Damn Unpretty
Being There, Part II

Being There

Every morning, we were asked to set a goal for the day. These goals were written next to ours names on a whiteboard, along with our mood rating, which we ranked from one to 10. There really weren't that many goals to choose from -- attend groups, get your meds adjusted, work an AA step, and....uh...take a shower? Walk some hallway laps? Re-read the July 2016 issue of Glamour for the seventh time? -- and since this was a short-term facility, eventually everybody set the goal of discharge planning

For some patients, that meant dozens of calls to dozens of 30-day rehab centers in search of a bed. For others, a spot in an intensive outpatient program. Or a series of fraught counseling sessions with desperate and/or estranged family members, since you either went home with them or to a homeless shelter. Or not at all, for a few patients who set their goal to "discharge planning" every single day but were obviously not going anywhere. 

Then there was me. I just wanted to get discharged in time for Ike's birthday party on Sunday. I'd promised him a Sonic the Hedgehog cake. I needed to be there. I needed to get him that damn cake. 

Amy's goal: discharge planning, overcoming tremendous mom guilt, birthday cake. Mood rating: 6. 

Later that day I shared a 10-minute, secret hug (NO TOUCHING!) with a girl who was leaving for an especially hard-fought place in a 30-day program. We both cried and promised each other that the future was nothing but awesome and bright. I'll never forget her. I'll most likely never see her again. 

I was still wiping the tears away when my doctor agreed that I could potentially be discharged sometime on Friday. She took another phone call and I snuck an upside-down peek at my latest progress report:

Patient is visible on the ward. Active participate in groups. Self-reports some lingering anxiety and sleep issues but overall is feeling better and believes new medications are helping. Concerned and motherly affect towards peers. A+

(The A+ was circled. I got a goddamned A+ in psych ward.)

My best exercise buddy (and by "exercise" I mean meandering hallway laps in our grippy socks) was a huge, hulking meth and heroin addict who'd been clean for all of eight days. He barely spoke at first, then told a quiet, sarcastic joke that made me laugh. We were damn near inseparable after that, though every story he told me about himself made it clear his entire life was an experiment in terror. The day I left, ordered him to be okay, babbling nonsense about his worth and potential. He cried and promised me that yes, he would be okay. 

The word "potential" in my doctor's discharge planning, on the other hand, worried me, as did the continued med tinkering and the team's concerns about my lack of solid sleep at night. (They put a lot of emphasis on your ability to sleep, despite the fact that the night staff opens your door and shines a flash light at you every 30 minutes.) So I outsourced Ike's Sonic cake to Isabel and his specific candle requests (six regular plus one in the shape of a seven) to my mom, just in case. 

"I used the phone!" I enthusiastically reported at the nightly goals' recap meeting. "I asked for and accepted help from others! Also, I got a cake!"

Golf claps, all around. Mood rating: 10.

I was the only suicide attempt in the ward that week, but it didn't really matter why any of us were there, in the end. We were all depressed, anxious, at war with a bully in our brains that beat us down until we broke from its lies. 

Just use, just drink, just flush your meds, just give up, just die

We were all there because we wanted to fight back, and to win. 

Jason came to visit a couple times, and we agreed it was probably best not to bring the boys and to let them imagine I was in a more traditional hospital setting, for now. Jason hated it there. He hated seeing me there. 

"You don't belong here," he said the first time, warily eyeing a one of the other patients who was prone to endless wandering and arguing with the walls. 

"Yeah," I said quietly. "I actually really do."





Thank you for continuing to share.

Sending hugs and support your way.


Thank you for sharing.

I am so glad you are still here to talk about it. I really hope you are in and getting towards a better place.


I'm glad you spoke up for yourself "I actually really do" and hope you continue to do so. Your strength, courage and love shine from this site and I hope you can feel it yourself.


I've been there, too.


Words can't express how glad I am that you're still here, getting help, sharing your story. A heartfelt we love you from random internet strangers seems weird, but really just shows how much of a positive impact you have on those around you.


Reading about your journey daily. Thanks.


