Thursday, May 16, 2019

Electric Smiles

Trigger Warning - Depression and Suicidal Ideation

As long as I can remember, I’ve battled depression and fought against suicidal urges to end my life. Over the past 15 years, I know I have had more hospital admissions than I’m able to accurately keep track of.

There was an amazing time of bliss in the most recent few years where I was able to battle my mental illness as an outpatient, without the requirement for hospitalisation, and simply by taking regular medication and seeking assistance from a psychologist for talk therapy, I was able to stay in control and limit any real impact of mental illness on my life.

Everything was fine. Until it wasn’t. A few months ago I noticed that my mental health was slipping, and I wasn’t as in control as I would have liked. I noticed the suicidal thoughts becoming more and more, and the urges getting harder to fight against. November brought with it the first admission to the mental health ward in years. It wasn’t ideal, and I was devastated to need it after so long without it, but it served it’s purpose and kept me safe.

We changed the medication, I got back on my feet and I was ready to face the world once more, after only a week to get some time out and get back on track.

As time went on, the suicidal urges became more and became fixed at the forefront of my mind. I don’t know why I was depressed, all I knew is that I didn’t want to battle the depression any more, and if I was going to be depressed again, then I wanted it all to stop.

I stopped sleeping properly, my mind wandering, negative thought processes taking control. I ended up being honest with my psychiatrist and being admitted to the hospital for supervision and monitoring.

We used this time to try some alternative treatments for my depression, new medications, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy. Anything that would alleviate the struggle and make it easier to face the day.

Becoming unwell after a prolonged period of being well, I was crushed. It reinforced the suicidal thoughts. I mean, if things were always going to come back to feeling like this, what was the point in even trying to recover and be happy? Fighting against the urges to crash my car, or hang myself from a tree or tall building became harder and harder. I needed supervision, I needed support, I needed guidance and encouragement that things would improve.

That period of extreme suicidality, where my thoughts were consumed with how to escape the pain I was feeling, became like a never-ending obsession. Suicide was all I could think about. How would I do it? Where would I do it? When would I do it? I knew I needed to escape, and I knew that suicide would alleviate the stress and the pain that life was giving to me.

Admitted to hospital for weeks was never part of my plan. But looking back now, I can see how necessary it was. I was obsessed with suicidal thoughts and making plans, because that was all I could think about. People close to me witnessed my mood deteriorate, work colleagues and supervisors became concerned for my safety. 

I confided in a few people about just how bad I was feeling. They encouraged me to reach out for professional help. I was scared. I felt alone and I was petrified that this time, I was going to succeed in taking my own life to escape the mental anguish I was feeling.

Whilst the last few months feel like a huge blur, and I cannot recall a lot that has happened, I know a lot of that is for my own benefit. I know it’s still painful to think about how bad I was feeling. I know it’s still horrible to think about what I put those I love and care about through. I know how desperate I was for it all to stop, and how close I came to finding a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I feel so blessed that I have been surrounded by people who love and care for me, and that I have been continuously encouraged to take the time to look after myself and get myself back on the road to wellness. I feel so lucky that those people who are in my life have not judged me for my mental health struggles, but have offered guidance and support in ensuring that I make it through to the other side.

Whilst I know I’m not out of the woods yet, and suicide still crosses my mind when the depression grasps a firm hold, I feel like a lucky person to be surrounded by so many wonderful colleagues, friends and family. I know that although the battle is dark, and sometimes I fail to be able to see the light shining, reminding me that I’ll make it through, that I am so lucky to be surrounded by such a supporting army of wonderful people. I know that regardless of how often the suicidal thoughts cross my mind, or how fixated I feel my mind gets stuck on them, there are a bunch of people on my side, praying for me, and supporting me to make it through and out the other side. And for that, I am eternally grateful.