These past couple of weeks have not been the best for me, but today was the pinnacle of that theme. I won’t go into details, but it was the darkest day I have seen in almost two years. My recovery almost slipped from my grasp, and I became once again certain that the good is all over and my life is more work than I am capable of. For a few moments, I believed that my loved ones would be better unburdened by my presence in their lives.
The moment was overwhelming, and I am still reeling from the whole event. I was feeling quite hopeless, but as I was driving home tonight, a thought hit me. My sister and I had been pondering what could possibly the cause of my troubles. Do my meds need adjusting? Is it because I’m supposed to start doing trauma work with my therapist? Am I going too long between meals?
The main question being: What could be wrong?
The thought that hit me on the way home tonight was this: What could I be doing right?
It is a common belief among those who share my faith that if you’re going through hard times, you must be doing something right. The idea being, you are on the right path, you’re about to accomplish something big for God, and the devil is trying to bring you down, or stop you in any way he can. Maybe, I thought, I’m doing something right, and the devil is trying to keep me from proceeding. I had been looking at the problem all wrong.
So, I will tell you what I am moving forward with, now more confidently than ever.
I am applying to seminary. I feel called to work in ministry with the LGBTQ population. I believe there is a whole wealth of experience and spiritual growth for both the LGBTQ population and the Christian population, as they relate to LGBTQ people. I definitely think the devil is, and has been for years, coming between a lot of people and their relationship with God. The church has always been unwelcoming and unsympathetic toward the LGBTQ population. And I resolve to be a part of changing that.
Also, I’m definitely going to address the traumas I have experienced. Obviously, I can do great things once I move past these issues, and the devil is trying to keep that from happening. I now have more resolve than ever about addressing my trauma. I know I can accomplish great things on the other side of the work I need to do.
So, suck that, satan!
This is a powerful post about the things that really matter!
And a video to put things into perspective!
Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –Mother Theresa
On March 27, 2011, my life officially changed in an incredibly dramatic way. I stayed for hours after church, hesitant to go home, and hesitant to make a commitment. I stared back and forth at the pulpit and the exit, long after the service had ended and everyone, except for 2 friends and myself, had gone home. Every time I looked at the doors, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, face it, or act because of it, I knew if I walked out those doors without God, I would die. The pain was like a wrench in my gut, twisting with the thought of making that decision. I didn’t want to lose myself, and as much as I felt like I wanted to die in that moment, I knew the truth was that I wanted to live.
I had stayed after service, hurling questions and arguments at the pastor, who mostly left it up to me, to look inside myself for the answers. He knew that nothing he could say was going to be easily accepted by me. And this had been the truth since the moment I had first stepped into this crowd of people who would become my family.
When the moment finally came, it was almost midnight. In the following weeks, I would buy a little plaque that said “Even miracles take a little time” from the disney film Cinderella. Without knowing what I was diving into, I dove, because I realized that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.
That night, I made a commitment to follow God, to be His faithful servant, to become the person He wanted me to be, and live the life He wanted me to live. It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation. It took time, and I fought. I fought everyone around me, and I fought with God himself. Quite violently, I might add.
The fact of the matter is, though, that I don’t take commitments lightly. If I say that I am going to do something, I do it.
In the months that have followed, the transformation has taken over, and my life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a year ago. I am living in a different home, city, and state, with different friends, a different church, a different perspective, and a different way of living.
When I opened my mind to a church that truly conveyed a life modeled after that of Christ, it was a battle. I always had this concept “well, if they really followed Christ, it would look like this…” The difference was, this church actually embodied that. Did I cut them any slack because of it? Ohhhhhh no, definitely not. I gave them hell for dragging me there. I sat on my seat, arms crossed, scowl painted firmly on my face. When they sang, I didn’t move. When they greeted each other, I didn’t move. Did that make a difference? No. They treated me, from the very first moment, like I was family, and that never wavered, even when they learned of our differences.
I wish I could say that churches like that are common, but they are the minority.
I came in with all of my doubts and anger. I was drowning in resentments of what churches had done to me and my loved ones for years and years. I hurled this resentment toward these innocent people with my laser beam death stare, and they never once treated me differently.
Eventually, I had a realization. I expected these people not to judge me. That is what real Christians would do. But what about me? Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for them? Why was I taking out all of this resentment on people who had never harmed me. I judged them before I had a chance to walk through the door, accusing them of judging me. That was my hypocrisy wake up call. I had to give them a chance, if I expected that of them.
So, I did.
“Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.” –Dandemis
That is when I realized that they were actually everything I had always thought churches should be.
