I have documented (on both Facebook and this website) my struggle with depression and suicide. In the last few months, my psychological health has taken a nosedive, and I’ve been fighting the aching desire to end my life since a few weeks before Christmas. In that time, my stepfather, who I live with and love more than the world, had unexpected, emergency open-heart surgery. After a QUINTUPLE BYPASS, our holiday season as a family ended up being over a week in the hospital with me home alone, in bed, watching episodes of “The Big Fat Quiz of Everything” (which I absolutely recommend for anyone and everyone on this planet. Noel Fielding and Russell Brand/Richard Ayoede are so hilarious that I was literally snorting with laughter).
During this time, I was communicating with my new doctor in Dallas via text messages and phone calls. He had made changes to my medication (which happens all the time for me. I have been on psych meds since I was eleven, and my body adjusts quickly to certain types of meds, and then they’re useless). After a weekend in Austin visiting my aunt, uncle, and grandparents, I came home a broken, shattered shell of a human being, barely making it in the front door of my house before I absolutely lost it and began crying so uncontrollably that I scared my mom and her best friend half to death. They realized quickly that I had been going downhill fast, and that I was not okay at all and needed to take some klonopin (it’s like Xanax) and lie down.
In the days following, we celebrated Christmas, and began to prepare for my mother to go on a three-week cruise. I was mentally counting down the seconds until she left as though they were the last moments of my life. I could not physically/emotionally/psychologically help take care of my recently-operated-on stepdad by myself. I couldn’t even get up and take a shower. How was I going to make him food, help him reach/lift things over 5 lbs, and do some minor things that open-heart surgery renders impossible for those who endure the operation? I was flailing, and there was just no way I could handle it. I eventually broke down and told my mother this, and she assured me Michael wouldn’t need much help, he could cook for himself, and that I would be alright. I faked reassurance and then broke down into an inconsolable mess after she walked out the door to the Uber taking her to the airport. I had been sleeping on an air mattress in my parents’ bedroom because of how bad my suicidal thoughts had become, and now that Mom was gone… I genuinely believed that I might not still be here when she got back.
During the weeks she was gone, I did not leave my bed except to go to Ladies Bible Class on behalf of my mom, barely keeping it together at her church to remind them to pray for my stepdad, and to take part in the Bible study. I’d been begging God to heal me, and I prayed that this would help. On my second visit, I even put down in the prayer request journal, “Please pray that my upcoming doctors’ appointment that my depression, anxiety, and PTSD will subside. They have become unbearable.” After the prayer was said, I was loved on by friends of my mother and others who could relate, and I was grateful for their support, but I was ready to run out and go home so that I could crawl back into the safety of my bed, take a handful of sleeping pills along with my night medication (at 2PM) in the hopes that I’d crash into sleep and that everything would be silent and bearable while I slept.
The day after my mom got home, we drove up to Dallas to see my doctor. On our way, we stopped for a photoshoot with my dear friend Heather, who I cannot thank enough for being such an amazing human being. The photos were beautiful, and they cheered me up a little. We stayed at a hotel (after my mother unsuccessfully tried to get me to eat more than a few cheese fries from Snuffers) and awoke to a 9AM appointment.
We went in, they weighed me, and I realized that I had dropped some weight. I wasn’t surprised, but I knew that was trouble for someone who was in recovery from an eating disorder. My depression had robbed me of my appetite, and I was shedding weight at a pace that was dangerous. We talked to the doctor, he changed my prescriptions, and we left, hopeful that this new cocktail was the answer we had been begging God for since early December.
SURPRISE! They weren’t.
The following Thursday, my mother took me to a city clinic that would treat me for free because I had zero income and no health insurance. I was able to see a psychiatrist, a case worker, and to prove my financial status, and I left the appointment with a bag of new medication (again) and some cautious hope that I would soon be free of the desire to die. I took exactly what I was supposed to, and for the first time in years, I was able to sleep at night. I was amazed by this, but was facing a problem that towered over any sleep success: I still wanted to take my life, badly, and my new medication was not in any way alleviating those thoughts.
For a week, I was called downstairs by my mother around 10AM (I’d been awake, but had been lying in bed praying she wouldn’t make me leave my room) where I would drink an Ensure (a meal replacement shake my old treatment centers used when patients refused meals) and then settle on the couch with my laptop to read Cracked articles and attempt to distract myself until around 6, when I would gag down some dinner with my parents and then plod up to bed and sob, asking God why He wasn’t healing me when I knew that He could. I prayed all day for help, and the silence was deafening. My mother prayed over me, asking that God would take this burden away, and nothing happened. The church my parents attended, my mother’s workout buddies, and all of her friends and our family were praying on my behalf, and I was spending my days bursting into tears randomly, aching on the inside so badly that I wanted nothing more than to end it all with a quick swallow of all the medication at my disposal (at this point, that was around 200 pills for various ailments, including antipsychotics, anti-anxieties, antidepressants, synthetic thyroid hormones, and various prescription sleeping pills that didn’t even make me yawn). I was in a suspended state: I knew that I had chosen NOT to take my life, and I had the tiny modicum of control to keep myself from ending things, but it was all I could think about, and the pain, exhaustion, lack of appetite, sobbing, and emptiness was more than I could bear. There was nothing I could do: I couldn’t get back in to see the doctor for six more weeks, my meds were useless, and I was dropping weight at a rate that astounded even me. What I had once longed for and practiced had become something I was afraid of - my clothes were literally hanging off me and my pants would end up around my ankles if I walked up the staircase without holding them, and there was nothing I could do.
