In late February I was committed to McLean psychiatric hospital for two weeks. During the stay I began to put the pieces of a fractured psyche back together with the help of a stellar staff — psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and mental health aides.

It wasn’t unpleasant — the daily workshops on cognitive strategies were outstanding and I made friendships with fellow patients from diverse backgrounds. At the same time, it was challenging and required all of my mental energy to make progress. My physician diagnosed me with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), a condition I’d been grappling with since my first episode at age 19.

Several strokes of luck worked in my favor. First, my doctor was at the top of his profession and pinpointed a medication that snapped the depression within 24 hours (most require four to six weeks to kick in, if they work at all). Second, I ended up at McLean, the number one-rated psychiatric hospital in America. Based on my experience, it earns its reputation.

Finally, I attended at the same time as a wonderful cohort of patients: a kind, funny group who made it easy to let your guard down and be vulnerable.

The day I was admitted I made two promises: that I would tell the truth about my condition and say yes to every therapeutic opportunity. This decision saved my life.

McLean wouldn’t release me until I’d put together a coherent plan for after-care. This included emergency strategies in case the suicidal ideation returned, as well as ongoing medication monitoring and psychotherapy. Part of the plan was informal social support.

I asked my friends Kyle and Mark if they would be willing to meet with me separately once a week for informal check-ins. I didn’t choose them by accident. Both had been at McLean or its equivalent in the past and knew the journey of recovery well.

Mental health is a team sport. My own progress at McLean didn’t pick up steam until I began helping other patients. I spent my first 48 hours in tears, convinced I wasn’t going to make it and would be dead within a month. By the end of the first week I was back on my feet and able to help new patients experiencing the same vulnerability. My recovery after discharge was supported by the kindness and friendship of others.

Depression thrives in isolation. Empathetic friends are the sunshine that dispels the shadows and accelerates healing.

The brain is an incredibly complex and delicate organ; mental illness is both common and natural. What’s unnatural is our society’s denial and stigmatization of it. It’s as cruel as it is unscientific and perpetuates unnecessary suffering.

Thanks to my treatment at McLean I’m enjoying a degree of health and happiness inconceivable in the months leading to my hospitalization. If anyone is curious about psychiatric hospitalization and mental health issues, talk to me. Open conversation is how we’re going to break down the walls of stigmatization.

We’re all in this together.

Julian Wise lives in West Tisbury.