The Power of Self-Knowledge: How Understanding Mental Illness Made Me a Better Writer

Kharis Courtney

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When I was 19, I took a ride in the back of a police car.

I hadn’t been arrested; I hadn’t committed a crime–I’d simply gone off grid at the height of a very public emotional breakdown. A consuming depression, along with a series of misunderstandings, led my parents to fear that I’d disappeared with the intention of harming myself. The police were enlisted to help find me–which they did. So I took a ride in the back of a police car and ended up involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Physically, I was a danger to no one; I didn’t need to be in the ward because of that possibility. However, I don’t regret the time I spent there. Those days marked a turning point in my life–a defining moment, you could say. Locked up within its walls, I began to understand myself–my mental state–better than I’d allowed myself to do up until that…

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