Continue the Story

I wanted to write about the therapy session I had yesterday but a piece of news had shocked me so much last night that I feel it pertinent to address.

The mental health community has been rocked by the news that Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon, has passed away from suicide. She had been an amazing advocate, a strong voice within the community against the stigma of mental health, a positive, and encouraging person to all those who struggle with suicide. So when the news came to me, I was shocked. Not only that she had passed, but that she had died from suicide.

I felt it ironic because just last night, when my temporary tattoo kit had arrived, I decided to tattoo my arm with a semicolon. When I have something tangible that I can see, touch, and read daily, it helps me keep going. So I figured if I had a tattoo of the semicolon, I’d be able to look at it and realize that my story isn’t over.

Then the news came.

It made me think.

I told my psychologist yesterday that sometimes I feel guilty for being an advocate, or for doing something contrary to what he and I have discussed because I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, I know I shouldn’t feel the way I do, etc, but I still end up in the anxious/depressed situation.
“S, sometimes I feel really guilty… I feel guilty because I hear your voice in my head saying, ‘Jules, these thoughts? They’re not your reality. They’re just thoughts. They’re fleeting, which means they won’t stick around for very long. But they don’t define your reality’ and I think to myself, ‘S’ is right. Why am I moping then? Why can’t I stop moping? Why do I want to just die?’ and I feel guilty,” I’d said to him.
He sat up. He always pays extra attention when I talk about something that relates to our therapeutic relationship. He’s always very conscientious of the fact that sometimes the things he says could affect me.
“Oh yeah?” He asked.
“Yeah… I feel guilty because I know that recovery isn’t a straight path upwards. That sometimes I may regress. I know that…”
As I said that, S smiled because I had answered myself. Recovery isn’t linear.
The news of Amy Bleuel’s passing gives a lot of clarity to the issue. It teaches me that every single day is a battle, and sometimes, you may lose but hopefully if you have a good support system, you’ll never have to consider losing. Or ever find yourself at a place where you could potentially do some serious harm.
 
It’s awful to lose someone to cancer, or a disease, or old age, or accidents, but how much more awful is it to lose someone to suicide? This is in some ways a wake up call because it’s telling us that if we don’t check in with the people we love or give them our support, we may lose them forever.
 
All it takes is for one person to say “I care” to the person struggling with depression, for them to realize that they are worthy of love, and life. All it took for me were people who cared. The staff at CAPS had been that for me, but since then, my support system has grown. I’ve slowly learned to start loving myself as well through that.
I know what it’s like to stand in the dark, feeling like I’m all alone and that my only choice is to kill myself. And now, I also know what it’s like to be in the dark, but then have someone reach out their hand to me to walk me back to the light. Knowing these two sides, I really want to encourage anyone and everyone who is reading this to reach out to their loved ones, to let them know how much you care for them.
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, http://warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. (**Note: I stole this from Facebook, from Dese’Rae Lynn Stage)
RIP, Amy Bleuel, you have made an impact to many – and I was one of them.

A Life Saved

I would’ve died if not for S.

I know that statement is dramatic but I am person who quite enjoys adding dramatic flair to the things I say. In any case, dramatic or not, it’s the truth. I’ve been struggling really badly as I’ve mentioned in my previous post so I came up with a plan.

The plan involved alcohol and it involved a large quantity of it so that I could poison myself, fall unconscious, and just die from the effects of alcohol poisoning. It didn’t specifically involve any actual time or place I’d do it so it was a rough plan at best.

Still, S was concerned because a plan is a plan. On Wednesday’s session, he told me to promise him that I would neither buy nor consume any alcohol. He also said to me at the end of the session, “So it seems like it might be good to meet tomorrow”. He usually leaves it up to me whether or not I’d need a second session that week – I almost always say yes because I’m so dependent on him to keep going – but this time, he made the call himself.

I had nodded.

“You think so?” He had asked for confirmation.

“Yeah…” I said before hastily adding, “Probably…” I wanted to see him. I didn’t think I’d be able to get through the night if I didn’t have the hope of seeing him today in my mind. I was going to drive to the liquor store after our session. I felt desperate for an escape. I was hurting too much. I couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Okay… We can agree to just be okay between now and tomorrow?” S asked again.

