Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 3

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Post Suicide Attempt: Prologue – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/post-suicide-attempt-prologue/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 1 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-1/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 2 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-2/

When I was transferred to the unit in the psych hospital that had lower security, I was given a tour by one of the nurses.  I was a little afraid because I had no idea what to expect.  But the fear and hesitation I felt was nothing compared to where I was before.  This unit was much nicer.  There were sofas, the patients were allowed to open the windows and change the tv channels themselves, there was art on the walls, and I got my first glimpse of sunlight in days.

I was taken to what would be my room, where I was introduced to my roommate.  She was my age, and very friendly.  I was also introduced to another patient who showed me all of the ropes and made sure I had someone to sit with at dinner.  I was also quickly introduced to some other patients, but I didn’t really get to know them until later.

My nurse also explained “privileges” to me.  There were different levels of privileges.  The lowest was on-unit privileges, which meant that you were not allowed to leave the unit except to go to classes.  Next up were in-house privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere you wanted inside the hospital as long as you signed out and were back every hour to confirm that you hadn’t run away.  After that you got grounds privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere on the hospital grounds (you could go outside and breathe fresh air!) as long as you signed out and came back every hour.  I was immediately given in-house privileges since I had behaved so well in the previous unit.  Your doctor could also grant you evening and weekend passes so that you could spend some time at home as long as you were with a family member at all times.  And if you misbehaved, you could have your privileges taken away.

Finally, I was given a schedule.  The schedule listed all kinds of classes that were available.  These classes included horticulture, yoga, art therapy, wellness (which was super boring, but it was the only class we absolutely had to go to), and some other activities.  Our doctors also referred us to groups that were more specific to our particular issues.  I was assigned to Women’s Group (a bunch of women who sit in a circle to share their issues and support one another), Managing Emotions (learning how to identify what you are feeling and express it in a healthy way), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Skills for Anxiety (learning tips and tricks to help understand your triggers and how to cope with anxiety).  I can’t really share too much about these classes because we had to sign some confidentiality forms; all I can tell you in that they existed and I learned things.

I started to get used to the routine, and I got used to eating eggs every single day because that’s what they always served the vegetarians.  Don’t get me wrong, eggs are delicious.  I just got a little tired of eating them every single day.  My original roommate was released after one night, and I was assigned a new roommate.  She was mostly bedridden, and she asked me who I was every time I entered the room.  But I made friends elsewhere.  I am even still in contact with a couple of them.

I was also finally allowed to go outside when I had a panic attack and freaked out because I felt like I was being confined in too small a space, so that was good.  It was freezing outside.  I got soaked by all of the falling snow, but I GOT TO GO OUTSIDE!  Seriously, don’t ever take the fact that you are allowed to go outside for granted.  And really, how good can it be for someone’s mental health to never let them breathe fresh air?  Even prison inmates get to go outside for an hour every day.  I’m not going to get into that right now because it’s not really relevant to my story, but I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go outside!  It was the best I had felt in months!  I even called my parents to tell them the exciting news!

There were also many challenges that I came across in this unit, and there were several things that went on outside the hospital that I felt like I was helpless to do anything about.  My school, for example, was a source of many issues.  But I’ll talk about that next week.  See you guys then!

Post Suicide Attempt: Prologue

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Hello blog readers!  I had an assignment for one of my classes to write a short story about a life event, which inspired me to write a mini-series for this blog about the aftermath of my suicide attempt!  Cheerful, huh?  Don’t get too worried about it being super heavy and depressing.  That is not my goal.  My goal is to paint a picture of what it was like to receive treatment.  I will be releasing segments of this story every Tuesday evening, so stay tuned!  To get you all started on this journey with me, I am going to tell you about the actual suicide attempt.

It was a Sunday that I decided to take my life.  I had been thinking about doing it for a while, and I had made my decision a few days before I actually went through with it.  There were three reasons I waited until that Sunday.  One:  I was signed up as a driver for my school’s wildlife club trip to see a swan banding demonstration on the Saturday.  I didn’t want people to end up not being able to go because I had died.  Two:  I had volunteered to help my friend make soup for my residence’s Sunday soup kitchen (we all got together and ate soup; we didn’t feed the homeless).  I didn’t want to leave all of the work to her, and I didn’t want to ruin the soup kitchen, so I decided to wait until after that was over with.  Three:  I had borrowed my mom’s car, and I needed to get it back to her.  I also had a coffee date that day, but I didn’t really care; I didn’t even shower for it.

