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My Story

06 Feb

NOTE TO READER: This post is a transparent account of my life with clinical depression and suicide.

I don’t know if this post will go to press. It’s currently in draft status but I’ve felt an intense calling to publish it. May is Mental Health Awareness month so that may probably be the ideal time to post it.

My History

I was diagnosed years ago with clinical depression. Not the kind that makes you feel sad after your girlfriend breaks up with you, or explains why you feel under the weather when the weather is under. No, this is much blacker than that. Those of you who live in my world know exactly what I’m talking about. Those that don’t, please be thankful that you may have a hard time understanding.

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This is the kind of depression that silently wraps you in a paralytic blanket on the couch and condemns you to mindlessly become consumed in a Red Box movie marathon. The kind of depression that comes by and kicks you in the nuts and embeds itself on your shoulders, breaking you down to the kitchen floor fetal position, as you cry hysterically for no apparent reason. The type that digs its claws into your back like a demon, dragging you down into that black abyss and leaving you hopeless with no hope for escape. The kind that sucks away any spirit you had and leaves behind a catatonic shell entombed inside an invisible sarcophagus…and lowers a grey filter over your life. Breaking Benjamin is spot on when they sing, “There is nothing left inside, but I am wide awake“. The depression that when you look outside on a sunny, bright, clear day, all you see is grey – a Connecticut winter, a London Fog, an arctic wasteland. It’s odd. Its surreal. And it’s frightening all rolled into one. That’s my depression. I’ve come to call it the fog of war. That’s our depression.

Thankfully, today I am doing better…surviving through my depression. So far. Recovering if you will. Maybe recovered. But the condition is always there like a specter, crouched down in the distant corner of my soul, waiting for me to let my guard down. Lurking just out of the light, in the shadows with its hollow eyes, bearing its fangs and waiting for the chance for me to skip my medicine so it can slash at me…waiting for me to be alone with no protection.

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Saturn Devouring His Son, Francesco Goya; SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Paintings

In hindsight, my depression started in middle school. I am 41 years old as of the writing of this post. I am male, which can make it tough. Living under the banner of “real men don’t cry” (yes they do) for a majority of my life. Some of it spurred by societal views, most of it reinforced by a machismo sub-culture…a tour in the Marine Corps, delving into boxing for a few years, etc.

Through counseling, I later discovered my depression was hybrid with an anxiety disorder and adult ADHD. Here are some things I found out about myself the other day from a recent doctor visit:

–  has anxiety disorder (rule out panic disorder)

–  has depressive disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)

–  has adult ADHD

–  has mood disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)

I was given medicine to cover all the bases but never really felt “at peace”. I’ve been on every anti-depression medicine in the doctor’s locker. Years later (since I left teaching and am working towards divorce) the anxiety has faded into the background and become nonexistent. The ADHD on the other hand is still there but…HEY, SQUIRREL! I believe this positive rebirth is largely the result of the medicine that I’ve been taking.

My Suicide Attempt

On the other hand, the interim was my crucible. Sunday, September 14th of 2014 was my watershed. I remember the day perfectly. It was a warmer, sunny day in Norfolk, VA. Perfect for me to be outside, working on art for my business. So I rounded up my tools, plugged in my ear buds, and cranked up my tunes. My upstairs neighbor was outside also, grilling dinner for his family on his cooker, which is just out of the left side of the picture below. I talked and laughed with him for a bit then went back to listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch and the like. I was perfectly happy despite my playlist. I made the peace sign below that day. I was in the zone. Life was perfect and I was filled with joy and accomplishment.

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Hours later as the day started winding down, I began to pack everything up and take it inside. I was tired and worn out but still on top of the world. I tinkered around with my projects inside, painting and drilling until a reasonable time when my neighbors would be going to bed. I try to be as considerate as I can with this.

About 8:30 I called my daughter to tell her good night and that I love her. Ring. Ring. Ring. No answer. I called her on her second cell phone number. Ring. Ring. Ring. No answer. This is when it started. This is my trigger. The beast’s lips peeled back over its incisors as it waited in the corner. I called her mother’s phone. Ring. Ring. RIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGG! No answer. Resentment grew in me. The demon’s chipped, stiletto fingernails reached for me out of the darkness. Resentment quickly gave way to anger. Red. Anger.

The demon slashed.

If it stopped at resentment I would have been “alright”. Not the option a person who is born again should chose. But I went down the road of resentment nonetheless. I plugged my phone’s playlist into my surround sound and I let the Five Finger Death Punch rip! After a short time, probably 20 minutes after that the anger turned to depression. FFDP’s “Coming Down” was playing and I put it on repeat and cranked it.

“It’s caving in around me, what I thought was solid ground,
I tried to look the other way, but I couldn’t turn around.
It’s ok for you to hate me, for all the things I’ve done,
I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’m not the only one.”

