How to save a life

A year ago I went from hating life to honestly wanting to end it. My life isn’t (and wasn’t) bad. Sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but I have enough to eat, clean water, a safe home, and gentle and loving family and friends. For many people, that’s a hopeless daydream.

But it wasn’t enough to make me feel OK.

Somewhere along the line, I “lost a few cards from my deck”. I felt tired and bored all the time. I felt sadness and fear for no apparent reason. I stopped taking my thyroid meds. That exacerbated things. Over the course of a few years, the boredom and fear and sadness went from annoying to crushing. Then it because a self-feeding monster and in a few short months it snowballed.

The bigger problem? I kept silent and put on an act of confidence and contentedness that should have won multiple awards. Why? I didn’t want to bother anybody. I was tired of being told to “cheer up” and “lighten up” and all those other phrases that end with “up” and are totally unhelpful to somebody who can’t remember which way is “up”. I felt like nobody “got it”. Seriously, did people really think I was so stupid that the thought of “cheering up” hadn’t occurred to me? “Oh, cheer up and get over it? Thank you, you just saved me, because I’d have never thought of that by myself! “Worse yet, I had gotten to the point that I really didn’t care. It was hopeless wishing I could feel better, so I did what everybody seems to tell depressed people – I put on my big girl panties and got on with life.

When I got to the point where I felt like life was a nightmare full of invisible monsters, I developed a plan. I don’t recall consciously thinking about it, but suddenly I had a fully thought-out foolproof plan to end my pain in a way that wouldn’t hurt for long or leave a mess for anybody who would have to clean it up. I still didn’t tell anybody. And I’ll let you in on a secret. You know those posters and ads and all kind of other lessons that tell you the signs that somebody who is planning suicide? Seriously suicidal people know those signs too. And we do everything we can to not give signs. It would have looked awfully suspicious if I started liquidating my fibre stash, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, on a very warm day last May, I calmly left the building where I work. Mr Spinny was waiting to give me a lift home. I got into the car and told him I needed to see a Doctor. I had him drive to the hospital, where I approached the triage desk, told the kind person that I was afraid I was going to hurt myself, and broke into tears. They asked me if I had a plan. I told them what it was. They found a quiet room for me to sit in where they could watch me (they didn’t say so, but it was pretty obvious). Pretty much all I remember for the next several days is alternating between tears and anxiety attacks. The ER psychiatrist felt that my self-admission was a good indication that I wasn’t an immediate danger to myself, so Mr Spinny got to take me home. I was prescribed strong antidepressants and thyroid medication.

After a lot of work, I have come a very very long way. I still feel like I somehow betrayed myself. How did it get so bad? When was the point of no return? How did I manage to rationalise my way out of the guilt of hurting my family so badly? How dare I blind-side the man who stands beside me through everything with such a terrible thing?

I have been fortunate enough that my antidepressant worked without needing to experiment with several types. They had (and still have) some unpleasant side effects from time to time, but I am alive. I feel joy again. I still feel anger and sadness, but they go away when I’m done feeling them. I melt when I see puppy lips and cat’s toes. I hear people when they speak to me. I feel love.

Please, if you feel like you might hurt yourself, seek professional help. They are equipped to assist you. Family and friends can give you love and support, but unless they’re trained, they can’t fix what’s broken. It can feel like there’s another mind in your head making the decisions. You can’t let it take the wheel.
On the other side of the coin, if you fear that somebody is headed down a path they won’t come back from, say something! Telling them to cheer up won’t fix it, especially if they don’t seem to have a “good” reason to feel bad. Depression and anxiety do not revolve around a single mishap or loss or event. Spend some time. Listen to them. Ask them if they’re thinking of hurting themselves. Encourage them to see a doctor. If somebody had mentioned a counsellor to me, I’d have brushed it off, because a counsellor can’t make the bad go away, and in that frame of mind, everything seems unfixable. Share your concerns with other people who also care. Knowing how much other people care is motivating. Trust me, I know.


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