stigmas


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i don't remember what i was wearing. i don't remember what i brought with me. i only remember what i wasn't allowed to bring. a razor, tweezers, makeup, cell phone. they collected these things while i checked in, my parents signing the consent forms, a glossy haze over our eyes. my breath was bated, scanning the open room of the people i'd be spending an indefinite amount of time with. the hierarchy was stark and obvious. white coats ruled the land. they could come and go as they pleased - a royal privilege. the blue scrubs distributed medication. no one realized that these were the ones really running the show. their humble degrees, simple task of handing you a small pill with water and checking under your tongue - they had the power. i observed these things in the first brief moments before my mother walked me back to my room. "these rooms are typically reserved for the more disturbed" the white scrubs leaned toward my mom and said in a loud whisper, "solitary confinement." she continued to explain that they were waiting for a shared room to open up for me. "it's our busy season." whatever that means. 

the small bed with a scratchy grey blanket was in the far corner of the white room, a small table with a lamp next to it. above the bed was a large window, the whole world on the other side. this window had bars across it, god forbid i would try and exit this way, seventeen floors up. 

my mom and i sat on this springless mattress, fighting feeling anything. how can a mother be equipped to say goodbye to her daughter in a solitary room in a psychiatric ward in a local hospital? how can a daughter be prepared to stay strong for her mom while her own world is walling up in front of her? the answer is that one cannot be prepared for this circumstance, we gave in and ended up crying until we couldn't anymore. she squeezed my hand and left. as the door closed behind her the walls seemed to shrink in. 

the following week exists in my memory as a black and grey watercolor painting, left outside in the rain. knocks on my door woke me up every few hours to be refilled with tranquilizers. i could barely carry myself to the common area. "it'll help you to socialize. watch TV with the others." i felt like i was deep under water, creatures around me were inanimate, they talked but it might as well have been heavy rocks dropped into the ocean. 

i met with a team of however qualified whomevers, sitting around a long table, they asked me questions about my health. there were no study notes for this quiz. my new roommate gave me hints to the answers. she'd been in for months and learned the hard way how not to answer. she'd learned to say what they want to hear. 

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looking into a prism, this is a brief, flash reflection of my experience in the psychiatric hospital ten years ago. self harm and suicidal ideation took me there. 

i don't talk about this with many people. i fear the stigma that will follow. 

loaded words with blank-bullet meanings. 'crazy', 'unstable', 'weird'. these words really hold no weight as there is no true antonym that exists. 'normal' is a prerogative. 'vulnerable' is an adjective i'll allow. to me, vulnerability is bravery and trust. you're baring your weak parts to a potential threat in hopes that peace will come from it. true humanity is not to hide. i believe humanity is finding strength and sharpening it. we must realize our weaknesses and work to strengthen them. this is survival. 

here's the thing. when you look a stranger in the eyes your souls briefly connect. what's behind those blue and brown windows is a tapestry of experiences. joy, suffering, and so similar to your own. 

'weird' means a more colorful tapestry. 'crazy' means a few loose threads from use. 

throw stigmas out the window. keep judgements at bay. stories are beautiful, and your soul is even more.

please share your story. please ask for help if you need it. there are communities of people who are safe, who want to listen.

for suicide prevention week (september 10-17) Secret Midnight Press is donating 20% of profits to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (this includes sales of my book).

please remember that you are loved. please remember that it gets better. i know this because i've been there. it gets better.



i'll leave you with this friendly reminder:


my new book is coming to you in november! and with each blog post leading up to this i will be doing a contest on my instagram story. 

i will be hand-typing a new poem, and if you repost my story, you can win a signed & framed copy. 

plus the winner is entered to win a personalized copy of my new book once it's out. 






  xo,

Ashley


Listening to:

Happiness - Jonsi & Alex

19 comments:

  1. it is so nice seeing you post again!! this post is heavy. thank you for sharing it. it's interesting how we see some people and never think they've experienced something like this because they seem so "normal." i hope you're okay now. funny thing, i was reading your poetry book on the train this morning and thinking of you, and then i see your post :D

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  2. I was so happy when I saw that you posted again! Your poetry is incredible, and I'm always overjoyed when I see you've shared something new with us. This is a really heavy post, and I really admire you for opening up, and being "vulnerable" like this. Thank you for sharing this with us. As I was reading this, I promise words like "unstable", "weird", and "crazy" were not even close to what I was thinking. Instead, they were more along the lines of "brave", "interesting", "artful". Thank you again for sharing with us.

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  4. I remember when you first posted this part of your story. Your descriptions of the inside of the hospital were my first exposure to what it's really like to be hospitalized because of mental health concerns. Just 6 months ago, I found myself in a place similar to yours, listening to my parents argue about whether or not I should be taken to the hospital. I didn't end up going to the ward, but I do remember thinking about your original blog post in my head. Telling myself, over and over, that "Ashley Dun survived it. So can I. Ashley Dun survived it. So can I." Your words gave me courage in that time. Now, I'm reading them again, and I'm in a much better place mentally. And you're right, that stigma should be taken away. Had I known how much other people struggle, I may have never reached that scary place.

