In one day Pearl Harbor changed the course of American history– that’s the best example of the intensity I felt when the suicidal ideation rolled in like a storm front changing the climate of my life. This storm wasn’t a quiet interruption in my day, it was more like a natural disaster creating a war path. I could feel it crawling, it’s dark and ominous presence, towards me at a ravenous pace. It felt like a merciless lahar was barreling down the mountain of my life, vandalizing everything in its place. In one moment you are laughing and smiling jumping off your favorite Lake Washington docks into a glistening pool of water and the next jump you unknowingly sinking into the lake with cinder blocks tied to your feet, unaware of its origin.
Extreme, I know. Welcome to the life of someone silently yet proactively struggling with mental health. As much as I would not like to relive this past week, it would benefit so many to open up about the lessons I learned through being so silently. My eyes became open, wide open, to the reality that people may be as sick as me and suffer silently and unless I ask, I will never know–WE will never know. We are far too busy, self absorbed and rooted so deeply in our own lives and we are all guilty of this. In Outliers by Malcom Gladwell he illustrated a community that lived longer and were overall happier. They intrinsically devoted themselves to caring for and building community around themselves.
Look at the world we live in, there are so many avenues of distraction and isolation from truly having relationships and building community.
When’s the last time you asked your friend how they were doing and took it a step further and asked, how are you really feeling? What do you know about the people you spend time with? When’s the last time you spent some time digging deeper with your partner or spouse? We need to be conscious of the humanity around us. I’ve done the best I can to set myself apart from the world that rages on around us, but what is amazing is that I learned how important it is to really slow down and be intentional with my time and conversations. I experienced people who were too busy to listen or help me, even when I expressed my trauma. Don’t be that person, ever. Never be so busy that you can’t be available to someone who truly needs you. Your ear, your kindness, your words of affirmation, your physical touch–all of those things you have to offer to someone in crisis.
Sadly, I realized some of the people I feel I am closest with kept a distance from me, which hurt me deeply. I think it’s genuinely hard for those who love you the most to see you hurt and address it. I forgive you, because I’m sure you’re reading this. I encourage you to be unafraid of doing or saying the wrong thing–it’s better to know you are there even if it’s black letters on a glowing screen or a phone call out of the blue. Sometimes the best and only thing you can do is tell someone you love them, care about them, and that you are there–even if just thinking or praying for someone.
I learned I’m unbelievably stronger than I ever thought. I found myself on the brink of admitting myself and handing over the reigns to someone who could figure out the source of terror that was driving my emotions. Please note that I am absolutely for getting the help you need. I have been in and out of hospitals for quite some time and have proactively gathered a team physicians and doctors to support me every step of the way–and you should too. Also, through out this entire process I made several calls to the Rosecrance Crisis Center, my physician, nurses, my psychiatrists office etc etc.
The reason I approached this situation differently was because as out of control as my feelings were, my mind was in control overall. I had a minuscule level of strength to fight for myself and against the walls that were closing in on me. I could not write sufficiently to paint how excruciatingly difficult this was for me. Out of nowhere a sense of impending doom would come in like a storm front making me feel unsafe, as if my mere existence was troublesome– including my mind and body. Sitting with my thoughts and consciously dealing with the chaos within made me feel like like crawling out of my skin– yet nothing could satiate that. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like an anvil was tightening around my head. I would have done anything to relieve the pressure mounting tersely inside of me. As I was able to consciously fight the waves of suicidal ideation that were crashing over me, I still didn’t have control over the intrusive thoughts that created a web of poison inside of me. I could feel the heaviness, the personification of each malicious blow striking me, attempting to beat me down. The wave was heavy and disorienting. At times the waves nearly drowned me and choked me, making its way through my airways making it impossible to breathe. As I would grasp for air, the next wave began hammering me. The remainder of the week was an emotional blur with bursts of small victories. As grateful as I am to have overcame, it often felt as though I was forced onto a ride I didn’t want to be on. Few things are more terrifying than when the bars lock on a rollercoaster and the attendant has pushed “go” There is no turning back.