In retrospect, those all seem like really minor things in comparison to death.  But at the time, I thought I was a burden to everyone around me.  To me, it only made sense to do what I had promised others before taking my life because I didn’t want my death to be a burden to anyone.  I really thought I was doing my friends and family a favour.  I mean, I knew they would be sad at first.  But I thought that after their grieving period was over, they would feel a sense of relief because they would be done putting up with all my problems.

Once I finished all of my commitments, I locked myself into my room to end my life since I didn’t want anyone to try and stop me.  However, I felt the need to apologize to two people before I killed myself.  I apologized to the guy who had been emotionally abusive towards me because I felt so guilty about my anxiety, and I apologized to my friend for warning her not to date him when she had a crush on him.  I feel like an idiot for apologizing for those things now.  I’m glad I got in the way of this guy dating my friend because she is one of the sweetest people I know.  She deserves a lot better.  I probably didn’t warn her in the most tactful way, since I had to get drunk to muster up the courage to do something I knew would get me in serious trouble with this guy.  But I’m still glad I warned her.  I used to feel like an idiot for apologizing to this guy right before I attempted suicide because I felt like it made me feel weak, but I don’t care if he sees me as weak anymore.  I don’t give a fuck what he thinks anymore because he has been cut out of my life for good.

After making my apologies, I wrote out a note that said, “This isn’t anyone’s fault but my own.”  Then I gathered all of the pills in my room into a pile and poured a drink.  I was feeling pretty shaky, so I decided to take my anti-anxiety pills first to calm me down.  I have no evidence to prove this, but I think that decision may have been what saved my life.  My anti-anxiety pills made me really sleepy when I took 0.5 mg at a time, and I think that the amount that I took that night knocked me unconscious before I could swallow enough pills to actually die.  I don’t know for sure because I don’t remember a whole lot after that point until waking up the next day.  And that’s for me to write about next week.  *SPOILER ALERT!* I didn’t die.

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 1 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-1/

My Recovery

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I am happy.  In this moment, I’m actually a little grumpy.  I am always a little bit grumpy in the morning because I’m not much of a morning person.  What I mean by saying that I’m happy is that I am, overall, pretty happy at this point of my life.

This is the first time I have ever felt this way, at least that I can remember.  I’m not going to say that everything is perfectly fine.  That’s not true.  But I can say that I am doing extremely well.  Everything in my life is going well at the present moment.

I have started an online course in grammar as part of a creative writing program that I have decided to enrol in to keep myself busy this year.  I got a job that starts on June 17.  There were five positions, and one-hundred-twenty people applied.  I made it.  I have started to see someone who is not abusive, and that’s going well so far.  I’m doing everything the average 19-year-old would be doing: college, summer job, dating, etc.  Not only am I doing that, but I have accomplished some pretty amazing things in the past little while.

I am extremely proud of myself.  I reached my rock bottom a few months ago, and I have been able to build myself up even stronger than I was before my downward spiral.  Not only that, but I have been open about everything that I am going through.  It hasn’t always been easy.  There have been times where I have thought to myself, “You should have kept all this to yourself, Sophie.  You shouldn’t have told anyone what was going on with you.”  However, that thought has only occurred to me a few times.  Most of the time, I feel proud and happy that I have shared my story.

I had a few goals that I hoped to accomplish when I made the decision to be open about my mental health issues.  The first was to provide a voice that would hopefully be able to speak to others who are going through similar issues.  Nobody should feel alone when they are in a battle against their illness.  The second goal was to help people who don’t know what it’s like to have a mental illness gain some understanding.  In my case, members of my family didn’t know how to react to my issues because they had no way of knowing what I was going through.  I know that the not knowing really worried my parents, so I wanted to provide the families and friends of individuals dealing with mental illness with some information.  My third goal was to open up people’s eyes to the lack of mental health care in our society.

