This is different than my usual posts of crafts, cocktails and entertaining and normal content will appear again after this!
September is National Suicide Prevention Month and this week is National Suicide Prevention Week and Sept 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts from my experience and coping mechanisms that have helped me thru the darkest of times. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I can only share what I have experienced personally with my depression and countless therapy sessions, I am not a doctor. I experienced significant suicidal ideation twice in my life, during my postpartum depression and again when I hit rock bottom with clinical depression and multiple traumas in Feb 2017.
I am sharing my experience and what I have learned to hopefully lend a hand to someone in a dark place, to encourage people to get treatment and hopefully offer a bit of insight to family members who have lost someone to suicide.
When I had PPD, I did not know I was sick for a very long time. In hindsight, that sounds ridiculous, because it was SO clear I was sick. Depression told me many lies that I believed. Some of these lies were I am not worthy, I am a terrible Mom, wife, person, friend, blogger, whatever may be- I sucked at it. My kids and Nick would be better off without me. I battled suicidal thoughts daily.
All these are lies, but I was completely unaware of that and believed everything my brain was telling me. It was impossible to see the difference between the truth and falsehoods in the midst of the despair. I did not just believe it, it was a strong conviction and as true to me as the sky is blue. If you have ANY thoughts that you are not worthy, that the world would be a better place without you- REACH OUT FOR HELP. You are being lied to, you are ill, and that is OK, just like you would see your doctor if you broke a leg, you see a doctor for this- it IS treatable.
I treated my PPD with cognitive behavioral therapy and fought the negative lies with truths regarding my life. The therapist had to draw the lies out and help me realize that I was sick and write down things that were true about myself. Eventually, I retrained myself and when my clinical depression hit 2 years or so after my PPD, I had the cognitive behavior therapy in my toolbox to fight. An example: LIE- “I am a bad mother and the kids would be better off without me” . TRUTH- “I love my kids more than anything, I quit my job to stay home with them and raise them. Today, I nursed, played all day, gave them a bubble bath, read books, took them to the splash pad and they laughed and giggled and are very happy children. If they lost me, I would create a significant trauma that will stay with them for the rest of their lives”
For this next paragraph, I included some info for further clarification from TWLOHA, a non-profit that educates about suicide, provides resources, encouragement and hope is fighting the stigma of suicide.
Lie: If someone wants to die by suicide—there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Truth: When people have reduced access to lethal means they are less likely to act on their thoughts.
Suicide can be a rash, impulsive decision. We own a small handgun, and in Feb 2017. when I hit rock bottom, I asked Nick to change the code on our safe, remove my fingerprint access and put it in a new spot and do not tell me where. Did I actually think I would use it or do it? No. But, I knew where the darkness can take me. I did it as a precaution, if you or a loved one is suffering, please remove any lethal weapons and lock up prescriptions. Another thing I chose to do was not drive the car alone. Once I was pregnant, thankfully I could drive alone. My depression never made me dangerous to others and I would never hurt the kids. My therapists often used the love I had for my children as an asset in my recovery and to get thru to me. I often say Cole was a gift from God because he helped me survive during pregnancy when I was very ill with depression and trauma. I battled suicidal ideation, but would never, ever consider taking action on those thoughts while pregnant. (P.S. : the idea that people who are mentally ill are more violent & dangerous to others is a myth & is not supported by research. It is part of the stigma attached to mental illness)
I kept a list with me. A list of people that would be irrecoverably changed by my death by suicide. Staring at their names made me want to fight. The fact is if you have a parent, a child or spouse, they will forever be hurt/changed/traumatized by death by suicide. I do not say this to make anyone feel guilty, it is a fact. And that fact helped me fight. However, this helped me fight because I already battled depression before, many people are not aware they are sick, that they need help and that they need treatment, but if you have these feelings/thoughts, you can get help and feel better, but you have to reach out. I KNEW I was sick this second time around and I had therapists surrounding me this time and although I was suffering daily, I no longer believed (most days) the “I was not worthy to be here” lies. My problem was now my pain and suffering. Life was bleak and hopeless and I could not envision an end to the pain.
If someone was experiencing physical pain to the degree of emotional pain caused by depression, we would send them to hospice and give them pain medication to keep them comfortable.
I will try to explain the pain I personally experienced as best I can- About 7 years ago, I got 2nd degree burns that covered both my thighs. The pain was so excruciating that I went into shock. 2nd degree burns that cover a large surface area can be life threatening and are very painful, as you have burned off your skin and basically all your nerve endings are screaming in pain. When the ambulance came for me, they gave me a little bit of morphine and the pain mostly went away.
I equate that feeling times a thousand to my darkest moments of depression. Everything hurts, I feel physical pain as well, I feel as if all my skin has been ripped off and every nerve ending is screaming in pain, but there is no fix, no morphine drip, just pain, followed by more pain and you can drop to your knees begging for mercy & relief from the pain but there is NO RELIEF. And you truly believe it will never end, you do not see hope, only darkness. This is the diseased brain of depression. I am here today with hope. I survived those dark days and while I am terrified of it happening again, I did survive. Depression is a liar. The pain ends, you experience another day and the pain subsides. The pain may return but you can survive each time. Hope always exists. There are so many times I did not believe hope existed and cried in Nick’s arms that I would feel this way forever and that I was scared it would kill me. You simultaneously want to die and do not want to die. I believe depression could have killed me. Suicide is a preventable death WITH TREATMENT. I am not special or invincible, I survived, got treatment (am still in therapy) and so can you.
David Foster Wallace, who suffered from clinical depression, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a brilliant, talented creative mind who eventually died by suicide gives one of the most eloquent and truthful descriptions I have read about the agony of depression:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
If someone you love died by suicide, my experience is that the person suffering believes the lies and believes there is no way out, your brain is telling you the only thing left to do is end your life. I once took a pill prescribed by the psychiatrist and it made me, for lack of a better word, “crazy” and severely suicidal, if Nick did not realize it was the pill and I stopped taking it, I don’t know where it would have taken me. If taking a pill can change your brain chemistry and make you suicidal, I hope that can clarify how much of it is brain chemistry. It is not a reflection of their love, I love my kids more than anything and I was scared this would take me away from them, not because I selfishly ended my life to stop the pain, but because I could become so ill that I believed ending my life was the only way out.
I believe people that suffer from mental illness and trauma are strong, resilient and courageous because even the simplest act of getting out of bed can seem and sometimes is insurmountable. I also believe once you get into treatment, you can adapt many coping skills and add to your mental health toolbox to be more equipped to fight. Sometimes, I am exhausted of the fight. I have to remain vigilant to stay healthy. I have to workout consistently, I have to get sleep, I have to go to therapy and actually do the work, I need positive affirmations and countless other things to stay healthy and if I fall off the wagon, my mental health begins to suffer. All these things are great for anyone to do, not just ones suffering from mental illness. If you have any questions feel free to contact me, xoxo.
Resources for help and education:
and again, If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You are not alone, You can do this, You are worthy.