world suicide prevention day: my thoughts on suicfide and the mental health system

So I went on twitter today and discovered that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I didn’t know this even existed. I’m extremely happy that there is a day dedicated to this, where information is highly available and discussed as its own day. Like with any other issue that gets it’s own day, I think it should be discussed everyday/ all the time. Which I suppose getting it’s own day is a good start. Side note: does anyone know if there’s a blind people day? If so that would be awesome! We should have a Sam and Robert Kingett day lOL!

Anyway. Suicide prevention. Where to begin. I guess with my own life. I dealt with depression in my family. My mom had severe depression and unstable moods particularly from when I was 12 to recently? I don’t know. As far as I know she doesn’t have them now. She’s a dry alcoholic and I know drinking made things a million times worse. She would often talk about killing herself. Mostly as leverage in arguments trying to bully/ demean my Dad further than she was already (more on domestic violence in another post) by saying he wouldn’t care if she died and all that. And she’d talk about how she’d do it, and like I said talk about as I got older in front of me. To which I’d emediately say she needed help. My dad would say there’s no reason to do anything it’s just the alcohol talking she’ll be fine. She never had any named suicide attempts. She drank a lot. And drank and took pills. It’s a good thing in general pills don’t agree with her at all. She was given some antidepressant also designed to help with her fibromaljia and was drinking that day and blacked out and stuff. But nothing that was an actual attempt.

My Dad took a lot. He took a lot for a lot of years from my mom. She was quite emotional abusive and as far as I know still can be. He was pretty choic about it all. Every so often he’d get frustrated and say he wanted to shoot himself. A rather darkly humorous moment in an argument heppend when basically mom went into her I want to kill myself speech and my dad was basically like yeah me too. It was just the way he said it. I’m not sure he meant it maybe he did. Like I said he was the typical I don’t need help kinda man. He did see a counselor for awhile and he did say he told her about the shooting himself remarks and she said when he felt like that to think about his kids so maybe there was some truth behind it. I don’t think anyone can say something like that lightly. You know people are always like don’t joke about suicide! But at least for me from a psychological point of view I feel like a person can’t have those words come out of their mouth without some truth behind them even if it’s well under the surface of their consiciousness. Though my mom’s talking about suicide was dramatic and some might say attention seeking I think deep down she was very depressed and probably as suicidal as she said she was but didn’t know how to deal with her emotions.

All that to say even at my most depressed I never thought of suicide as anything in the realm of possible options. I just had had enough of hearing about it when I was growing up, maybe a part of me felt like hey if I ever really did feel that way I doubt anyone would help me because my mom yelled about it for years and no one took it seriously, and Dad talked half jokingly he says about shooting himself and no one took that seriously I don’t know. I just remember my first psychiatric evaluation at 18 and Dr. Lentz asking if I ever wished I was dead. And I said no. And my mom was like no? I think she truly thought that I deid based on my constant crying over the past few weeks.

No matter how bad things got I never once thought of suicide. Until November 10 2013.

On that day I had a pretty big seizure, induced by a high blood level of welbutrin thanks to a bad psychiatrist who wasn’t careful when raising my Zoloft. And no one saw this seizure so people argue about it. But I had had another med induced seizure months back and I’m pretty sure it was the same. Felt terrible weak and dizzy all of a sudden, blacked out lost an hour woke up extremely weak and totally disoriented. I remember my friend Jack leaving a message and I’m like who is this guy and what is he talking about? Anyway after I was quite emotional. Went to the hospital. They treated me like crap. Basically said it was ffainting which is not true at all because the only time I have trouble with feeling like I’m gonna pass out is when I haven’t eaten. And both seizures occurred exactly an hour after eating which is weird.

Anyway though quite emotionally unstable at the hospital itself I was not suicidal. On the way home it was like someone handed me a piece of paper that said here’s how you’re gonna kill yourself. You’ll be in a peaceful friendly place forever no worries. Like the thoughts were coming from outside my mind. Later in my first therapy session, Jonathan explained that I was in a dissociative state the rest of that night from when I started having these thoughts. That since everything within my mind and character could not accept these thoughts the only way my brain could act on them is if they came from outside of me. He said it was quite creative.

