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A Gift of Time and Space by Chrissie Dix

This month we offer Chrissie’s thoughtful meditation on how her stay in our residential program, Step Up/Step Down, allowed her to move toward taking control of her own wellness. Step Up/Step Down is completely voluntary, free to the participant, and staffed 24/7 by peer specialists. For more information please see SUSD's page here.

I had an extremely rough time in the fall of 2021 which required multiple hospitalizations. My thoughts would spiral out of control. I was at a breaking point, with my anxiety high, intrusive thoughts, and fear of hurting myself. I would start to feel better as soon as I entered the hospital. I thought the hospital was there to help me; it was an escape from my house and I felt safe. Being in the hospital would ease a crisis, but it was like a holding spot. The staff was always busy. I would have ten minutes with a doctor or when a nurse brought meds. The groups never seemed to be what I needed. When I got out, I would go right back to where I was, and the cycle would start again.

I was looking to learn skills to calm my anxiety. I wanted to stay out of the hospital. During my last hospitalization I was told there was an opening at SUSD. I was accepted and went to stay at SUSD for a month.

While I was at SUSD I worked hard on the issues that led to all the hospitalizations. The staff at SUSD worked hard alongside me. I developed a WRAP toolbox full of things that I could use to calm myself, including yarn and crochet hooks, a small diamond painting and drawing paper. I also included a box of tickets with activities. I created a vision book in which, each week, I add affirmations and portray positive developments in pictures. I practiced skills to help me with my anxiety: deep breathing, meditation, developing relationships for support when I left.

The amazing thing about SUSD was the staff. Each was unique and special in their own way. The staff understood where I was coming from and there was time to develop real relationships. I woke up at 1 AM. An overnight staff member and I bonded over similar experiences, talked about our pasts and how we wanted to move into our future. Other staff would work with me on diamond paintings but the conversations were different. This uniqueness of the staff provided different views, and different types of support, which helped provide an amazing experience at SUSD. It helped me develop the tools to help break the cycle of hospitalizations and then transition home.

And I have been using these skills. For instance, one weekend my anxiety was high and my thoughts were racing and so chaotic that I wanted to go to the hospital just to get relief. But I paused. I pulled out my wellness toolbox and tried some things. It took several tries before something helped (about six things!) But it helped; that is, I was able to help myself. I was able to relax, lie down and go to sleep. And I haven’t gone to the hospital.

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