I wish I could say that the judgments stopped from that moment, but as I have grown in my faith, I have noticed the other side of my friend pool shift. They don’t directly tell me they hate me, but they definitely are weirded out and leery of this change in me. As though the fact that my newfound relationship with God gives me a reason to live, just isn’t a good enough excuse. I have, as of late, felt incredibly judged by a lot of my friends who are atheist or agnostic. They are immediately on the defense with me, as though I am going to show up on their doorstep with a pamphlet. As much as I understand that feeling, I don’t understand it coming at me. I am not suddenly a horrible person because I believe differently. I have started to realize that I feel far more judged now than I ever did when I was spiritually ambiguous. The funny part is that, though I do have some strong specific beliefs, I am still spiritually ambiguous in a lot of ways. And as for the current religious/political blur, none of my political beliefs have changed. In fact, I would say I stand stronger in my political beliefs than I did before, because I believe that, although they are not the norm in my spiritual community, they have been distinctly placed on my heart for a reason.
I guess that, although so much of my life has changed, the only parts of me that have changed were the parts no one wanted here in the first place. I am not destructive anymore. I am not as selfish. I am working hard to live a productive life. I stay focused on ensuring that I am being kind to myself and to others. I am learning balance. I am implementing self-care. I am capable of so much more. I am grateful for each day, and I genuinely want to live it.
So yeah, something HUGE changed, but it didn’t change my heart. My heart is in the same place, I am just learning how to put it into action. I am learning to act upon the passions that have driven me all this time, and to grow and heal so that I am capable of doing that work.
So this is for those of you out there who think I have been brainwashed or suddenly became incredibly stupid. This is not the case. I heard that your IQ starts declining at 25 anyway, so maybe that part is true. I’m just not the asshole I used to be. And the truth is, that I am thankful for all of my friends. For those who do not need a God to give their lives meaning, I do not judge. I have learned in AA that living a life without a higher power is just a prerogative that some of us do not have the luxury of indulging in. I need God to take a step further in this life, to march on. The passions I have for change to come about in this world, are not efforts that I can make alone. I will surely need God behind the work I want to do for our world in order to make it a safer, more beautiful place for each and every one of us to thrive.
I don’t plan on apologizing to my spiritual community for my political beliefs, and I don’t plan on apologizing to my political community for my spiritual beliefs. I am going to march forward living in the way that I feel God guide me. And you two groups can sort that crap out amongst yourselves.
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s the one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
There are days when I can’t understand how anyone couldn’t love me. I think I’m beautiful, funny, creative, and intelligent. Some days this is part of a healthy balance of recognizing my value and appreciating my positive qualities. Other days, this is a symptom of my mood disorder. They can probably come off interchangeably, but I can tell the subtle difference. On my manic days, I feel undeniably sexy, confident, and virtually unstoppable. I quite frankly believe that everyone wants me.
Then there are the days when I my heart sinks at the thought that I’m completely unloveable. I think everyone has days when they feel unloveable, whether it be because they are having a rough hair day, or they realize they’ve said something they didn’t mean to a friend. For me, days like today are more heart breaking… far more gut-wrenching. It can be painful to hear a love song, and feel personally affected by the adamant belief that no one could ever feel that way about me. It can often be agitated by blemishes or physical imperfections, but the reality of what I face day-to-day with mental illness make love seem so distant, partly because I have a lot of work to do before I can get there, and partly because of the ways I can lose control of my mood when I am out of whack.
Neither the enticing confidence of mania, nor the crippling distance of love during depression are often issues for me. I admit that so much time had gone by since I had felt this way, that I had come to question my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The past few weeks have been quite an obstacle in these aspects, though.
It isn’t completely uncommon for the things you do during mania to come back to weigh on your insecurity during depression. All of these symptoms have been absent for so long, that they almost feel new this time around, and yet, at the same time, they feel naggingly mundane. It all starts to feel as if any effort previously put forth was just a method of buying time, or delaying the inevitable. When I was well, the fear that these symptoms would resurface would haunt me. Now that they are back, it feels as though they never really went away.
I cannot pretend that life seems like the most viable of options in times such as these. All of my senses mislead me. Every single thing that happens is riddled with a slight paranoid urge to question. “Did that thing just happen, or was it orchestrated by someone with ulterior motives?” Everyone’s words are the opposite of what they really mean, and their actions are digs at my sanity. I cannot honestly approach the question of whether treatment is a viable option, because in my head, there are cheaper, easier, and more immediate solutions.
And then, all of my effort toward recovery is always riddled with side notes of the times I tried before, and relapsed. And relapse in my head is really just failure. And failure is really just a waste.
