This first appeared as a Facebook post made by Emily Keusch (embedded at the end of this article), who also happens to be my girlfriend, and was posted on aScienceEnthusiast.com with her permission to help spread awareness and dispel the negative stigma that surrounds the discussion of mental health issues to a wider audience. If you or a friend are having thoughts of harming yourself, please seek help at your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also use the online tool at Psychology Today to find a local mental health professional in your area for non-emergency treatment.
It’s World Suicide Prevention Week, and in honor/observance of that, I would like to share a little about the mental health journey I have been on for the last couple of months.
I have had depression since at least my late teens. I’ve been on and off of medicine for the last 8 years and have never really sought counseling. I have been in the habit of not really putting stock in paying attention to how I feel or what I think–basically minimizing/dismissing my feelings and concerns.
Add all of this together, and you get a girl who wishes for a car to hit her at the intersection on her way to work.
I had been feeling low for a few months, but after being depressed for so long, I had just kind of incorporated those feelings/that way of seeing the world into my personality. In short, I was depression.
As I was going to work on July 9th, I passed through an intersection and passively thought that I would be okay if a car hit me right then. I had been having fleeting thoughts like that for a few weeks, but always wrote them off. That day though, as I pulled into my work parking lot, I thought of going through my day with my head thinking those thoughts, and I couldn’t imagine embodying the duality of being happy and pleasant to customers on the phone all day while such dark, nagging voices were circulating in my head.
Instead of going into work, I took myself to the ER. “Hi,” I said to the person at the front desk. “I am having suicidal thoughts and I think I need help.” After so long of dismissing myself, I finally could not put myself aside any longer.
The intake process was a little surreal. I talked about myself more than I ever had. I had to vocalize to the intake counselor the time I imagined Dan getting home from out of town to find a suicide note on our bathroom door and me having drowned myself in the bathtub. Hearing the words in my voice, putting that out to the universe, was shocking.
I got onto short term disability. I got into an Intensive Outpatient Program. I went to group therapy for the first time in my life. In those 5 weeks in therapy, I heard from many others whose backgrounds were different, but whose roads had all lead them to the same point–attempted suicide and/or suicidal ideation.
I was initially skeptical about group therapy. I was afraid that my mind would get the best of me. I was afraid I would not be able to shake the thought that I had it all figured out better than everyone–that I knew that everything is pointless and hopeless. I felt smarter than everyone else because I knew that being there was an exercise in futility. I thought I would be cynical and take the amount of people in therapy as a sign that life sucks for everyone and there is no point, as opposed to a sign of hope.
After a couple of weeks my attitude changed, and my new medicines started to kick in. In the time since therapy, my mood and feelings have continued to improve. I am becoming diligent about taking my medicine. I no longer feel hopeless. I have started practicing saying “I have depression” instead of “I am depressed”, and have started seeing the deficiencies in my brain chemistry as something not to be conquered, but to be reconciled with.
I write all of this because this summer I got lower than I thought possible. I scared myself this summer. Every year I ignored myself, I was driving myself to this place. I didn’t see it until I was at a critical point.
I am surprised that I went to the ER that day. I am thankful that I moved myself in the direction of getting help. I am lucky to work for a company that I was at less than 8 months before I was granted 2 months off to get myself stable, and who welcomed me with open arms upon my return to work last Tuesday.
I am lucky for the support of people in my life, especially Dan, who, between this and my 3 weeks off for my sinus surgery in the spring, has been taking care of me a lot but who never once made me feel like a burden. (And who even let me maintain a sense of normalcy by still letting me do chores around the house while I was off work.)
I am thankful for myself, the actions I took that day, and the hard work I’ve done. I am thankful that I am living in a time where people are encouraged to be open about their mental health. I have been thinking all day of my friend Dori, who committed suicide last summer. My heart aches for her because after going through what I did, I know she went through more to get to the point she got to, and I almost cannot imagine that amount of pain.
It is a process, and I need to do a lot of work on things like motivation and self-care still. I feel a little anger towards myself about letting myself get to the point I got, and am feeling a little resentment for all the things I have missed out on because my brain would not let me participate in the world. But I am starting to feel like I matter and am a part of this world, and that feels pretty cool.
The biggest thing I am learning is that I am worth taking care of myself. I still have a long, long way to go, but I am starting to want to, and that is a victory in itself. I urge you, if you are feeling like you are at that point, to get help. .
It’s going to sound weird, but I have never felt more proud of myself than I did sitting in the hospital room waiting for the social worker to speak with me at the ER–I finally carried myself to somewhere I have been begging me to go for years.
This first appeared as a Facebook post made by Emily Keusch (embedded below), who happens to be my girlfriend, and was posted on aScienceEnthusiast.com with her permission to help spread awareness and dispel the negative stigma that surrounds the discussion of mental health issues to a wider audience. If you or a friend are having thoughts of harming yourself, please seek help at your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also use the online tool at Psychology Today to find a local mental health professional in your area for non-emergency treatment.