Live Through This

It’s time to address the elephant in the room (I mean, no one reads this except my friend Dawn anyway). I have never attempted suicide.

I have never attempted suicide, but I have been close enough to park my car 100 yards away from a really large tree and scream/cried for 30 minutes while I considered gunning it. I have thought about running my car off the road. I have come very close to slipping under the ocean swells I was floating in and just not coming back up. I understand why people get to the point where they feel an inescapeable, suffocating pressure to succeed, and also feel that whatever goal they’re reaching towards is unattainable, and that they’re not worthy of it anyway.

Being that I began this as a sort of “weight loss” blog, I didn’t expect to share so much about my mental health. The truth is, I think that my mental health and weight gain have always co-existed in some way. My depression didn’t cause the weight gain, but it certainly contributed to it, and in some ways my weight keeps the demons that fuel depression fed. Truthfully, all of us (not just women) are evaluated daily on the way we look. It’s hard to make strides in thinking you are a worthy, beautiful person when men stop holding doors for you (except as an occasional afterthought). I’ve been on both sides of the weight coin. I was teased in high school, called anorexic, broken up with by my Senior boyfriend in the 10th grade because I wouldn’t let him get to second base. I waited until 19 to lose my virginity, not because I was overly pure, but because I was too self-conscious about my underdeveloped body to develop any physical relationships.

In any case, this is where the weight conversation begins and ends today, because I’ve been trying to write this post for a week and I can’t seem to get through it. It’s been about 6 years since I was diagnosed with depression, and as I’ve mentioned before, it probably should have happened twenty years ago. Mental illness is different for everyone. It even changes the way the same person is affected over time. I barely remember much from my late teen/early 20’s when it came to mental health, other than brief flashes of being curled up in the bathtub crying, insomnia, or general lashing out at people when I felt wronged.

After my oldest son was born, it manifested itself as either being extremely overwhelmed (and again, snapping at those closest to me easily) or extreme apathy. It’s hard for someone who has always been “normal” to understand apathy as a symptom of depression, but it’s not always like the TV commercials for drugs. It’s more like the apathy and overwhelmed feelings go hand in hand, and I just want other people to make some damn decisions and NOT ASK ME ANY MORE QUESTIONS. Most people need their opinions heard and validated, but sometimes it just feels like an intrusion on my already busy day to have to discuss ideas for dinner, choose which load of laundry needs to be done next, or help my sister plan a birthday party for my mom. When this happens, it just shuts me down. No, I don’t end up not getting out of bed for 3 days because honestly, I can’t. I don’t have the option of shutting down. I have kids. They need food. I have to work for that. It seems to be a cycle…despite being an extrovert, I do need to have occasional time alone. The last time this happened at an extreme level, I simply told my husband, “I’m not coming home tomorrow night. You won’t know where I am, but I’ll be safe.” I didn’t talk to anybody for at least 12 hours. I got a giant beer and Thai food just for myself, booked a hotel room (SUITE) 3 miles from my office, slept in a king bed ALONE, took a shower that lasted at least an hour while watching a movie because I could see the TV from the bathroom, and got ONLY MYSELF ready the next morning. It was what I needed.

I’ve been on Wellbutrin for over a year now, with moderate success. My doctor and I raised my dosage about 3 months ago and I finally feel “normal” again. This is also something that is extremely difficult to explain to non-depressed people. It’s a realization of, “oh, this is how this is supposed to feel.” As if for years, other people have been eating guacamole and raving about it, but you couldn’t understand their excitement because you’ve just been eating plain avocado that someone told you was guacamole. (This is a ridiculous analogy.) It’s easier now to enjoy the best moments, and more importantly it’s easier to deal with the moments that used to feel unbearable. I still struggle with self-destructive behaviour, with shutting people out because I don’t feel “good enough”, with feeling like other people are doing so much more/better/happier than me. But I’m getting there.

More importantly, I no longer have any suicidal thoughts. All of the things I described above came between 5-1 years ago. In addition to medication, I found a website that I think helps so much. So many people suffering feel two things: first, like no one cares enough to bother hearing your darkest thoughts (and that they’ll think you’re crazy if you do share). Second, like no one else really has ever felt the way you feel. I randomly stumbled across this site from a friend of a friend’s facebook post, and I still have a small section of Lindsey Peterson’s interview saved on my phone to remind myself now and then how much damage I could have caused.

I know the Suicide Prevention Hotline is being tossed around like hotcakes right now, but I was never going to be that person. Many people feel that way. I hope that continuing to share this website’s mission of hope will help others.

The stories are long, but so worth reading until you find the one that really matches your story. Lindsey’s is mine. Not everything about it, but the self-destructive behaviour, the lying to cover things up, the feeling that I had so much potential that I threw away. I truly believe that I NEEDED to read her story, and I hope that she’s out there somewhere, living and thriving, and that somehow she knows that telling her story might have saved at least one life.

“Your child would never recover from that.” She’s like, “I’ve been doing this long enough to know that, if you kill yourself, that will affect your daughter in ways that you can’t understand, and she’s not going to recover from that. You’re a mom now. Sorry.” She laid it out there.”

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