All that being said, there have been some challenges.  There are always going to be people who can’t see things from your point of view, and that is something that I have had to deal with.  Not everybody is going to be understanding.  I occasionally have people say things to me that make me feel very small.  Whether someone tells me that mental illness isn’t really an illness, or that I’m not capable of something menial because I am mentally ill, I am always taken aback by negative comments.

However, I think that these comments say more about the person who said them than they do about me.  If someone doesn’t believe that mental illness is a real kind of illness, then their opinions are trapped in the stone age.  If someone thinks I’m not fully-functional, I would really like to see them handle everything that comes with being mentally ill.  If I believed that everyone who is mentally ill wasn’t really ill and that they weren’t able to function, I wouldn’t have been able to recover as well as I have.  It was my belief that I am more than my illness that gave me the strength to get as far as I have in my recovery.

I really hope that if someone has the belief that they aren’t really dealing with a real illness, or that they will never be a fully-functional member of society, they might read this and possibly reconsider.  I know this sounds cheesy, but determination is a huge part of recovery.  There are many other aspects to recovery (medications, counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, having a strong support system, etc.), but I think that believing that you can get better is the most important part of actually getting better.

I also just want to put this out there:  If you know someone who is going through a hard time, even if it is not due to mental illness, don’t be a dick about it.  Even if you don’t want to offer your support, you don’t have to be rude.  Be kind to people no matter what their story is.

Depression: Part 2

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Depression: Part 2

Depression Part 2

I used to read this blog all the time, but then the author stopped posting.  Just recently, she posted this.  It resonated within me, so I wanted to share it here.

I’m putting links everywhere in this post because I really want to to read it.  Click on the link at the top, click on the photo, click on the link attached to the word “this,” or click here because it is a really good post.

You can also click here to read the prequel, Adventures in Depression.

Psychiatric Assessment

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About a week ago, I had an appointment with a psychiatrist.  Yesterday, my case worker went over the psychiatrist’s assessment of me.  I found the results kind of depressing.  I have four psychological disorders, and I function about half as well as most people.

The four disorders I have are: recurrent major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.  I’m actually still researching these because I don’t totally understand what all of this means.  My case worker knows that I like to know what is going on.  He knows I like to learn everything I can about whatever condition it is that I have, so he wrote them all down for me.  Once I learn a little more about them, I’ll probably make a blog post about each of them.  But for now, I will tell you what I do know about them.

Major depressive disorder is what you probably know of just “depression.”  Usually, people who have major depressive disorder experience an extremely low mood for at least two weeks.  Then these people, with treatment, come out of their depression.  Since mine is recurring, I will have depressive episodes than can last for a few weeks to a few months.  Then I will come out of this depressed state.  It’s not bipolar because I never experience the extreme highs that come with it.

Dysthymic disorder is similar to major depressive disorder, but it is less severe and lasts longer.  Dysthymic disorder lasts at least two years.  Although, I have most likely been dealing with it for much longer than that.  It is characterized by a low mood that is relatively consistent over a long period of time.

Panic disorder means that I will experience intense moments of panic, and I will sometimes have panic attacks, for seemingly no reason.  All of a sudden, I will have catastrophic thoughts that will cause me to freak out a little.  These thoughts will be something like: “Something bad is going to happen,” or “I am going to die.”  I can go from 0 to 100 in 30 seconds.

Agoraphobia is common when you have panic disorder.  In fact, it is more common to have both than it is to have panic disorder on its own.  Agoraphobia means that I have a fear of being able to escape.  This means that I will feel panicked if I feel like I am stuck in a place that I can’t get out of.  This means crowds, the subway, etc.  With me, though, I often feel the most panicked when I am alone with a stranger.  I am afraid that they will try to do something to hurt me, and that I won’t be able to escape them because nobody will be around to help.  The reason that agoraphobia is common with panic disorder is that because I sometimes have panic attacks for no reason, I worry that I will have one in public and not be able to leave the situation.  For example, if I have a panic attack in a mall, everyone will see.  It might freak some of the people out, the strangers around me won’t know what to do, and I will be embarrassed when it’s over.  I’m usually a lot more calm when I am with someone I feel comfortable around.