Tonight I didn’t go to the fridge to grab the wine like I usually did. I went to the 80 proof rum that sat on top. I filled a cup up about 3/4 of the way and then topped the rest off with diet Coke. I started to drink. Heavily. I was walking aimlessly back and forth from my apartment kitchen to my bedroom. Back and forth. Waiting for the elixir to kick in. It did. And the bottom dropped out. I started to cry. I cried vehemently…violently. I don’t know what it’s called at that point, but crying isn’t it.

“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself).

You will never see, what’s inside of me.
I pull you under, just to save myself.”

Forcing myself to focus through my pain, anguish, and tears, I sat down at the corner desk in my bedroom and started to write. About 30 minutes and four pages later I finished my “living will”. It’s funny they call it that, because it’s at that very moment I decided I didn’t have the will to live. I made sure all my bases were covered for those who would find me and have to deal with the repercussions. I wrote the password to my computer files down for my neighbor and gave ownership of ALL my belongings to her and my mom. The first thing I detailed is that I didn’t want my estranged wife within 50 yards of me at any time from this point forward. I was very specific. I gave ownership of everything associated with my art business to the President of our local art association. She’s a dear lady and she would know what to do with all I had. I wanted to make the hassle of the after effects of deciding where my belongings would go, “easier” on them. I didn’t care about the emotional impact. I didn’t care about being selfish. You don’t when you’re in it. It didn’t even cross my mind. I was so far gone. Then I texted three friends whom I now call my angels.

“Was there ever any question, on how much I could take?
You kept feeding me your bul*****, hoping I would break.
Is there anybody out there, is there anyone who cares?
Is there anybody listening, who will hear my final prayers?”

The first text was to my upstairs neighbor. She’s my non-blood sister and has grown to be my confidant and trusted friend: “Do you have any sleeping pills?” Her response was “no”. Next.

I texted the lady who is currently my girlfriend and asked the same. “No I don’t. Are you alright?” Next.

The last person I texted was my dear friend who I knew had them. She’s my prayer warrior and a devout, selfless person of faith “Yes, I do. Why?” My quick response was, “I want to die tonight.”

“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself).

You will never see, what’s inside of me.
I pull you under, just to save myself.”

Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. I walked to my closet door and took out a belt. I looped the buckled end then looped the holed end around the door handle. I secured that end with about five zip ties so it could handle the weight of a 205 lb., 41 year old male. I sat down on the floor and cinched it around my neck. Just slack enough so that when I passed out and fell forward it would take my life. When I had finished sizing and positioning the noose, I released myself and got my bottle of sleeping pills.

“It’s caving in around me (caving in), it’s tearing me apart (tearing me).
It’s all coming down around me (coming down). Does anyone care at all?
I will never be, what you want me to.
You pull me under, I pull you under.”

I sat down with my second drink, re-attached myself, and opened the bottle of pills. I wasn’t scared of what I was doing. I was scared that it wouldn’t work. [phone ringing and goes to voice mail] I had committed and had no sense of judgment left in me. [phone ringing again and going to voice mail] I took three pills and threw them back in my throat, forcing them down with my liquid courage. I laughed at myself and thought, “You have to be joking. You’re trying to die, not go to sleep.” [phone ringing and going to voice mail a third time] I dumped the rest of the pills on the floor and took one handful. Gulp. I grabbed another handful. Gulp. This was easy. I grabbed a third handful. Gulp. I chased them with the last of the rum and coke. And waited. I remember things got blurry and my eyes got heavy.

“I could never be, what you want me to
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself)
You will never see, what’s inside of me
I pull you under, just to save myself”

Two days later I came to awareness in a hospital bed. I didn’t have restraints on, they took those off the day before, I learned. I had on eight point leather restraints because I was so violent. Two on each limb. I spent the next week in the hospital, stabilizing. While in the hospital I couldn’t believe I was surrounded by so much love and support. It’s all still sinking in several months later. I am thankful for all those people in my life. I love them all. And I am indebted to them.

When I left the hospital, I was transported to the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center of my own recognizance. I remained there for a week.


What I’ve Learned

1.  Journal (or blog). This is the first I’ve written of my experiences. I haven’t journaled about what I went through. It’s not a normal practice for me. Probably because I didn’t want to relive it day after day. I have journaled about my divorce though. It helped me define what I was going through. It helped me identify the ways I failed in the marriage and what I had to change about me moving forward. It helped me realize I wasn’t crazy. The microscope was on me, not her. Not what she did wrong. Not what she could have done. Yes, I did identify those things. And I left it at that. What I did write about was boundaries that I had to establish moving forward in life. What I had to change about myself. What would those things look like? I was specific. It still serves as my anchor point. When I have a question about things, I refer back to my journal. This is what your journal will do for you. It will help you put your situation in perspective. It will help you crystallize the things that matter…the truths. It will allow you to see the progress you’re making. It will allow you to see your lapses and write about what you will do differently next time. I’ve found that writing about mental “illnesses” is a really big issue in the blogging world. Why not express yourself in a public forum and receive support from others that are going through the same issues? I recently started this WordPress blog for my business. In my travels I found the three blogs below to be excellent sources of inspiration for those that live on my planet. There are LOTS more out there and just on this site.

a.  https://lilypupslife.wordpress.com/life with bipolar

b.  http://mindslikeours.org/Kayla Fae is dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who struggle with mental illness; depression, self-injury, and suicide.

c.  https://anniemimihall.wordpress.com/Annie’s blog “gentlekindness’s blog” is focused on mental health and mental illness awareness.

