take medication was an extreme violation of what I wanted in my own body. When I was taken to isolation, everyone just looked on like they didn’t hear me screaming to be let out, like my pain wasn’t real, like my extreme suffering didn’t matter because I was “hysterical.” I felt like everything I said fell on deaf ears, even though I know at least some of it was valid. Because no one knew what to do with me, they to took me to a bed and allowed strange men to shackle my body down when I was incredibly vulnerable and angry. To someone who is psychotic, it doesn’t matter if said men are apparently licensed to do this. It reads as terrifying.

I bit a male staff member for trying to touch me. I do not even feel ashamed of that now, although it was used as “evidence” of my insanity more than once by the psychiatrist and my caseworker. To me, it was very reasonable: I didn’t know him, I didn’t want him touching me, and my teeth were my only weapon. I never consented to him touching my body. More than one staff member actually laughed at me while I was psychotic; I saw it in their faces and heard it in their voices. I still believe that those people do not possess the emotional maturity to work with those who are in acute mental health crises.

Just so we’re clear: I’m not trying to assert that my actual circumstances—being a patient in the mental hospital—were “just as bad” as every human experience I just described. I don’t play the “suffering Olympics,” because it is a simplistic and unhelpful game to play. If anything, this is a testament to how one’s external circumstances are a poor measure for what they’re actually dealing with inside.

I’m just telling you how it felt, and it felt like Hell to an unimaginable degree.

There was no one. I don’t really like saying that, because my family and friends did the best they could. My husband came to visit me even though I’d just stepped out of the marriage. Some of my friends came to see me while I’m sure I was saying shit that made absolutely no sense. Everyone did what they could.

But really it felt like (and still does feel like) there was no one who saw my experience as deep and real and significant. Way too many times, people talked about how hard it was for them to see me in the hospital. I know they meant well, but it just made me feel worse for troubling them. Afterwards, a lot of people said “I wasn’t myself” in the hospital, but I didn’t even feel like I knew who I was. It was very confusing. I also felt like whoever they thought they’d “known” before wasn’t the True me. I felt, overall, horribly ashamed of myself and tossed in a corner to recover from the most intensely awful time in my life.

I felt these feelings for months and months after I was released. Everyone around me was still somewhat scared and worried, and my feelings of loneliness were staggering. I had no idea what had happened, and I felt so looked down on, so pitied, so mislabeled. I laid in bed with just saying “I’m scared; I’m scared,” even though I didn’t know what of.

Whatever explanations anyone had for my breakdown, I knew they were incomplete, and it was maddening.

Before I was hospitalized, I was highly sensitive and unstable and in violation of many many social contracts, but I was not violent. When I got into the hospital, I became violent. I want to say clearly and openly: Being forcibly hospitalized worsened my overall state of being during my spiritual emergency. Every professional failed to understand what was happening at a deeper level. They did not provide me with an alternative to the “disease” story, and the experience overall worsened my prognosis.

For as hurt and resentful as this post may sound, I do not begrudge anyone. People were trying to be there in every way they knew how, and I retreated from a lot of potentially nourishing spaces and people because I was just so shaken up. I had no idea what had happened. I just knew I needed to hide, lick my wounds, and turn my attention inward. I had to look into other explanations outside of “you got dysfunctional genes; your brain chemicals are all screwy.” Fortunately, that is what I did.

With this post, all I mean to do is share some of how it felt. I have no doubt that someday, someone will read this and it will help them feel understood. If you’re one of them, I hope it lets you know you’re actually not alone, and that you can move forward from the experience and even have a life filled with more joy than you ever thought possible.

Still, I mostly wrote this for my own self. No lie: I sobbed as I wrote most of this post as I recalled what it was like to be shuttered away, talked down to, drugged, watched, confined, and perhaps the worst part: judged, judged, judged at every turn.

I also want to get across something very simple: We can do better for one another. We can do so much better.