Considering recovery isn’t easy. Recovery takes time, money, and effort, and beyond that, it takes an initial desire to be better, to move forward… which in this state, really just feels exhausting. The times I’ve written here, I’ve been feeling hopeful, but I figured that my transparency might help people understand my journey better.
I cannot say that considering suicide is easier, though. Suicide, when done in a conscious state, requires effort. It requires motivation, and calculation. You have to consider what methods will work most effectively, and weigh the risk of survival after an attempt. You have to consider your loved ones, and funeral arrangements. I can’t speak for others, but I cannot fathom that most who take their own lives, don’t (no matter how irrationally) weigh the affect that it will have on loved ones, and decide it is still the better option. It is difficult in the thick of despair to look at your situation and know if it would be more practical and efficient to die, or if it would make more of a mess than already exists… more of a mess than one can even fathom. And the irony is, that those who haven’t faced that situation, can’t even fathom honestly believing that there is some clean efficiency to suicide. In my head, it sounds logical, but when I see it typed out, it reads as completely absurd and thoroughly insane.
In either situation, you have to think about the things you’ll miss. For instance, if I go into treatment now, I’ll miss my birthday and my trip to visit my sister and my nephew. But if I die, I’ll miss the rest of my birthdays and my nephew growing up. I’ve spent birthdays in treatment before. Once, I missed a concert of my favorite musician for treatment. Also, if I go into treatment now, I’ll miss graduate application deadlines for the upcoming school year. If I die, I’ll never know if that could’ve gone anywhere anyway. The fear the perpetuates thoughts of suicide is that you will go forth and continue to face the same failures of the past… that you will live and it still won’t be worth it in the end anyway.
I suppose the logic driving madness is to consider the affect that my life has had on the lives of others, and what does any of our lives come down to, if not that? I cannot say, in my current state, that my life has contributed anything of value to this world. From where I stand, all my effort has been in vain; and all my lack of effort has be cruel and spiteful. If you asked my loved ones, it is probable that they would argue that my life was of great value; but possible that none of them could back that up with evidence or specific instances in which I contributed something valuable.
I realize that relationships are fluid. People come and go. The time we have to connect with one another ebbs and flows. Our moods shift. Our locations change. We take up new hobbies, and grow tired of old ones. We become different people.
Over the past few weeks, I heard a song on XM radio that made me laugh. It is called “High School Never Ends” (by Bowling for Soup). It is an amusing song about the ways that the so-called “real world” functions very similarly to the way high school did. There’s a line in the song that stings a little for me, though. The chorus says: The whole damn world is just as obsessed with who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex, who’s got the money, who gets the honey’s, who’s kinda cute, and who’s just a mess. But the end of the song adds: And I’m pretty much the same as I was back then… HIGH SCHOOL NEVER ENDS. And I get this, its not uncommon for people to feel as awkward as they did in high school and maintain similar behaviors. But that last line gets me. When I look around at the people I knew back in the day, the truth is that, for better or worse, most have changed. They’ve gotten married, had kids, are managing careers or going to school. What I see all around me are people working toward their potential. And yet, I feel completely stagnant. I have a BA that I somehow achieved since high school, and little else to show for the nearly 11 years that have passed since then. I’m single, unemployed, depending on my parents, and struggling on a daily basis with emotional stability. I do have to say that I’ve made achievements in conquering disordered eating. I no longer use self-injury as a method of coping. I’ve overcome addictions, and learned a lot. I’ve met tons of people with a wealth of stories and backgrounds. When I face myself at the end of each day, though, I feel empty-handed. I feel as though I have little to show for the time that has passed. Everything I do feels like existing in a constant state of planning for the things that I could one day accomplish, but never actually accomplishing them. There are days when I consider having a kid just to muster some sense of accomplishment, but I know that in the end, my failure at that endeavor would just pour salt on the wound of my lack of accomplishment. I’m not suggesting that reproducing automatically equals accomplishment. I wouldn’t even say that of a career. These things do, however, suggest some sort of movement forward. I don’t feel like my life has lacked in experience, I simply feel as though I’ve done nothing with all the experience and wisdom that I have acquired.
I have to stop, I know this all sounds like a pity party. I can hear the hard-asses out there groaning and mumbling some bullshit line referring to my boot straps… yadda yadda.
