I’ve always been relatively smart. My elementary school wanted me to advance to 2nd grade during Kindergarten. I was in Beta Club and always enjoyed school. Then, in the 3rd grade, my parents split up. I vaguely remember an incident where my dad hit my mom. They got back together when I was in 6th grade. But, things weren’t going well.
We moved after 6th grade. My best friend had moved away a year earlier and I had a hard time making new friends in my new town.
I was smart… and smart kids aren’t the cool kids.
So, I dumbed myself down.
Things weren’t good at home, either. My parents were not happy and it showed. My mom had a meeting with my teacher’s my sophomore year of high school to discuss my poor grades and my English teacher told her it was because I was bored with school. It was too easy for me, and I had given up.
To this day I can not guarantee that it was an empty threat.
After we moved, everything about me changed. I became my mother… she gets upset too easily. She’s depressed. As far as I know, she’s not gotten help for it and she’s always telling me to stop getting “into tizzies.”
I’ve been in some bad relationships where I was used and cheated on and emotionally abused. I was called a “butterface” (everything is okay about her, but her face), ugly, and fat. I think the worst thing people made fun of me for was my nose. It’s on the larger side and now every time I look at myself in the mirror all I see is that damn nose.
I’m engaged now and I love my fiance with all of my heart and I know he loves me, too…but there’s this voice that comes out every now and then and eats away at me.
That voice says that he deserves someone beautiful and he’s going to find her and leave me. My self-esteem is not great.
I trust that he loves me and won’t leave me… but that voice in my head won’t shut up.
The best way to describe how I feel is when you go to a store like Best Buy. If you go to the back of the store where all the TVs are, and you put each TV on a different channel and close your eyes. All those voices, all the things running through your mind – and I can’t make it stop.
My self-esteem is so very low. I can’t even make simple decisions like what I want to eat for dinner. If I go to make a speech or presentation in class, I get so shaky I can barely stand up, let alone speak. In some classes I can’t understand the material, so I cry.
When Tony asks me what I don’t understand so he can help, all I can muster is, “I just don’t understand.”
What’s the most important thing I don’t understand?
Why I went from a smart, outgoing kid to someone who wants to hide in their room with the lights off.
And, then there are days when I feel great and nothing is wrong and I just say to myself, “it went away like usual. See? Everything is better. Sometimes people just get sad.”
Until that voice in the back of my head finds those remotes again.
I lost my best friend, my very first true best friend, the one who taught me how to love and how to be loved back, to suicide in July 2015. The following is my thoughts when I found out he had taken his own life…
…4 months after it happened.
You see, we had lost touch and I had made myself invisible to everyone around him. I don’t typically believe in regret – it only leads to negativity – however in this case I truly regret leaving his circle. I’m still not sure why I felt it necessary. I missed his memorial. I missed the late night call. I missed saying goodbye.
Because the brain is a funny thing, I seem to have blocked out most of the hardcore grieving.
So here, from my Facebook and various platforms, the recounting of my thoughts and feelings during that time:
November 11, 2015
The journey of life is such a strange thing. I just learned that the person who was my light when I couldn’t see through the darkness left this life a few months ago.
November 12, 2015
I woke up this morning and he was still gone. It wasn’t all just a horrible nightmare giving me chills while I sleep. It’s real life.
I went to sleep crying and I woke up crying. My 2 year old keeps asking why I’m crying. Mommy’s just sad baby. So very sad.
“There will come a day when the joy runs out. Do not ask “What could I have done?” but instead ask “What will I do now?” Think of me when you hear music, and laugh at something you remembered me saying. Know that I am silent and still, and believe me when I say that sweet nothingness is preferred to this life of disgrace, heartache, and pain. I will be no longer be a burden. There will come a day when the joy runs out.”
Pat wrote this on his Facebook February 18th, 2012.
I don’t recall what inspired him to write it, but I saved this note because he put his soul into words.
Words that rang true, unfortunately, way too soon.