– lish

location: Georgetown, TX

6 thoughts on “The Trauma of Forcible Hospitalization

  1. Feels like I want to say a lot on this and on every of your post. At the same time, it is your blog and this is all about you so I feel thinking like should I even talk on myself here. I think I can cause this boat does look like ours.
    I read this post and I feel understood. Also I want you to know that I am understanding you and please feel understood and that you are not alone too.

    Though, I still feel there is something missing to my life, something I myself have to bring in, the dedication and attitude I have to and I know I am able to bring in. I mean – on one hand and probably to someone on the side – it surely can look like some kind of whining. And I still can not not agree, because I know Im doing not everything I can. It is hard to change, to make up the attitude. It is much harder after youve been diagnosed and marked as disordered with people around knowing this. The worst thing is – both of the times I found out my True self, making up my attitude and being very confident, both of the times I jumped out of depression – led to what they call mania and kind of psychosis. And you know what I am talking about.

    I will re-read your post and share more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do know what you’re talking about. Keep bringing it back to this moment now. It is so important that after these experiences, we learn to sit with ourselves, heal, and remember that we are something unlimited, beyond diagnostic criteria.


  2. It feels like I had that depression for my whole life and I got used to it so it became normal. There were some drugs through the life, there were lots of weed smoking. Also, lots of cigarette smoking and I am sure smoking did my life bad. Both weed and cigarettes it their own way. Depression from the weed, health issues from the cigarettes and lack of confidence from both. Im still on cigarettes and Im kind of deciding to quit every evening and I start in the morning again.

    The “powering on” in the morning seems to be crucial to everything. Getting in the zone is not easy and it should be understandable. But I wake up and my self-talking starts right away and I dont think about like “hey you just wake up give yourself an hour”. Same when on weed and theres a post-smoking depression thats is for 1-3 days, but I start to make conclusions right away not givivng myself a break like “hey you smoked that shit yesterday and thats just chemistry and low energy after”. This should be considered in our lives I suppose. But the mind works differently and we (mind) have old ways and we are somehow into self-indulgency. Of course it is easier to be down. I am not trying to cheer up anyone here.

    The other interesting and promising part is here. I will try to explain.
    I dont know how it is for you and if there are still old ways or habits in your life that you are trying to get rid of. Or bring in new right or probably healthy ones. But heres the thing. Theres past present and future. Here we are in the present. Theres this awful past and theres promising future and theres “future you” who is out there who is waiting and who is there but it depends on “present you” for how fast “future you” will appear. “Future you” you know you can and want to be. So theres this old you and old ways and all this shit can be put on the table. Like, everything, ok everything is here, yes I did drugs yes there were drinking yes there were lots of stuff and its all here on the table, here, you anyone whos looking, anyone whos judging, you society or whoever, I dont care. You, who was judging even if it all is in my head cause you made me like this. I DONT WANT TO FEEL BAD BECAUSE ALL OF THIS. YES IT IS ALL HERE YES THERES LOTS OF SHIT BUT FOR HOW LONG SHOULD I DRAG IT? No one can answer this but ourselves. So, in the other words, we can stop dragging it right away. Yes I know it sounds so easy and Im still there too. But theres a switch somewhere I know it. Both of the times I was able to pull the switch wre after my sincere attitude. Let me say “the sincerest” attitude. We and only we decide for how long we want drag or feel like draggin all this. Like, theres real us, our True self and it lets or doesnt let you pull the the switch cause deep down we are not lying to ourselves, we just cant lie and thus we know “the real deal”, the true situation behind if we are kind of “true enough” to be admitted to pull the switch. Thats how it is for me, I think.
    Sometimes I feel maybe Im too harsh and too strict and too demanding and it also leads to good things. Hey mind, fuck off, hey society, fuck off, Im tired of all this bullshit I just want to live a normal life. And then when it happened – they said – hey, something wrong with you. They got used to different me and it constrains me, constrains us! We want to be doing better and sometimes it feels like they are evil and they dont want us to get better. This was a part of my psychosis on my both episodes. Thats the other story.

