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At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I got up in the middle of the night, stumbled around my living room, and went crashing to the floor.  I couldn't get up.  I screamed for my mother, who leaped out of bed and came to help.  Then, of course, I refused her help.  I managed to pull myself into a dining room chair, but was shaking too hard to drink the glass of water she brought for me.

After some interrogation she asked if I had taken a bunch of pills.  I denied it.  Then she asked again and I confirmed it.  In total, I had taken somewhere between 40 and 50 Benadryl.  When mom realized she couldn't get me to the hospital on her own, she called 911.


Many hours of my life are a blur.  I thought I remembered the presence of "Deputy Wayne" from Celebrating February 14th.  This made no sense, so I assumed I hallucinated.  I remembered ambulance lights and being helped outside to get in it.  I remembered a bedpan.  That's about all until I woke up hours later in the ICU.

Things were not much clearer in the ICU.  From that portion of the day, I remember repeatedly getting out of bed.  I remember trying to yank out my IV needle.  I remember a really sweet nurse who offered to order my meals for me so I wouldn't have to make scary phone calls.  I remember the on-call therapist dropping by to determine whether I should be admitted to inpatient, but I don't remember the slightest thing about what I said to her.  I remember mom visiting and telling me that Deputy Wayne really had been there, but I had to ask her about it all again the next day because I wasn't sure I hadn't also hallucinated the conversation in which she confirmed his presence.

I told many different stories about the overdose - some of them during the time when I was not coherent enough to know what I was saying, and others during the course of the following week when everyone wanted an explanation for what I'd done.  Some of the stories:

"I did it for attention."
"I don't know why I did it."
"I wasn't trying to kill myself."
"I wanted to hurt myself."
"I took a few for sleep and it impaired my judgment so I took more."
"I overdosed on Benadryl."  (no reason given)
"I tried to kill myself."

In the beginning, "I don't know why I did it" was pretty close to the truth.  This was what I told my psych APRN when he came to see me the next morning in inpatient.  He tasked me with figuring out the reason(s) I did it so we could prevent it from happening again.

I told most of my friends that it was an accident.  That I took them for sleep and took a few more when they weren't helping, and took a lot more when my judgment became impaired.  The truth in that was that I did only take a few at first and my judgment really was impaired by the time I took the rest.

I told one close friend that I wanted to hurt myself, but wasn't trying to kill myself.  I did want to hurt myself.  I had wanted to hurt myself for days.  I didn't plan to kill myself, although suicidal thoughts had been stuck in my head just as long.

With a few people, I didn't give them a reason and let them make their own assumptions about what happened.  With one particular person, I needed to impress upon him the severity of the situation, so I said I tried to kill myself.  This is sort of true too...I did try, even if it wasn't entirely intentional.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what happened and why and how to explain it, so here's the truth:

I had been having suicidal and self-injurious thoughts for days.  The kind of thoughts for which I'm expected to call the local mental health center's emergency hotline.  The kind of thoughts I didn't think were that much of an emergency and surely I could handle them myself.  The afternoon of the overdose, a friend confided in me that she had been suicidal the night before, for the first time in her life.  She said the only reason she didn't do it is because she had a "painless and tidy" method in mind but lacked the tools needed to execute it.  I don't blame her for my thoughts, but it did spark something in me.  The idea that I really could do it; that nothing was stopping me.

I didn't really plan on dying.  I didn't make any sort of preparations.  I just knew that I had once taken 10 Benadryl with no lasting effects so maybe this time I could try 15.  I was clearly a chicken about it, because I only took 5 at a time, giving myself the chance to back out.  5 pills every half hour, until I reached 15.  Then 20.  At 20 I still felt fine, if somewhat groggy.  I dumped another huge pile in my hand, tossed them in my mouth, and swallowed.  I knew when I took all those at once that it could kill me, but it's true that my judgment had been impaired.  I didn't have the capacity to make a decision about whether I wanted to die.