“Yeah…” I whispered, looking down on the ground the whole time. I felt ashamed of my desire to escape. I felt ashamed that I’m trying to push away the very man who is trying to help me – the only one right now who has any idea how to as well as the one I am the most severely dependent on.

I told him that today in our hour and 45 minutes long session. He definitely has good intuition because he had responded with, “Yeah, I felt like since we talked about your trauma, you had been very distant with me…”

I then admitted that I had been trying to push him away more actively than I have been. I told him that it was because he had seen me at my most vulnerable when I talked to him about my childhood trauma and so now I felt too ashamed to face him anymore. I felt like I had to pull away because I didn’t deserve to face him. I felt like he would be disgusted with me. Who wouldn’t? It was such a shameful experience.

S assured me with no uncertainty that he is there for me. That he does really care. He told me, even during yesterday’s session, that I am not a burden and that he does care and does worry about me. He told me that I seem to forget that very often but no matter how many times I forget that, he will keep reminding me that he’s there. I bawled when I heard that. The amount of concern and love he showed me touched me.

He also told me that I’m at the stage where I really do need him and that it was ok for me to be at that point. I told him that I felt bad because I always seem to go over time lately. I’m almost always taking up 10-20 minutes extra. Today, I took up an extra 55 minutes.

“It’s time well spent,” S said. “It’s time you need and I’m glad to provide it. We’re not wasting time. You’re not wasting my time.”

I felt much better about my guilt after hearing that. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in my own anxiety. It was so easy to hear the critical voice and be afraid of what the critical voice could make me do.

Yesterday, in the midst of my suicidal despair, S told me that, “I think you have a lot of potential, and the ability to create a lot of good in the world. And I think you probably already have. I think if you would have died, it’s not just that people would feel bad, it’s that your presence would no longer be here and you wouldn’t have the positive impact anymore that I believe that you do have on people” It has to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I felt so touched.

“And I meant every word,” S said today when I mentioned it again. I told him that it was hard for me to register such kindness and tell myself that I deserve to hear it because the critical voice tells me that not only do i not deserve happiness and peace, that I also deserve punishment and pain. I told S that whenever people praise me, they are all empty words. It’s hard for the messages to sink in but some do stick around and I do think about them again later down the line.

Anyway, we did talk about a lot more things during the session – things I’d have to hash out more on when I’m more awake, less upset, and less exhausted. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to post a “Thought From Therapy” post. For now, I just wanted to point out how amazing S is (I know I say it a lot) and how he has saved my life more than once.

Sure, I may not have died from alcohol poisoning had I really went through with my plan, but at least he cared enough to make me promise not to even attempt it. At the moment, it’s the only thing standing in the way between me and the bottle of liquor I could easily get at CVS, any grocery store, or any liquor store. I thanked him and told him how grateful I was for him. He smiled and nodded. It felt good to tell him that.

I didn’t know how much I needed help and it’s still hard to accept that I do but baby steps, right?

Lowest Point

Well tonight I hit my lowest point. I don’t remember a time worse than this or a time where I had actually contemplated writing a note.

Perhaps it’s time for me to answer my BHM (Behavioral Health Measure) questionnaire with a “Moderate” risk under the “How high is your risk of suicide?” section. I’ve always put my answer at the “Low” to “No Risk” sections. I’ve never contemplated writing a note before.

Tonight I did.

Tonight so many things came together to kick me down and I think it’s largely because of some miscommunication and misunderstanding on my part. It’s like my brain, which is already in a depressed state, jumped straight to negative overdrive and stayed there all night.

I am still in that state but a little past wanting to actually kill myself. I’m back in the passive suicidal mode where I want to die and wish I was dead but am no longer contemplating writing a note and things like that.

The thing is, the people I complain to all the time have heard it so much that it’s become possibly grating to them. “Oh here we go again. She’s suicidal again.” – if it isn’t, then at least that’s how I perceive it to be. If I had a loved one who kept going back to the suicidal mode, I would be annoyed to at some point.

