I’ve got you

dark forest
Photo by Maria Boesiger

This one warrants a trigger warning for survived suicide attempt.

After over twenty years of fighting my demons, I had enough. My depression had become treatment-resistant, and bipolar depression is the absolute worst form of this insidious black fog. My brain didn’t care that I had a loving husband and family, that I was finally financially secure, that the stressors in my life had been reduced to a minimum.

I can’t really remember the chain of events, other than the fact that my husband was washing the dishes after dinner, and I walked into the kitchen behind him, grabbed my bottle of Klonopin and my container of blades that I use to slash bread before baking, and walked out the door without him knowing. It was October, it was cold and damp from a recent rain, I was wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants, and I was barefoot. This plan had been brewing in my head for days, I knew exactly how this would work, and I strode out of the house quickly without making a noise. The tears were pouring down my face, the only light outside in rural southern Ohio was the moon, and my brain was on autopilot towards the final destination of peace and quiet…forever. Past the garden, the skeletons of the long-dead corn stalks and tomato cages seemingly pointing the way, straight into the woods. The ground was cold and wet, covered in leaves, the pain of the sticks barely registered. But then I stepped on something sharp and looked down. The moon illuminated the broken bones of some long-dead animal. I could go no further. Pills in one hand, blades in the other, I stood there staring at those bones, wondering if that’s what the searchers would eventually find. The miasma of the insidious beast gripping my brain muted the sounds of gut-wrenching sobs; I didn’t even realize they were coming from me. I have no idea how long I stood there, feeling the black fog enveloping me, not hearing my husband’s voice calling my name. Then his arms were tight around me. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’m not letting go.” Oh I begged him to let go; I was so tired of fighting. But he kept saying the same thing over and over in a very quiet voice while he took the instruments of destruction out of my hands, slowly turned me around and guided me back to the house, blazing with lights. He sat me down on the side of the bed, washed the dirt and leaves from the woods off of my feet with a warm washcloth, and lay down beside me with his arms wrapped tight around my shivering body. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I won’t let go.” I fell asleep to that loving lullaby, and in the morning I started all over, one step a time, fighting away the demons once again.

Those three words, “I’ve got you,” did more for me than “I love you,” “It’s okay,” “Everything will be fine.” That was about five years ago. I still struggle, I still think about disappearing every day, but I don’t…I keep fighting.

still fighting

The Combat of Mars and Minerva
By Joseph-Benoît Suvée – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6365816

My original purpose of writing was to help others. If someone who was struggling and wandering around the interwebs came across something I wrote, I wanted them to recognize that there was someone else out there just like them. I don’t have answers, but I want them to see that I’m still pushing forward despite the demons trying to convince me to do otherwise.

I stopped because I found myself unable to publish anything for fear of upsetting friends and family. They know most of what I’ve been through, and perhaps my daughters intuit what goes through my head, but still I’m concerned about them actually reading in black and white the reality of what has never really gone away.  But the people that care about me will still have concerns whether or not I’m blatantly honest. My history doesn’t allow my loved ones a worry-free life. I know this because even though she is doing well, I will never forget seeing my daughter in the ER swaddled in bandages, or drinking charcoal.  So I will write again. As always, there are no trigger warnings at the beginning of each post, it’s there on the page, and that should be enough.

I’m not a big proponent of awareness months, weeks, or days. I do understand their importance, but it always concerns me that being bludgeoned by awareness posts will have the opposite effect of what is intended. It’s tiring to be reminded of mental illness, domestic violence, cancer, or any other of the horrors of the world. Pretty soon people stop paying attention and move on to the next cat video. The events that are the most relevant to my history are often difficult for me. The first blast of suicide prevention posts this month reminded me that it’s something that seems to have taken residence in my brain. There is rarely a day that I don’t think about ending my fight. My god, I’m 60 now, and I’ve had decades in this battle with no end in sight. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m scared.

However, as always, I will keep going. There will be a hummingbird flitting by my window in the morning. There will be an unexpected hug from a belligerent grandchild. There will be spiderwebs sparkling with morning dew. There will be a kiss on the back of my neck while I wash the dishes. There will be a warm, purring cat curled up in my lap. There will be that one person who says “Thank you for writing that, I feel the same way.”

There are no delusions that what I write will win awards, make me famous, or change lives. I just want you to know you’re not alone.

 

 

 

She flew through the air with the greatest of ease

;Yesterday was not good, last night was worse, today is a new day. I’m grateful for a husband that loves me unconditionally and refuses to give up on me; as well as a psychiatrist that listens.

For the first time in about 20 years, I am detoxing off of all my pscyh meds with medical supervision (do not try this at home, kids). This time I will not be hospitalized, but I have written instructions from my doctor, and people that love and care about me. It has gotten to the point of feeling like I’ve been having a variety of meds constantly thrown at me as merely a stop-gap. Nothing works any longer, diagnoses change on a ridiculously frequent basis, and I’ve had enough. No, I am not ready to check out of life, I am ready to start from scratch…again. I have made promises in writing to people I know will hold me to them, and I have made a promise publicly through because I said I would. I’m covered, I keep my promises.

