So much more than I can carry
I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down
If I just let go, I’d be set free
Why is everything so heavy?” – Heavy by Linkin Park
“And I’m sorry, but this is my fate
Everything is worthless, no one who wants me to stay
And I’m sorry, but I’ve waited too long
So here’s my goodbye, no one will cry over me
I’m not worth any tears” – Goodbye (I’m Sorry) by Jamestown Story
U.S.A. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Ireland Samaritans in Ireland: 116 123
A friend of mine and I were in Starbucks’s couple of hours ago, a different one than the one I was in this morning, and a different one than the one I am in now. Surely you all know by now that I live in Starbucks? Anyway, she and I were discussing going back to work. We’ve both been out of work for some time, mostly for mental health reasons. First of course we had to talk about Anthony Bourdain. As some or most of you know, he died today by suicide. For those who are mentally ill, and have wrestled with suicidal ideation, suicides of famous people hit us particularly hard. Many people who have not suffered, wonder why people who seem to have it all would ever want to take their own lives. ‘Having it all’ has nothing to do with it. Mental illness has everything to do with ‘it’. When I was in with my psychiatrist on Tuesday, the day Kate Spade killed herself, he asked me what I thought about it. I said just because people had money, and jobs we presumed they loved, being happy was not a guarantee, and really was not related necessarily to their mental states of mind.
This post was supposed to be about going back to work and the fears involved with that. I think it has to be about suicide now. We’re too far in. I wanted to choose a song about suicide that struck a chord with me. I couldn’t choose between the two above. They both strike me down. The both make me cry. They both remind me how I felt 17, 16, 15, 14 months ago. I really couldn’t remember until right now. I have had suicidal thoughts on and off every week since then, but nothing like back then. I had forgotten until today. How. How does one forget that. Until one reads that. Shit. That is powerful. How a song, a poem, the lyrics, can transport you back in time. I recall now lying in my bed in my hospital room being numb, and heavy, sometimes feeling nothing, like there was nothing in the world, sometimes crying, but not exactly in a deep sobbing manner, more in a tears rolling down my cheeks in a hollow manner. Nothing mattering. Noticing doctors and nurses coming in and out of the room. Barely hearing them talk. Robotically answering their questions. I have very little memory from January, none from February, March and April. March and April were due to treatments. January and February were from depression alone. It was an awful hollow period. I never thought such a deep depression was possible. Before this happened me I didn’t think suicide was selfish. I had seen one friend (not a close one) commit suicide. She had talked to me about her depression before. Although I had not been depressed at that point I understood a little of what she was going through. When I heard she had died, and how she had done it, it broke my heart for her, and of course her family, but of course I could see how much pain she must have been in to have taken such a drastic measure. As I said we weren’t close, but I see so much of myself in her now. I remember her confiding in me before she left for Ireland. I have tears in my eyes now thinking how unfair it ended for her. Could things have been different? If she had a different psychiatrist? Better help here? Better help in Ireland? I don’t know. She didn’t though, and she’s gone.
An hour later, just twenty minutes ago, I was driving the kids to get hot dogs. No judgements please. It’s Friday. I’m wrecked. We’re all alive. Everything else is a bonus. I was flicking through my phone for an album to play on the way home. Without thinking I chose The Cranberries. Well I didn’t think for about ten seconds. Then the reminder that Delores O’Riordan had also killed herself, back in January, charged back into my head. It’s just so normal. It really is. Are ‘normal’ people becoming immune to people’s suicides too. Or do they scoff at them. “Oh they were looking for attention.” I can assure you. People loooking for attention don’t kill themselves. Not the ones who kill themselves by means that they ensure they won’t be found in time at least. I would imagine there are some cries for help that go terribly wrong when the person is unable to undo their act in time, or the person they thought would save they doesn’t come in time. Whether these people are attention seeking or simply begging for help is a whole other discussion.
I am coming back to this article one month on. That means I probably haven’t written for about month. I started writing another article today, and upon coming back to finish it, I notice this one was unfinished. I don’t think I’ll do it justice just now. I will try.
