Outstretched hand to start anew
Mental Health

My Partial Program Experience

Country of Origin: United States of America

(Audio recording by Jordan Luz)

I have been depressed before, and depressed since. Arguably I am always hovering at some degree of “depression,” but at this time in my life, in early 2019, it was a darker, uglier color than it had ever previously been. I was immobile, frozen in time; I had become nothing but a fixture on my couch that occasionally moved to lay down in bed instead. I had long shed any sense of personhood and was a shadow of myself. 

When my weekly check-ins with my therapist proved to not be enough, she referred me to a partial hospitalization program in Greenfield, Massachusetts. It would only be for two weeks, she assured me, and I wouldn’t have to stay overnight. I was hesitant, but I was also desperate. I knew I needed a lifeline out of the stagnant sea, no wind in my sails, that I was lost in. I agreed to try. 

A partial program is a safe option for those who are struggling, for those who are stuck or frightened or immobile, like I was.

It allows for a sense of freedom since you only have to attend during the days and can return home at night. It is also great encouragement for self-reliance, that you are able to get yourself to and from the program each day. 

Mountains and trees
(Photo by Roberto Huczek on Unsplash)

The partial program was straightforward: multiple group meetings in various rooms on the third floor of the hospital throughout the day led by clinicians who would focus on a specific topic or coping mechanism. There was a room with a fish tank, a room with almost a dozen windows, and one room that was very beige. We were encouraged to participate to our comfort level, which meant that I was completely silent the first three days. But after I finally allowed myself to listen to what was being said, I realized that I was the only one who could pull myself from the depths, and I decided to let myself be free and speak. I mentioned my feelings of loss, of hopelessness, of fear, of failure. And somehow, others related. It turned out I wasn’t alone in what I was experiencing. 

We learned about grounding and mindfulness. We discussed responding to situations instead of reacting. We practiced being kinder to ourselves. The two weeks were spent relearning how to listen to what was going on inside of me, instead of ignoring my own pain, and treating that pain gently instead of with disdain or hatred. 

During one of my one-on-one meetings with one of the clinicians, we went over my symptoms and what led me to the current moment. I hadn’t realized how much pain I had been carrying inside, how much I had tried to stifle it within me and ignore it. She prescribed me an antipsychotic, which I was nervous to try, but if it was part of the healing process, I was willing to give it a go. 

(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

The partial program didn’t cure me, necessarily. There were many aspects that I found lacking – lots of platitudes and generic optimism. But I went. I made it out of the house every day. I was reminded of my own humanity. I was reminded that my suffering was not unique to me, that I was not alone in the expanse. 

Entering into the program was simple. I simply needed a referral from my therapist and met with an admitting clinician who determined my eligibility. The program itself was not strenuous, often very meditative and relaxing. I recall one session where we laid on yoga mats and listened to instrumental music. The mat was surprisingly soft beneath me and I had a small pillow. The music, coming from a radio across the room, played what could only be described as spa music while the clinician led a guided meditation. I felt my body relax and my mind wander through the meditation, and I was at peace, just for a little while.

It can feel daunting to admit that you may need to take a step for more serious therapeutic services.

I know that I was hesitant and afraid of the stigma that may be attached to a partial program. But I also recognized that I was no longer able to function in a healthy way, that I no longer recognized myself. Attending was the first step on the road to recovery. 

Thank you to Christina Lee for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Mental Health team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Taylor Raucher is an MFA student originally from Northampton, Massachusetts. She is passionate about LGBTQ+, mental health, and women’s issues. Her work was previously featured in Historic Northampton’s “COVID-19 Stories”. She currently lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts with her two cats.

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