I want to add that the burden of disappointment in myself doesn’t extend solely to what I have or haven’t accomplished as a result of challenges I have or haven’t had to face. Being faced with moments when suicide seems viable isn’t my biggest obstacle. What is worse, and what feeds those very flames, is the way I am to those I love when times are hard. I can’t even explain it. I become absolutely beside myself with not only rage, but disdain for the people who care for me the most. Maybe it is bitterness. I suppose it is possible that I am resentful for their efforts, whether I feel unworthy of them, or because I just want permission to leave this God-forsaken life behind and move on. There are times when I suspect that the only way to move forward is to succumb to this illness. There are points when I want to surrender myself to God, and moments still, when I fear the only way to surrender is to quit trying altogether.
In a day, I can change from being genuinely convinced that, despite all my failings, I have a good heart; into a monster, who can’t control her actions, or the fiery words spewing forth from her tongue. No matter what I do or say, the resentments that I feel for others, consistently translate into self-loathing after the storm clouds have broken.
I guess I just needed to get that off my chest. It certainly does help to have a chance to articulate what I am struggling with, but also to offer that insight for those who don’t understand or who suspect that they are alone in such struggles.
All that aside, I want to end with the fact that I am currently making an effort to seek residential treatment. I have been hospitalized a total of 6 times, 3 of which were involuntary after suicide attempts. These hospitalizations have lasted the length of 2 days to 2 months. The kind of treatment that I am seeking now is not emergency care for my safety, but an effort for a consistent, lengthy, ongoing treatment. Residential treatment can last between 20 days to 9 months, and is sometimes followed by intensive out-patient treatment.
The ultimate goal of such treatment is to get an oft derailed train back on the tracks, and to maintain it there for the purpose of transitioning into independent daily living. It is often necessary for people whose trauma, illnesses, or addictions are such that daily living is interrupted on a continuing basis, and weekly therapy can do little to offer the stability needed to move forward.
A close friend sent me several links to different residential facilities, and of the choices, I picked one. I have already emailed them, and will speak with them further today to make plans for admission and discuss cost options. The facility that I am looking into is an all women’s center in Illinois. The length of treatment in this facility varies from client to client, based on individual need. It is possible that I will be gone for several months. It is also very possible that the cost of treatment will be overwhelming, with or without insurance assistance, though I am hoping my insurance will assist in a substantial way. I do feel very blessed to have this as an option, and it irritates me that such treatment is so expensive, and as such, is out of the realm of possibility for many who face mental illness.
I suppose that this has become the critical moment at which I must decide between facing the uncertainty of both the future and the end, and deciding which is a safer bet. Neither decision is ever easy, straight forward, or without its costs; but I suppose we act despite that, no matter which road we choose to take.
I do not feel it just to ask anything of anyone, especially with the responsibility that I feel placed upon my own shoulders in the effort of recovery, but I am graciously accepting prayers by any who read this and feel inspired to lift me up in that way. I also want to ask for any encouragement that anyone out there has to offer. Obviously, you can comment here. If you wish to send me a private message, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org –Beyond that, I don’t know what else will help at this time. I myself am praying that one of these days, I will know success, and feel myself consistently moving forward. In this moment, I want to shake the feeling of stagnancy that plagues me, and to reach a point where I know that I am loved and supported, even in the depth and silence of the night.
I suppose that it eventually comes down to seeing my purpose playing out, rather than simply suspecting that it exists.
(Finding a Balance Between Jesus Christ and King of the Hill)
I was initially hesitant to post too soon after my last entry, but after really evaluating, I decided to try to catch my audience before they disperse.
I’m not even sure where to begin. My last two posts were about people we lost too soon to tragic circumstances, though my perspective in each instant contrasted starkly. One was written 5 days before my most recent suicide attempt. The last post was written a month and a half after that attempt. My thoughts seem transparently similar, but there’s a mystery smeared between those two posts, like something spilled on the few pages of a book that contain the climax. The pages are stuck together, and everything between “before” and “after” is almost inconsequential; or at least, that’s how it seems.
Let me plead that this is not so. I realize the posts are eerily similar, both addressing people I only knew at a distance, after their lives were lost in tragic circumstances. Both even pose my conflict about why some lost the battle, and others like myself, have a chance at survival.
It seems as though, since my post about Amy Winehouse, her parents have suggested that she lost her life from complications attributed to alcohol withdrawal. In my opinion, these circumstances make the story that much more tragic. She was making an effort, but the addiction consumed her in the end. I was almost astonished at how long it took most media outlets to come out with these details. When I got out of the hospital, I googled the story and found this explanation, and yet it was 2 or 3 weeks later before the media spoke about it.