Still sending hugs - keep writing - keep being you.


Amy, you need to listen to this song if you've never heard it before. It's so true - fear IS a liar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1srs1YoTVzs

Heather Laura Clarke

I've been refreshing this tab a LOT hoping for updates. Thank you for sharing. xoxo


This one broke me but good Amy. Love and light to you, Jason and the boys. Thank you for sharing your story and your incredible writing talent with us.

Katie H.

Like Heather said, I've been refreshing this tab a lot. It's like I'm reading a book - one I THANKFULLY know the ending to, and simultaneously walking through your story and reliving my own remarkably similar story. It's not easy, it's never easy, but there is hope and light to soak your soul in. YOU are the very reason you are going to make it. YOU need you. Hang in there.

kim too

10minute hug back at you, woman. ALL THE TEN MINUTE HUGS.


Thank you for sharing your story. We must continue the dialogue that there is no shame in caring for one’s mental health. Talking about mental health issues is the best way to normalize it, and help others to see they are not alone in their battle. Thank you for mustering the courage to be honest and open with us.


Still following, still amazed at your strength. <3


Been reading for ages but rarely (never?) comment. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s really amazing. Hugs to you and your boys (of all ages).


I experienced this from your husband's side as a visitor to my partner. It seems really healthy to discuss your days and progress. My guy didn't tell me much detail and it was scary from my point of view as it sounds like it was for your husband. Sending you love and strength from another caring reader.


Thank you beyond anything for sharing this. Sending love and hugs.


GLad you are home and alive. Please keep fighting to find the light, because your voice and presence on this planet has value to so many.


Love your strength and for continuing to share your story/journey. Hugs!!


Thanks, Amy. Thank you.




Although I live on a different continent, we have a lot in common : both young brides of 1998 with loving husbands, both working in writing/comms, both highly anxious-but-to-the-outside-world-successful, and my daughter is exactly Noah's age as well. I too have reached crisis point this year, and knowing you're battling this beast with sword and shield makes me feel less alone. Thank you, and don't stop!


I know we don't actually know each other but I've been reading this blog of yours since Noah was a wee one. I just wanted to say that I'm really proud of you. Keep fighting.


I don't have the words to tell you how much this means to me to read, so this will have to suffice: Thank you for being brave enough to put this out into the world.


Thank you for sharing. Thank you for staying here. Thank you for reminding us all we're not alone, and it is a struggle but we can overcome.
You are an inspiration to me.


I hope that being able to say you did belong there brings even the littlest bit of comfort.

Lorrian Ippoliti

I'm here. I'm reading and feeling and hoping and cheering you on. Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep trusting us. Please.



I check in here to make sure you’re okay. That’s not to add more pressure to a situation that has too much already, I’m sure, it’s a gesture of appreciation as you continue to share. Thank you and we care about you.

Sue W.

A+ on this blob entry. Thank you for continuing to share your journey.


I'm so proud of you - "I actually really do" must have been a bit of a shock to Jason, but also an honest, brave confession of just how awful things had gotten for you. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about, and I hope that you find the right combination of medicine and/or therapy to continue to get better and be happy.

You deserve all the happiness that exists in the world.


OMG, I doubt you're even listening to these songs that I keep suggesting because you have better things to do. But, this one. Gah! "You're Going To Be Okay"by Brian and Jenn Johnson. Gorgeous. Truth. If anyone is struggling, listen to this.
"I know your heart is heavy from those nights
But just remember that you are a fighter
You never know just what tomorrow holds
And you're stronger than you know
You're stronger than you know

Hold on, don't let go
Hold on, don't let go

Just take one step closer
Put one foot in front of the other
You'll get through this
Just follow the light in the darkness
You're gonna be ok."

Read more: Jenn Johnson - You’re Gonna Be OK Lyrics | MetroLyrics


Wendy, maybe some other people are listening to the songs you post. Like maybe 100 times in a row, sobbing.


As a public guardian, I put lots of my clients on inpatient psych for lots of reasons. I go to their commitment hearings, I find them placement, I sign consents and go to their care conferences and discharge planning. The psychiatrists and social workers know me by name and face now.

