I know I have written several letters over the years, for Christmas cards and sometimes when I leave the unit. In an effort to reduce the chances of being repetitive, I'm not looking at the past letters and I promise to be as succinct as possible. I'm writing a letter for everyone, as opposed to singling out individuals. Those who really helped me know who you are, as I've already expressed my gratitude for what you have done for me while I was there. What I feel in my heart is enormous gratitude for the entire unit and everyone who makes the unit the special healing place that it is.
I had a difﬁcult hospital course of 11 days. I was only ready to leave not because I felt "ﬁne", but because I did enough work. My usual tendency is to just "regroup" within a couple days and get out of there as fast as possible. This was different. What I grappled with in the hospital was the result of many years of struggle. I discovered things about myself that I had simply not known before. Some have been monumental. Given the distance I allowed from my normal "life", it became easier to come to these realizations. I know I have had similar productive stays before, but probably this one stands out as one of the most important. Put simply, I gave myself the chance to do work that I could only do in the hospital. The result is that a great weight has been lifted from me. This gives me the strength to move on and to do the work I need to do to heal.
While all of you have different degrees of knowledge of what I grappled with there and had different roles to play, all of you contributed to helping me achieve what I achieved. I am indebted to all of you.
I want you to know that I realize how difﬁcult a job you all have. But I also want you to know that what you do can make a difference. What you do can change people's lives. I know that most who come to to the unit do not get the beneﬁt of what the unit has to offer. That's okay because thatʼs the way the world works.
I got to experience the weight of the hospital. Many of you know that I made a special effort to get to know and open up to some of the patients. It shocks me what people have gone through, how they struggle, and how they move on. I cannot imagine doing what you do.
I know that for many of you the changes you see in people over the years is what allows you to do your job so well. I used to be sad about the fact that I would always recognize patients from prior stays. But I now think this is, in some way, good. While it makes me feel bad, it allows you to see the changes that occur in individuals who come there. The hospital really isn't like a hospital emergency room where you almost never see the same person twice. It's also not like a therapy relationship. It's somewhere in between.
I reprint this letter here because I think it's important for people to realize that psychiatric hospitals do have a real role to play in helping those in crisis. I understand that many are petrified of hospitals, as we've all heard some horror stories. But there are many good hospitals and many good therapists ready to assist. One important requirement is that you have to meet them halfway and be open to receiving help.