Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I Learned About Suicide in the Darkest Moments of Depression

I'm a get tougher, kid, kind of person. Ask my husband or my sister or my kids. It's either "it's not that bad" or "you'll be fine" are my usual replies. So when it comes to mental health here I'm going to admit some not very nice things but bear with me as I believe full disclosure with mental health is a must if we're going to change the way we look at and treat mental health.

Growing up I watched several family members struggle with depression. As I got older I came to understand some of the treatment some of them got but it wasn't really because they told me. Nobody talked about their struggles with depression like the way my dad's side of the family would talk about and discuss their struggles with diabetes. Depression was and is still very much treated like a dirty family secret that one shouldn't address.

As I moved into adulthood I remember being judgmental and critical of others I'd encounter in my life that had more obvious struggles with depression. I thought harsh things like it's all in their head; they needed to just change their perspective. Happiness is a choice; if they're not happy it's their own fault. "People just needed to get tougher" was my thinking.

When I first started to notice my angry outburst and drastic mood swings I of course refused to acknowledge it was anything connected with mental health. The first episode as I refer to them happened the year after I got out of college.  I just needed to get over it I told myself. I needed to reinforce positive thinking in myself and find my happy was my thinking. It wasn't until my third episode, that I sought medical help. Even though a year to years could pass in between, each episode was worse than the one before. Though I was steadfast in denying I was dealing with depression because my stubborn mind said depression was a choice you make, it was actually my sister, a certified social worker, who knows that DSM diagnosis book well, who was the first to tell me my struggles looked to actually mirror anxiety more so than depression most of the time.

This offered a little less of a negative stigma in my mind but I was still stubborn in refusing medication though it has been prescribed to me; however, my doctor did support that if I found other natural non medicated ways to manage my anxiety and depression she was whole heartedly supportive of those practices.

However, over the last few years, I've learned as much as you can be aware of your thinking and yourself it's really, really hard to change yourself. I hate when people will tell me not to get so worked up or anxious about certain things that tend to trigger my high anxiety moments. And the awful thing is even as someone who hates it when people do this to me I turn around and will catch myself doing the same thing to family that struggles with the same thing, just different triggers. Unfortunately, they can't just flip a switch and start thinking and behaving differently. It is not that easy, as much as I once wanted to think it was.

When you're dealing with anxiety or depression you are a prisoner of your own thoughts. Almost a year ago this next month- I will forever remember the date- I hit a wall I never saw coming. Though I had hit lows three other times where it's like depression collides with my anxiety, the collision track I was on seemed to come out of nowhere fast. I was suddenly in overdrive, and it was like depression took my brakes out of the car and I couldn't get a handle on where I was headed. In the past I had lashed out with extreme anger and criticism. I'll be honest that I still handle my anxiety with anger too much, but I am sooo much better about catching and trying to refocus myself. But last October the anger wasn't there; it was something totally different and much darker.

Last October when I reached the lowest low of my struggles with depression and anxiety to date I saw something so horribly clear in that moment. I don't like to go back there to that day but I'm going to go there for a moment because we all need to see something I saw so startling clear for the first time that day....

It was about 11:30 in the morning, and I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at work. I had told work I had a medical emergency and they needed to get someone for my last class of the day. I sat there, crying like I hadn't cried in I don't know how long, though I felt all I'd done in the past month was cry. About everything. Your thoughts-- I can't even begin to explain the consumption of your own thoughts and emotions in a moment like that- are just taking over any kind of rationality that you have left.  You are trapped inside your own head. You are trapped inside a dark cloud of negativity that only wants to remind you of all your flaws, all your shortcomings, of all the ways you've screwed up, of all the ways you're not good enough. I don't need you to tell me all that is untrue or BS right now. I know that now.

But when depression has you by the throat, squeezing out the last breathable air you desperately try to inhale it doesn't matter. You can't see or hear anything else. You can't rationalize very well. Think about finding yourself trapped in your car in flooding waters- how fast can you rationalize what's the right thing to do. Think about the panic you'd feel.  This is what the peak of depression feels like- uncontrollable panic as things feel like they're spinning out of control. Though I can honestly say I was not having suicidal thoughts when the doctor asked me back on that October day or now looking back but in that moment I do remember thinking "Oh my God, I get it now. I understand what leads people to suicide."

So here's what I want you to know about depression and suicide. They're trapped. Not in a car being consumed by water but by negative thoughts consuming their mind. They're panicked; they are scared. They feel like they're running out of time and ways out. Just like the drowning cry for help is silent more times than not so is their cry for help.


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