It’s Self-Care Awareness month, Suicide Prevention Month, and Suicide Prevention Day. I felt like I should contribute something to the cause, so I will, in probably a rambling fashion, tell some of my story.
I’m not going to write the traditional post. It’s not going to end with the number to a hotline or by telling you that life is worth living. Every person has to come to that conclusion for themselves.
I grew up believing that suicide was a sin. In fact, I never really understood it. Why take away such a precious gift from God? Needless to say, it was something I judged others for. Well, now I don’t believe it is a sin (and I’m not sure I believe in God, either.)
I started struggling with depression, or at least I could put that word to my feelings, around 16. I hated my life and everything about it and wanted desperately for it to change. But, it never occurred to me to kill myself until I was 19 (2005-2006). I was going through some rough times with family, an ex-boyfriend, friends (or lack of them), and life, in general. I reached out to my congregation for help. They told me I would be fine. I’ve shared in previous posts that that was the day I shut down. That was the day I began to hope I would die.
I woke up everyday for the next year trying to decide how I would do it. Could I jump from my bedroom window? Maybe if I landed just right. Could I hang myself from my sheets? The knot might break. Could I down this bottle of ibuprofen? It might not be enough. Could I slit my wrists? It turned out that I didn’t have the courage. I tried to see if I could cut myself, but I was unable to. I confessed this to my parents, but the only thing that came out of it was loss of sleep for them. I began to drive more recklessly than usual. There is an old, windy road back home (or it was before they started building it up) that I could take to school, to congregation meetings. I would drive just a level below cautious. Maybe, I could make it look like an accident. I stopped talking to people. I retreated within myself.
I started getting professional help for my depression at around 20, in 2006. While the battle with depression raged continuously, the ideations settled down.
I had a love/hate relationship with Prozac, moved to North Carolina, gained 130 pounds, and began to deeply despise my job and getting up every morning.
I think one of the misconceptions that people have about mental health is believing that the things that trigger us are really unimportant. It’s amazing how simple a trigger can be. Also, what people don’t realize is how they can build up on each other. Mine were building rapidly. I stopped coming to work. I started to retreat again. My mood could change in a heartbeat (still does!).
The final trigger: There was a job that I really wanted. I found out that I didn’t get it and I, to my embarassement, wept in my boss’s office. I started to wonder why I bothered trying to improve my lot in life when nothing I did worked. What was the point? Why continue? It just so happened that I had a therapist appointment that evening and I told her exactly that. She wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t harm myself when I got home? I would not. So, I spent 24 hours in the psych word at the hospital. Wouldn’t you know I actually enjoyed it? It was my first time around people that just got it. I didn’t have to explain myself or my feelings. In retrospect, I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. I was working on my Master’s and I was too busy worrying about school to focus on my health and what landed me in the hospital in the first place. So, they let me out. It was enough to shake things up at work, though. This was March 2012. I was 25.
I’m overweight, miserable, don’t know what I want, and moved to Florida. I did ok for awhile, but as I said, I never really addressed my own issues. I had a fight with my father for the umpteenth time. I was missing my friends in North Carolina. I was unhappy with most aspects of my life and again I began to wonder what the point was. I was 27, single with no prospects, no children, not where I anticipated my life being. I would try to talk to my father about it, but blame always came back to me. I moved from therapist to therapist and from one medication to another and I was sick of it all. When I had that fight with my father (which wouldn’t be the last, unfortunately), I said to hell with it all. My 30th birthday surprise to the world was going to be to end my life. I wrote about it in my journal. For awhile, I was pretty content with that decision.
I moved back to NC and finally, in the deepest throes of depression, realized that I needed to get to know myself. I lost 93 pounds, got braces, became board President of a local art gallery, and friends with the mayor of the town. I felt something like happiness. And I felt that I needed to write that I would not kill myself at 30 because I had much to accomplish.
Since then, I’ve moved back to Florida, gained back 30 of those pounds (ugh!), been in an intensive outpatient therapy, and gotten a promotion at my job. Not in that order, but I put that way to show that the battle with depression is part of everyday life for some of us. It’s an ongoing struggle and we have to gird our loins for battle everyday we are able to get out of bed.
What can you do?
For starters, here’s what you don’t say to people suffering from mental health issues, particularly, depression, or suicidal ideations:
- Why can’t you just be happy? Life is beautiful. – Well, if it were that damn easy, believe me, we would do it. Whether it’s a chemical imbalance or something else, it’s not that simple. Saying this just pisses us off.
- It’s not that bad. It could be worse. – The point is that it doesn’t have to be. Everyone suffers for various reasons. Don’t judge triggers.
- Committing suicide is selfish. – To you, maybe. Most of us at the point of committing suicide, though, likely believe that those around us would be better off without us. We don’t want people to see us suffer and we don’t want to make others suffer because our brokeness has rubbed off. It’s not selfish, it’s self-sacrificing.
- You always seem happy to me. – I get this a lot. People seem to think I’m one big bottle of sunshine. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m faking it. That’s for you, not for me, because I don’t want you to see me sad. I don’t want to have the conversation about why I’m sad. I might always be smiling, but if you pay more attention to what I say, or don’t say, you’ll see I’m crying for help.
- Therapy is stupid. – This pisses me off. Why do people still think that you have to be crazy to see help? That it’s a weakness? It actually takes courage to see help for yourself and there have been a number of times for therapy has kept me from the edge.
There are many more, but I won’t go into them here.
So, that’s my story. I’m 32 now and still fighting and intend to keep on fighting. I hope that this story resonated with some of you and maybe helped a soul or two.