Friday, my sister and I discussed the multi-faceted nature of mental illness, and the mystery that is our brains. We talked for a moment about how various mental issues seem to have similar characteristics. Though it may stir controversy, I’ll give an example. My dad recently saw the HBO film “Temple Grandin” about a woman born in 1947 with autism. It was very enlightening. I didn’t realize that autism was even acknowledged back then, but it also irked me to realize how much more misunderstood it was. I thought it was bad now, but it was far more misunderstood then. The doctor’s initially blamed Temple’s mother for her condition, but she refused to accept the accusation. With diligent attention from her mother and aunt, Temple excelled in life, and even more so in academics.
My dad was moved by the film, and sent a copy to my sister and myself. As I watched it, I identified things about Temple that I related to myself, and that I had observed in others. For instance, as is an issue with autism, Temple was overwhelmed and anxious in situations that offered an excess of audio, visual, and tactile stimulation. I completely understand this. I was recently started on a medication for ADHD because I had been withdrawing, and increasingly irritable in social situations for the very same reason. I ended my day on Saturday with a grocery store panic attack due to this issue. So many people, noises, products, and the agitation of my shirt shifting, and my purse strap rubbing against my neck.
Similarly, one of my former boyfriends was diagnosed with schizophrenia toward the end of our relationship. The illness didn’t present itself blatantly as hallucinations and paranoia, like most assume. It started progressing in his speech, which was disorganized, and indirect. It got the point where I just couldn’t understand him. Also, he started to become hyperaware of details. If in a room full of people, he would notice the way a dust bunny in the corner of the room was dancing atop the hardwood floor. When sitting with his mom in a diner one day, he started talking about a rabbit, as if his mom should know exactly what he was referring to. It wasn’t until she turned around and saw the painting of a farm with a rabbit in it, that she understood the origin of his thoughts. Temple was similarly observant, noticing and understanding things that no one else really had the awareness to note, or the ability to care about.
The brain certainly is a mysterious thing. Being as such, I am often frightened by what the brain can do.
Alzheimer’s is another example. It has been arising in the news more and more. I told my sister that I couldn’t cope with losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, because it would be so similar to how I lost my ex to schizophrenia. I cannot stand the feeling of having lost someone who is still physically right in front of you. I do realize that they are making many great strides with Alzheimer’s… I just wish they’d do the same with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
There is so much we have yet to understand about our brains. The brain is simply powerful, and being as such, it can either serve as a powerful motivator or a powerful hinderance.
When I look at my post on July 25th and compare it to my post from September 16th, it would seem as though the same person wrote it. And yes, in literal terms the same body sat at the same computer to bang her fingertips against the keys and make words. Perhaps even the same brain was behind what was thought and said. I suppose you could determine though, that the difference was completely spiritual.
I had gone down to Asheville with my parents for my cousin’s wedding. As I mentioned earlier, social situations are not my forté, though I manage surprisingly well most of the time. July 29th was not one of those days. I went to the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, greeting old friends and family members whom I have not seen in a while. The room was hot and crowded, and I had already been stuck in a car for 4 hours with my parents, which is quite a feat. The drinks that night were incredible! Freshly squeezed mojitos, margaritas, and sangria with fruit. I’m not sure how many I had, but I remember the food being equally as satisfying. There was so much commotion, that I don’t recall much else besides that and the heat. After eating, and feeling like was about to die through the sentimental slide show, I grabbed the car keys and split. I went to the car and sat with the air conditioning full blast until my parents left and we headed back to the hotel.
The next evening was my cousin’s wedding. We had been warned about the heat and mosquitos, so I had already decided that I couldn’t do it after my anxiety the night before. The situation seemed pretty simple to me, sometimes, social situations can just be too much. My sister gave me positive feedback for my boundary-setting, and the rest of the day is a blur. The only thing I remember from that day is getting car sick while my dad explored the wealthy neighborhoods of the city. Besides that, I recall that my dad took me out to a Mexican restaurant after they returned from the wedding.
I’m uncertain as to why everything else is a blur, but I remained in that state until Tuesday morning, when I woke up completely back to normal in a women’s psych unit.
Apparently, in the wee hours of July 31st I decided to end my life. I say apparently, because that’s how it appears. I do recall being somewhat melancholy, mainly about my future with regards to relationships and my chances of survival with mental illness. Other than that, it really wasn’t much out of the ordinary. A friend of mine was alarmed by what I had said to my ex, and my sister reflected that she should’ve been alarmed by the things I said to her. When I had a chance, I glanced back at those conversations, and if I had been them, I wouldn’t have been alarmed initially either. I’m typically a dark person, with an even darker sense of humor. Despite my recently blossoming spirituality, I have a significant past of depression and suicidal tendencies. It would appear to be a thin line with me.
