7 myths you shouldn't believe about staying in a mental hospital.

I waited as the elevator ascended at an achingly slow pace. Anxiety filled my body, and I could hardly breathe.

When the doors finally opened, I stepped out, clutching my bag, expecting to see a creepy monochromatic clinical space filled with zombies and screaming people being held down by aggressive staff whose sole job was to control patients like caged animals. Instead, I was welcomed by a wall of bright, hand-drawn inspirational quotes and a handful of warm smiles from staff and other patients. I started to breathe again. Maybe this wouldn't be as bad as I thought it would be.

Don't believe what you see on TV. There are no restraints here — just my stuffed animal and a journal. Photo by the author, used with permission.


Every hospital is different, but the one thing I can attest to after several stays at several different institutions is that psychiatric hospitals are nothing like they are portrayed in movies or on television.

There are many problems with the systems, and they are far from perfect. I won’t try to sugarcoat it, but they are certainly not as scary as has become common perception. They're not a vacation by any means, but they serve their purpose of keeping people safe and pointing them in the right direction without the straitjackets and padded cells.

Here are seven ways psychiatric hospitals today bust the myths of the asylums of yore.

1. Myth: Everyone in the “loony bin” is a drooling zombie.

Reality: When I used to think of mental patients, I envisioned the walking dead. Pale people shuffling around in robes and slippers with their zombie asses hanging out. I imagined staff drugging people into compliance to the point where they were just wandering around aimlessly staring off into space.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The patients I saw and got to know were vibrant and full of life. They were playing games and doing puzzles or chatting with loved ones. There were occasionally people around who were having a tough time as well. I saw people crying or even staring off into space from time to time, but because of dissociation or illness — not because they were forced into submission and drugged against their will.

2. Myth: Mental patients are all violent and dangerous.

Reality: People with severe mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than any other people, and they're actually more than 10 times as likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the general population.

I’ve met really nice people at hospitals, some of whom have had anger issues for sure, but none of them were threatening at all. In fact, many were shy and reserved on the unit. Inevitably some people who enter psychiatric facilities will have a history of violent impulses or actions, but in my experience, the majority of the violent urges were people wanting to harm themselves, not anyone else.

3. Myth: Staff will force pills down your throat.

Reality:I recently had a roommate who didn't want to take a new medication she was prescribed ... so she didn't. I never once saw anyone forced to take medications or do anything they didn’t want to do. The psychiatrists meet with patients regularly to determine and maintain a path of treatment and the appropriate medication plan. But the doctors make med recommendations because it’s their job; they don’t force pills down anybody’s throat.

These are the pills I was prescribed — and chose to take. Photo via the author, used with permission.

4. Myth: ECT is a scary and violent punishment.

Reality: ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is still a commonly used procedure at psychiatric facilities, especially for the treatment of resistant clinical depression and bipolar disorder, but it’s not like the movies. People are not dragged in as punishment, kicking and screaming. They’re not strapped down with huge leather straps, and they don't lie awake as their bodies go into seizure.

In my experience, I walked into a treatment room, laid down, and was given anesthesia so I wouldn't feel a thing. And the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room. It still was a challenging and emotional experience, and I’ve had trouble with my memory ever since, but I wasn’t awake and zapped into submission.

ECT can also be incredibly helpful for some people. Jessica Bishop, a hospital mate of mine who has been hospitalized seven times, says, “ECT has been a lifesaver for me so far. I am able to function and hold down a part-time job. I recommend trying ECT if depression and sadness are overwhelming and too complicated.”

5. Myth: All hospitals are the same, and they keep you locked inside without access to fresh air.

Reality: In the movies, all mental hospitals look and feel exactly the same. In reality, there are many different kinds of hospitals. There are state hospitals, private hospitals, and residential programs. Some are unlocked, while others are locked. Some keep you inside all the time, while others have fenced-in outdoor areas. My last hospitalization offered guided walks with staff twice a day.

6. Myth: You’re stripped of your gadgets and denied contact with the outside world.

Reality: In all but one of the facilities I have been in, I was allowed to hang on to my phone and computer. At one facility, I could not keep any cords in my room, so I had to charge my gadgets one at a time at the nurses’ station, but at least I got to have them. I was allowed to speak with my family and friends as much as I was able, and I even blogged from the inside. I have kept my nonprofit online photography gallery Broken Light Collective going daily through three different hospitalizations. You can always find a way to make contact with the outside world if and when you want to.

7. Myth: You will go home “cured.”

Reality: I really thought I was going to do my time and then joyfully skip through the rotating hospital doors to the outside world in a happy and healthy place. It didn’t work like that for me — or many of the people I met.

What the facilities will do is keep you safe, adjust and/or monitor your meds, teach you coping tools if you are open to it, and then set you up with after care and send you on your way. After care can vary from partial hospitalization programs in which you go home each night, to intensive outpatient programs, to the care of your outside physicians. The hard work continues long after you leave the hospital. The hospital can help but is definitely not a quick fix.

If you do have to be hospitalized at one time or another, your hospitalization will be what you make of it.

If you take care of yourself, follow the rules, go to group meetings, and learn coping skills, you can come out in much better shape than how you entered. If you fight the hospitalization every step of the way, break the rules, and don’t attend your group meetings, you will likely not get too much from the program. I’ve done it both ways and highly recommend the former.

And if you have to go to a hospital, it’s really not the end of the world either. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

It might not be a great experience. It might be downright shitty. But there are nice patients and staff, even at the crummiest of programs. They’re not all zombies or pill pushers, I swear.

The bottom line is this: If you need to go, go.

If you ever think you need a higher level of care, just do what you need to do to start heading in the right direction. Don’t let your ideas about asylums from movies and television get in the way of your healing journey. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You deserve the chance to heal and move forward in a productive, meaningful, and hopefully happy way.

Staying in a mental hospital helped me get back on the path to healing. Photo by the author, used with permission.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

When Donato Di Camillo was a kid, his family couldn't afford film for their Polaroid camera.

So instead, he ran around the house with a film-less camera pretending to be a hotshot photographer on an African safari, mimicking the heroes behind iconic photos he saw in the discarded National Geographic magazines his dad grabbed for him out of the garbage.

Years later, when Di Camillo found himself in prison after collecting a lengthy rap sheet of thefts, he discovered a library full of those same magazines.

While other inmates were working out or getting into trouble, he pored over old issues of National Geographic, Life, and Time.

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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