ALMOST RECOVERED? YES...EXCEPT WHEN I’M SUICIDAL
YES...EXCEPT WHEN I’M SUICIDAL
Fifteen months after diagnoses of severe depression and PTSD, I am well on the way to recovery.
It’s been an incredibly hard period in my life which, at many times, I thought I would never escape from.
I endured months of not being able to bear noise, light or family chaos. Yet I can now cope with them all, if in smaller, more managed doses than before.
I struggled through seemingly endless exhaustion, wondering how I could ever have enough energy to leave the confines of the sofa to do basic tasks like cook a meal or walk the dog. Yet I am now back at work part-time, busy ferrying my daughters from clubs to friends houses and I can still string a sentence together at 8pm.
I suffered long, traumatic nights involving nightmares, night terrors and flashbacks that caused me to awake daily feeling mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Yet now I sleep, without the aid of medication, for eight consecutive hours and wake up feeling refreshed.
I survived four desperate occasions when, entirely overwhelmed by the agony of it all, I attempted to take my life. Yet now, the very thought of that horrifies me and I know I could never do anything similar again.
Wait. Sorry. What was that I said? I’m horrified when I think about the fact I almost successfully took my life four times? Yes, actually; not surprisingly, I am. It makes me shudder. It makes goosebumps creep unnervingly from my head to my toes. It makes me break out in a cold sweat. It makes me want to throw up violently. How could I have ever attempted to leave my husband and daughters who are the centre of my universe, as well as the many other important people in my life?
But what else was it I said? I could never do anything similar again? Well, no, actually. I would love to say that; to say that and to truly mean it from the depths of my heart. But, you see, having plunged from being a mentally healthy person of forty years old, to a woman lost in a dark place she never knew existed (and, if I’m honest, hadn’t believed others that it existed), I fear my ability to prevent that.
You see, my therapist is great. My medication seems to be doing its job. My family and friends are supportive. My word, I even have a reintegration coach helping me pace my return to work properly. But, despite all this, there are still THOSE days. Those days when that dark place sucks me back in and I don’t have the power to resist it.
Two of those days happened just this week. Work had been great on Monday. I was tired but satisfied as I crawled into bed that evening. It felt good, it felt right to be slipping gently back into that world of normality again. Whatever normality is of course. But then I woke up on Tuesday and realised that, without the shove of drama, difficulty, disappointment or any other of life’s hiccups, I was in THAT place.
So what did that mean in practice? Well, on this particular freezing February day, it was water that became the enemy. Unfortunately, living in The Netherlands, you are surrounded by water. Canals meet you on every corner. And, on this day, it seemed they were all hounding me, causing these words to mock and echo relentlessly around my head: ‘You’re useless. Your children resent you. Your husband’s had enough. You give nothing to anyone. You will never be the Mum or the wife you once were. You will never teach in that same dynamic, enthusiastic way. You are a waste of space. Here, now, right now, you can take your pain away and liberate them of your uselessness. Slip into any canal you see. In these temperatures, you’ll never survive the hour. Liberate them. Liberate yourself. It’s that simple.’
And so the hounding went on. For forty-eight hours, I resisted that incredible urge to listen to every single one of those voices. I wholeheartedly believed their words. I wholeheartedly believed the world would be better without me. I wholeheartedly thought that this should be the end. But I fought and I battled. Not because I wanted to or because I thought it was right. I fought and I battled because somewhere inside me there was a grain of rationalism that was telling me to hold on. Telling me to resist this urge. Telling me it would get better. Telling me there was no actual truth in what was being said.
And you know what? It did. I woke up on Thursday morning and I took the dog for the walk. Anxiously, I glanced at the canal across the road from our house. With relief, I noticed the ducks splashing around, the sun reflecting off the water and gentle ripples as the wind blew. I was able to appreciate the canal’s beauty once more. The hounding had stopped. I had held on. I had resisted and won.
I desperately hope that I will always be able to resist and to win. But I still can’t manage to say ‘never again.’ If I were to do that, I would deny the power of these intense illnesses and I learnt a long time ago that I just can’t do that.
What I can say though, is that I will try to hold on to that grain of rationalism that gave me hope. And with this, I urge you to always seek out that grain too, whether you are new to this agony, you are a veteran or you are well on the way to recovery. THOSE days always have the potential to come back. But that grain will always be there too.
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.