The day after my one-week mark, my laptop charger died. I could no longer play Hulu as background noise and read articles to distract myself, and I was absolutely devastated and terrified. My mom quickly purchased a new one on Amazon and told me to get books (I read FAST) and sleep downstairs with the TV on so that I would not absolutely lose it. That night I powered through A Three Dog Night by Abigail Thomas and got halfway through It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong. I eventually fell asleep, but the cleaning lady came early the next morning, and I had to run upstairs and try to fall asleep in my own bed with only the book. I lie there, awake and skimming pages, until I got to the part of the book where Heather checks herself into the hospital for post-partum depression. I’d read the book before and spent countless hours reading and re-reading Heather’s website, dooce.com, so I knew what happened, but I forgot that she mentioned the medications she was given as part of her treatment.
Here is the part where I tell you that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you do what I was about to do. Medications, SPECIFICALLY psychiatric ones, are notorious for interacting negatively with each other, and it is incredibly dangerous to take ANYTHING that is not currently prescribed to you. You should not take anything without the consent of your doctor, and I cannot emphasize this enough: DO NOT DO WHAT I DID.
Heather said she was put on 2400mg of Neurontin, a medication I had been on in the past that I just so happened to have a huge stash of. I knew from previous checks that it did not interact with my current medications, and I knew that it had helped me in the past. I had only gotten off of it because of my doctor in Dallas, and he was proving to be less than helpful, so I took 800mg of Neurontin and then lay in bed reading until my phone rang about thirty minutes later.
It was my mom, and she immediately said, “You sound… better”. I told her what I had done, and she asked if I thought I could get up and take a bath and then join her and my stepdad with their friends for dinner. I thought about it, and for the first time in months, I thought, “yeah… I think I can”. We got off the phone, and what preceded to happen still blows my mind.
I got up and took the dirty sheets off my bed and my duvet and took them downstairs. I opened all my piles of mail and sorted it accordingly (my parents had been begging me to do both things for weeks). I grabbed some clothes and brushed my teeth, then went downstairs to draw a bath, and it hit me: I WAS FUNCTIONING. I immediately fell onto the floor in my parents’ bedroom, prostrate in gratitude, and sobbed as I sang “God Is So Good” into the carpet. I was DOING THINGS, and for some reason, I did not want to die anymore. I still felt exhausted and wanted to sleep, I was still depressed, and I still had anxiety, but I was ALIVE, and I was determined to go to dinner with my parents, which would mean leaving the house for the first time in over a week. My mom got home a few minutes later, and was shocked to hear all that I’d done and what I was about to do. I got cleaned up and got dressed and proceeded to go out to dinner and have a blast with some of my mom’s closest friends, who had been praying for me for months. They were shocked to see the change in the girl who had been hiding underneath covers for months, and they celebrated with me. I came home and ended up talking to my parents for a couple of hours about how I was feeling, what had been going on in my mind, things I had never let them know about, like the constant reminders of California that were breaking my heart, and I tried to explain to my stepdad, who does not suffer from depression and does not understand it, what was going on inside me.
I am now taking that medication on top of what was prescribed to me, and I am able to get up, shower, brush my teeth, and help put away the dishes. I haven’t burst into spontaneous tears since that day, and I do not want to die anymore. I am FAR from okay, still struggling heavily with the depression, anxiety, and PTSD that plague me, but the difference between who I was a week ago and who I am now is night and day. I barely recognize myself in the mirror.
I’m still not super hungry, I still don’t really want to leave the house much, and I am still making efforts to make a new, sooner appointment to switch antidepressants, but I am answering my phone, I’m interacting with people, and I’m able to have conversations without crying or becoming overwhelmed by thoughts of death. I am a walking, talking miracle, and my family and I have thanked God profusely for His providence in my life. I still do not understand His timing, or what it was that He was teaching me in the weeks of suffering I endured, but I do know that everything is changing now, and I’m finally able to be open with my family about what is going on inside of me.
I no longer have any idea what I want to do for a living… and that’s okay.
I am single for the longest stretch I’ve ever gone… and I’m happy about it.
I don’t know that I’ll continue pursuing my degree, or any degree at all… and it’s alright.
My only plan for now is to get that appointment set up and to see if I can find an outpatient day program for some serious therapy, CBT, DBT, and regulated medication checks. I’m only sure of one thing: God did not abandon me, and His plans for me are beautiful. This trial will be something I come back to in order to fulfill who He is calling me to be and those He is calling me to help, and I am finally ready to get the help I truly need in order to rebuild my life after it came crashing down around me so long ago.
I can’t believe what’s happened, but I am so, SO grateful.
And Heather Armstrong? You helped save my life.