The truth is, though, that I haven’t felt that way since March. I made a significant spiritual commitment to God in March, and dangerous depression hadn’t really been an issue since. I’m uncertain as to why, 4 months later, I would decide to end my life without much of a warning. In the past, the spiral downward for me has been lengthy and gradual. This was sudden.
My only medical explanation is that I had started a mood stabilizer a week and a half prior. Many psychiatric medications can have unintended counter-effects; so that is a possibility. I had taken the medication in the past, but only in the context of a complete medication cocktail. I had not been on any psychiatric medications since March.
As for spiritual explanations, I have a few. I’m not sure this is the time or the place to delve into that. If anyone has questions, I’ll be willing to answer them, and I’ll probably stick with basics for now.
So that Sunday around 3 am, without explanation, I overdosed on 100 dramamine and 40 ativan. My dad and several police officers found me the next morning. Everything until Tuesday morning is a blur, and most of what I know now is what has been told to me by people who were with me. I was taken to the ER in an ambulance, and stayed there until midday on Monday, August 1st, when I was transported via ambulance to another local hospital to be admitted into their psychiatric unit.
When I woke on Tuesday morning, and as the day wore on, I started to realize everything that I had been through. What started to really dawn on me, was the miracle of my survival. I spent the week that followed, bonding with women in similar situations and in prayer. I also spent a good amount of time reading the bible, and was diligent about attending morning devotions. It was unusual to be in the unit at that time, because when I woke up, I went back to being my “normal” self and otherwise basically “sane.” I recognized within a few days that I was good to go home, but it doesn’t really work like that in psych units. I was patient, and participated a lot. At one point, I started to feel so desperate to get out and do stuff, that I thought being there might make me crazier. This is a big contrast to the times I’ve gone in before. My previous experiences in such a setting left me fearful of returning to life, uncertain if I could handle life’s curveballs after being in such a controlled environment for a week or two. As eager as I was to get back to life, I made an effort to utilize and appreciate my time there. I developed friendships with some really incredible women, and learned some new things about myself.
Spiritually speaking, I will contribute this: prior to this experience, I made a commitment to God, but after doing so, carried on with life as usual. I suppose I expected things to unfold like I’ve heard people promise… “make that commitment, and all the baggage you’ve been carrying will dissolve.” I basically spent about a month and a half on my couch, watching “King of the Hill,” and waiting for my issues to go away.
It didn’t quite work like that.
I had gone to 6 am prayer at my church a few times in the 2 weeks before my suicide attempt, and spent the time praying, but also in meditation, focusing on developing my bond with God. I focused closely on the prayer that the people around me wouldn’t become distractions in my relationship with God.
See… basically, I’m a bit different from the majority at my church. I think outside of the box, and I’m far more liberal than most. No… like FARRRRR more liberal. As for politics, though, I really don’t see how that should affect spirituality and vice versa. My problem was that, I was capable of putting myself in that setting and being open enough to listen to what had to be said about God, but in casual conversation, I allowed minor opinions to affect how I felt about everything that I had grown to love. I also felt like I was often overlooked and invalidated because I am so liberal. The gist of it is: I could open my mind enough to go there, and they could open their minds enough to welcome me, but it stopped there. If they couldn’t otherwise accept my views, then that wasn’t really my problem, and it was just another opportunity for people to get between my relationship with God. I started to feel like the people around me wanted me to change my ways of thinking to look more like theirs. That’s when I bailed, and turn to “King of the Hill.”
I think a lot of people have that sort of reaction. Most of the people I know who cringe at the thought of “Christians,” do so because of people they’ve encountered who use their faith as a weapon of judgment and condemnation. I don’t blame them. Until recently, that had been my main experience of Christians too. I realize now that my experience of “Christians” really has nothing to do with my experience of God, and how I feel about Christ. Nope, those were two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.
My experience of survival after my suicide attempt, however, made me realize that my relationship with God was far more important than any judgment I had previously faced from people who claim Him, as well as any judgment I had previously put upon people who claim Him.
I realized a lot, actually. In the days after my literal reawakening, I had an increasing spiritual reawakening.
I had always heard the quotation that said “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) I came to understand that giving up on people because of the ways they judged me was hypocritical. If I expected them to not give up on me, I had to offer the same. My experience was sort of like God whispering in my ear to add, “people aren’t the point of spirituality anyway.” I do appreciate fellowship, but I also realize that I’m never going to fit into the mold of what people associate with followers of Christ. That’s fine by me. I had previously grasped onto all my bad habits, addictions, and toxic patterns because I assumed they held my identity. I didn’t want to lose my empathy, my creativity, and my quirkiness for the sake of dropping the negative. My experience made me realize that wasn’t an issue anyway. I realized that my past wasn’t haunting me anymore, and yet, I was still unique. I was focused and unmoved by things that used to break me, but just as determined to be an advocate for people with mental health issues and survivors of sexual violence.
