What would you do if you woke up in ICU and all you really remember is your husband carrying you down the stairs and putting you in the car? I woke up to them trying to force charcoal down my mouth, but they said too much time had passed. They kept me pretty sedated on meds, or maybe it was the medicine I overdosed on that kept me sedated. The next month or so was very hazy. I was in the ICU for 3 days and then transferred to the psychiatric unit. The psychiatrist there, kept me very sedated and I didn’t feel much of anything. I just remember people close to me being very upset with me. How could I do this? Why would I want to die, when they felt like I had everything? I had a good job, children, a husband, and could get whatever I wanted or needed. But honestly my anxiety and depression hovered around for so long that it put me in a very dark place. I felt like the only way I could escape it was by leaving this world. I love my family dearly, and this was a very selfish decision, but mental illness is just that…something is wrong in my mind causing non-rational thoughts and behaviors. I was transferred to two other psychiatric hospitals, where the docs tried different medicines and therapy to try to draw me out. I still wasn’t sure it was enough. Honestly I still wanted to die. The disappointment from my family was almost too much to bear. My husband said it might be easier if we just went our separate ways. We have a blended family and there were crazy (I really hate this word, but the expectations were absolutely ridiculous, asinine…you get the point) expectations. The family thought if I was desperate enough to try to kill myself, that I could be a danger to the kids. But in my heart of hearts, I know I have never wanted to physically hurt another human being, especially my children; but at this point, I was completely untrustworthy in their eyes.
I stuck it out with my husband, even though things were really tough. I dealt with the expectations until enough time had passed for everyone to realize I was harmless to others. I beat myself up for many years, but finally came to the conclusion that God kept me on this Earth for a purpose. Maybe to be a mother, maybe a wife, maybe something even bigger. Maybe I will change the world? Who knows; but I do know that when I overdosed, the doctors said it should have killed me. It didn’t though.
This suicide attempt was in November of 2009 and oh how far I have come since then. On the third psychiatric hospital I was in, they took me off all my medicines, cold turkey and put me on a whole new regimen. At that time, I was very combative. I was sick, physically because for the few weeks I was on that regimen, my body had become addicted. I was experiencing withdrawals, was angry at the world, and really just wanted to be done with everything. My friend talked me into staying at the hospital and eventually the regimen they put me on, proved to be pretty successful. My psychiatrist has made some minor changes throughout the past 10 years, and I have actually had another hospital stay because of suicidal ideation. But my psychiatrist, as soon as I told him, sent me directly to the hospital. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. He said if I wasn’t there in an hour, he would call the cops to find me. Pretty serious in my mind. I headed directly there. This hospital stay was not like any of the last. This one, I felt stable enough to get to the root of my problems, my thinking; in other words stinking thinking. I really focused on coping skills and trying to change my ideology on who I was. I have Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; notice how I didn’t say I am bipolar, etc. These conditions don’t define me, however I have to work daily to remind myself of this.
I have learned that I need to craft, paint, build, take photos, exercise, explore and cook to keep my mind focused on the positive and specifically, the task at hand. When my mind starts obsessing, I have to get my mind focused on something else, for example: go out and photograph something. Once I start an activity, my mind focuses on that task, causing my thoughts to move away from the obsessing thoughts. Some people might just think I’m a busy body or overachiever; honestly it is just a coping skill.
I have been able to keep my job and my family together. Well we have kept the family together; but because I didn’t walk away when given the pass to walk out and leave it all behind. My family is everything to me. I also have many friends that stood by me when my family wouldn’t; they are just as important.
I recently shared my story with co-workers in a resiliency training. I felt great knowing that I was able to connect with others that have dealt with suicide within their family. My co-workers reached out to ask for signs to look for if I am going into a manic or depressive state. I feel very safe in my work environment. I have felt that advocating for mental health was where I should be. Sharing my story is not about me being the center of attention, it is to reach out to others that may be struggling with some of the same things I have dealt with. It is possible to get through whatever it is you may be going through. Always follow your psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, and primary care doctor orders. Find your outlet, find your tribe (family and friends), and know your perception and view of the world might be clouding your mind. You must change your stinking thinking. Think of it as a daily exercise of your mind. It is not easy; however it is possible! To me, I have to constantly think on how I can do better, live better, make my world fabulous. I do this by staying very active with my hobbies and family. The key is how you perceive your world; you have control of your thoughts. You just might have to retrain your thoughts to be more positive. Even if you deal with mental illness, you can have a fulfilling and fabulous life!