Mental Health

Help is Out There

This is an R-rated post.  Teens should be supervised when reading what follows.

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day.  I am not waiting until Saturday to start writing about it because this topic deserves much attention.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK.  If need be, do not hesitate to call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.  There are trained professionals who will take you seriously and support you.  There is always hope.  Hope always returns.

In honor of my own struggle with depression and bipolar disorder, I’ve decided to write about my own suicide attempt.  I hope my ponderings here will help someone.  There is help out there.  There is hope even when it seems like hope will never, ever appear again.

It’s been a long time since I talked about this publicly.  My treatment team members have always been aware of my attempt; I started talking about it in therapy right after it happened.  I’ve gone through fits and starts of denial that it happened but yes, it did happen.  I’ve whispered it a couple of times to people in conversation when it was appropriate.  But this is one of those deep secrets that I’ve generally carried around in shame.

I remember the day.  It was a Thursday in the Fall of 1996.  I was seventeen.  I’d just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of months earlier.  I was on Lithium and I’d gained twenty pounds.  I struggled to get out of bed every day.  I’d returned to school not long before, after an absence of close to a month.  I was still having difficulty concentrating on my schoolwork.  I still missed school on the odd day when I didn’t feel up to going.

I got up and got ready for school.  I remember the anger…I remember how lethargic the medicine made me feel, how groggy…I remember thinking that I didn’t want to take medicine every day for the rest of my life.  I remember thinking that I’d rather be dead than take that stuff every day, than feel that way every day.  I remember asking myself, “Why me?”

My parents had to leave for work before I had to leave for school.  I remember taking the Lithium that morning, like normal.  After my parents left, though, I went and took a second pill.  Then I took a third.  Then a fourth.  Then a fifth.  Then a sixth.  Then a seventh.  Then an eighth.  I was not in my right mind.  I just wanted it all to end.  And I remember thinking rather sardonically as I took those pills, that if one helped, then two or three or four or eight would help even more.  I was done taking medicine.  I was angry and I wanted out of this life.

I drove myself to school and went through the day as normal, but I was sick as a dog by third or fourth period.  I remember being in English and feeling like I was in a daze, just walking around through a cloudy fog.  I couldn’t function and my teachers, surprisingly, left me alone.  I had to excuse myself from class at one point because I needed to lie down right that minute, so I went to the girl’s restroom and crashed on the nasty floor for a few minutes.

At the end of the day, I drove myself home.  Nobody knew the difference, I thought.

I was in group therapy at the time with my psychiatrist and I did tell them what had happened.  I explained about the anger and not wanting to take pills for the rest of my life.  My psychiatrist’s response?  “You should know that twelve of those pills would have killed you.”  I don’t know if he ever told my parents, but it wasn’t long after that that he stopped prescribing the Lithium.  It wasn’t helping my moods, clearly.

I was scared straight once I realized that I’d done something really toxic to my body.  I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted it to all go away:  the bipolar disorder, the pills, the weird looks and whispers behind my back at school, the weight I’d gained, I wanted it all to go away.  I wanted to go away somewhere.  But I didn’t want to die, not really.

In all of the destructive depression I’ve had since, I’ve never been truly suicidal since that time as a teenager.  My life is way too precious to me to end it purposefully.  I shudder to think how easily it could have all ended before my life even truly began.  I thank God that I stopped at eight stupid pills.  I would have never had the family i have today.  I would have never gotten the education I got.  I would have never known the wonderful people I’ve known in the last nearly fifteen years.

As I learn to better cope with my bipolar disorder, I’m learning that, during the dark times, I’ve got to remember that better moods will return.  It took me the better part of ten years to realize that there was no shame in taking medicine for my illness.  It took three more years to actually find the right balance of medicine, because the right balance does not have to leave you feeling like crap.  There is also no shame in my depression.  There is no shame in my occasional psychosis.  There is no shame in being “out of the closet” and talking openly about this chronic illness of mine, either.  The only “shame” would be for me to not fight to stay alive, to not fight to have the best quality of life I can have.  Medicine alone will not help me.  I need constant therapy and coping techniques.  This blog is one of my coping mechanisms.

Please stay safe.  If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK.  If need be, do not hesitate to call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.  There are trained professionals who will take you seriously and support you.  There is always hope.  Hope always returns.

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