Anyway, I hope to learn a lot more about these disorders so that I can find out the best way to combat them.  I will keep you posted!

The Hospital

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I have gone to the hospital for mental health-related issues more than once, but I want to share one of the times I went.  I was sent home that night, a few hours after getting there, so this post is more about the emotions I went through than any kinds of treatment.

This story starts with me in my residence room.  I was sitting on the floor with all of the pills I had in my room, as well as a bottle of gin (or maybe it was vodka), in front of me.  I wanted to stop feeling so fucking miserable all the time.  I didn’t really care whether I lived or died, so it was fine with me if dying was what it took to stop hurting so much.  I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to swallow all the pills, and then chug the alcohol, to end my life.

As I pondered what to do, I used a knife to cut into my calf.  I watched myself bleed, and then the thought of dying became very real to me.  For a split second, I really did not want to die.  I mean, I didn’t really want to live.  But I didn’t want to die.  I don’t know how to really describe that feeling, but you would know if you’ve ever felt it.  I decided not to try to end my life.  Instead, I texted a friend.  After talking to her, I decided to go to the hospital.  She told me that she was proud of me for being so strong.

Everyone who was staying in my residence that weekend was drinking that night, so I drove myself to the ER.  I don’t remember when I started crying, but I was definitely crying at this point.  My vision kept getting blurred by my tears, so I really had to focus on the road.  When I got to the hospital, I got into the line of patients waiting to see a nurse so they could wait to see a doctor.

When I saw my nurse, I told her that I wanted to kill myself.  I told her that I didn’t want to die, but I was worried that I would end my life if I didn’t get help.  She brought me to a room with nothing but a bed.  There were three solid walls, and one wall that was glass with a sliding door.

When I was left alone, I started bawling.  One of the nurses kept offering me water, but I declined.  She told me that if I needed anything, I should let her know.  While I was waiting to see a doctor, the friend who had encouraged me to go to the hospital kept apologizing for not being able to come be with me that night because she was in a different city and had no way to get there.  She told me that she wanted nothing more than to be with me that night.  Since she couldn’t, she made me promise that I would keep texting her to keep her updated.  She also made me promise to ask someone who was in the same city as me if they would stay with me that night.

I texted a friend who lived on campus and wasn’t drinking that night.  I asked him if he would come stay the night with me when I left the hospital.  I told him that I was afraid that I would hurt myself if I was left alone.  He said that he wouldn’t and told me to ask someone else.  I told him that if the positions were reversed, there was no way in hell that I would let him be alone.

My doctor came in, and after telling him about how I felt, he said that I seemed like a smart girl who was just on the wrong path.  I was sent home, but I was told that I had to go to my mom’s house.

When I went outside, it was pouring.  I walked to my car in the rain, getting soaked.  I started the drive to my mom’s house, but by the time I got to the highway it was clear that it wasn’t safe to drive.  My eyes were extremely puffy from crying, tears were fogging up my vision, and my windshield wipers weren’t able to keep up with the rain.  I couldn’t see anything.  I was also so frazzled that I got lost going to my own house.  It was clear to me that if I tried to get home, trying to not kill myself would be a complete waste.  If I tried to get home, I would have gotten into a car accident.  I pulled over, and I texted the same friend that I had already asked to come over.  He said that he would come over if I really couldn’t get home.

I called my mom to let her know that I wasn’t coming over that night, but that I would come over first thing in the morning.  At this point, she didn’t know what was going on.  She kept asking if I was okay, and I told her that I’d tell her everything when I saw her in person.  I was still bawling my eyes out, and I was occasionally hyperventilating.

I started my car again, and I drove back to my residence.  I walked from the parking lot to the building in the rain, but I was already soaking wet.  It didn’t matter anymore.  I went back into residence.  Everyone was yelling, and it was really loud.  Nobody noticed me come in and go to my room.

When I got to my room, I set up my extra mattress for my friend who was coming over.  He didn’t come in the end, but I’m not getting into anything about him right now.  That’s not what this story is about.

When I found out that I would be alone for the night, I put on a movie to distract myself.  I don’t remember what movie it was, and I didn’t really watch it.  I just kept cutting into my calf until I was too tired to stay up any longer and went to sleep.

