She asked me when the wheels came off and I couldn’t pinpoint it. In summary, months was the answer to the timetable. Something had happened, but what? We started retracing my steps. I broke down when I recounted the month of October and that was when she stopped and set the paper and pen down.
“Stephanie, trauma is not linear. It never goes away. Some days you’re in acceptance, others you’re going to find yourself right back in the grief. You were exposed to your trauma. You faced your abuser down in Court and then you isolated yourself away where it was safe.”
I told her what I thought I did wrong or should have done better, or at least different. I talked about all the digestive issues, my hair falling out, the fatigue —oh my god THE FATIGUE, the brain fog… the break up.
“Be gentle with yourself.”, she says.
I thought it was a prudent reminder that I could work into my DBT/CBT skills. I must confess that since putting this into practice, I have lost count of how many times I’ve had to use it and it hasn’t even been 12 hours.
I also kept my promise to journal.
This week was suicide prevention week. It occurred to me that for all the mental health awareness there is in the world, it still seems lost on the people that you want most to love and support you … your family. For the life of me, I cannot understand it. Ive seen my own family reeling from a suicide, all of us asking ourselves what we could of done differently and wondering where we went wrong, regretting not reaching out sooner or more often.
Yes, it’s too late to change anything about those who were lost to the depths of depression along their own life’s path, but, No, you do not get to ever go back to being naive to the darkness which swallowed them. Please remember, you cannot forget.
What about the ones who have grappled with the depths of despair that are still among us?
Maybe in your truth, you see this as a consequence, but for what exactly? Being touched by fire? Do we deserve to be burned? And if the opposite of this is you…are you touched by ice?
Seems like a zero sum game.
Perhaps we could just trust each other to pay attention to our own truth. I’ll stay out of yours, you stay the hell out of mine? Maybe family could learn to treat other relatives with slightly more dignity than a complete stranger?
Is that the best we can do?
That saddens me, but then again what do I know, I’m the sick one …
Look, you can throw a shit ton of pills at PTSD and it’s really not going to do anything, at least in my experience. When the brain suffers this trauma there is no going back. You can have something similar to remission but it’s always the fucking boogeyman under the bed. It might not grab you but it’s there.
On this night last year, at just about this time the lying bastard that depression is got me in the corner and beat the hell out of me.
I didn’t want to feel anymore, didn’t think I could. I was ready to find a peaceful dream…just fall asleep and let the pain fall away. With a handful of sleeping pills and another of pain pills, I made an attempt.
I penned the following note to my children:
You both are a dream come true. I never loved anyone or anything as much as I loved you. I know that may not seem like a lot right now, but with all my heart with every fiber of my being I have prayed over your lives, for your very existence. I dreamed you to life. I know I have failed you miserably. I hate myself for it. I hate that I have given you less than you deserve in life. That I was too young and ignorant to pick a better father for you. You both deserved better than that. NONE of it is your fault. It is mine alone. I could never forgive myself for that. Today would have been Chris and I’s 15th anniversary had we remained married. I was never strong enough to leave him, always stuck in codependence but I had to be strong enough for you. The stakes got too high. Please know that you were planned and dreamed and hoped for and so very loved. Please know that. It is not a lack of love but my own weaknesses, my failing mind, spirit and body that I do not want to burden you with any further. I want you to be free of me and my inadequacy. Please believe me when I say that there have been countless days that the only reason I went on was for just the you. I just couldn’t anymore. My heart and soul were beyond saving and repair and there is no one to blame for that. It was a seamless stretch of circumstances with no bounds in which I was buried by hopelessness. I am tired and have nothing left to offer in this shell. I only have my love and guidance which I pray I am given enough of Gods grace to allow me to protect you from my poor choices and mistakes from a distance, but allows you to know Im always with you. You are my life, my legacy. You must go on and be the change this world desperately needs. The light that casts away darkness as you always did in my heart. You alone are enough just as you are. You always have been and always will be. Love and carry one another to the finish line. Ill be watching. Ill be the biggest fan of your lives.
I love you.
Please forgive me.
After that is mostly a blur…
A phone call came through despite my phone being on “do not disturb”. On the other end, an angel.
There were police and paramedics.
An ambulance ride.
Saying: “I fucked up. I don’t want to die”
In and out of consciousness.
A hospital transfer.
Conversations I couldn’t stay conscious throughout.
I lost days but not my life.
A year later, I find that I am stronger than I ever thought possible.
I have to keep finding that strength on my own.
So I kept living.
Being on medication for mental illness is not fun, nor is it easy, and no one I’ve ever known does it just for kicks. Kids don’t buy black-market Prozac to take to raves. People don’t use B12 shots as a gateway drug to heroin. The side effects and troubles with taking medication are very real and (if you have a chronic mental illness) are something you have to deal with for the rest of your life. Even if a drug is working for a while, it might stop working and you’ll have to start all over again with something new, which can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening. And then you have to deal with the side effects of the new drug, which can include “feeling excessively stabby” when coupled with some asshole telling you that “your medication not working is just proof that you don’t really need medication at all.” I can’t think of another type of illness where the sufferer is made to feel guilty and question their self-care when their medications need to be changed. When I went on my first antidepressant it had the side effect of making me fixated on suicide (which is sort of the opposite of what you want). It’s a rare side effect so I switched to something else that did work. Lots of concerned friends and family felt that the first medication’s failure was a clear sign that drugs were not the answer; if they were I would have been fixed. Clearly I wasn’t as sick as I said was if the medication didn’t work for me. And that sort of makes sense, because when you have cancer the doctor gives you the best medicine and if it doesn’t shrink the tumor immediately then that’s a pretty clear sign you were just faking it for attention. I mean, cancer is a serious, often fatal disease we’ve spent billions of dollars studying and treating so obviously a patient would never have to try multiple drugs, surgeries, radiation, etc., to find what will work specifically for them. And once the cancer sufferer is in remission they’re set for life because once they’ve learned how to not have cancer they should be good. And if they let themselves get cancer again they can just do whatever they did last time. Once you find the right cancer medication you’re pretty much immune from that disease forever. And if you get it again it’s probably just a reaction to too much gluten or not praying correctly. Right? Well, no. But that same, completely ridiculous reasoning is what people with mental illness often hear … not just from well-meaning friends, or people who were able to fix their own issues without medication, or people who don’t understand that mental illness can be dangerous and even fatal if untreated … but also from someone much closer and more manipulative. We hear it from ourselves. We listen to the small voice in the back of our head that says, “This medication is taking money away from your family. This medication messes with your sex drive or your weight. This medication is for people with real problems. Not just people who feel sad. No one ever died from being sad.” Except that they do.
And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, “How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.” But they didn’t.
They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead.
Whenever I start to doubt if I’m worth the eternal trouble of medication and therapy, I remember those people who let the fog win. And I push myself to stay healthy. I remind myself that I’m not fighting against me … I’m fighting against a chemical imbalance … a tangible thing. I remind myself of the cunning untrustworthiness of the brain, both in the mentally ill and in the mentally stable. I remind myself that professional mountain climbers are often found naked and frozen to death, with their clothes folded neatly nearby because severe hypothermia can make a person feel confused and hot and convince you to do incredibly irrational things we’d never expect.
Brains are like toddlers. They are wonderful and should be treasured, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them to take care of you in an avalanche or process serotonin effectively.
~ Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A funny book about horrible things