I was terrified going into inpatient this time.  I was convinced I would be permanently committed.  In reality, they only held me 2 nights.  I got 5 nights once for lying about having suicidal thoughts, but when I overdosed I only got 2 nights?  This was baffling.  I can only imagine that they were trying to get me home for Thanksgiving.  I didn't argue on being released, not wanting to ruin Thanksgiving, but I was still very depressed the next few days and would have benefited from a longer stay.  I'm still working on learning to put my own needs first.

Originally posted at Please comment there.
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A week ago I was being held prisoner.  No, I didn't get arrested, although I guess you could say someone arrested my negative thoughts.  See, I was having a bad day at work the previous day.  Objectively, it wasn't that bad of a day.  I spent nearly 8 hours doing one task, because I first did it using the wrong login and had to start over and do it all again.  Then in the course of doing this, a coworker made some comments that offended me (saying that anyone who wouldn't do one of my other tasks a certain way is retarded, although she knew nothing about that task and was completely wrong about how it should be done).  Neither of these events sound that bad, right?  Well, as will be further addressed later on, I have very few skills in the area of distress tolerance.

In response to this situation, I wrote "kill me now" on my arm.  Then it looked so lonely there that I started writing related words.  Words like "noose" and "pills" and "razor".  Eventually my entire forearm was covered in suicide-related terms.  Did I actually feel suicidal?  No, not at all.  It just seemed like a thing to do to channel my frustration.

I had been planning to write a letter to my therapist and give it to her in my appointment 2 days later.  Some things have not been working for me, and I knew I'd freeze up if I tried to explain it out loud, so a letter seemed like the best way to bring up the topic.  Suddenly I felt as though I couldn't possibly wait 2 more days.  I was even willing to try saying it out loud, if that was what it took to get it over with.  So the next time my boss checked in on me, I asked if I could leave after I finished up the task I had almost completed (for the second time).  He said yes.

I was out of work in the early afternoon and showed up at the mental health center to ask the receptionist if my therapist had any openings.  She did not.  I was halfway out the door when she asked if I needed to see the on-call therapist.  I declined and kept walking.  As soon as I stepped out in the bright sunshine I started crying.  I sat in my car and cried until I couldn't tolerate the heat anymore, then got out and went to sit on a bench by the building where there was shade and a nice breeze.  I kept trying to talk myself into going back and saying I'd changed my mind.  I sat there for nearly an hour before going in.

What convinced me?  A random man walked up to use the ashtray by the bench.  He introduced himself.  I introduced myself.  He said, "Want to see a neat tattoo?" and pulled off his shirt.  As he turned around to show me a silhouette surrounded by flowers, he said, "My son committed suicide.  He took my rifle and shot himself."  I managed to say the socially appropriate things: that it was a nice tattoo, that I was sorry about his son.  After he left, I burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation.  There I was with suicide-related words written all over my arm and someone coincidentally came up and mentioned suicide.

Once I contained my laughter, I went back inside and said I'd changed my mind.  I was sent over to a different facility where the on-call therapist was currently located.  I had to fill out pages and pages of redundant paperwork, and was almost done when she came out to tell me I didn't need to finish that because she had all that information on file.  Now, I was planning to just get some things off my chest.  Maybe talk a little about my plan to discuss some potential changes in approach with my therapist.  Maybe share the frustrations of my work day and get some advice on how to better handle those situations in the future.

This is not what happened.  Yes, I shared those things.  Then she started talking about wanting to admit me to inpatient.  I said that wasn't necessary, that I wasn't really going to kill myself and I would have mom hide my medication again just to be safe.  She was not buying that.  She tried to convince me that I'd feel better in a safe environment, and that maybe I needed some medication adjustments that can be more easily done in inpatient.  I am weak and just went along with what she was saying.  I guess maybe part of me wanted that little vacation from reality.

She sent me out to the waiting room while she consulted with the psychiatrist, then came back to tell me he agreed with her.  I had another brief moment in her office, then was sent to the waiting room again.  She wouldn't let me leave to take my car home and have mom drive me back, and as it turns out mom wasn't even home at the time so I guess that worked out for the best.  However, I sat in that waiting room obsessing over the idea of running out the door and driving off and being anywhere but home when she sent the cops to find me.

