Today is World Mental Health Day which is focusing on suicide prevention. However, I have written about that for suicide prevention month already:
Chronic pain and suicide risk
Chronic migraines and suicide awareness
All I really have left to say about it is my personal experiences with suicide attempts. And preventing them from occurring again… which may be something that could be useful to someone.
Surviving a suicide attempt
Surviving a suicide attempt is a trauma. And it is a trauma that lingers for years as you try to deal with the fallout from it. And then years after that as you remember the echoes of it. In fact, I find it hard to write about just thinking about it. Especially in the autumn months when my two attempts occurred.
So you survive but you are not Better
- You may be numb or apathetic to your own survival, You may be glad you survived. But I was ambivalent. I just didn’t really care that I had aside from my family was happy I did.
- You may be very emotional after. Or just completely numb. You may feel like you have hope for treatment. Or be utterly hopeless. I was numb and utterly hopeless.
- You see the emotional fallout from your family, friends, loved ones and you feel it keenly. You feel their pain. And it makes you feel horrible inside. The guilt and shame and self-hate will hit you like a wall.
- You do not feel any better but it is like you feel ashamed you wanted to just end your suffering. A suffering you realize no one comprehended at all. So you feel very alone and isolated.
- You try to pretend you are ‘getting better’ because you do not want to scare the crap out of your family but any improvement takes a Lot of time. And in my case, medication as well.
- You feel judged a lot. Like people see you as weak. Or crazy. Or unpredictable and crazy. And you feel very Observed at all times.
- You wish you could take it back. And at times, you wish you had succeeded. It is both at different times.
- Then over time, you realize you need to make up reasons to live. Like I can’t die today… I want to watch that movie. Or I want a Slurpee. Or I want to finish that book. Because the thought of having to live for others seems wrong. Like I will suffer… so you do not suffer. When it should be I Want to Live. So you make up reasons until those reasons make sense to your brain.
- And slowly therapy begins to work. And slowly they help with physical pain and the depression and that helps. Because it is the pain that gets to you and causes the downward spiral of depression. And working with pain is a torment I wish on NO ONE. And so slowly you get a bit better. But you return to work and then … it gets worse again, predictably, and that is when I had to be put on medication. My brain cannot tolerate all that pain, and working, and exist like that without wanting to die.
- And you realize you cannot work like that anymore (because you were holding onto something you couldn’t do and that pushing through the pain was basically pushing you into survival mode) so you adjust that to part-time.
- Ever so slowly, with less work, therapy, medication… all those really dark thoughts poof out. And you feel stable. Not happy smappy all the time. But stable. Not bottom of the barrel… or more like so far down you are being sucked into a black hole. Stable. Happy, sad, cranky, joyful, goofy, irritated… all the fun range of emotions. But finding the right medication and waiting for therapy to help at all… all takes Time. This is not something that is easily done. Not at all.
And you are cured!
Nope. You are not. I had a depression in my teens that lasted for about five or six years. And I dealt with it and I thought it would never happen again because I Conquered it. But then in my thirties, it came back so much worse because the pain was so much worse and I was working in pain which was worse Xs worse X worse. And it hit me again. But I wanted to hold on desperately to what I had gained… and it wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, it came back. And Longer. And Harder. And Deeper. And even with medication I still have Major Depressive Disorder. Medication doesn’t eradicate symptoms. Mine works exceptionally well actually, statistically, but it isn’t Perfect. Especially when any external stress or a lot of physical pain kicks in… then my brain falls back to its old games and I have to catch it at it and readjust my thinking.
Then there are mental funks and slumps. When either due to external stresses or physical pain or whatever we are just in a funk. For me, it tends to be all of the above… and this time of year. My doctor thinks I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because one of the risk factors is, in fact, a pre-existing depressive condition. And I have always hated late fall and winter because it just doesn’t make me feel good. I blame it on the increase in pain… but maybe it is SAD. In which case, my brain sucks balls. Seriously, give me an effing break. This is going to be a fun winter of blahs. But if I am honest I have always loathed winter.
Anyway, these will occur. And we Do Not want them to get out of control. We do not want to get into those thoughts and get deeper or we will fall down that slippery slope into despair. And one risk factor for suicide… is having had attempted before. My second attempt was spontaneous. So spontaneous that I can’t even tell you much about it. Apparently, this happens a lot. We have Crossed the Line from thought to action. And we know how easy it is. And so we can do it again… too easily. So these slumps are dangerous if we engage in the habits of thought we know all too well how to do… and sink into them.
This is why we have to use every tool in our toolbox to maintain our mental health
- See our psychologist again, if we stopped, for a mental health refresher or to just get things out or remind us our thoughts can be adjusted.
- Do our mental self-care and what your mental self-care is may be different from mine but we know what makes us feel good. 11 ways to give yourself a mood boost or self-care when you are in a funk are some ideas.
- Don’t feel guilty for a downturn. Just give yourself a break. We all have slumps.
- Talk to your doctor if you are concerned At ALL. Maybe you need a medication adjustment or an additional medication to boost your existing one. Which is what I did recently. I said I would see my psychologist first and then try the medication she suggested if I needed it. I know when I may need help now. And I know to take it.
- Do any work you have done with your psychologist that helps you work through your thoughts and emotions. Like a thought diary, where you write down the thought and then think of the more reasonable thought. Or write down the emotion and think of where it is really coming from.
- Be good to yourself- most of all. Just be good to yourself.
Things I learned from depression
Depression: I feel the rain but I know sunshine exists
Depression: Do not med shame me
CBT helps me and in fact, with my first depression, a book helped me. The second one not so much… but this would be good in conjunction with therapy I think.