For a year now I’ve been publicly sharing my story of how keeping emotions about my mother’s suicide death inside for 30 years led to a breakdown – a massive panic attack in a Target five years ago followed by a months long deep depression.
I’d sporadically tried therapy throughout my adult life, but was very resistant – only wanting to focus on whatever specific problem I had come in about. Generally about 3 months in I would declare I was fine and end the sessions
I finally gave into the process curious to know why my brain broke. What I discovered in therapy helped me recover. It allowed me to process all the things that had happened in my life that led me to need these services. It gave me alternative ways of looking at things and specific tools to help me get through the layers that muddled my thinking to discover the root of the problem.
Shedding the BS in my brain cleared the way to finding my purpose. I created a new path for myself by working to spread my new-found wisdom and awareness about the damage silence can do with motivation and direction that I hadn’t felt in many years.
Unfortunately, all the new revelations didn’t magically erase the old destructive patterns in my thinking and my actions. It tempered them for a while, but over the last two years that I’ve been developing my documentary, a number of stressful relationships, the general ups and downs of life, and my own issues have combined forces to put me into a major depression – again. One that got so bad I had to reach out to the therapist who helped dig me out of my first hole for help – again.
I can see now how it had been building, how I’ve been isolating, withdrawing, procrastinating, and generally going to the “blah” place for a while. You are convinced sitting around is just what you want to do – even though you know the symptoms, your mind doesn’t acknowledge what’s happening. Luckily for me, my place has never been so dark that I’ve considered taking my life, but I can see how someone might. It’s scary when your brain can think of nothing good, refuses to focus on anything helpful or productive, and makes you act in ways that you really, really don’t want to.
What sent me over the edge this time was an anger I couldn’t make go away. I can identify the straw that broke the camel’s back and triggered the rage, but it lasted way too long and permeated every facet of my life. Every minor setback (such as finding my keys) had me ranting and raving and sincerely doubting that “this too shall pass.” My analysis so far is that it built out of feeling overloaded and overwhelmed with other people’s needs and priorities while simultaneously frustrated that I was letting my compulsive need to help cut into my ability to move forward with my own goals. I need to learn to address my problems before I get to the point where I blow my stack.
Despite all I’ve been through the last few years, and the work I’ve been doing as a suicide prevention volunteer, I still need to hone the tricks of balancing giving unto others with self-care. I’ve actually been to lectures discussing that issue for volunteers and I always quote the line about putting your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. It makes sense. If you don’t you can’t breathe and quickly will be no good to anyone. But often I feel like I wasn’t given the oxygen mask but have to do all I can to help anyway.
My goal is to get rid of that thing in my brain that keeps telling me that I “should” be the one that can be exempt from needing the mask. I’m not that special. None of us is. But knowing that doesn’t stop me from that nagging feeling. Depression is real, can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime, and it can be debilitating. Depression is also not my only problem, as I have also been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and ADD. Symptoms from the individual diagnoses can exacerbate the symptoms of the other ones.
So hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s back to therapy we go. This time, however, there is a firm foundation of strength I feel because I do have a plan, a direction, and hope for the future. I know this won’t last forever and my curiosity about what the recovery will reveal is growing. It was refreshing and comforting to see my therapist today and start this process. We agreed on needing to work on reclaiming my time (thanks for that phrase, Maxine Waters) and my focus and learn how to live my life for me.
If you are struggling or think someone you know is please speak up.
If you are worried someone is at risk of suicide ask directly and use the word suicide. “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
Here are the steps to take to help someone in crisis
If a person says they are considering suicide
- Take the person seriously
- Stay with them
- Help them remove lethal means
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
- Escort them to mental health services or an emergency room