Mental Health Awareness Week-Surviving Suicidal Impulses is Living into Recovery

February 10, 2012

**Trigger Warning-Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts Discussed**

Well, it happened.  In my last post, I wrote about being full of gratitude, because of not being depressed and yet I knew that the depression would eventually return.  Here is what I wrote:

I'm trying not to make a big deal out of it, because I don't want to be too disappointed when a day of depression comes again.  One undoubtedly will-depression, as one of my therapists keeps on telling me, is a recurring disease.  He keeps telling me that, so that when I start feeling depressed again, I can work towards staying in peace instead of totally giving into depression. 

Actually, it wasn't so much the depression that came back, but the anxiety.  The horror started gradually-I had wonderful, depression-free days, but at night I had a lot of trouble sleeping.  As I lay in bed trying to sleep, my mind would just obsess about made-up scenarios.  My thoughts raced around as my frustrations would build.  On Wednesday, I made an appointment with my doctor for Monday, but that wasn't soon enough, because all hell broke loose on Friday...

Friday, I woke-up at 5:30am in the middle of a panic attack.  It was horrendous.  Panic attacks are only supposed to last around ten minutes, but this one continued for hours.  Panic attacks are terrifying, because I feel like I am losing my mind and fast.  I called my doctor as soon as his office opened and then I called my mother.  We tried to think of coping skills that I could use and I decided that I would take a shower to try and calm myself.

It worked too well.

As I was standing in the shower, hot water hitting my face and thoughts still racing around my brain, I thought to myself, "I don't want to do this anymore."

My world fell silent and it seemed that I separated into two people-a person that still wanted to live and be in recovery and one that only desired to kill the other.  The second, suicidal self answered the thought with another, "I don't have to."  Now I wasn't trying to survive the panic attack, but my urge to kill myself.

I struggled with wanting to call someone to tell them the "good" news that I had discovered the answer to my pain and that that answer was to end my life, but I knew that they would not see it from my point of view.  I knew the person I called would want to keep me alive and the recovery self called my sponsor.  There was no answer and the suicidal self stifled my cries and hung up the phone.  "She won't call back, " I thought.  "I'll be able to do it after all."  But I didn't.  I took a knife and held it in my hands and stared at it longingly, but I didn't.  And as I was pacing the room, about ten minutes later my sponsor called back.  I don't remember much of what was said, but we talked for about thirty minutes and the talking stilled the suicidal voice in my head long enough for me to see my doctor.

By the time I saw my doctor that day, I was rational enough that my doctor did not understand just how dangerously anxious I was.  He told me to go to Ridgeview's access center and see about getting into their night PHP program, but I knew that wasn't going to happen.  I knew that if I went to the hospital that I was going to be admitted and that my suicide would not be successful.  I went anyway.  My recovery self won.

I spent six days inpatient, four on precautions, which is the side of the unit where suicidal patients are kept.  It took several days for my medications to start working and I am embarrassed to say that I self-harmed by scratching my wrist with sharp objects I found in an effort to lessen the emotional pain.  Despite my self-harming and my suicidal thoughts, there was a part of me that wanted to live, because I always told on myself shortly after starting to self-harm and gave up whatever object I had been using.

By the sixth day, I was feeling much better and I am continuing to improve.  My new medications really seem to be working the way they should-I am no longer feeling depressed OR anxious.  I am seeing my therapist twice a week and she is going to start teaching me coping skills to deal with depression and anxiety for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, called DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy using a workbook.

The thing is, the whole time I was at the hospital, I kept on hearing talk about how to keep the patients out of the hospital, as if being in the hospital is a bad thing.  I think that kind of talk though is stigmatizing.  We don't chastise a cancer patient when they have to return to the hospital for treatment, so why does that happen to mentally ill ones?  Let me ask you this: Was I still in recovery when I was feeling so suicidal?  When I handed my pen cap to the counselor, because I wanted to use it to scratch myself?  When I shouted at the weekend doctor that I wanted to slit my wrists? Yes!  Because I had not fully given up-I was getting the help I needed, so that I would stay alive long enough to learn how to thrive.

Some people think that a person in recovery never needs to go to the hospital, but unfortunately that is not always so. A person in recovery gets the help they need and never gives up.  I am tired of the stigma of the hospital that prevents some people from getting help.  Two weeks ago, I got a standing ovation by one of my support groups for going to the hospital and getting the help I needed.  This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I urge you not to further the stigma.  I wish all patients got a standing ovation for going to the hospital.  I wish the emphasis was not on making this the person's last hospitalization ever, which inadvertently heaps shame and guilt unto the patient, but on comforting, validating, and loving the patient as much as possible.  The most important thing in recovery is to never give up-holding on to the slightest of hope always brings better days in the end.  

2 comments on “Mental Health Awareness Week-Surviving Suicidal Impulses is Living into Recovery”

  1. I am so proud of you for beating something so hard to overcome. I remember the days of using sharp objects to lessen the pain, and am so proud of you for doing what you needed to do to stop yourself. I hope that you will call me anytime that you need to talk, I'm here for you. I'm giving you a standing ovation right now! I love you!

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