FIVE YEARS. Wow. What a surprise, indeed.
I could have died five years ago. Sorry to get all “seven strangers picked to live in a house” real right out of the gate, but it’s the truth. My thoughts had gotten so dark that they almost turned out my light for good. But I didn't let them. And today is the day of the year that I get to celebrate that for the huge freaking victory it is. I don't know if there is an accomplishment that I'm prouder of, honestly.
It's shocking that I can talk about all of this so openly now because I was terrified to admit how I really felt for a long time--eleven years, to be exact. Eleven years of hiding the impulses that scared me but felt like they would scare other people even more. Eleven years of feeling so deeply alone, even while I was with other people. I didn't intend to share my feelings on March 19, 2013, either, but I was so desperately in need of help that I just blurted it all out to my unsuspecting friend Kristin. She took me to the hospital the next day and has become one of my closest friends. (And we originally met through blogging! So if that doesn't speak to the power of blogging friendships, I don't know what does!) I talk to her (or at least bombard her with Pusheen stickers in fb messenger) every day. The whole wild ride ultimately made our friendship stronger. Certainly, this is just one person's experience, but I share it to show that it is possible to let people in to the dark and twisty parts of yourself, and not have them run away in horror. I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis, but I do know, deep down, that it's true.
If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal depression, I can say from my own experience that it was extremely heartening to know that my friends still supported me despite my dark thoughts. It must be scary, and possibly confusing, to hear that a friend or loved one is suicidal. But if you love the person, reassure them of that. This site has some great suggestions for things to text someone with depression. You can also just sit with them while they call the suicide hotline--that's where Kristin and I started. And you can go with them to the ER as a possible next step. We went to the ER at a hospital that she knew had a well-respected inpatient program in case I ended up staying. Which was my choice, by the way--the doctors didn't feel like I was enough of a risk that they had to keep me. My psychiatrist at the time told the ER doctor to just increase the dose of my antidepressant. But I knew that that would only make me feel the numb kind of "better" that eventually cycles back to suicidality. Over those eleven years, the periods of suicidal depression seemed to be coming closer and closer together, so I knew it would come back, and I wanted my life to be more than that.
So I said yes to inpatient, which is probably the most responsible, adult decision I've ever made.
It's hard to imagine that good things will happen to you when you're trapped in the darkness of suicidal depression. But once I started taking my life back, a cascade of good things followed, and quickly too! Sure, we're not together anymore, but I met B a mere 50ish days after inpatient! DAYS! And in my depression, I thought for sure that I was unloveable! It's so wild to think that, at any moment, you could be meeting the people who will become very significant in your life, or you could be doing something that ends up being hugely impactful in the long run.
Let's recap some of the unexpected, wild, and wonderful things that happened after inpatient:
April 2013: I start consistently going to therapy for the first time in my life.
May 2013: I start group therapy and meet B.
June 2013: I move to Philly with Deena.
July 2013: I go to my first ever yoga class, which is a total trainwreck BUT is where I hear about an upcoming retreat for women with trauma, which I attend--and that’s how I meet one of my current therapists! (She’s the one who does the retreats and the yoga teaching training.)
July 2014: To Sparkle Punch is born!
April 2015: I start exposure therapy for my driving phobia.
May 2016: I buy my own car.
None of these things would have happened without that first step of seeking help.
Now, that's not to say that the past five years have been all rainbows and sunshine. B and I broke up. My uncle died of lung cancer and my cousin of a drug overdose. I moved back home. I had to find a new Philly therapist when my original one left her practice. The important thing, though, is that I don't turn to suicide on the non-sunny days anymore. I see my suicidal thoughts as being in remission--I'm not experiencing them now because I'm taking care of my mental health by going to therapy, journaling, doing yoga, etc. It's an ongoing process, and I still struggle in a great many ways. I mean, hello, two months ago, I couldn't eat, sleep, or sit still because I was practically vibrating with anxiety! I have a hard time leaving the house (aside from going to work or therapy). I struggle to see a future for myself, which I think is a known side effect of PTSD. But I'm working on those things. I haven't given up yet. And today, that matters more than anything. 💜