It felt like an eternity, but I guess it was only about 15 minutes that I sat there before I was called back again, this time to actually walk into the inpatient unit and start the admission process.  It was a weird feeling this time, knowing exactly what to do and say, what questions I would be asked.  It was also weird feeling so strongly that I did not want to be there.  From almost the moment I walked in, I was desperately plotting how to get out as fast as possible.  I had realized that I was going to miss a major event at work.  I had realized that I would probably miss some dinner dates with friends that weren't firmly scheduled yet, but I had been planning to try scheduling them for a few days later.

I was sure I'd be there for 4 nights again this time, but on the first morning after I arrived, I spoke with the psych APRN and immediately started asking when I could leave.  At that point she said she'd speak with the psychiatrist but if I left that day it would probably be AMA.  In the afternoon, after many hours of going stir-crazy, I called and left a message for my therapist that I was being held prisoner and wanted to know if she could come see me there in the event that I wasn't released in time for my appointment the next day.  Mere minutes later, the woman who had insisted on admitting me came up and asked if I really felt like I was being held prisoner.  Yes, I did.

The evening was filled with drama pertaining to mom's wishful thinking that my request for a prison break meant I was coming home that evening.  I ended up storming off to my room during visiting hours, pulling myself together, and coming back to talk to her more.  However, I did have her leave half an hour early as my medication was sending me into the land of grouchy and exhausted.  I went to bed without attending evening group or having my final snack of the day.

The next morning, the psych APRN came to talk to me about being discharged.  I continued telling her that I felt fine, just like I did when I was admitted.  She told them to release me, and I got out of there a little before 11 am.  What I didn't say to her is that I didn't actually feel fine.  I felt impatient and agitated.  I was fighting to not find ways to injure myself with the "safe" objects that we were allowed to have.  Most importantly, I was strongly thinking of overdosing the moment I arrived home.  I felt terrible about lying, but at that point I valued freedom over honesty.

I did not overdose.  I held out until the next day, and then handed my pills over to mom and admitted that I lied to get out of there.  In the time since my release, I have been depressed and clingy, and mom has asked if it was a mistake that I came home.  I think it was, but I'm scared to say it in front of anyone who can send me back there.

Inpatient this time was a very different experience from when I originally went there in March.  The only thing that was different was me.  The first time around I was in such misery and so convinced that I was going to kill myself, but I had hope that being there would help solve the problem.  Plus I was curious about what the experience would involve.  This time I didn't feel nearly as bad going in, so I fought against being there with everything I had.  Maybe it could have helped me if I'd been more honest.  Maybe they could have adjusted my medications then instead of having me wait 3 more weeks to see my outpatient psych APRN.  Maybe talking with the other clients could have changed my perspective.  I didn't give it a chance to work.

What did come from this experience?  The day I was released I went to my therapy appointment.  I handed over the letter I had written while being stuck in inpatient.  My therapist said we could try to make some changes to our approach.  However, the inpatient staff had strongly recommended making an addition to my diagnosis.  Previously we had a deferral on Axis II, with a note to rule out Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Now it has been ruled in.  I'm still struggling to come to terms with this addition, despite the fact that I know it fits very well.  It explains the missing pieces to the puzzle that weren't covered by my existing Bipolar I diagnosis.

So our new approach is going to involve half the session spent on a more freeform approach where I can ramble on about whatever pops into my head (my preferred method) and half spent on the highly structured Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  I was asked which set of skills I wanted to work on first, and there was no hesitation when I said "distress tolerance".  Like I mentioned before, I have no skills in that area.  I do not cope with things going wrong, no matter how minor the wrong is.  I get frustrated by what people say or don't say, by dropping things, by breaking things, by just not feeling perfect.  Let me tell you, I never feel perfect so it spirals into me always feeling miserable.

Tomorrow will be our first time with this new approach, and I am anxious but hopeful.  As much as I love the freeform talking and feel it's necessary in order for me to feel like I'm being heard, I can admit that the structured approach is probably good for me.  I need to feel like there are tangible things I can do to make progress.

Originally posted at Please comment there.
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In the days leading up to my psychiatric hospitalization in March, I was extremely unwell.  This might seem obvious, as otherwise why would anyone suggest a hospital stay?  I guess it seems like a surprise to me, because I've spent many, many years experiencing varying levels of unwell, and even at my previous worst (which was extremely bad), I don't think the unwellness was hospital-worthy.