I have several boxes where I keep all of my memories–cards, special notes and anything that made me smile. For me, one of my love language is words of affirmation–someone’s kind words stick with me for a lifetime. After time, you forget the specific things you’ve saved and it’s a sweet surprise what you find when you dig in and open those boxes. Taking time to do that was an excellent coping skill and ultimately it was a lovely reminder of how much I have cared for, contributed to and changed the lives around me forever. As I poured over kind cards and notes, I stumbled upon a drawing I had looked at many times before. I sat and felt the lines and ridges of her art work– a doe eyed kitten saying “Alicia You Rock” It blew my mind. It felt like I was seeing it for the first time and am truly in awe of the fact that someone would make such a detailed, kind-hearted, hand made drawing for me. I’m pretty sure I met her once. I honestly don’t even remember the details nor do I know what I did to deserve her kindness, but I am grateful for what it gave me in that moment. It took my mind off myself and I realize what a gift my life has been and that it will continue to be for others.
It wasn’t a cure all. What’s weird is that when I am stable I have a healthy perspective and control over my emotions. It’s easier for me to reason with myself and see things for how they really are, instead of the fog that crowds my vision. When I am not well, it is literally impossible for me to see clearly and rationally. In that time, I suffered borderline panic attacks, ptsd outbursts, palpable fear and sneak attacks of impending doom which I couldn’t see a way out. I truly felt like nobody could fight this battle except me and it was a very lonely feeling. I knew nobody could save me from my self, and I don’t even think I reached out to Jesus because I was truly buried by everything. The greatest accomplishment was to hold onto the day before me.
My nights were the worst. The evil presence would roll in to stake his territory. There were several times that I was on the verge of admitting myself, but I know the process and it is the WORST to admit yourself at night. I didn’t know if I could sleep or make it through the night. One night I was sent over the edge and I grabbed a vegetable knife–thank God. I began to determinedly saw the knife through my skin, back and forth like a troubled sea saw. A small red line would be left in it’s place, but never hard enough to break skin. I continued to toe closer to the line but as I continued I had a moment of clarity. One, this is not as therapeutic as I imagined, two, I am not cut out for this–no pun intended, and three, I am not a person who can nor wants to cut myself every time I have an emotionally charged situation I can’t handle. To be honest, I can’t say I won’t do it again, but as sick as this may sound to you on the outside, to me on the inside dealing with this for a lifetime, this was at best a small victory.
After a week of HELL, torture, torturing my loved ones, and harming myself, I had an epiphany about my recent medication change. I have a really great relationship with my psychiatrist and she has told me I have leeway with making changes in my meds as I see fit within the confines of our plan. I went back on my old medication and everything cleared up. The waves were silenced. The evil presence retreated. The chaos became peace.
I am proud of myself. I fought for what I believed in and regardless of an unhealthy coping mechanism, I refused to give up on the fight. I knew somehow internally that this was a test and something that I needed to learn to overcome because there will be many more instances, milder and more severe.
I share this transparently because I am crazy and so are you. We all have some level of crazy and whether we stuff it inside or let it out with abandon, we are all going through something secretly. I remember feeling so invisible walking around with the knowledge of my thoughts and mental state without a single person knowing what was going on between my two ears. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared to ask how I was doing. Everyone was busy in their own worlds, and can I blame them? I have never once thought to ask how someone is doing mentally and it’s not something we as a society really do. It made me think, who else am I passing by that is feeling the same way. It’s truly devastating to think that mental illness, depression, bipolar, anxiety, PTSD, borderline, schizophrenia, dissociative disorder and the list goes on are SILENT and INVISIBLE in plain sight. God, open our eyes to the hearts, souls and hurts of others. Let us slow down to care for others before ourselves and to take that extra step to make sure we include others in community and don’t do life alone. I can’t tell you why this happened, but I can tell you what happened and how I learned from it and regardless of your perception of how healthy my situation was, I knew I was in control even in moments where it seemed out of control. I proved strength inside of me that I can fight and overcome even the strongest storms. Aw, how cliche.
Is there anything I can pray for you for? I may not be able to personably be there for you, but I can pray! I encourage you to make a list of those closest to you and check in with them. Lastly, how are you? How are you really?