I won’t kill myself tonight. But I sure wish I was dead.

Suicide Awareness Month

**CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING**

Save Me

This has to be one of the darkest pieces I’ve done. September is Suicide Awareness (and Prevention) Month. So in lieu of that, I wanted to do a piece reflecting that.

I’ve never talked about it before but I feel like this is probably a good time as any to start. It’s not easy to come to terms with and it’s not easy to open up – especially since there’s a huge stigma surrounding not only death but also mental health in general. No one wants to talk about it, and I believe that this is probably why so many lives are lost to suicide each year.

Anyway, while I’ve never attempted suicide and can say that I’ve always had a healthy appreciation of life, when I started suffering from depression (which had started a few years ago), all that changed. Suddenly, life was no longer enjoyable and it was hard to even try to get up and get dressed. For a long time, I was often angry and most of the time, the anger was irrational and unfathomable. When confronted with the knowledge that I might be suffering from depression, I tried to laugh it off and deny it.

Last year, the depression finally hit me the hardest and caught up with me. Between two jobs where the service I provide is often thankless, I was at the end of my patience and couldn’t see what was so great about living. I felt like a rubber band that had been stretched so often and so much that I’ve lost my elasticity. I started developing what psychologists refer to as “passive suicidal thoughts” where instead of actively seeking out death or planning suicide attempts, I wanted instead to just die or to just disappear. After all, I believed, no one would care if I did go away, right?

Near the end of 2014, as I went to work daily, I often had to choke back the tears and frustration I was feeling and had to work really hard at passing off as normal. In fact, no one probably really noticed anything was wrong except my husband. That’s because depression hides within its victims. The happiest person could be the most depressed person. I was that “happy” person. In reality, I wished for death daily.

The feeling followed me through to the new year. Despite making a decision to make changes in my life in order to restore some semblance of normalcy, I still felt hollow, angry, sad and hopeless. When my husband was finally able to convince me to go seek professional help, I was reluctant. I didn’t see any benefit to talking to a complete stranger. I did go anyway because anyone who knows my husband will know that he is persistent. I went just so that he could stop asking me if I’ve made an appointment yet. When I was diagnosed with mild anxiety and moderate depression, I was relieved because now I can say for certain that I wasn’t imagining my problems.

Since starting therapy in April, my suicidal thoughts have decreased drastically because my therapist was able to help me flesh out my frustrations and anger. It’s been 17 sessions and I can say for certain that I have seen improvement in my mental well being. Though I still struggle with suicidal thoughts, I’m still thankful that I’m taking the steps toward recovery. Sure, I may have had an awful day yesterday which drove me to want to hurt myself but at least now, I realize where the suicidal thoughts are originating from which helps me diffuse the situation – or at the very least, keep going.

If you’ve read this far, I don’t want your pity. I don’t want the kind of looks you’d give to a wounded puppy. I would want instead, for you to reach out to someone you think might be suffering in silence. We, depression sufferers, are good at hiding our woes because we don’t want to burden others. I would like for you to educate yourself to the signs of suicide and be aware of your friends and loved ones’ state of mind. All it takes for someone to come off the ledge of a bridge/building, to put down the knife/razor blade, to throw away the sleeping pills, to untie the rope strung up in the ceiling is for someone to say, “Hey, are you okay? Can we talk about it?” I want people to know that suicide is an acute and temporary feeling. Once a person’s stressor goes away, they often would not revisit the thought of killing themselves. So if you manage to help someone out of that situation, chances are, you’ve given them a new lease on life.

As for me, I’ll keep going. I can’t promise I won’t think about killing myself, but I can promise that I will do whatever it takes to keep going. And don’t worry about me. My therapist is keeping an eye on my mental health and has assured me that he is there for me should I find myself in a situation where I could hurt myself. Not everyone has that luxury though, so if you can, go out there and be that person for someone.

For more info, here are some helpful links you could pass along:
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention-helping-someone-who-is-suicidal.htm
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
http://www.projectsemicolon.org/
https://www.iasp.info/
http://www.take5tosavelives.org/
– International list of Suicide Prevention Hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html