So tonight, at Pat’s request, I’m asking myself, “What will I do now?” Instead of the “What should I have done? What could have I done?” that has plagued me since I found out what had happened. Months ago. That I did not know had happened.
I lost him through choices that were very much my own. What will I do, now that my heart is incomplete? I will think of him when I hear music. I will laugh when I remember something he said. I will remember that he isn’t here suffering in the prison of his dark thoughts and insecurities. I will continue to love him as if he were still here, because I don’t know how not to.
In a serendipitous way, he’s the reason that my husband and I are together today. I had stopped at Walmart to grab some books because I was preparing for an extended visit with my friend, Pat, who was having a rough night. The (future) husband just happened to be building a feature nearby. We got to talking and planned to hang out soon.
Three days later, we were sure that we’d never be apart again.
Pat officiated our wedding in the rose garden at Gage Park a year later to the day.
We had lost touch the last couple of years. I’d gotten busy raising kids and building our new extended family and Pat had been busy working and playing his beloved music. We met for coffee at Denny’s about two and a half years ago to catch up and share memories. He had changed and so had I and we couldn’t find our common ground anymore. We both just kind of let our relationship slip into fun memories and the occasional longing to be together, where we used to be.
I’m a firm believer that everyone comes into your life to give you a lesson, good or bad. Pat taught me many lessons in our time together; a hug is the best medicine, astrophysics is fascinating, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Alexei Filippenko are awesome to watch in lecture. That music is a piece of my soul and goes deeper than a Top 40 pop radio station. Today Pat is teaching me to not take for granted the people that come into your life unexpectedly and leave the same way.
I love you, Pat. I’ll forever miss your hugs and dumb Assy McGee references.
I’ll never forget your smile.
January 1, 2016
You’re on my mind a lot today, buddy. There was a curious string of songs in my Pandora shuffle and while I know that if you were here you’d tell me how silly I was being and it’s just a coincidence, but I can’t help but think that it’s you giving me a little boost when you know the day is rough.
Miss you, been missing you. Wish I could tell you that.
(To my friend in a private chat) I can’t say this on my picture because it’s too public. But I’m having such a hard time dealing with his loss.
It’s like a shot to the gut. I feel like I failed him. He couldn’t function on a “hey how ya doing” every six months. He was a full-contact, likes-to-hang-out-in real-life type of guy.
I knew that about him and I just, I feel so badly that I let him grow away from me.
That I let myself become a part of his list of “people that don’t give a shit” because I totally gave a shit. I guess I’m really struggling with what I know his last thoughts were before he took his life.
I know he was listing off all the people that had failed him because I talked him down from that thought before. Many times. I have a Facebook messenger full of me talking him down from that. I wasn’t there that time to talk him down from that.
I know that’s not fair of me to put that on myself. I know that intellectually, but it hurts my heart so fucking much.
This. This haunts me so
He was there for me in my bad time. I was there for him in many of his bad times. I wasn’t there in his last bad time. I don’t know.
I feel selfish. For not trying harder to make him a part of my life. I’m struggling in the shoulda coulda woulda. It’s a favorite past time of mine. I keep pep talking myself “You didn’t know, There’s no way you could’ve known, he shut himself off, too”. I’m just really struggling today. I’ve been in tears for hours. I’m just struggling with my choices. I’m hurting.
February 23, 2016
It’s your birthday today. Normally, I’d be constructing some smart assed email joking about getting old and having you sneak goodies in to me at the nursing home. Instead I’ll be heading out to see your headstone in the country, along with the kiddos so I’m not tempted to be out there for too long. Missing you Pat. Today and everyday. Happy Birthday.
July 3, 2016
It’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. What I wouldn’t give for a Pat hug today. Instead, I’m watching astrophysics documentaries, some of your very favorites, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and of course Alexei Fillipenko. They’re not the same without you here to dumb them down for me, but it feels like the right thing to do.
