So about three months ago I took a Facebook hiatus. I mean, the hiatus was from a lot more than Facebook, but FB became sort of representative of me stepping away from life because I was so NOT FINE. (The post I just linked to was written on June 7 and up for a short time before I unpublished it. Being “out there” with my not fine-ness was just not something I was capable of at the time.)
Three days after that, June 10, I went out of work on medical leave.
I was in bad shape, guys. But more on that later.
Yesterday I decided to return to Facebook and just see. I’m feeling so much better and so I thought I could be virtually social as I start to be social IRL again.
As I scrolled through my feed I saw a post that hit me so hard I questioned my return and almost immediately deactivated my account. Again.
The post was a gut-wrenching one from an amazing friend who lost her brother to suicide years ago, and she was telling her story about losing him in honor of Suicide Prevention Week (happening this week, of which I was not aware).
Friends, I don’t know how to tell you this in the right way, but I was there. I was in that place of “suicidal ideation,” as they call it, and I teetered on the brink of executing a plan. I have been medicated since mid-July and the full bottle of Clonazepam above my kitchen sink beckoned to me, bidding me come, take me all in and just fall into the abyss.
You see, despair is a liar. It tells you things that are not true or even logical, but in the throes of severe depression, you believe them. You believe you are worth more to your family dead than alive. You believe that in your current state, you are not fit to be called “Mom” by anyone and should end yourself to save the kids. You believe that yes, they would be sad for awhile, but eventually your husband would find love again and your children would heal because they are better off without such a broken excuse for a parent in the first place.
I believed all of these things. I believed them as I fantasized about swallowing the entire bottle’s worth and just drifting off…as Hamlet said, to sleep, perchance to dream, and this time without the nightmares that plagued me nightly so that not even sleep was a respite from my pain.
Part of this downward spiral had to do with a medication, and I somehow managed to convey to my husband how serious my condition was. The thoughts I was having. What I was contemplating. I saw his terror and then saw him bravely battle through it as he got me in to see my doctor the same day and say to her WE NEED HELP.
We talked about hospitalization but I knew that would make me worse. The presence of people I loved was what was keeping me alive, by a hair. The doctor’s first order was a medication change (from Zoloft to Abilify, for those to whom it is of interest) and the second and third orders were to hide all medications and never leave me alone until we saw how the new meds might help. My doctor looked me right in the eye and wouldn’t let me look away when she said, “Suicide ALWAYS ruins the lives of the loved ones. It never fixes anything.” I flinched.
Drew took a day off work, showing me so much radical acceptance and love that I wished so fervently I could feel in my heart. But even though I was too dead inside to feel anything at all, he stayed by my side.
A dear friend came and “babysat” me for a day with no judgments or expectations. Just love and good company on my couch with the TV on all day. I was too far gone to even be embarrassed that she had to be there to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, even though I can now say I know that with this friend, there was no need for embarrassment at all.
I felt somewhat better in a matter of days so we came off high alert. I didn’t fantasize about swallowing the pills anymore but I did have moments of such deep despair that my only release was forcibly purging anything I’d eaten. One day, that wasn’t enough and I desperately raked at my forearms and hands with my fingernails.
The scratches have finally healed.
Through all this, I was 100% honest with my husband and it is what has saved me. Honesty. The ability to step forward and say, even though the medication change has made a huge difference, I need help. I need MORE help. I need so much more help or I am literally going to die. I made a promise to tell him on days when I purged, to have him sit with me while I cried and he held an ice pack on the scratches on my arms to keep them from raising up into welts.
Three months ago when I left work, I simply could not function anymore. I had played my role for over a year–hey everyone! Look at me, healing from my trauma and working my little fanny off!
What I was really doing was drowning myself in work as a numbing practice and ignoring sign after sign from my body that I was NOT OKAY. Insomnia. Panic attacks. Chronic diarrhea. Horrible headaches. Permanent dark circles under my eyes. Strange aches and pains that had me believing I was dying…but that I still tried to ignore.
On June 9, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t focus on work calls. I could hear people’s voices but couldn’t tell you what they were talking about. I would stare at my computer for hours, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be working on. And for those of you that know me well, you know this is so completely out of character.
In late July, once my doctors stabilized me after the medication issues that caused my suicidal downward spiral, I had the courage to say, I still need more help.
I entered an intensive outpatient program through Yale and am entering my fourth and final week in this program where I have learned so much, first and foremost that I am not alone. I have learned about mindfulness and self-validation, and I have learned how to use real coping skills that work for me as an adult…because the ones I developed as a kid, when I just had to survive, were so unhealthy and obviously don’t work for me anymore. I did what I had to do then, and I am doing what I have to do to be healthy for me and for my family now.
After all this, I have not and will not deactivate my FB account again. At least, not because of my friend’s post and the emotions it stirred up in me.
I’ll stay on FB because I have decided to return to my life and be present. I may not be awesome, hell I may not even be functional all the time, but I am going to start showing up…for friends, for family, for this blog, and, soon enough, for work.
Right now, that’s the best I can do is show up and be 100% honest. And since it is Suicide Prevention Week, I ask you to think about me in whatever context you’ve known me before and ask yourself if you ever would have considered me a person who would be suicidal. I’m guessing most answers would be “nope, never.”
I do love my life, but guys, this shit is real.
It is like a monster tearing at your heart and whispering evil things in your ear to make you believe you don’t belong in the world. And in those moments, I believed.
Today, I know I belong in the world. What the future holds for me, I can’t be sure but for today, I want to be a voice for those without one to say, suicide is real, even for people you think are fine. Even for people you think are doing great, sometimes especially those people.
Awareness is so important, and the sister of the friend I mentioned earlier is fundraising on behalf of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are so inclined to donate to this worthy cause, you can find her page here.
As for me, I’m here. Present. Not perfect, not healed, still medicated, still struggling, but here–willing to share my not-fine-ness, and so very grateful to be able to show up for my life.