Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.
I grew up thinking that mental illness was something that happened to weak people, and that only cowards committed suicide. I thought that all you had to do was be strong, ignore the doubts and anxiety, or just put your head down and push it aside using sheer willpower. I didn’t need help – I would get through this just as I had everything else.
I was wrong, and it almost cost me my life.
I have always found it difficult to ask for help, and even when I knew I was having problems and J was urging me to see someone, I couldn’t do it. My family, friends, and coworkers all knew that something was wrong with me. Some of them were polite about it (are you okay?) while others were more direct (what the &$#% is wrong with you?). I kept saying I was fine, maybe a little tired, or any excuse to get away from the situation.
I finally went to see Dr C after much urging from J and many nights full of nightmares and little sleep. I knew something was wrong but I was sure a couple of quick therapy sessions would fix things and, more importantly, get everyone off my back. It quickly became apparent that stresses from work were taking over my life when Dr C suggested I ask my GP at the time about medication to help me get over the proverbial hump.
Unfortunately, my GP at the time wasn’t well versed with psych medications. He gave me sertraline. A month later I was back because I wasn’t sleeping. He added aripiprazole. Three weeks later I was back again because I was getting even less sleep. I was off work by that time, and barely able to function. He added nortiptyline.
For the last few years, I’d been wishing for a massive heart attack to put me out of my misery, but suicide had never really made any sense to me. Then one day, J came home from work a little upset and unnerved. She’d heard that one of her friends’ children had committed suicide. We talked about it for a while, and after we’d finished talking I thought about it a lot. The next day I thought about it non-stop. And suddenly it hit me – I could understand why he did it and even worse, I agreed with him.
I couldn’t get it out of my head. Dr C made sure I had all the information for the local crisis lines and told me that if I felt like I wanted to act on anything to call her or get my butt to a hospital. A few days later, I called the local Suicide Line and told them I was thinking about suicide a lot. The woman on the other end then asked if I was thinking about doing anything about it. I said no and she wished me good luck and then ended the call.
A few days after that, I had an enormous panic attack in the middle of the night. I got out of bed, thinking that I couldn’t handle this anymore, and sat down to think. The only answer that kept coming to me was I was on three different antidepressants and getting therapy and it wasn’t working so there was no point in continuing on. I grabbed a notepad and started writing down the names of the people I wanted to write letters to, then sat back and thought about how I was going to end my life. I was miserable. Panic attacks, auditory hallucinations, no sleep… I was falling to pieces.
Then, a tiny but urgent voice in my head reminded me what Dr C had said and told me to go wake J up. I ignored it at first but after an hour or so, I got off the couch and did what it asked. I woke J up, told her I thought I was in trouble and needed to go to the hospital. She was out of bed in a flash and a short time later, we were in the emergency room at the local hospital. After I was checked over for physical issues, I was sent to another facility where they did psych evaluations. I spent the night there and then was transferred to another hospital where I came under the care of Dr W. It took medication changes, sessions with Dr C, and a lot of tears and work before I was steady enough to go back home three months later.
But I was back – and more importantly, I was safe and feeling MUCH better.
If you’re thinking of harming yourself because you can’t see any way out of your situation, please don’t do what I did and put off asking for help. Get on the phone to your local crisis hotline, call an ambulance, or go to your local emergency room. There are many people out there like Dr C and Dr W and they WANT to help you. You don’t need to suffer – things will get better!