I’m looking forward to catching up with your family later today and celebrating your life and sharing memories. Until we meet again, I love you and miss you so, so much.
July 3, 2017
It’s been 2 years that you’ve been gone. I still miss you every day. I find myself in tears when I come across random 6 ft tall bald dudes, with sweet beards sporting some chucks. There are more of those than you would expect. It’s never you, if only I could convince my brain to stop looking. What I wouldn’t do for one more Pat hug. Love dove.
February 23, 2018
Happy Birthday dear friend. Watching some Cosmos tonight and thinking of you. Miss you so much, today and every day.
“when you meet that person.. a person. one of your Soulmates. Let the connection, relationship be what it is. It may be five mins, five hours, five days, five months. Five years. A lifetime. Let it manifest itself, the way it is meant to. It has an organic destiny. This way if it stays or if it leaves, you will be softer from having been Loved this authentically. Souls come into, return, open, and sweep through your life for a myriad of reasons, let them be who and what they are meant.”
Anyone who feels that I am just whining can do me a favour and stop reading right now.
Through medication treatment and self-discipline, I have found a level of stability that has been unparalleled in recent years of my existence. All this good goes out the window, however, for a period of a few agonizing days on a monthly basis.
Is it predictable? Yes.
Does that make it any easier? No.
Recently, I’ve been told that I am not a good “fit” for certain mental health services that I feel should apply to me. First example: I finally had an appointment with the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic outpatient services this past Thursday. I spent months looking forward to this appointment, hoping it would provide some relief.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
That’s a worn out old adage, but there is much truth behind it. The psychiatrist on staff at the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic felt that, due to the fact that I have depression occurring presently as part and parcel of my chronic mental health woes, I am not a good fit for the clinic’s services.
I do not have “textbook” pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms. Also, in terms of medications that are usually helpful for PMDD, I am already taking a good selection of those recommended for front-line intervention, including vitamins and minerals such as B6, Calcium, and magnesium. There is potentially some room for dosage adjustment, but in terms of there being a supplementary medication trifecta for PMDD, that is it, and I’m already taking all of them.
I am not currently taking the “recommended” antidepressant of choice for PMDD, but the one I’m on now has done so much good for every other aspect of my life that I am extremely hesitant to swap it out for another medicine that might not work so well. Trintellix has helped me immensely. I don’t cry on a daily basis anymore. I’m more open with everybody: strangers, friends, my husband, you name it. I can actually get to work most days. I feel stable, I feel good… most days. Most days, I am an absolute delight – and I love it!
Obviously, I am hesitant to swap out this medication for one that is more “tried and true” for symptoms of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. There is absolutely no guarantee that the antidepressants that have been clinically studied for PMDD effectiveness would work as well. In fact, I’ve tried most of them, with little success. So why swap out something that works well, for 20-ish days out of the month, for something that has been scientifically proven to be more effective for PMDD symptoms, but does not work well with my unique chemical composition? It makes no sense.
I’ve talked a lot about medication and I want to address something that I learned the hard way, ages ago:
In mental health, medication isn’t everything, Especially when it comes to more complex conditions. But my efforts to connect with a therapist or mental health counsellor at present have left me feeling even more lost and alone in my journey.
The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic heard my request to connect with a 1:1 therapist or counsellor in the Hamilton community, but did not offer to connect me with any such services. I was offered a referral to a mindfulness group, something I am not sure I will pursue due to the fact that most publicly operated mental health groups take place during the daytime hours, and I need to go to work during the day so I can support myself financially.
Sure, I could take time off work for the group, but doing so may jeopardize my employment and would be difficult to finance at this point, since any hours of work missed for the mindfulness group would constitute unpaid time off.
Desperate, I decided to look into private therapy options, and sourced out a psychotherapist’s website via the Psychology Today web page. This therapist sounds like a great fit, based on her specialties listed on her online profile page. I contacted this psychotherapist and asked about accessing her services. Obviously, private therapists cost money, something of which I am well aware; however, this therapist recommended that I seek to gain a referral to her through my employer’s Employee Assistance Program, which could, potentially, fund up to four sessions with this therapist to see if that would be beneficial for me, and also so I could establish if I enjoy working with her on a 1:1 basis and wish to pursue services further.
