Today is the day.
It’s the day where hope begins spreading like a wildfire.
It’s the day that we begin our Finding Who We Are series. Our very first entry comes from Leslie at Normal is Out There. Leslie suffers from Bipolar Disorder and has dealt with depression and suicidal ideations as a result. Below is her story. We hope and pray that you find comfort, encouragement, and community within this incredible story. You can find Leslie’s blog here: Normal is Out There
This post contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideations.
Proceed at your own risk.
I want to thank Matthew for including me in his new series “Finding Who We Are”. I think this is a very important project because it will get the truth of what we deal with out there to the public. And that desperately needs to happen. I also apologize for the length of this post but it’s the only way to show it all.
The events in this post took place in June of this year. Similar events have taken place multiple times but this day is still pretty clear in my head. Hubby and I returned from vacation with my stepson Jr. in tow. A recovering heroin addict, Jr. was no longer welcome to stay with any family members in PA. So, he came to live with me, hubby, and my Mother-in- law (MIL).
Our small house was already feeling the strain from MIL moving in two years ago. The addition of Jr. made a small house feel minuscule. With no spare bedroom, Jr. took up residence on the couch.
The arguments between hubby and I began nearly immediately. I felt that Jr. should go to NA meetings to continue treatment and hubby felt that NA meetings would just introduce Jr. to the people who already knew where he could score more heroin. I wanted Jr. in therapy to work out the issues of depression and anger which had caused his addiction. Hubby disagreed. He wanted Jr. to find a job and get working. He felt that would give Jr. a sense of purpose he hadn’t felt in a long time. We were both right, but I couldn’t see that then. All I saw was that he wasn’t listening to me. It wasn’t true, but it’s how I saw it at the time.
Each morning I would get up and come into the kitchen to make coffee. Each morning Jr. was sound asleep on the sofa. Each morning I would be as quiet as possible to not wake Jr. But, each morning I knew that Jr. had been up late playing video games and chatting with his friends online. Underneath that desire to be quiet was a seething anger. Anger that he was staying up late. Anger that he hadn’t found a job. Anger that he was still asleep. Anger that hubby wouldn’t make him go to NA. I stayed quiet so the anger wouldn’t boil over to rage.
Once Jr obtained a job, things got no better. Now we had to drive him to his place of employment. Hubby had to pick him up unless Jr. was going out drinking with his new friends. Regardless of whether he came home or went out, he continued to stay up late and sleep until we woke him for work. And I continued to get angrier.
Now, I was on that slippery slope. I knew that the breakdown was coming. I could feel it. I could almost touch it. I told my therapist and we slipped in an extra session. Trying to lift this depression that was starting to feel like it was smothering me, my psychiatrist upped my dose of Prozac and Klonopin. I was depressed and I was anxious. I was up at the same time that I was down. It feels like an impossible set of emotions to have together but, I was having them together. Looking back on it, I could not explain to you how it feels. It feels impossible to even now, but it was happening all the same.
I told hubby how poorly I was feeling and that I felt that a breakdown was imminent. Still at war with his own feelings about bipolar, he told me that if I didn’t change my attitude that it would definitely happen. He saw a self-fulfilling prophecy. He didn’t understand that not thinking about it wasn’t possible. Bipolar had taken over, I was just along for the ride. We had a therapy session together and it was 100% the worst joint session we had ever had. He was angry. In hindsight, I know that he was angry because he felt powerless. But, in the depth of my depression, it felt like he hated me.
I heard whispered conversations between hubby and his mother. I knew they were talking about me. I knew that they didn’t know what to do about me. I knew that they hated the weight that my presence and condition tied around their necks. I spent time staring at the scissors on my bathroom vanity. Could I open a vein and let it end? I couldn’t. I was afraid to touch the scissors to put them out of sight, because if I touched them…. Would I decide that I could? I was too afraid to find out the answer so I left them where they lay. But, I kept stopping to look at them.
July 1, 2016
Depression wants to keep me in bed. Anxiety insists that I get up. Make the coffee, try to act normally. Jr. asleep on the couch. Of course, he is. Where the hell else would he be? Now hubby’s up. We’re barely speaking to one another. Our conflicting ideas on what to do with Jr. and his worry which is presenting as anger keep us quiet. And the surety that everyone would be happier without me starts to grow into something so large I’m not sure that I can contain it.
I rifle through my coping skills toolbox. I don’t have enough concentration to color. Or read. Or write. I can’t be bothered to weed the garden. Nothing is working. All of my tried and true coping skills are failing me all at once. I don’t even have it in me to watch TV. I tell hubby that it’s getting bad. I don’t think I’m going to make it through today. He reminds me that if I continue to think this way then that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Looking back, I know that he was frantic. At the time, I felt like the weight of me that he wore around his neck was just getting heavier. Wouldn’t he be better off without a sick wife? The worry could end. The endless doctor visits and medication refills would end. There would be no guessing my mood and trying to adapt. He would get that life insurance money from the policy he has on me through work. He could pay off the house. He could pay off the medical bills. He could have money left over to supplement his paycheck. The only paycheck that funds the lives of 4 people. Because I can’t work. Because the doctors say it will only propel me to this place I’m crashing towards anyway.