I spent days feeling depressed, anxious, restless, hopeless, irritable with everyone about everything, and completely unable to focus on anything for more than 15 seconds.  My mental state was compounded by the fact that I'd spent the past month doing my highly physical job while in pain from injuries - first a sprained wrist, then a nasty fall on the ice - neither of which got the medical attention they warranted.

I landed in the hospital by going to only my second real counseling appointment (third if you count the 90 minutes of torture known as an intake interview) and confessing to my counselor that I had spent the past week researching the details for my suicide plan, and would be headed out the next day to purchase the gun I'd be using to enact it.  I knew this was the kind of thing that would get me locked up - in fact, my backup plan in case I chickened out on telling my counselor was to have a friend call the cops to come take me there involuntarily.

So, all this is to say that at the time I entered the hospital, I was pretty damn crazy.  I use the term crazy affectionately.  I know some people find it offensive, but I, as one of the crazy people, just find it to be effective shorthand.

Once I entered the hospital, I felt like I didn't belong.  In fact, I looked around at all the other patients and thought that, while I seemed like the craziest person in the room on the outside, in there I seemed like the sanest.  So it was difficult to adjust to some of the logic of the place.

A couple of days into my stay, I was doing a crossword puzzle.  Really, I was doing dozens of crossword puzzles, and skipping over the many puzzles in the book that had been partially filled in by others.  I encountered one puzzle that had a single word, "AGAVE", filled in, and decided I was okay with completing that one despite the fact that someone else had started.  I worked all around that word, finishing with the intersecting clues, and was stumped when I knew the answers but they didn't fit.  I finally looked at the clue for the one that was answered, and found that it was "Discovered (2 wds.)".  The answer should have been "DUG UP".

Suddenly, I realized where I was and thought, "Oh right, crazy people!"  Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that someone might fill in a completely illogical word in a crossword puzzle.  After that point, everything else started to make more sense.  There was a sign I'd been staring at for days which read, "Please do not put food in the drawers or cabinets."  I just kept thinking, "Why do they need that sign?  Who on earth would do that?"  Now I was able to answer with, "Oh right, crazy people!"

Then I was meeting with a psychiatrist who was reviewing my file with me for the millionth time.  It stated that a part of my suicide plan was to pin a note to my chest requesting that one of my kidneys be given to a loved one.  He looked at me very seriously and asked, "Does she need a kidney?"  I was only baffled by the question a few seconds, wondering why on earth I would write such a note if she didn't, before remembering, "Oh right, crazy people!"

It was this kind of revelation that really underscored my conviction that I was in the wrong place.  I mean, yes, I showed up at the inpatient unit in the throes of a suicidal despair.  By the next day, though, I didn't want to kill myself anymore, and I was eagerly jumping into the group activities and reading books and writing drafts of blog posts.  They kept asking what had changed, and emphasizing that they hadn't done anything for me yet.  I genuinely thought the answer was, "Now that I'm here I have hope for things getting better."

I spent several days there participating, making notes on the experience, being fascinated by what I could overhear.  I thought to myself, "Hey, I'm not sure I really need to be here, but it's great for some writing ideas."  In fact, I thought to myself, "I'm kind of like an investigative reporter."  Imagine my reaction when I picked up a book soon after I was released and read in the examples of delusions: "Feeling that you're in the hospital as an investigative reporter."  Perhaps that abrupt change of mood was mania after all.

I clearly didn't see it as mania at the time.  I mean, sure, I was constantly in motion, unable to sit in a chair without frantically tapping my foot, and blasting through the questions in Trivial Pursuit Junior.  However, I was surrounded by people who were so heavily drugged that they couldn't think straight, and spent half their day napping or staring at the television with glazed eyes.  How was I to know that my contrasting level of energy was in any way abnormal?