I called up the EAP and explained the situation. The response I received was absolutely gut-wrenching: Because I have a chronic mental health condition, they are “unable” (or, unwilling) to provide me with a referral due to the fact that my therapy goals may not align with their mandate of connecting individuals in need with short-term counselling services.
It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad, to learn that even designated mental health support services stigmatize against people presenting with more severe mental health conditions.
What an eye-opener that was
In light of the recent high-profile suicides of wildly successful fashion designer Kate Spade and world-renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, I must point out that turning away a person who struggles with mental illness from suitable services because they don’t fit the proclaimed mandate or envisioned purpose of the service is a very, very dangerous practice.
Anyone reaching out for mental health support should at least be connected with suitable services once they make the effort to reach out, even if the initial service with which they’ve made contact might not be the best fit.
It is highly unwise to tell a person struggling with a chronic mental health disorder that they can’t access services because they have the wrong kind of mental illness.
I’m sitting in an ambulance. The blonde-haired paramedic gazes at me in the blue light, asking me if it is alright that the proper lights are off. I suppose something in my face alarms her enough to gasp: “Is it too dark?” I reassure her with a shake of my head that no, it isn’t too dark.
I feel childlike in my Adventure Time leggings and sweatshirt-tunic. I never noticed the white lines on ambulance windows were full of glitter. One of the littles hops up to front in a gush of joy. Glitter, of all things, glitter! I swallow a glomp of air and push her back in the garden with the rest. L peeks through the slit below the door of the Limbo Room somewhere deep inside.
Emergency Rooms, ambulances and psychiatric ward workers have always looked at us weirdly. The paramedic tap-taps on a Panasonic Toughbook. “Your care worker said you have these personalities?” she says, the question mark imminent in the air around her. Yes, I think to myself before even considering saying it out loud, my head moving in what could be called a nod. “I have Dissociative Identity Disorder,” I say out of habit. I should have used a plural pronoun.
It is the first time being admitted since this past February, when my dissociation had me walking into busy roads without looking. This time is different, though. This time it is even more confusing to the paramedics and the psychiatric nurses. The paramedic waits patiently as I try to remember which day of the week it is. L would know. L was here on Wednesday, that’s several days ago – Saturday, I blurt out slowly. What month, what year? Holy fricking shitballs. I find the right answer somewhere in L’s frontal lobe. November, 2015.
The waiting room is full, as per usual. Nosebleeds, broken ankles. Normal problems. The psychiatric nurse sees me after 45 minutes. A young fellow, agitated and, somehow, a bit amused. I try to tell everything, but it is difficult. “Do you remember [this]?” No, no I don’t remember doing that, that was another alter. “Why do you think L is gone for good this time?” I just have the feeling. I tell the guy that I’m the replacement. That I’m the one to take charge in case L is gone for good. His face is full of confusion.
In the waiting room again. The nurse called the doc. A foreigner, for a change. Not that I mind. I like the little lisp in their voice as they utter their sentences. The doc wants to hear the same story. I look at the nurse by the computer, apparently with enough agony on my face to make him state my dilemma instead. I add in a few details and listen to the doctor’s remarks, with a tight pull in my stomach each time he sounds less and less convinced. Finally we get to it: suicidality. I explain the monsters that are Dawn and Claudia, the cuts that have been made, the writing in blood in my journal, the knife brought to work with us. This peaks the doctor’s interest. “Oh yes, if that is the case, then we should take you in for a few days, as a crisis admission.”