It’s a scary prospect, being without psych meds, like performing on the trapeze without a net; but the timing is as close to perfect as it can get. Life is good, there are no underlying personal problems to mask my brain problems like there have been in the past. Hopefully in January 2016 (how appropriate) my psych and I will be able to come up with a new treatment plan (I’ll be seeing him before then, to check in, but I don’t want to make any decisions until after the holidays). I’m sure it will involve more trial and error, but until mental health diagnostics becomes an exact science, that’s the way it’s going to have to be.

In addition to my husband and my psychiatrist, I am also grateful for the love and support I receive on a daily basis from friends (both IRL and out in the ether) and family. Please don’t worry…I will land on my feet, I always do, right?

…and because…Bob loves him some Ashley

Suicide is a beginning, not an end

walking awayFor many that have been left behind, suicide is the beginning of self-recrimination. It is the beginning of self-doubt and self-blame, the beginning of anger and feeling shame at being angry. Suicide is the beginning of a profound grief with never-to-be-answered questions. I know this because when I first met my husband and told him I have bipolar disorder, he said “My best friend had that.” His use of the past tense and the small hitch in his voice told me everything I needed to know.

The end of despair was what I thought suicide would be. Less than a year ago, my planning began. For months I planned every detail, refining and perfecting until it seemed the “best” way for all concerned. Thoughts of my beautiful grandchildren, my daughters, my husband, my family, and my friends had no room to flourish in the inky darkness that had consumed my brain. My body was filled with real pain, centering in actual heartache. I just wanted a lifetime of fighting this pain and despair to end.

And then I was in the woods, barefoot, shivering, doubled over with that unbearable pain, and my husband’s arms wrapped around me. All he said was “I love you,” no matter how many times I begged him to let me go. He helped me back to the house, holding me up when my knees would start to buckle. He gently washed the mud off of my feet, lay down next to me in bed, not letting go until my sobs faded into sleep.

In the years that we’ve been together, I’ve often wondered if falling in love with me was a second beginning for him. Was it a beginning of fear and worry? All the times he says “When I look back, I should have known;” “I should have been there;” “I should have stopped him;” I wonder if he applies those things to me. Does he try to end his past grief by finding a way to avoid another beginning of his pain? Over the past few months he’s returned my medications and the blades I use for slashing bread. To me, that shows a beginning to a hopeful end.

Will it ever fade away?

Bipolar Disorder has been a major part of my entire life, but the last three months have been the worst I can remember in about 17 years. Suicidal ideations have floated through my head off and on more times than I can count, but I was always able to pull out of them. I can remember twice there were spur of the moment intercepted attempts, but nothing like this. This time was the first time I actually had a plan, and now because I went over and over the details, perfecting them every night while I couldn’t sleep, and all day while I couldn’t get out of bed, it feels like its ingrained into my brain. I wonder if it will ever go away or if it will make it easier the next time? I’m OK now, I got through it, I’m not sure how. I had things to do before I left, there were some things I didn’t want to leave undone. And before you ask, no… I will not tell you my plan. Nobody knows what it is, and nobody will. I’ve told my therapist and my psychiatrist that it existed, but even they don’t know the details.

I don’t care what any professional says, there is no hotline, friend, or platitude that can take it away. When it comes to that point, that’s it, it can’t be stopped. No amount of “think of the good things in life, think of the people that will miss you or be devastated” will help. It just doesn’t work that way. The years of seemingly never ending pain, had finally reached an unbearable point. I think the only people that should write University classes for psychs-to-be about suicide should be the people who’ve been there…and somehow survived. Because nothing I’ve read or heard prepared me for the “already-dead” feeling that encompassed me. I wish I could find something I just read, so I could quote it correctly and give credit to the writer, but it had to do with calling the person who committed suicide “selfish.” The write said it’s not selfish, it’s simply an act of desperation. The person isn’t even thinking of themselves, mostly just the pain. Make it go away…now. The people left behind? It’s not their fault, it was not something done to them, there was nothing that could have stopped it. I don’t remember having feelings that fit into the dictionary definition of selfish (see below*), it was just there…in my head…seeming to be in total control of any other thought that tried to get in. I knew how it would affect others, I was well aware of how the well-being of my loved ones would be trashed. I just felt I had no other choice. All other options had been exhausted.

* “Selfish.” Merriam-Webster.com

Full Definition of SELFISH

1:  concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself :  seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

2:  arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others <a selfish act>

I am not trying to make the point that it is inevitable, that when one thinks of suicide there’s nothing that can be done. It doesn’t have to be hopeless, there are many things that work for many people. Untold lives have been saved by a kind word, a hand reached out in friendship, a call to a hotline. I just want people to know, to face the fact of mental illness (which is difficult for so many who don’t live with it); sometimes reality sucks, sometimes there’s no happy ending. 

This post was going to be about something else, something uplifting and positive, but it seems to have written itself.