A couple months ago, in addition to depression, I was diagnosed with Chronic Suicidal Ideation (I imagine there is a CSI parody in there somewhere.) In my current battle it is these suicidal thoughts I have been fighting hardest. Even in moments of joy, this desire to end my life is in my brain. I feel lucky for all the moments of joy. Very lucky. And while the thoughts are there in those moments, they are more manageable then when the joy is not there. At those times the thoughts are even more intense and more frequent and they make ending my life seem inevitable. The thoughts have been a struggle, a huge struggle. They have been the main reason for the two hospitalizations. And in general they have just been really fucking scary.
There are two main components to getting rid of/minimizing these 100 times a day repetitive thoughts – The right meds and learning the right tools to change these thoughts. It is unclear yet if these are the right meds, but I am hopeful. As hard as it is, finding the right meds feels like the easier part. Finding ways to interrupt these thoughts, ways to change, is a harder process. This is not a surprise, as change, according to what I remember from successories posters, is hard. Though, according to those posters, it’s also necessary. On Thursday I started a new therapy program called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT.) It is intensive, requires a lot of work, and I feel, as long as I commit to it, it will help. It has already started giving me tools I have used and adding that to the advice and time with the wonderful support system I have, It seems like it can be a good combo.
Plus, the DBT program has free sandwiches so I’m already ahead of the game.
I feel a different kind of better. A better kind of better. During this three month battle with hard core depression, I have had some days where I felt good but even then this baseline of low has been there. As time has gone on I had come to believe that baseline was my normal, and my problem was I didn’t know how to cope with it and these suicidal feelings and desire to self-harm would go away if only I wasn’t so fucked up.
People tried to reassure me, saying “You won’t always feel this way.” or “There has been a large part of your life where you have been well and felt different than this.” I appreciated all of it and believed none of it. Yesterday, while playing CandyLand with Rafi I was on the other side of this conversation. I beat him all four games and he said “I never ever win anything!” I told him this wasn’t true and reminded him of his many past victories. Like me, he believed none of it, though unlike me he did not appreciate it at all.
Anyway on Saturday I woke up and I felt as if a switch in my brain had shifted. I felt a way I’d forgotten I was capable of feeling. I felt like me four months ago. I believe this means the medicine has started working (something I had stopped believing was possible.) I know I still have a long way to go on this getting better journey but being reminded I can feel this way has been a ridiculously awesome gift.
And as I’m feeling better, I have taken to reminding myself of these six things:
1. Be patient
2. Keep working hard
3. Take things slow
4. Be kind to yourself
5. Make healthy choices
6. It’s okay to crush your son at CandyLand
The Dr. at the psych hospital had a philosophy. He said that depression is a 30/70 illness. To be well depends 30% on the medicines and 70% on you. He very kindly said he had never seen anyone work harder on getting better than me, but my problem was being patient with the 30%: the medicines kicking in. This was very true because the thing is, no matter how hard you work on getting better, you don’t feel any progress if the medicine isn’t working and waiting for that sucks.
As I have been struggling with this illness, I’ve been feeling like a different person. It has been the worst I have ever felt in my life and my brain has seemed like it isn’t even mine. I have felt like a fucked up crazy piece of shit. Delightful, I know.
I was very frustrated in the hospital. I had gone in and given up privileges that all my friends and family had; my cellphone, the right to shave without being watched, the ability to go outside, and I wasn’t getting rid of the suicidal thoughts or desire to harm myself. But I gave up those privileges for something more important than that: my safety.
I knew my safety mattered to others, but to me it was sometimes harder to see the value in because I didn’t want to be alive. How important me being in a safe place was became most clear to me on two occasions. Once when I was supposed to leave the hospital and knew if they let me go I would walk out the door and kill myself. This was the hardest day of my life but I was honest with the Drs. and they kept me longer, knowing I was in danger. I could have not told them and killed myself so apparently some part of me wanted to stay alive. The second time I realized how important the safety of the hospital was is when I finally did get discharged and I realized how much harder I would have to work to stay alive and safe because in the hospital those things were guaranteed and on the outside I had freewill and with that came the opportunity to make whatever choice with my life I wanted.
Staying alive has been a huge battle and continues to b,e but it is a battle I really want to win and today I was given an amazing gift as it seems my medicines might be starting to work.
Even if this is true, and man I hope it is, I know there are many ups and downs ahead and I also know that I gotta keep working my 70%.
Besides working hard, I believe I am still alive for two reasons. One is an 8 year old boy and the other is choosing to reach out. Obviously I have been open with my illness for quite a while but during these past few months I have reached out more than I ever have before, more than I was comfortable with. I am beyond lucky to have an amazing support system and I realized these past few months, that it was okay to depend on them, to use them when I need to, which has been a lot. I am very fortunate but being fortunate only matters if you act on it.
I haven’t drank soda (aka pop for my Midwestern cohorts) since Tuesday. For someone who usually drinks at least 24oz of diet Mt. Dew a day, this has been hard. I have also been eating more fruits, veggies, and nuts. More real food. I went to see a Dr. and get some guidance.
This is how depressed I am right now. How lost I feel. How much I want a solution: I was willing to change my diet. That’s pretty close to a miracle.
And so far I don’t hate it.
I am walking a fine line these day and it sucks. A line between staying here and not.
I think about Robin Williams a lot. His death has made me both consider suicide more and want to fight harder for it never to be an option for me. I see that not one good thing came from his premature exit and I want to fight that like hell and at the same time I am so sick of fighting, of feeling like depression will always be this huge presence in my life, of feeling like I will be defeated.
But I am committed to continue fighting and I am beyond fortunate to have a support system who encourages me to fight, who tells me what I don’t always want to hear, a system I’ve learned to trust.
This week I will venture into another in-patient program and I feel a bit of relief knowing I will have this supportive place to hopefully get the six different kinds of help I need right now.
If I could say anything to others struggling, it would be find a support system. People are there and they will respond. Be willing to make the first move. Nine out of ten times you will be rewarded.