But none of them want to talk about it when they leave. Thanks for giving us this, Amy, I don’t know if you realize what a gift it is. I know what you’re going through is wrenching. You’re doing everything right. You deserve that A+.


I'm glad you're still here, Amy. I hope you will stay. The world is better for having you in it.


I'm so overwhelmingly happy you are still here, Miss Amy. And the care and concern you show to your fellow inpatients is beyond touching. You have a lifetime of care and concern to share with your family, your friends, and yes, even us blob readers.

Thank you and please stay strong.


Oh, Amy, you are just ,so good at making me laugh and cry. I'm listening and glad you are here. Thank you for sharing.


Like others, I’ve been following you for a long time. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being here.


Love to you, your mom, your boys and Jason. Hold on to each other.


Thank you.


"Yeah, I really do." is exactly why you got an A+ in psych ward.

Several other people I know are struggling, too. Your story and another's inspired a Facebook post. Someone I've known since 7th grade reached out to me this morning, telling me that some days, the only thing that keeps him from killing himself is his little girl. I told him my strategy has always been to speak up or write, right now I have a therapist for my new normal health situation.

Keep writing, keep talking. You have no idea how much you are helping another person struggling.

Hugs coming long distance.


Your honesty is breathtaking. Keep writing, we will keep listening.


Thank you. For sharing. For being here. Keep it coming, sister.


Thank you for continuing to share your story with us. Sending love and support to you and your family.

The bee

So many brave words, hard to pick my favorite. 10 minute hugs might be them. Depression is like going outside in a storm while someone tries to convince you the sun is out . I wish I could have been brave enough sooner. I am now. Reaching out for help is a great first step but I promise there will be slips as well. We are all human, make mistakes, care so much . We can always start the next day fresh. Hugs to you, Jason, your sweet boys and all those that suffer. Keep writing, rest, snuggle a puppy and know that the ship will right itself with help and time . And chocolate.


Thank you so much for telling your story. It’s not your job to relive this for our benefit, but I guarantee it will help and is helping people.

Again, I’m so glad you’re still here.

Cheryl S.

My brother ended up in a ward after a crisis and it was one of the best things that ever happened to him. I hope it turns out that way for you too.

I know you mentioned that you and Jason wanted to protect the boys (good idea) but can't they read the blog?

I don't want to discourage you from writing and sharing this. I think it's incredibly important, but Noah especially wouldnt have any trouble finding this. . . .


The A+ made me cry-laugh. You know, you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to ace everything. You're still more than good enough for everyone who loves you. And so many people love you. Hang in there.


I have read every word of your blog. I even have a few of your old posts bookmarked for rereading. It has been so inspiring to me to see your transformation from a kind of hyper career woman to calm and caring mother. I hope to make the transition. I'm sorry you're dealing with all this. Your website is one of my internet happy places. I hope you have a few of those to go to too.


I love you. I hope I'm not being creepy. I don't mean it in a creepy way.


Another voice to add to the chorus of love and gratitude that you are here and sharing and healing! Keep fighting through the lies (f-ing depression) and being brave through the anxiety. We all love you so much!


I'm so glad you're still here, and sharing this. I'm reading every word. And crying quite a bit.


Thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve helped so many people already with your honesty about pregnancy, breastfeeding, child rearing, having a special needs kid, grief, anxiety and depression. I know these posts will help many more. I consider you one of my friends inside the computer so I’m so glad that you’re still here and working on your illness. I’m sending you many hugs and warm thoughts from NC.


lots of love, Amy. And I am so glad you're sharing all of these details. Your honesty is one of the best things about you - gives all the rest of a lot of hope. Also, seriously, you are so funny! And very caring. Not surprised to see you got an A+ and that you tried to help those around you even in a psych ward. Stay strong.


I’m struggling to wrap my head around this. Long time reader. How are the kids? And Jason? I feel awful for them. This must be so confusing and painful for them. I hope you get well.


Hope you’re feeling better. Glad you’re here! Get well soon.