The ward I know well. I’ve been here several times. I wouldn’t call it a second home, but I would call it safe grounds. We hand in our tweezers and nail clippers. Make sure nothing else sharp is left on us. Our psychiatric nurse at the ward is a young lady with a pretty braid in the front of her hair, dangling around as she speaks with a multitude of head gestures. She wants to hear the same story, but I tell her I’m too tired. After prying some things out of me, she retreats to the nurses’ station. It is only hours after that, we get our precious hospital bracelet, a Beck Depression Inventory and other forms to fill. What she doesn’t know is I would need ten BDIs, one for everyone. Maybe eight since the littles would just be confuzzled at the idea of a weird form to fill and even weirder questions to answer. I tick in some boxes that make me look severely depressed. Lydia must be close to front.
I unpack Bunny’s teddy bear and unicorn and feel her refreshing presence. The little five-year-old treats things with such openness and curiosity that I cannot help but smile and let her come closer and closer to front. I know she’ll be upset to be alone in a big three-person hospital room, but I am far too tired to take care of the body any longer. I step back in the garden and let her go forth, watching as she bundles herself up in pink hospital pajamas and her unicorn hoodie, giggling as she brushes her teeth with such vigor (need to kill all those germs). Finally, as she settles in bed, I let my guard down, retreating up the stairs inside the Clock and to my room.
It’s pretty difficult to sleep at night when you are afraid that you won’t wake up in the morning, leaving your 18 month old motherless. And in the *capable* hands of your husband who, when it’s his night to make dinner, relies on boxed Mac and Cheese. Without me he’d probably revert back to Kraft, leaving organic Annie’s behind.
Neurologic disorders are their own beast, I think. The symptoms are literally all in your head, and yet you feel them everywhere. My feet tingle. Sometimes I can’t stand the feeling of pants on my legs because my nerves are hyper sensitive. My hands go completely numb some nights. Just a minute ago I was pretty sure that my tongue had stopped working and that maybe I was having a crazy allergic reaction. When I touch the skin of another person, sometimes it feels like it’s burning.
I’ve been to the ER too many times this last year. At first it was chest pain, which was treated with Ativan. Turns out I have chest wall inflammation. Advil was much more helpful than the anxiety drugs, but I’m a woman so must be crazy. Then I went to a doctor for what felt like the flu in the height of the swine flu outbreak. She listened to my heart, which had become tachycardic. She thought I was having a thyroid storm. Nope. Just Lyme disease. (It would have been helpful to know it was Lyme then.)
Lyme is also extra special because it causes psychiatric changes. Remember IRENE from the Real World? Don’t you wish you were my husband? I swing between uncontrollable anger to lying on the floor thinking about death. Suicide is actually the leading cause of death for people with Lyme. When I was first diagnosed and reading about the disease, I couldn’t figure out why there were links to suicide prevention lines. I get it now.
And then there’s the memory deficits. I’ve always had a really sharp memory. My mom hates me for it. Pray that your children don’t remember every phrase you ever uttered to them! I’m also a word freak and can kick some serious Scrabble ass. But now, I have trouble remembering the word for “countertop” (yep, happened the other day). I don’t know how to spell things. And I often just stop in the middle of a conversation unsure of what we were talking about or what I was saying or what I want to say next.
My stomach hurts. My knees ache. I lose my sense of taste sometimes. I can’t sleep, and yet I’m profoundly exhausted. I get night sweats. Bright lights bother me. And low lights bother me even more. I feel jittery and can’t sit still. But I’m too tired and sore to move. And I constantly feel like I’ve just gotten off a Tilt-A-Whirl, that’s how dizzy I am.
This is my life. I don’t tell you this for sympathy. I tell you it because it’s real. And frankly it scares the shit out of me.
There are only so many things a person can take before they break. Sometimes, there’s only so much a person can take.
This is her story:
When our son was a baby and you went through that rehab program, they sat me down for Family Day and made me come up with an ultimatum to “help” you with your sobriety.
“If you go back to drinking and X happens, I’ll leave.”
I hated it. I didn’t want to say anything like that. I believed there was nothing you and I couldn’t get through together. We love each other very much, and I could never picture a scenario where I would need to leave you.
