Healing: What Two Weeks In A Psychiatric Hospital Taught Me

I was telling others that they'd be fine while I was dying inside.

Her Voice

"We're going to have to admit you. I'm going to make a call, just prepare yourself because you could leave in the next day or so."

This is what a psychologist told me after spending just a few minutes in her office. I was scared, confused, and emotional. I looked at her as if she was telling me that I was a crazy person. Is my case that bad that a psychologist's solution was to refer me to a psychiatric hospital? Can't we sort this out in a few sessions? Well, I guess not.

You see, five years ago I was raped by a stranger. I spoke about my story here. This is the same situation that led me to a psychologist's office in 2017 because I felt as though my life was falling apart.

Things had gotten so bad that I was a mess all the time. I was crying everywhere – at work, in my car, at church, and at home. As much as I thought I'd dealt with the emotional scars that come with being a rape survivor, it turned out, I had barely scratched the surface. You see, publicly opening up about my experience resulted in a lot of people reaching out to me and sharing their own painful experiences. Their emails touched me so much and I wanted to be there for all of them, to tell them that everything would be fine, and that they will overcome. I was responding to emails and encouraging others who had faced a similar situation, all the while asking myself, Who is pouring into me while I'm pouring into all these people?

This left me so empty and things just went downhill from there. I felt like a fraud.

I was telling others that they'd be fine while I was dying inside.

I was a mess. It was time to do something about it. I prayed one of the most emotional prayers of my life. I said, "Lord, please heal me. Do whatever it takes to heal these emotional scars."

I even wrote this prayer on a sticky note and stuck it on my bathroom mirror. About two weeks later, I found myself in a psychologist's office and she referred me to a psychiatric hospital, which now, looking back, was exactly what I needed.

Before being admitted, I had all kinds of ideas about this kind of hospital. I had negative expectations and even believed that I was too "normal" to be in such an environment. I drove myself there and cried the whole way. However, when I arrived, I was so surprised. The place was beautiful, clean, it had "normal-looking" people just like me, and it was peaceful. So what was the big fuss all about? I guess it all comes with not having enough knowledge about psychiatric hospitals and being admitted.

Being in that hospital made me feel like I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what I was experiencing. I could talk about my feelings and no one would judge me or suggest that I was exaggerating my pain. I met so many amazing people – young working professionals and older people (Black and white) who, just like me, had found themselves at a breaking point in their lives.

Here's what I learned:

You are Never Alone

No matter what you're going through, just know that there's another person who's gone through the same experience and has felt exactly what you're feeling. I know this doesn't make it better or even make the pain disappear, but it's good to know that there's someone out there who understands exactly how you're feeling and what you're going through.

Healing Comes in Waves

There's this quote I found on the Internet a while ago. It says: "Healing comes in waves, and maybe today the wave hits the rocks, and that's okay, that's okay, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing." For me, this means that all days are not the same. One day, you're in a good mood and you're happy, and the next day, you're feeling like your world is falling apart. And that it absolutely fine.

They say healing is a process, and this is very true. You should allow yourself to feel everything that comes, whether it's happiness, sadness, anger, or whatever. Feel it. Stay in the feeling. Don't run away from it. Don't try to distract yourself from it. Feel it and then let it pass.

Cry if you have to. Scream if you must. Do whatever it takes and feel what you need to feel.

Trust me, this is all part of the healing process. Healing is uncomfortable, that much I can tell you. But it is necessary.

Acknowledge and Accept What You Went Through

The first time I shared my incident with the psychologist at the hospital, she said something that I hadn't realized. "You went through something so terrible and the way you're telling your story is so casual. Why? You have detached yourself from the story," she said.

And she was right. After our session, I went to my room, got my journal, and started writing. My intention was to understand why I was showing absolutely no emotion about what I had gone through. And then it hit me: I still had not accepted it. It was as if the incident never happened and that's why it was so easy for me to talk about it like I was talking about drinking a glass of water – something that happens every day. This, it turned out, was my brain's way of dealing with what happened to me.

I started crying uncontrollably. I had to go back (in my mind) to the day when it all happened, watch the whole thing, acknowledge and accept that it did happen, and that it was not my fault. I think the fact that I accepted that it had happened somehow changed something in my brain. I don't know how to explain it, but all I can say is that from that day forward, things changed for the better.

Don’t Be Ashamed 

I think a lot of people who go through traumatic experiences feel as if talking about it is embarrassing. However, that's not true.

The more you own your story and talk about it, the more powerful you become.

The incident doesn't and should never define you. Speaking about it also helps with your healing and it also makes you realize that you're not alone. y sharing your story you're also encouraging and empowering others to share their stories. Don't let shame silence you. Speak up, you never know who you might help in the process.

It Gets Better

I wish I had taken before and after pictures of me when I arrived at the psychiatric hospital and when I left the place two weeks later. Oh, the difference! I went in there feeling hopeless. I honestly no longer saw the point of living; life just felt like one big disaster that needed to end. However, this changed as I spent more time there. We had regular sessions with psychiatrists and psychologists and were taught so much about wellness. I felt empowered and I was hopeful again. And I'm not just saying this, I really mean it.

That place changed my life so much that I would recommend it to anyone who is going through a tough time right now. I'd say take a break from work or whatever you're busy with, and make healing a priority. We go through so many things in our lives and we never really take time to deal with things and heal because "life goes on".

Yes, life does go on, but that doesn't make the pain or scars go away. The only way to deal with pain is to face it. There are no shortcuts to healing, unfortunately. But in the end, you will be fine. It will get better. Trust me.

Featured image by Getty Images.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Last year, Meagan Good experienced two major transformations in her life. She returned to the small screen starring in the Amazon Prime series Harlem, which has been renewed for a second season and she announced her divorce from her longtime partner DeVon Franklin.

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Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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