So my plan was to find something glass to break. And with the glass to cut myself severely enough that I would bleed to death. This is coming from someone who while I SI by scratching, have never cut, and who has no idea of the science behind blood loss and the body or whatever.

Anyway when I got home I had to wait for the nurse to leave my partment. I lived at the time in a supportive living situation where there are staff but you’re in your own apartment. No one checks in you at all at night and I think if I hadn’t actually killed myself I would have gotten pretty seriously injured just due to the time factor. That hours and hours can go by before any one would even notice anything even into the daytime. They just don’t check on you hardly at all.

Anyway so they only have two CNAS at night for the whole building and I thought the night nurse had gone home. I searched my stuff. There was this precious moments angel that I thought had glass in it that I broke on the floor. It was just clay. I next found a picture frame. I took the picture out and threw the frame on the hard floor of the kitchen area by the dridge. I hadn’t heard glass break in a long time and certainly never have broken anything glass. It’s really loud! Which wouldn’t have been so bad except the nurse and CAN who I thought had left my floor were actually at another residents apartment right next door and heard the crash. As I was quickly but carefully (I didn’t want to hurt myself before I was ready) trying to grab for a piece of glass Jay who happened to be an IT at a psychiatric facility said “Are you crazy you could hurt yourself.” I knew then it was over. I had been found out. I had been hung up on this as a way of escaping all the emotions that had built up way under the surface for months, all the problems I just honestly did not want to deal with. I honestly felt like I was just a burden to everyone, particularly my family as “the disabled child.” And I just wanted to be left alone in peace.

So long story short I had to tell the nurse. And then was hospitalized for two weeks. Those were a horrible two weeks. Half the time I just tried to zone out and imagine how peaceful it would have been if I had gotten to go through with it. The other half I was being bugged to come back to life by people paid to make sure I was safe. Watched constantly constantly being made to try and talk it was nuts. As time went on I got really mad at the fact that these people who knew nothing about me were forcing me to live. What’s it to any of them except their job? To be fair they did listen as I tried to tell them about those thoughts that came uninvited but so easily welcomed into my mind. About how I felt like my sense of self broke, not exactly like multiple personality but something, like I was now two people the person from before November 10th and now this person thrown into a life she has no idea what to do with and doesn’t really want.

Eventually tired of the hospital, knowing they’d only release me if I could promise I’d be safe, knowing I couldn’t promise or maintain that at Friedman (at the first available chance I would try again) I asked to be put in an intermediate care facility and that’s another story.

Being suicidal did not by any means end with a trip to the hospital, talking to staff or a change in meds. Those things helped I guesss a little. I told one of the therapists in a group that I thought having been suicidal leaves its mark on you whether you actually attempt it or not. You’re just not the same person. Especially for me, something that was never in the realm of possibility for when things got tough now was, just there in the back of my mind. Well for months it was more in the front of my mind very much so. I was so angry at staff or anyone who said how I shouldn’t be suicidal how I had so much to live for ETC. They’re not me. They haven’t lived my life dealt what I’ve had to deal with or known the anticipation of complete peace I had that night and how if things were literally a few minutes off the outcome would have been so different. It took many more months and building a relationship with my big sister Jess to realize I’m so grateful things turned out how I did.

That’s the statement right? Of someone who was suicidal and has found a life again? So happy to be alive. Well for now and I’m trying to say it’s not a happy ending. Like I said it left its mark on me, and when I heard about others who have attempted or even succeded at suicide, it’s hard to explain. It’s like this tiney little bit of bitterness or jealousy still that I didn’t even get an ateempt, I had an attempt at an attempt before I was stopped. I didn’t even get a good chance. No one can understand this feeling besides people who have been there and I’m only allowing myself to share with this because I know there are those that have. Who despite all the recovery groups, meds, therapy sessions and hard earned stability it is [ possible to still carry that thought even when not suicidal.