You're here. We're thrilled you're here. We all love you, your candor and your massive heart, and will celebrate every success with you!


Thank you for continuing to share. I am listening. xo


I have followed your blog since before there was a Noah. I heard of you through donrockwell.com. I've never commented. We have nothing in common - I have no kids. Yet for some reason I've loved reading your blog. And today - after starting the week still reeling from Bourdain's death, then this week of WTF what country am I living in I need to do something I don't know what I can do...I thought I'd end the week by reading about your dogs, your cats, your kids, the yellow house. And found this and I am sobbing for you. Just hurting to the bottom of my soul for you. I am having a hard time believing it could happen to someone like you. I want it to not have happened. But ok, it did and now you can check it off your list and ... go plant some stuff. It really helps. I promise it does.


ETA: Actually we do have something in common. I've never tried but so many times I've just wanted to go. Haven't felt that way in years, until the past couple of weeks. Not a world I want to live in, but I have no choice at the moment. But yeah, I actually do belong there too.


Thank you for continuing to share. I'm a fan of 10-minute hugs.


Another longtime luker. I haven’t commented since you lost your dad, but had to say that your brutal honesty and humor matter so much. You are helping by your honesty and humor and I hope you feel all these friends you’ve never met wanting to help you in return. The road is long, but worth it. Persist.
— ❤️Another mom, another daughter without a dad, another girl who struggles with the darkness within.


All the love, Amy. (And Jason, Noah, Ezra and Ike.)


You and your family have all been on my mind since your first post in May.

I have a long family history of mental illness and our 19 year old daughter has been struggling with clinical depression and anxiety since she was a freshman in high school. The last few years have seen her fall further down into her illness and my very bright, capable girl doesn't even want to get out of bed. She went off to collegel last fall and it was not good. She's been home trying to get her feet back under her since January and this morning we had a long talk and a few more tears before she went off to talk to her therapist. I keep praying, waiting, and hoping that things will get better for her since I had to hand the responsibility of her illness off when she turned 18. Your posts about your experience have me watching her closely and trying to figure out how much to say and do and how much to let her figure out on her own.

Thank you for being so honest, it's helping me to keep things in perspective. I hope that each day gets a little better for you and for Jason and the boys as well. Lots of love and good wishes from me. .


I think of you every day. Please, please reach out if you need anything. If not to any of us interwebz strangerz, then someone you trust IRL.

Don’t let the upside-down get you again.

Literally no judgment from practically every one of your readers; just pick the least creepy of all of us and reach out, even just to say hi, or that you don’t know wtf to say. But just that you needed to reach out. And then bam, a new friend who’ll listen and not judge and then not bother you anymore when you’ve gotten over a hump (unless you want an occasional bother).

We are here for you, sisterfriend. 💛


(p.s. - It’s late right now, and I’m tired, so I read zoot’s last comment above as “I'm a fan of 10-minute bangs” instead of “I'm a fan of 10-minute hugs,” and then I decided it was way past my bedtime.)


Keep talking. Keep sharing. Keep going. This has inspired me to reach out to my mom friends and it turns out we're all in need of some help. It's so important to have these conversations, and to work through it together ❤


Amy - I don't mean to sound like a stalker but I'm checking every day to see how things are going. Not that you are obligated to tell us, of course. Just can't wait to hear that you are getting a handle on this and climbing back out of the hole.


Echoing many others - I’m reading, I see you. My own experience tells me that it helps to be reminded that you are loved, intelligent, kind, and above all, worth it. And if you can’t believe it yet, or can’t believe it fully, that’s okay. The rest of us know it and believe it, and we’ll help you try to remember that along the way. Keep fighting, keep asking for help. Keep being brave, and know that this isn’t a defect or an accident, or just “one of those things”, but rather a warning bell. A real, visceral, physical reminder of how powerful mental illness can be, but more importantly, a reminder of how powerful YOU are, and how powerful the love and support around you is.

Amelia Bowler

Just stopping by to see how you are doing, and send you some love. Your writing is, as always, funny, truthful and warm. <3

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