When I woke up, I had several voicemails from my mom.  She wanted to know what was going on and if I was okay.  I sat on the floor and called her, and I told her I would be home in an hour.  A little over an hour later, my mom called.  She wanted to know where I was.  I had been sitting on the floor, feeling completely drained and weak, so I asked if she would come get me.  When she arrived, I went to let her into the building.  She cleaned up my room, packed some clothes for me to wear, got me to get dressed, and then she took me home.  If she hadn’t come, I don’t think I would have gotten up off of the floor that day.  I don’t know if I would have gotten up off the floor that week.

I spent the whole morning thinking about how I could still end my life.  The only reason that I didn’t was because I didn’t want my mom to be the one to find me.  I felt hungover because I was so dehydrated, but I didn’t care.  I didn’t care that yesterday’s makeup was now a smeared, black mess all over my face.  I didn’t care that my room was a complete disaster.  I didn’t care that I was alone the night before.  Nothing mattered to me that morning except that I wouldn’t let my mom find me dead.  She did find me broken when she came to pick me up, but I wouldn’t let her be the one to find me dead.  If I were to end my life, someone else would have to be the one to find me.  It wouldn’t be my mom.  That would be too hard for her.

For a while after this happened, I felt as though I had died.  I felt numb, and I didn’t care about anything at all.  I lost a lot of weight because I didn’t really bother with making myself food, and I stopped reaching out to people for help.  That night made me feel like it was too much trouble for other people to have to worry about me, so I didn’t tell anyone what was going on.  I had been told by a “friend” that night that my issues were making them unhappy, and I decided that I wouldn’t put my issues on anyone’s shoulders again.  That night was the turning point in my illness where things just kept spiralling downwards.

In retrospect, I should have seen how much my one friend truly cared about me.  Even though she couldn’t be with me in person, she did her best to make sure that I wouldn’t be alone.  I should have seen how much my mom loved me when she came to my residence to try and put me back together.  I also had another friend who I confided in, and she was determined that I would not stay in bed all day every day.  She told me how bad she felt that she hadn’t been in residence that weekend, and she said that she wished she could have been with me.  But in the frame of mind that I was in, all I saw was the bad.  I felt alone despite the love others had shown for me.  One of the things that really keeps me going now is thinking back to how wrong I was then.  I was wrong to think that I was nothing but a burden to people, and now I keep holding on to that knowledge to keep myself strong.

This post is dedicated to Jenessa Murray and Erin Brookes for being such great friends.

Panic Disorder: The Demon

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I have panic disorder.

It is a type of anxiety disorder.  Along with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and a few others.

Having panic disorder basically means that I have recurring panic attacks.

When I’m not having panic attacks, I worry about when the next time I am going to have a panic attack will be.

I can physically feel that worry.  It controls me.  It possesses me.  It weakens me.  I am a prisoner within my own body.

Anxiety is like a demon.  It’s like one of those evil spirits that takes possession of people in horror movies.  I need an exorcism of sorts to free me from it.

I feel it straining my back, my shoulders, my chest, and my neck.  It’s not tension.  It’s not pain.  I don’t know how to describe it, but it has taken away my freedom.

I’m constantly fighting it.  I try to use logic to reason with it.

“Nothing bad is going to happen,” I repeat to myself.  I know this is logically true, but I still have trouble really believing it.

I’m fighting an uphill battle, and I’m not sure that I can win the fight.  I try different tactics.

I resort to violence.  Maybe if I cut myself open, I will reach the demon.  Maybe he’ll escape through the opening in my skin.

I try to starve him out.  If I waste away, maybe he’ll waste away with me.

I try to work him off.  I hit the gym, hoping that I’ll sweat him out.

I use medications to try and kill him, but they only stun him a little.  He might be passed out for a while, but he comes back as the pills wear off.

I listen to Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” and I hope that one epic night will make everything better.  I hope that friends, sex, alcohol, and dancing are enough to make the demon leave.

But he stays.  He is a parasite.  He grows stronger as I grow weaker.

I want to keep fighting, and I will fight right to the end.  I’m strong enough to keep fighting.  I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to win that fight.