2.  Have a support network. On the night of my incident, the last friend I texted knew EXACTLY what I was doing. She lives a solid 50 minutes away from me. As soon as she got my text she rushed to her car and sped to my home. It was her three calls that I heard on my phone that night as she called on the way to my home. She got there in 20 minutes. She rallied several others to save me that night. They are my angels. I would be dead if she were not in my life. I love you, Chelise. If you need a place to start, join the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Find a local group to join as your support system. I am working on doing this for 2015. http://www.nami.org/

3.  Have a plan. I did not have a plan for when the beast reached out in September. I should have had an intervention and had it posted on my wall. I should have had a contract that I signed with my support network. I didn’t have a support network either. The first step would be to call [a specific name here] should I feel like I’m becoming depressed. The people that were closest to me that night all keep our phones on and the volume on high when we go to sleep. We answer when the others call, no questions asked. No apologies. No judgments. It’s our oath.

4.  Take your medications religiously. I have been on medications for years. You will need to contact an MD who can prescribe your medicine but also set up a schedule with a psychologist. A professional who can be an outlet for you. Someone who teaches you how to move forward and gives you strategies or resources for help. It MAY take time to find the right combination of medicines. For me it was years. Don’t give up here. DON’T. GIVE. UP. Keep going until you find the combination that works. It makes ALL the difference in the world. In hindsight, the only combination that worked for me was the one I got in the psychiatric center. You will suffer less the sooner you and your doctor decipher this. Be transparent with your doctor and tell him/her what works, what doesn’t work, how you feel, when you feel what you do (dates, days, and times), and for how long. Keep a journal of the medicine you take along with the date and the amount. I used to get weary of carrying a paper journal around so I have a file in my (free) Evernote app labeled, Prescriptions. Keep track of them here and also bring the actual bottles in to your doctor when you meet with them.

5.  Don’t drink. Yes, give up ALL alcohol. Drinking negates the effects of the medicine. I was drinking a lot of wine at one point and could definitely feel a difference. You have to try YOUR BEST to not drink any alcohol. We have a “disease” we live with…a cancer of the soul. This is the biggest way to combat the emotional effects of the specter that haunts us.

6.  Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone of seclusion. I’m an introvert. I like my alone time. Alone time can be dangerous. If it’s not time that you’re recharging your socially depleted batteries, it’s probably tipping into the red zone. Force yourself to seek help and comfort from your friends. Reach out to them. You may have to be a friend to get a friend. It doesn’t have to be all of them. Just one. Find your angel.

7.  Exercise. The second biggest way to combat the beast lurking in the corner, is exercise. After alcohol, this is the biggest factor for a healthy mind. If you don’t like weights, try the treadmill. If you don’t like the treadmill, try walking on the beach. If you don’t like walking on the beach, sign up for a Yoga class. Get outside. Get up. Notice the greatness of God’s nature around you. Get your heart pumping. Get those endorphins surging through your veins. Push yourself to up your heart rate for 20″ straight. Aim for once a week and move up to two times a week. Strive for 3-5 times a week over time. Forgive yourself if you miss a workout. It won’t be the end of the world. This is not short term or a five day fad diet to get in shape for Spring Break. This is long term baby! If you think about it in these terms, you’ll be more forgiving of yourself when you don’t get up to get the heart rate up.

8.  Give thanks. Be thankful for the small things in life. Say it out loud. “I’m thankful for the bright sun.” “I’m thankful that my car works.” “I’m thankful to have a job.” In exercise of my faith, I spend days walking along the beach picking up sea glass and shells. Each time I find a piece of glass or shell and bend down to pick it up I say, “Thank You for this, Lord” The more you can program your brain to be thankful, the brighter your days will become. Little by little. Baby steps.

9.  Don’t beat yourself up. My new mantra is, “I realize I’m perfectly imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay”. It came to me as clear as day while I was in the psychiatric unit. You have to learn to not punish yourself. You are human. You give grace to others. Now just give it to yourself.

10. You. Are. Not. Crazy. Don’t EVER let someone tell you are crazy. And don’t you DARE believe the lie. What you are going through is VERY, VERY real. Don’t EVER let someone downplay what you may have to deal with on a daily basis. Don’t let them downplay it if you go through it once a year. It is real. It lives with us. It may lurk in the corner or it may not. We realize this. You are human just like everyone else around you. This is not an illness, this is a lifestyle.

Keep hope through your valley

– Chris

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Posted by on 02/06/2015 in Depression, Suicide

 

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