I could pretend like it was “just” a suicide attempt, and nothing more, but it was more for me. When I got out of the hospital, I was surprised by people from my past who reached out to me for support. I also had a new outlook on life, and new thoughts on spirituality and mental health.
I used to think that suicide was a conscious and calculated decision. In my past experience, that was the case, but this was different. For whatever reason, I was in an altered state that went beyond not thinking rationally and became more dissociated. I realized that there are times in people’s lives when they will be in that state and take that drastic action without ever having made any decision at all, and without having much, if any, control over their actions.
For this very reason, I realized that I’m only in control of so much. I can take my meds, stay on schedule, respect my boundaries, and still fall short of taking care of what I need to survive. That’s when I realized that God is far more necessary than I had ever admitted. It is also when I realized that people are too insignificant for me to accept them as obstacles between God and myself. And on top of everything, I finally let go of the baggage I had lugged around for so long, because I knew that there are things that I can’t explain, things that are far bigger than myself. I had enough of a glimpse at the bigger picture to understand the purpose of my suffering for personal growth, and yet, the insignificance of it on a universal scale.
I would lie, and tell you that everything has been hunky dory since, if I thought compromising my integrity could serve some greater purpose. It won’t. It has been a struggle. I have faced speed bumps in my day-to-day life. I have argued with fellow church members. I’ve gotten in fights with my parents, and had moments when I felt helpless.
I see those moments as fleeting more than I ever have before, though.
I used to think that upheaval was a constant state of being. I used to feel resigned to my plight. These days, I’m more of a fighter. When conflict or turmoil arise, I reach out. I talk to loved ones and I pray constantly. When I’m being completely honest with myself, I see the obstacles as insignificant, and I’m overwhelmed by gratitude. When the past starts to creep back in to haunt me, I simply acknowledge that allowing it to haunt me will serve no greater purpose in this world, especially if I aspire to help those who have been through the struggles that I have been through.
I’m nowhere near perfect, which is fine. If we were perfect, humility would be difficult. I tried to keep that in mind when I felt the twinge of humiliation when reflecting upon being found naked in a hotel room, incoherent and surrounded by vomit. We all have our moments, and none of them look the same. It isn’t important to dwell, but it is important to acknowledge what we’ve faced and allow it to be an opportunity for learning and growth.
I feel more capable than ever. I don’t feel limited by my circumstances, because I realize that all things really are possible now. I’ve started pursuing new paths that I’ve known were in my future, but have consistently put off due to a nagging fear of failure.
Are there days when I’m fearful? Not really… but moments? Yes. I do sometimes fear that my past will creep up, like a gaining wave, and overpower me. Do I let that cripple me? No. Well, yes, but not for long. I’m human. I make mistakes and bad judgments, but I’m learning, not only about life, but about what I am capable of as a new person. I’m learning about myself in a spiritual context, and considering more and more who I am to God and who God is to me.
It is an odd thing to carry the possibility of hindrance in your brain, while everything else you feel is completely new. I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to being motivated by your newness, and always keeping your brain in check.
In closing, I want to share some important scripture with you. I focused on Psalm 91:11 while in the hospital, for the sake of reminding myself that God is watching over me. The only translation I had in the hospital was the King James Version, which isn’t my favorite. When I got out, I read each translation of it, and I settled on The Message’s version of the passage. It is awesome, and motivating. Whenever I have doubts, these words help me feel safe.
Psalm 91:1-14 (The Message)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence…
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon…
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance…
Yes, because God is your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes
p.s. I also want to add that my month and a half with the Hill family of Arlen, Texas wasn’t completely useless. I did learn this:
Lucky: You took the wrong message from what that preacher was screaming at you. You can’t go throwing stones at others until you’ve thrown a bunch of stones at yourself.
Bobby Hill: I guess you’re right.
Lucky: Besides, saving souls is not your job. That position is taken, in Heaven by the Big Man, and on screen by Morgan Freeman.
One of my sister’s best friends from childhood was lost to suicide this past week. You can find this story at this link. I was going to post this comment on her blog, but I do understand that suicide is a more taboo subject than I sometimes realize. (As Sinead O’connor recently pointed out on twitter.) I’ve been meaning to post for sometime, about my own experience over the past couple of months, since I nearly lost my own life, but I’ve had a hard time forcing myself to do it. Hopefully, I can muster up the strength to do it soon.