The scissors remain on the bathroom vanity taunting me with my inability to use them. My medication, however, the very medication I take to keep me well, will definitely kill me. So, I lock all of my medication in the safe. Lock the safe. I know the combination of course. I’m the only one who does. But the scissors still beckon.
I go outside. I go to the only place that I know I will be safe. The pool. I know I cannot drown myself. I sit out there for a little while but the craving to end my life is so strong. I go back to the house and grab a couple of the cigarettes that I rolled for hubby. I don’t smoke anymore. I haven’t smoked for almost 2 years. But the need to kill myself is too strong. I need to occupy my hands. So, I smoke.
It’s not helping.
I call my therapist. She doesn’t have a receptionist so I end up in voicemail. I leave her a message, through tears, that I want to kill myself so badly. My coping skills are not working. I’m sitting by the pool because I know I can’t drown myself. I’m smoking. Please call me back. But, in my heart, I know she’s in session and won’t get back to me for a couple of hours at least.
Hubby comes out to let me know he’s leaving for work. He works second shift and once he leaves, he won’t be back until midnight. I tell him I’ve called Karen. He says good and he leaves. He takes Jr. to work when he goes. And now I’m alone with my MIL. And I’m suicidal. And my therapist hasn’t called back. So, I look up the number for the Psychiatric Hospital I stayed at 2 years ago. I pick up the phone and put it down several times before I finally make the call. I’m worried they won’t believe me. I’m worried I will have to try to convince them. I speak with the intake nurse and she is kind to me.
I tell her that I want to kill myself and the steps I’ve taken to not attempt. She says come in right away. I call my therapist and leave a voicemail updating her on my new plan. The plan where I will not take my life but will get help instead.
I go to pack a bag. I know from repeated experience that I can take nothing with me with laces or drawstrings but it’s all I own. So, I pack the clothes that I don’t mind the drawstrings being cut out of, pull on my slippers and prepare to go. But, I haven’t taken MIL into account. She insists that I’m not to leave the house. Hubby told her what was going on and I’m not to drive. An argument that, at the time, is unbelievable to me ensues. I’m 46 years old and if I want to leave the house I will not be stopped by her. I understand now. Fear drives her.
I call a cab.
At the hospital, I meet the nurse I spoke with on the phone. Questions upon questions upon questions need to be answered. But, my therapist has called ahead and told them not only to expect me but that I need to be admitted. I’m beyond grateful for the wheels that have been greased. I don’t have to prove myself.
She takes me to the ward and gets me checked in there. I feel conspicuous as I sit at the nurse’s station getting the drawstrings cut from my pants and filling out forms. People are staring, but I refuse to look up. These people are going to be my whole world for the next 7 days but I’m not ready to meet their eyes yet.
I spend seven days on the ward. It’s a reset button. I attend groups when I’m told, I eat what I’m given, I take my medication when my name is called. I sleep. I rest.
I reset to factory defaults.
I begin to see how my husband’s anger was born of worry for me and his own stress over Jr.
I begin to see how to express my concerns about Jr.
I begin to plan my new daily schedule for home to take into account Jr’s presence.
I reload my coping skills toolbox.
Suicidal ideation is not selfish. None of what I felt on July 1 and the days leading up was about me feeling more comfortable. It was about a sense of uselessness. It was about knowing with absolute certainty that those I love would be better off without me. It was about knowing that my bipolar will always be here with me, but my husband shouldn’t have his life made harder because of that. And it was about an absolute certainty that the lives of my loved ones would be easier without me. Packing a bag and moving out wasn’t the answer. Because my husband would have to continue to deal with me and my bipolar. Death was the only answer. It was the only way to free HIM.
Looking back, I see the fear that I thought was anger. I see the stress that I read as hate. I was wrong about all of it at the time. Suicidal ideation will always have you read a room wrong.
As I read over what I have written above, I feel as though the emotion is missing. But, on that day, I was in despair. I felt that the only way to make everyone else’s life good again was to leave my life behind. But, I was wrong. Because ending my life would leave devastation as my legacy. To my husband, to my parents, to my step-children, my brother, my grandson, my nephews.
Leaving your life will leave the same devastation to the loved ones in your life.
So, if you reach this place, if you want to end it all, try to remember that what you are feeling isn’t real. It feels real, it feels so incredibly real. But, it’s not. And if the people around you won’t help you, then try to help yourself. It’s hard to do. So hard. It’s worth it in the end. Because once you get the help you need, and your brain is able to stop dealing with what it thinks is wrong, you will see how depression has tricked you. You will be able to see how your family and friends love you. You will be able to see how your presence is necessary to someone, whether it’s a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend.
If you don’t already know, take a minute to find the nearest psychiatric hospital. Make a note of their phone number. Because a pile of coping skills is never complete until the ways to get help are included. Once you make a call for help to a doctor or a hospital or even a hotline, it makes the burn to die a little less powerful.
Thank you so much, Leslie, for sharing your story with us and giving us hope through it. Your words have been incredibly touching and we share with you in your struggles. You are not alone!
If you would like to contribute to the “Finding Who We Are” series, contact Matthew Malin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are loved.
You are valued.
God bless you.