This energy led to me taking charge in group activities.  One day we played a game called Social Bingo.  Each square on the card had discussion topics, such as "What is your prized possession?"  Before the first number was called I had answers prepared for every question on the board.  So when we were asked questions about how we wanted to play, I was the one jumping in and making decisions for a group that would have otherwise sat in silent indecision forever.  "Do you want to number your own cards or use the pre-numbered ones?"  "Let's use pre-numbered."  "Should the next round be regular lines or coverall?"  "Regular lines."  "Do you want to play a third round?"  "No, I think we're done."


Being so filled with energy made me extra alert to small connections between events.  In the course of this game, one young woman in her late teens or perhaps very early twenties answered "I feel best when people _____" with "compliment me".  A few more numbers were called and she daubed the square that said "Share what the greatest compliment is that you've received."  Her answer?  "No one has ever complimented me."

I looked around the group with tears threatening to well up in my eyes, wondering if anyone else had connected her two answers.  They seemed unaffected.  I kept hoping to daub "Give someone in the group a hug." so that I could hug her, but alas that number was never called.

Originally posted at Please comment there.
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This was originally posted on December 30, 2013 as a Facebook note. I have made a few minor edits from the original to improve some wording, but there's no change to the content.  It was with this post that I realized I might have a few things to say that others could benefit from reading, and so, after a bit of time to ponder potential content, this blog was born.


The essence of this post has been on my mind for quite some time, but I keep hesitating about posting it. Because some people might be surprised. Because some people might make inaccurate assumptions. Because some people might recognize the anonymized versions of themselves and be offended. Or feel guilty. Or just generally hate that they are in the story even if nobody else will know it's them. The thing is, this really needs to be said, and it's more important than whatever probably irrational anxieties I have.

This summer, a television actor shot himself. It doesn't matter which one, as this has happened many times before, will unfortunately happen many times again, and the reactions always seem to be the same: "But so many people loved him!", "But nobody knew there was anything wrong!" My reaction to these reactions is always: "Maybe no one told him.", "Maybe no one was listening." Hard to believe with the famous actor? Okay, so fill it in with "a boy from my school" or "a woman I work with". It might still be a little hard to believe, as you may be that person who admired the boy's articulate answers in literature class, or always saw how chipper the woman was when she arrived at work in the morning. Did you compliment that boy? Did you ask that woman how she was doing and genuinely want an answer, not just "I'm great, and you?"?

Humans do not just get a hangnail and decide to kill themselves over it. Maybe that hangnail (real or metaphorical) happens, maybe it's even the very last in a long string of things going wrong before the suicide actually takes place, but suicide happens when there's simply no hope left at all. Do you realize how long it takes to completely lose hope? Do you realize what tiny acts can reignite it? Sometimes people have struggled with depression or other mental illnesses for years - decades even - before all the hope is gone. Sometimes, life circumstances simply are bad enough to create depression that wouldn't otherwise exist. Either way, we're all fighting to survive another day, and some of us are just losing the fight.

I do not remember life before depression. It sounds overly dramatic, but it's the truth. I didn't always have a word for it, but I can look back to at least middle school and see it with that amazing 20/20 hindsight. This is not to say that I've spent 20+ years doing nothing but wallowing in misery. This is true for all depressed people and probably a big reason that everyone says "I didn't know there was anything wrong". We're very good at hiding the bad times. Get a little quieter, act like we're too busy to socialize when really we're hiding out in a blanket fort eating comfort food and crying inexplicably. Above all else, keep our lips zipped about the very shameful act of not being happy and grateful about every positive part of our lives, and not appreciating the life lessons in every negative part of our lives.

This past year has been one of the worst. I say "one of", because I frankly have had so many really crappy years that it's impossible to choose one. As these cycles always go, life was looking up. Nothing terribly bad or dramatic had happened in some time. I had plans for the future. I had great friends. There are generally 2 to 3 years of rebuilding and gaining hope that life might actually work out, then the next disaster hits. This is not to say that there's no depression in that time...the depression is always there, hovering, making it take many times more effort to get through than it would for the average person, but at least I'll be coping. Then suddenly everything starts to go wrong. Things will spiral until that teeny flame of hope is nearly extinguished.

