For some reason lately I have been really feeling the need to write about an intensely personal topic that I really haven’t written much about, anywhere. And then today I read this blog post and that need just increased.
I have had family members suffer with various mental health issues before and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of it. I knew that depression wasn’t about mood. It wasn’t about “trying to be happy” I thought that I understood enough that I wouldn’t feel shame associated with a physical disease no different from Diabetes.
But in the last couple of weeks as I have contemplated sharing my story I have felt all kinds of shame. I have wondered about who might possibly read it if I wrote about my experience and what they might think of me. I thought maybe if only strangers read it I would be ok with that. Or other times maybe if only family read it I would be ok with that, perhaps they would judge me less.
In the end I realized that I still feel shame in it. Which means that I still don’t fully “get” the significance of the illness that I suffered from.
Looking back I can see that I was depressed a good portion of my life. As I kid I thought about dying quite a lot. I thought about what a relief it would be to finish this life, I thought about lots of different way to die, to kill myself, and yes let’s be honest even on occasion killing others. Not that I ever wanted to but I thought about it more than is “normal.” I thought about how one might go about killing someone, or where you would hide the body etc.
About the time I was 15 something changed, the fog lifted and I felt differently. I felt alive.
Later when I was enrolling at UVU an instructor gave me a survey to fill out. One of the questions was how often do you think about suicide, sometimes, often or never. I chose sometimes. The instructor was shocked, she took me aside and explained that, that is not an ok answer. I thought it was normal. I told her that I hadn’t thought about it recently but that I had quite a lot as a kid. She made me promise that if I ever found myself thinking that way again that I would contact her.
Then in 2008 it came back. It started slowly at first. Little things like just feeling anxious and foggy. Then I started to feel like it would be a really nice feeling to die. Then one day I was at work, I was playing around with a razor blade and remembered that old lotion commercial from the 80’s where the woman writes the word dry on her arm with her fingernail.
I wrote it with the tip of the blade, thinking I was just lightly scratching, the same as I would if it was my finger nail. Then I went back to work and had the most peaceful productive couple of hours I had experienced in a long time. I was focused and driven, calm and my head seemed quiet. It wasn’t until several hours into it that I noticed something sticky on my arms and hands. It was blood. I didn’t even know that I had cut myself deep enough to bleed.
About a week later I was running across a parking lot in the rain. I slipped and fell and scratched my knee. It started to bleed. I was surprised that instead of feeling pain I felt an intense desire to see it continue to bleed, I wanted to keep bleeding until all the blood was drained from my body. I felt sad when it clotted and the bleeding stopped.
Thats when I discovered that one little slice, anywhere on my body would make the internal pain go away. I knew it was crazy. I was a psychology major! Just the last semester I had taken abnormal psychology and I knew what I was doing. And yet somehow it seemed different. The fact that it physically made me feel better somehow made it seem ok and even rational to me.
The cuts mostly stayed little and just deep enough to bleed enough to calm my head. I always cut where it wouldn’t show. But each cut helped less than the one before and soon I found myself crying hysterically each time I cut because I couldn’t get the same quick fix.
Then one day I was home alone. All my room mates were gone. I was eating an orange and I choked on it. Really truly choked where I couldn’t breathe at all. At one point I thought, this is it, this is how I am going to die. My reaction to that thought was relief and a little excitement. Then I suddenly coughed it up. I was so disappointed I tried not to let it happen but my body was fighting to breathe.
When I realized I wasn’t going to die I decided that if the disappointment that I felt was so deep and if it wouldn’t have been evil or wrong for me to die from choking and being happy about that would it be so wrong for me to make something happen that would cause me to die? At the time I couldn’t see the difference. And I thought even if it’s wrong I don’t think Heavenly Father would really punish me for wanting to stop feeling the way I was feeling. That night I tried to cut deep and in ways and places that I knew would end my life. But nothing seemed able to penetrate my skin that night.
Finally I gave up took a couple of sleeping pills and went to bed.
In the morning, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that it wasn’t normal or ok the way I was feeling and that I needed help. I remembered the promise I had made to my instructor. That day I tracked her down, told her what I was experiencing and she went with me that day to see a doctor.
The doctor started me on Lexepro and told me to expect at least two weeks before I noticed a difference. About a week later I noticed that I seemed calmer and that the noise in my head was quieting. Within another week the thoughts and desires for death were gone. I couldn’t believe that one little pill could change my thoughts completely. I started living again, paying bills, working, doing homework, all the things that I had let go.
Three glorious months went by before I crashed hard. This time the symptoms were far more intense, much more difficult to hide. I lost my job, and my family and many of my friends found out what I was going through. I went back to the doctor and she upped my dosage and added Abilify.
After that things went from bad to worse. The noise in my head went from utter chaos to loud distinguishable voices and personalities. My own voice, thoughts and opinions became almost non existant. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation because I didn’t know what I thought about what the other person was saying. All I wanted to do was sleep and I hoped that if I slept long enough I would sink down and just become a part of the mattress.
When I started having seizures from the medication my mom got involved and she helped me get off all the medication. I moved to a quiet vacation home that my parents had, and spent my time doing yard work and painting and decorating the house. We focused on eating properly, drinking water, and getting the best nutritional supplements we could find.
Things started to get better. I started to feel more like myself. I still had panic attacks that felt like heart attacks occasionally. I still felt the need to cut, although I could distinguish between good ideas and bad ones now and resisted the urges.
One day out of no where I got a distinct impression. Just a thought really that came so clearly into my head that I knew I had to follow it. It said to revisit a cleansing diet that I had done for 6 weeks when I was 14 years old. I followed that impression within the week and was religious about my diet for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks I felt like I had climbed up out of a deep dark hole.
As time went on I felt more and more distance between me and that hole and every year I take six weeks out of the year and do my special diet. It just sort of jump-start for my body. It’s been a good three years, since I have even felt frightened by that black hole. Every so often I feel myself approach it, and I know that I need to eliminate some stress and do whatever it takes to move away from it again.
I feel so blessed that I found something that worked for me. It’s a struggle that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and yet, in spite of the struggle that I know that it is, in spite of the fact that I certainly did not choose to experience that, I still feel shame, deep humiliating shame that tells me that there must be something “wrong” with me and if people only knew they would shut me up like a “crazy person.”
Medication works for some. It didn’t for me. But I found something that did and that’s what is important. Everyone needs a solution. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. So I would love to know…
What was your solution?