Laura M. kept thinking it would get better.
It will get better after middle school. It will get better after high school. It will get better after college, she told herself. But it didn’t get better. Laura’s depression got worse with each passing day. It wasn’t until she tried to end her life in her early 20s that she finally accepted something was wrong and needed help.
Silver Hill Hospital was there for Laura.
“I checked in and that started everything,” she says. “That first night I got there I was so relieved because I was safe. I was a danger to myself and had been for years. I’m just so lucky I’m alive. Silver Hill started my healing in the best possible way.”
Now 40, Laura is a successful television writer. She has written for shows such as Ground Floor, The Dangerous Book for Boys, and The Neighborhood. She has been sober for 17 years. She has never abused drugs or alcohol. For Laura, sober means not cutting or burning herself, something she used to do regularly after college “to match the pain she felt inside.”
It started early
Laura recalls battling depression from the time she was 6 or 7 years old. She would cry under her bed or in her closet to hide the way she felt from others.
Her first thoughts of suicide started in eighth grade. She excelled athletically and academically in high school, but depression remained a constant in her life.
While in high school, a friend of Laura’s died by suicide. She saw the pain that the death caused her friend’s loved ones and she told herself she couldn’t put her family through that sorrow. That, she says, kept her alive for the next five years.
Laura was accepted into the University of Southern California to major in screenwriting, starting her on a path to her dream job of being a TV writer. Depression, however, followed her to college and the darkness she felt inside grew even stronger. For the first time, she saw a therapist, but she didn’t realize at the time how important it was to get continuous help, and she stopped going. Instead, she continued to struggle every day.
In 2003, after graduating from USC, Laura landed a job as an assistant to a movie director. Her dream career was taking shape. The high-pressure role and some difficult co-workers, however, made the job unbearable. One night, while traveling for work, she attempted suicide.
“I had lost so many friendships and could barely do my job I was in so much pain. I was 24 years old and had been white-knuckling it since eighth grade. I was lost,” she recalls. “I woke up the next morning and I was mad that it didn’t work.”
Sobbing, she called her mother and told her what had happened. Laura had never talked to her family about her mental health problems before. Her mother insisted that she change her plane ticket and fly home to Connecticut instead of returning to California.
Still sobbing, she called the airline and the gentleman on the other end of the phone changed the destination without question. He asked if Laura was OK. Equally kind, Laura recalls, were the hotel employees who expedited her check-out and got her a cab to the airport.
“I called three people in a row, and they all saved my life,” she says. “They all said: OK, what do you need? And two of those people were strangers.”
Back in Connecticut, Laura’s mother drove her to Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven at the urging of Laura’s therapist. There were no rooms available there, and Laura and her mother desperately looked for another hospital.
“What about Silver Hill?” Laura recalls asking. She had grown up a few miles from Silver Hill but never fully understood what it did or imagined she would need its services.
Silver Hill’s impact
She was admitted to the Acute Care Unit at Silver Hill the next day. The first morning, Laura was too nervous to get out of bed. A nurse said everyone is outside smoking and that Laura should join them, whether she smoked or not. Laura went out and “it was a game-changer.” She met an older gentleman who had the same problems as she had. He had even tried to commit suicide the same night Laura did.
“I had felt that I was the only person in the world who felt like this. When you have depression, your world becomes so small. Your whole life becomes about you. How do I get up today? How do I get dressed today? How can I do anything for anyone else when I can barely get dressed? I thought I was alone in the world,” Laura says. “Then I met 20 other people just like me. One person was exactly like me. I thought: Oh my god, it’s not just me. This is a good place to start, I thought.”
Laura credits art therapy, a medication adjustment and the camaraderie with other patients as being valuable pieces of her life-changing treatment at Silver Hill Hospital. While at the hospital, she developed the tools she needed to handle difficult situations and her illness; tools she still utilizes today.
Two months after being discharged from Silver Hill, Laura flew back to California, despite her parents’ wishes. She was let go from her job about a month later and returned to Connecticut where she continued to do outpatient therapy and worked as a framer for a photographer.
“I handled being fired well,” she says. “It was hard, but I didn’t cut or burn and didn’t compromise my sobriety. I didn’t have coping mechanisms before, at least not healthy ones. Silver Hill gave me the tools to use that when something goes wrong, it doesn’t derail you.”
In January 2007, with a solid foundation underneath her, she returned to California. She worked during the day and wrote at night. She got another job in television, similar to the one that proved to be unbearable a few years prior and thrived. In 2013, she landed her dream job of becoming a full-time television writer for several comedies. Laura is currently writing her own show with the hopes of getting it on television.
“None of it would have happened without getting well, I can assure you of that,” she says. “I’m a successful writer now. It’s pretty wild.”
‘It doesn’t get better on its own’
One’s outward disposition does not always reflect what is going on inside, Laura warns. She grew up with loving parents and a nice home in an upscale town in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She was a standout tennis player and got straight A’s in school. Yet she cried every night, and some mornings could not find the inner strength to get out of bed.
Her advice to others feeling the same way is to get help, sooner rather than later.
“It does not get better on its own. That’s what I tell people. The bottom starts to fall out. It only gets worse if you don’t get help and work really hard for it,” Laura says. “There’s no shame in getting help. Why should I be ashamed that I took care of my mental health? There’s such a stigma. It’s brave to seek help.
“I want to tell people who are ill, who are white-knuckling it, that it’s going to get worse. Get help now while you can,” she adds. “Silver Hill is a miracle and I want everyone to know how wonderful it is. If sharing my story helps just one person get help at Silver Hill, it’s worth it.”