Her most recent post was titled “Will She Remember?” and contained a poem she wrote about her daughter, posing the question of whether she would remember these days of her youth. The post is prefaced by this quotation: “In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too.” ~Robert Brault …and a photo of her daughter.
This was my response:
This is a very haunting question to have as a final post. Amanda, my dear, I wish that I had words for these moments, but there simply aren’t any. I have had many friends of friends who have been lost to this battle, but I felt pretty distant from each of those instances. You were one of my sister’s best friends in middle school, and I remember that. I also recall seeing you on the park and ride at UNCG, and pretending not to notice, because I’m sure you understand how awkward it can be to talk to people from your past whom you were somehow distantly connected to. Now, I feel a slight twinge for not saying a simple “hello.” It makes me wonder if we could’ve hit it off. I almost died this past July 30th from a similar incident. I was grateful and humbled by surviving, but now I’m left recognizing that some don’t survive, which makes me wonder why. I know you are already missed terribly, I can see that from the memorial page they made for you on Facebook. I also know that few will really understand. I wish I could offer you that understanding, but I suppose it’d be of little value now. My heart breaks for your daughter. I want her to have the understanding of how much you loved her, and the understanding of why things happen as they do, without the pain of personal struggle. I’ll pray for her. My heart breaks for you too. I know what it is like in those final moments, when the world becomes a dream, and you decide to slip away. Sometimes you feel a stirring beneath your feet, as if the ground is about to open up. Sometimes you feel nothing at all. Every time I learn that someone has taken their own life, I pray for them. I pray for them, just as I did for myself in the moments when the fear set in, the final seconds before you hear the door shut behind you. I pray for their souls, though I can’t honestly justify the idea that a loving God could punish people so desperate, so consumed by the darkness… for caving under the pressure. I pray they find peace, love, protection… and strength. I prayed for you today, Amanda. I heard the news at lunch, though my parents were afraid to say the words in front of me, my own past being so fresh behind me. I had a moment alone to go to PetSmart for rabbit food, and I prayed as I walked into the store. I almost felt as if I was floating, and I could almost feel your presence there. I understand the loneliness. I understand being overwhelmed. I’m one of the few who can comprehend a moment of crisis, when you are certain you have no other options. I don’t know why I’m here, and you aren’t. I am torn between feeling blessed and feeling guilty. I’m also left with a nagging fear that I could still lose the battle one day too. I pray you are lifted gently to God without judgment or bitterness. Most people don’t understand the desperation, mainly because they’ve never felt it. I wish they could understand it without having to feel it. I know a lot of people make promises to themselves, though, a promise that they would never do such a thing, but who is to say where life will take us? How can any of us rest assured in what our future holds? I wish I could stop it. I wish, for everyone out there at this moment with a gun in their hand, a bottle of pills, a razorblade, on a bridge, or with something wrapped around their necks… I wish it would stop. And for their sakes, as for my own, I wish it would stay stopped. The truth is, it ebbs and flows, and we never know when the current may take us under, even when our feet seem planted, and steady. I wish, when people heard of suicide, they didn’t place judgment. I wish it allowed them an opportunity to stop and consider with gratitude, how blessed it is to live a life so distant from dismay that you can’t even comprehend such actions. My heart goes out to you, that you are safe now, wherever you are… I pray you are finding respite. My heart goes out to your family, friends, and students; that your life and their loss fills them with gratitude and allows them to realize the responsibility of support that is placed upon the stable who dwell amongst the troubled. I know I never said hello, but I hope my prayers find you now, and you are warmed by my understanding and reassured by the numbers of hearts going out to you and yours tonight.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental illness & contemplating suicide, there are options:
If you NEED HELP NOW… Call the NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
If you are a survivor or have survived an attempt, you can find resources from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
To take a stand against the stigma associated with mental illness, you can find out more from BRING CHANGE 2 MIND.
You can find out about suicide prevention from the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION.
Please don’t wait until suicide affects you personally, find out how you can help. The AFSP does a walk to raise funds for suicide prevention research called: OUT OF THE DARKNESS. It is an 18 mile walk that ends at sunrise. In 2012, the walk will be in San Francisco. Sign up, raise money, train, and do something to not only save lives, but improve them as well. I’m hoping to start a team, and do the walk in 2012.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
Share your story.
Do what you can to start the conversation, and take the first steps on the road toward healing.
(this video was made to raise funds for the overnight walk that happened in NYC this past June)