To explain how suicidal thoughts can arise, let me tell you about Friday last. A week ago today. As a backdrop, it was the second day of my period. Some of you ladies will know how much that can effect our mood. I had also mistakenly not taken two doses of one of my psych meds that day and the day before. I sat in “group”. I attend a substance abuse program four days a week for three hours a day. We were doing a mindfulness exercise. We were to close our eyes, and were guided through touching each part of our body and think about how it felt and what it gave us. Almost every single piece of me I associate with some negative feeling. First off, my muscles fire involuntarily when I’m at rest. It is a side effect of withdrawal from the med (the one I forgot), and also when I go back on it, or up the dose it kicks in for several days or weeks. Right there was a reminder of my mental health issues, and huge amount of medications I talk (eighteen pills each day). Touching my chest reminded me of my heart disease, and surgeries. Touching my stomach reminded me of the forty pounds I’ve put on from my medications in the last 18-24 months. Touching my legs reminded me of my bowed leg that’s caused by a genetic condition. Medication for that caused my heart disease. My heart disease caused vocal cord paralysis, which I was reminded of when I touched my neck. My knees were my arthritis. Shoulders – calcification likely caused by medications for my genetic condition. And on, and on… I started crying, initially quite quietly with tears flowing down my face. The suicidal thoughts kicked straight in. I tried to fight them. I tried to see the positive. It may seem ridiculous to others that a simple body scan could make someone suicidal. It is not that simple. The negative thoughts about my body led me to feel awful, which became a vicious cycle – me spiraling down and down into suicidality. I knew the counselor had seen me crying. I stoically stayed and decided I would make it through. It got worse and worse until I was in floods of tears. Somehow I wasn’t too loud. I didn’t distract everyone, but a few people noticed. I left the room in a hurry. I went to the bathroom and let the tears flow. I wasn’t angry suicidal which I have been before, I was hopeless. I felt all my medical problems were just the extra push I needed to send me over the edge.
I don’t know if I will ever be free from suicidal thoughts. The goal is to make them less severe and more manageable. My mind tends to jump to it as a solution, because for a long time I felt so bad it was always in my mind as the solution. Once it gets in there, it is very difficult to get rid of. Even though I am not as sad, not as depressed (those are two very different things), the thought pops up whenever things get difficult. I’m fairly confident I am not going to act on these thoughts, which was not the case last year, but the fact they are there, I suppose, means the possibility is there too.
I’ll explain one more concept people seem not to understand. I have three wonderful children who I love very much, an extended family abroad, I have food, shelter, good medical care. Why would I want to kill myself. Even worse, how dare I even consider leaving my children without their mother. How selfish! The point is, when my suicidal thoughts are at an 8/10, I fight and fight, and call my psychiatrist to let him know I need help. I do that for my children, not for me. When my suicidal thoughts approach 10/10, it is too much. The pain is agonizing for one, but more than that my brain lies to me. It tells me my children would be better off without me. There is no way to think logically that the thoughts are wrong. I truly believe that I should die. So there are two things trying to kill me: the pain; and my brain. When a person kills themself, they are at that 10/10 point. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Delores O’Riordan in all likelihood were in agony. They also likely believed everyone would be better without them. They didn’t choose to want to leave their loved ones, they thought they were doing the right thing. Being in agony for a long time is unbearable. Suicide kills the pain, not just the person.
I hit rock bottom around Christmas 2016. On Christmas Day I realized I might actually kill myself at some point. Four days later I wrote suicide letters to my husband; to each child; my parents; each sibling; and my niece. I saw my psychiatrist the next day. I have always been 100% honest with him. No matter how awful or embarrassing or stupid my behavior has been I tell him. When I told him about the previous few days he pulled me straight into the hospital. That was the beginning of numerous stays throughout 2017. Maybe telling him was my cry for help. I know I wasn’t planning to act that minute, but I also know I wrote those letters so that if\when I decided to end my pain, I could just e-mail my husband those documents. Be prepared. I have read them since, and I feel the despair, and the sense everyone would be better without me in them.
I hope this article changes one person’s mind. That one person might think again before jumping to the conclusion that people who kill themselves are cowards and selfish. I’m having an okay day, so I’m writing this. On Friday I white-knuckled it until bedtime. Just make it to 9pm and I can take my sleeping pill and make it go away. Today maybe I’ll feel able to stay up until 10pm. That would be refreshing.