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  5. this is so beautiful <3

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  6. This is really inspiring. Thank you. To anyone who sees this, keep going, you're doing great today <3

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  7. “Stories are beautiful, and you soul is even more” I loved it! I can feel that every sentence carry lots of emotion. Thank you for this. Take care of yourselves everyone. You are important, I mean it. And I love you so much ♥️

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  8. Thank you for sharing your story and being vulnerable. You’re an inspiration to me. I’m much older than you, but I hope I can learn to be this vulnerable some day. Much love��

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  9. Sharing your story helps end the stigma. Thank you for helping normalize mental illness in our culture when so many people are so afraid to speak out about it. Stay strong ❤️

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  10. Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable. I can't believe how much one person can inspire me, but you do. You're doing amazing. I've been in a horrible place mentally for a while now, but this post was really helpful. I love you and stay safe and keep doing what you love.������

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  11. This post brought me to tears. I wasn't expecting that story and what you had to say was a huge relief. I ended up in a hospital as well before, also due to self harming and suicidal ideation. I had to stay 10 weeks. The part about you and your mom hit me so hard, because of how much it reminded me of my story. Now I'm facing down the same struggles once again, but this time I don't know how it will turn out. Thank you for speaking about this, and please continue to stay strong and be an example for others. I wish had. Love and Prayers....S. ♥️

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  12. Ashley, you are a beacon of light in my life and I am so glad that I stumbled upon your blog a while back. You have impacted my life more than you will ever know! I am always praying for you and rooting for you. I hope that I get to see you soon! Love, S

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  13. I cannot express how meaningful it is to be able to see into a soul that has been through life in the most devastating and uplifting conditions. It is a beautiful thing, to share life as it is, not as you want to portray it. I feel as if social media is corrupting the way we think about our lives because people only show beauty and happiness. You use this blog to connect to people in the most vulnerable way, and to illuminate that life is more than just an aesthetic picture, it is about feeling every emotion, and learning through hardships. Thank you for pouring your soul into this page, I aspire to do the same as fearlessly as you one day.
    I am so very glad you are back, thanks again for the copy of Smoke Signals you gave me at the Secret Midnight Press tour in Austin. It was lovely meeting the vessel that carries such lovely words and thoughts in her mind. <3

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  14. this is a really insightful post. havent come across this blog before but someone posted it on twitter. thanks for sharing this part of your life :) ive been in and out of therapy myself and never felt like it helped so i quit, dumb decision, just had to find the right person who wanted to listen.

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  15. Ashley, you can't imagine how much love and support I want to give you.. what you did, sharing your story, was so brave and in so proud of you. I have been and will continue to support you because you are extremely talented and you deserve so much. Xx

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  16. thank you for sharing this--it's painful to read as a mom whose younger daughter experienced this as well. it's bizarre to be "on the other side" of hospitalizations and treatments because "it" never goes away. you are never "fixed" or "normal now" or whatever the societal expectation is. all I ever know what to do, the only thing I believe actually helps, is to love solidly and to really listen. I stopped trying to "fix" anything.
    much love and strength to you, ashley.xo

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  17. This is so beautiful. We, the survivors, need to fervently speak about where we've been so that people treading that same unknown territory so that they may wander back onto the path towards self-acceptance and self-love, so they know that that territory is not the end all, be all. Thank you for this post. I hope this speaks to many people.

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  18. I really hope people who need this will read this. I attempted suicide too, I selfharmed too and I thought nothing will ever get better. I felt like Í was te problem and that I could not be cured because I was a horrible person. I ended up in mental hospital and I've got help. Now I'm 2 months clean from cutting and I'm not suicidal anymore. After three years I can laugh again, I'm so fucking gratefull. I felt like I was fake and not worth any effort. I felt like I was just another hopeless case. Most of the people thought I couldn't get 'better' and that I couldn't stay alive. See me fucking now. I can't stress enough about how important attention for our mental health is. AND IF YOU DON'T FEEL OKAY OR YOU FEEL HOPELESS, YOU'RE NOT BEING A BURDEN TO SOMEBODY IF YOU TELL THEM AND YOU AREN'T ATTENTION SEEKING!!! If you read this and you have suicidal thoughts, please don't give in to those, things really do get better and you deserve help. If you don't dare to tell anyone you know about your struggles, you can always text me. I don't know you and your story is save with me. I hope you trust me and I know someday you can find your inner light too. At instagram I am @riannesmilesagain and you can always send an e-mail to me at: rianne.kroos@gmail.com. I'M NOT A PROFFESSIONAL BUT I JUST WANT YOU TO BE OKAY AND I WANT YOU TO FEEL BETTER, BECAUSE YOU DESERVE THAT

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  19. I very like to read such posts, they are really interesting.

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