Taking Care of Yourself
Trigger warning: I will be mentioning and talking about suicide, suicidal thoughts and my experience with attempting to take my own life.
2020 has been a year full of firsts for a lot of people and some of those firsts happen to be really awful. I want to share mine.
December 29th was the day that I decided to take my own life. That’s a weird sentence to type. It feels wrong to talk about, I feel ashamed. But I know that some people will resonate with these words so that’s why I’m moving forward with this, or at least that’s what I hope. At my core, I’ve always wanted to help people with my words. Writing is new but it’s a good start for that.
I previously wrote about my experience with my first mania, which was euphoric and fast and blurry and amazing. Then it stopped. Then reality set in, and then I experienced one of the worst, most physically daunting depressive episodes I’ve ever faced. It was like someone had beat the shit out of me then left me on the side of the road, laughing as they walked away. That’s kind of how my entire experience with depression has gone.
It always taunts me, just as things to get better. And unfortunately, I was in one of the best mental states I’d been in just prior to succumbing to the awful, intrusive thoughts that flooded my mind. This caused the feeling of whiplash to be immense, and dreadful, and physically draining. My experience with depression has always been that I can still function — I can still go to work, I can fake the smiles, I can muster up the emotional strength to get out of bed each morning to take on the day. But this time was different. Like I said, it was like someone had completely knocked me out cold. I felt stagnant and heavy, and my lack of hope was the scariest part. The cold was colder, the lonely felt truly alone, the bad felt like the end. It was like a big joke at the expense of all of the progress I’ve made in the last year, and instead of laughing, I’m parked in my car hunched over with a bottle of anti-depressants clenched in my hand wondering how the hell I got to where I am.
My breaking point felt like an explosion in my head, and the smoke was too fast to stop. It bellowed into every crevice of my brain and covered everything and everyone that I love and hold close. I was searching for reasons, but they were lost — lost in the ashes, lost in the reasons why it wouldn’t matter anyway, lost in the hurting. I’m no stranger to suicidal thoughts, but this time was scarier because of that, because no faces were showing themselves in my head. Not my Dad, who I love with every aching bone in my body. Not my sisters, who have unknowingly tended to each wound from the lashes that my mental illness has scarred me with. Not my beautiful niece, whose mere existence brings me the utmost joy and fills me to the brim with a love I have never quite experienced before. My energy was at zero, I was dejected, and that placed a barrier between me and my biggest reasons to stay. That’s when I knew the pain was too much for me to handle on my own. That’s when I knew I had to surrender, knew I had to place my weapons down and just let go.
My therapist and I joke about my own self awareness being a blessing and a curse. I know now that’s no longer a phrase I can only use humorously, because it finally dawned on me how much of a blessing it is. I knew how tired I was and what I needed to do from there. I called an emergency nursing hotline at my doctor’s office and spoke with the most wonderful nurse who we’ll call Martha. She stayed on the phone with me — through my confusion and hurt, through the traffic lights I was anxiously sitting at as she listed off directions to the hospital. She asked me about Christmas and family and what I liked to do. Martha will probably never read this, but thank you, Martha, for taking care of me.
The next two hours of my life were jarring, but necessary. I took the warm blankets from the doctors. I spoke candidly about my feelings to whoever asked. I let go of the embarrassment and fright and shame. I had to, so that the right people could cradle my debilitating spirit and mind, then help me mend it. I created a safety plan with a behavioral therapist who called my Dad and sister, the two (out of three — hi, Ashlee ❤) people who I am blessed enough to know would drop everything for me in a heartbeat. I was discharged and I was basking in the safety I felt of being taken care of by other people. For the first time in my life, I was letting it happen, and contentedly letting happen.
As I sit in the security of being with my sisters, my saviors, in my new apartment, I’m glad that I did not take my own life because I feel like there is this other side of pain that I haven’t experienced yet, and that’s being taken care of. Being so open about my emotions makes me reminiscent of being a child, where you say anything and everything, and there is no right or wrong. Where verbalizing how you feel is innate and not something we’ve learned to mask yet. It’s just how you feel, and how you feel about things doesn’t make you weak, it makes you very human.
I believe that pain is forever and that it exists on a spectrum of sorts in our lives. This spectrum is goes from manageable all the way to unbearable. How it is dealt with is based on person to person, but I think remembering to embrace your pain is the most important part. Your pain isn’t just something you feel — it’s felt so intensely because it happened to you. It’s connected to you. It is you. Hold your pain close. Comfort your pain, in whatever way that may be. Tell your pain it is going to be okay. Cry, a lot. Bask in the hurt, but please, don’t forget to bask in the relief of being taken care of afterwards— whether it be from you or someone else.