Since then, you’ve had several medical scares, three suicide attempts, and a second, more intense rehab. You had that spell last winter, where for three days you had no idea who or where you were. Then, after a year of sobriety, you went back to drinking again. I’ve been there for the hospitalizations, your treatments, the roller coaster of your mental illness, and the nightmares caused by the traumas of the things you have seen and done in your past.
I stood by you and loved you through all of it.
I can’t do it anymore.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to really confide in you anything going on with me. You can’t handle it. I had a major emotional upheaval last summer and I can’t even tell you about it because you would never be able to deal with it. It’s still continuing, and it is gaining in intensity.
It’s causing me constant distress, and you have no idea. Because of that, I had a nervous breakdown last winter. I was even having panic attacks. I’m taking antidepressants and seeing a counselor every week to deal with what’s going on with me. You know about my counseling and medication, but you don’t know the real reason why I need them.
While I was still fragile from my nervous breakdown, another horrible incident happened. We were constantly being taken advantage of by your friend. At one point, I was sick with the flu, but you still couldn’t say no to his request. But due to your drinking and your mental illness, you were unable to deal with the responsibility you had taken on that night.
Still very sick, I had to go take care of it and I got stuck in a blizzard. Between my emotional stuff, the flu, all the constant worry about you, and the terror of the white-out blizzard, I had a mini-stroke the next day.
You couldn’t even handle calling for paramedics even though I was incapacitated.
What if it had been something worse? What if it had been a full-blown stroke, or a heart attack, and being able to know you have to call 911 for me could literally mean the difference between my life and my death? What would you do if I died? You can’t even take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of the kids and make sure the bills get paid?
You’ve admitted that you have no hope of being able to quit drinking. You’ve written off rehab, calling it a “temporary fix.” You won’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and you won’t take any steps to try to stop drinking on your own. Then there was that one night last spring when you were drunk and admitted to me that you still think about suicide all the time.
You promptly denied it once you were sober, but considering that you listed all the ways you had thought about doing it, I’m pretty sure your confession was the truth.
Without you finding a way to stop drinking, it’s only going to continue to get worse and worse. It’s to the point now where we live inside the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde because you’re a totally different person when you’ve been drinking all day on the weekends.
I know your brain is a scary mess. I know I couldn’t handle five minutes inside your head. You have been through things so horrible that I can’t even process them. It’s no wonder the worst horror movie doesn’t bother you – you’ve been through worse.
It feels like the Grim Reaper has been following you around as long as I’ve known you. On top of all your mental and medical issues, you’re so accident prone. I’ve lost track of all the times I felt like I was looking at the last months, weeks, or even hours of your life.
It has all led to me having to think about your death constantly. I’ve had to plan for the worst. If you were to die in your sleep tonight, I know exactly what to do. I know what to do in regards to your funeral and burial. I know where the kids and I will go to mourn, lick our wounds, and then regroup. I have a plan for what will happen once I get back on my feet. I have hope for a beautiful future.
That future no longer has you in it.
Our kids need at least one stable parent. If things keep going the way they are, I won’t be mentally or physically healthy enough to take care of them. I can’t keep worrying about you. I can’t keep taking care of you.
You and I both believe in an afterlife. I believe that once you have died, you will finally have the peace you’ve never had. I hate that I think about your death all the time. It makes me sick that I have to admit to myself that your death is what’s best for all of us – you, so you can have peace, me, so I can become healthy again, and the kids, so they don’t have to watch you destroy yourself.
I’m purging the house because I don’t want to move all that crap in the basement again. I’ve started a list of the things I will sell when you’re gone. I’ve made my arrangements for where the kids and I will go. I’ve looked into schools there for them. I’ve even figured out places I’m going to apply for jobs. And meanwhile, I pray that God will be merciful and let you die peacefully in your sleep.
Because I know there is only so much more I can take. If I have to break down and just leave, it will break your heart.
And that will definitely lead to you killing yourself.