    The other thing I was thinking and experimenting with is like “brain body chemistry”. So, with consciousness we know that it is always there. It is not something to acquire. It is there and it is fogged with ego and stuff and we need to get rid of this fog and – boom! So, my thinking was – my mind condition = my brain condition = my body condition = what I take in, in a way, right? Theres mental stuff for sure, but lets stick to this physical stuff. Which actually leads to mind and mental stuff. I started to be very picky here, both of my “episodes” started with me eating very and very picky and healthy. I remember it was kind of fasting stuff. Which led to me feeling great! Which led to less sleep which led to “mania”… So, food for though here… both times it felt like there are forces that dont want you to “wake up” and I had lots of proofs and I can come up with them even now. It does look like theres kind of delusional bullshit here, I might agree.
    Also, both times it started great and both times I fucked up at some point and it felt like “high forces” punished me. Maybe Im too delusional. Maybe. But theres a lot more to this and we know it. Consciousness is no joke and no easy way and not fun as it may look like. But it sure is rewarding. And it sure can lead to psychosis if not handled right. You, lish, mentioned this in this or that way.

    Let me get back to this table thing. I believe in it cause Ive been through it. It has a lot to do with honesty, with being true to yourself and maybe God, or Mother Earth. It is only us who are not letting us to be free. If we have our own judgement thing in us, we judge ourselves honestly. We know who we are and who we can be. Yes there are old ways and habits. But if we put everything on the table and be true and honest – no one, no one can constrain us. And again this sounds easy but it seems right – if we make up the attitude, put everything on the table and stop being shy or low about all of it (yes its my past yes its my unconscious past yes it is “made up” me cause of childhood and environment I was raised in) – and from this point I will do everything Ive always wanted to, my every step will be conscious or Im honest to my self I will try it to be conscious, then, we are able to free ourselves right away. Aint this right? It is.

    Im still investigating. Theres a lot of work to be done and effort. For sure theres a lot to do with what we take in, like food, drinking, smoking. Amounts of it. Drinking is worst for consciousness I suppose. Drugs and cigarettes. Lol, this is no brainer, right? Time we go to bed and wake up seems like a lot to do with our well-being. Its all about well-being. So one of my points here is – consciousness is available and should be available for a healthy being.

    And God knows I hate medications and what they do to people, all this “disorder” stuff and psychiatry is bullshit. Maybe not all of it, but calling me bipolar after I had episode, the one anyone can get into with fasting, man, this is wrong.


    1. There’s a lot to unpack in this comment. I recommend you do a lot of your own journaling, and of course, sit with yourself. I no longer think of psychiatry as “wrong,” per se, but limited in the way it evaluates the human experience. Our general lack of awareness of the unconscious ego is what drives much of people’s traumatic experiences.

      What is labeled “typical” or not in terms of behavior is defined by our conditioning, and until we begin to evaluate that, we will always miss the mark.

      Be well my friend.


      1. That was a lot to say and excuse me for that pack. Mistakes are there and my English is kinda poor. I wish i could delete that comment and I probably want you to delete it.

        That about “typical” insight of yours is so good. What is the conditioning itself should be understood properly I guess.


      2. If you’d like me to delete it, I will. I’m happy you are willing to examine your own history and look at your patterns; this is a step not everyone makes.

        To answer the thing about conditioning: Until we begin to examine ourselves consistently, almost everything we think and want is the result of conditioning. For instance, we can see that we are conditioned to like and dislike certain foods based on our upbringing. We are also conditioned to see differences between one another based on illusory constructs such as “nations.” Widespread, multi-generational conditioning of beliefs such as “those other people are from a different nation and we don’t like them” is what creates horrors such as war. If we were just able to peel back a few layers of conditioning on the whole, we could be living in a far less violent world.

        These things become clearer the more we look at it. And then we must take it back further: What is the “you” that thinks? The “I” thought is itself is the root of all other conditioning that can be built on top of it. For instance, the ego-person who writes this is a woman named lish who lives in the United States, but that is not truly what I am. When I look inward to see where this “person” exists, I do not find her, I find the True me, which is pure existence, same as “you.”

        This is why the ego is the structure to examine directly whenever possible ❤


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