This year began with my job finally starting to really suit me and be truly enjoyable. This year began with plans to move to a new city, with more opportunity to go out and explore, and near family that I do not see nearly often enough. This year began with a compliment that made me almost regret these plans to move. This year began with a truly close friendship that was actually with someone I got to see face-to-face on a regular basis. Things were downright rosy.

A few months into the year, the rosy outlook disintegrated. Plans to move were halted due to mom's health. I lost the job, and the friend. The friend was actually my boss, and I've already heard the "you deserve it for becoming friends with your boss" judgement. Let me say that I fought against it for years, but we were eventually closer to equals than to boss/employee, despite my title and pay not reflecting that fact. She was the one who initiated the step into actual friendship. So while some may disapprove of my friendship choices, I must point out that "you made a stupid decision" is not a very helpful thing to say to someone who is clearly hurting.

As it turns out, losing the job and the friendship turned into losing basically all of the benefit of having worked there. I won't deny that I'm still bitter. I won't even deny that I still go in the bathroom of my current job on breaks and cry over the fact that I'm there instead of at the job I loved, despite the many aspects that made me grumble. Imagine spending 3 years of your life meeting people, building friendships and business relationships, gathering experience for your resume, and then having one person take it all away from you, like those 3 years never happened. Oh, except for the fact that you remember them and can't stop going over and over it all in your head.

Now imagine that simultaneously you have to contend with a family member's medical issues, and with removal of any hope for a major positive life change you'd been planning for well over a year. Sounds tough? Oh, and you've spent 2/3 of your life struggling with depression. Gee, it would be nice to go for coffee with a friend, or exchange some long e-mails to sort out some of your thoughts. What if no one is listening?

I had to tell myself every day for months to keep fighting, that this thing was not going to beat me, that I was not going to let an evil ex-friend ruin my life. Oh wait, I still loved her and didn't think of her as evil. I had to keep putting myself out there, trying to contact people, arrange dinners, nag when I was being ignored. I think most people find that to be a lot of effort, even when they feel good. Well, it didn't work. I am again not being overly dramatic. I sent e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages to dozens of people, giving them plenty of time to respond before sending followup messages. By plenty of time, I mean up to 2 weeks despite seeing that they were online daily. The vast majority of people have never responded, even though it has been 6+ months. Some I gave up on, some I continued to contact occasionally and still get no response. 

I sent postcards from vacation. I sent Christmas cards. I don't expect people who otherwise don't send cards to suddenly do so in response, but a quick "Hey, thanks for the card! How have you been?" on Facebook would be nice. I tried to make plans with people who repeatedly cancelled. I tried to make plans with people who were really busy, and didn't seem to understand that seeing them for 15 minutes in a place convenient for them would be enough. I called someone I haven't seen in years, but who I've always thought I could someday contact if I really needed to talk. He didn't call back.

People, if this is not a hope-extinguisher, I cannot tell you what is. It's one thing to contact a friend and have them not respond for several days. It's one thing to have plans cancelled once because something urgent came up. If you've never had this happen dozens and dozens of times over several months, I'm sure you probably don't understand how completely isolated, rejected, and unloved you would feel. If it happens enough, even the responses you do get stop helping, because you second-guess whether those people actually wanted to contact you. If so many people didn't, you're probably just that unlovable and the responses you get are out of pity. Eventually, you're not going to bother reaching out at all, because it hurts less than the inevitable silence.

Obviously, I'm still here. I'm not going to be one of those aforementioned suicides, mainly because I'm too stubborn to die. But I'm still hurting a lot, and most of it is about things I have not discussed with a single other person, because there was no one to discuss them with. Please, if someone is reaching out to you, answer. If you get busy and it takes a week, start with "I'm sorry I was busy". If you don't know what to say, stop worrying about it being the perfect response and just respond. The content truly doesn't matter. If a friend wants to make plans and all you have is the 15 minutes you're on break at work, see if she can meet you there. Or if you need to run errands, maybe she could keep you company while you do it. If you have been admiring someone, for whatever reason, pay him a compliment. No, you can't magically erase someone's problems or cure depression, but the fact that you cared may very well keep that person alive just one more day, and that one more day may be the difference between getting help and losing the battle.

Originally posted at Please comment there.


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