I think I’m more susceptible to it when in criss to go down that path, not that I have for a long time. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way. But know it’s there and I can access those feelings/ thoughts if pushed hard enough. Which is scary and well different I guess strange.

I called this my thoughts on suicide and the mental health system because I don’t think it’s just opening up a discussion about suicide that’s important but fundamental chanes in the system need to be made. Surely the first step with any issue is bringing it to awareness encouraging discussion, giving people tools to try and help one another if they feel that way. Certainly having completely nonjudgmental ears and mouths that can shut up while you pour out all that is in you about why you truly believe and know you’re better off not alive. I think the Samaritans are experts in this. Though I only called them a couple times I was never suicidal, I have such respect for the organization and volunteers on those hotlines and those that lead the suicide survivor groups. I only wish we had their services in IL.

Anyway I like the Samaritans because they do what I said above and are quite skilled at it. I also like it because I know their thought on it is this: People have a choice about their lives. How to live and if/ how they want to die. No one can take this away from them. We’re in no position to judge, or even demand someone get help. They, the volunteers are there as a listening ear and to explore options. One of those options in spite of all the crisis intervention stratagies offer of resources ETC, is always and will always be suicide. They don’t call the polece. I’ve never worked with them but want to. I believe they put a note in their log that simply says someone is at risk of suicide in 24 hours or something. The point is I’ve heard so many people say the main reason they don’t call suicide hotlines is because they know they’ll send the polece. And if they wanted that they’d go to the hospital/ call themselves. As a side note, in spite of all the advertisments for the eight hundred suicide number I have no idea what they actually do. I mean what like try and convince the person tyo live? I’m sure they’ve thoroughly thought that through.

This is why I have so much respect for the Samaritans because they provide the best of what any human being can provide, with the knowledge that we’re powerless against what someone else decides to do. And that all choices are to be respected. I didn’t feel this way before. The only reason I know about this policy what they call noninterventionist is because I interviewed to volunteer there and was shocked to hear it. After my mom’s incidents I thought the worst thing someone could do was not send help. I couldn’t imagine someone letting another person go without sending help.

But this was before my own suicidal thoughts/ actions. I don’t think you can really know until it’s happened to you. Empathy has its limits in everything. In the past I’ve tried to say all the right things mostly Get Help.

But what does getting help look like? I’m lucky I was transferred to a very good psych unit for my first hospitalization. My subsciquent hospitalizations while at Albany have been at leas than ideal units. I know if I’d ended up at one of them when this first happened I wouldn’t have gotten near the care and resources I had gotten that sort of turned me in the direction of living again, sort of. In spite of the state I was in I’ll always remember and will think fondly of the staff and patients at the hospital I went to. I think we all that have been hospitalized will remember our first time but that’s another story.

Anyway so you’re sent to a hospital. Care at psych hospitals especially anything you’d get on Medicaid or with no insurance varies widely. This is a whole other post but people can get really terrible care, despite the image outsiders have of a psych hospital solving all your problems.

For a lot of people counseling, and medications aren’t accessible or what you get is like putting a band-aid on a huge cut that needs stiches. It’s not nearly enough. With professionals that are stretched for time, money, and people skills. Meds that not be effective and not enough resources to get the psychiatric care necessary to get doses of things just right. Some people would say no way to meds all together which is fine, but then that’s one less option.

I’m not saying don’t go to the hospital because you won’t get good care. Don’t go to therapy/ psychiatrist because it will be an uphill battle. Like everything else it varies widely. I just know from personal experience and that of my friends, being low income disabled people with only Medicaid or medicare it can often be an uphill battle to find solid continuous care not subject to random policies, staff turn over, poor staff training lots of tiring paperwork ETC. Basically I’m trying to say that people sometimes think once a person “gets help” that’s the end of the story. They find a good counselor, they get on meds they’re good and never suicidal again. That’s not the case for a lot of people.

For some being suicidal is a one time event. Brought on by some crisis or other and for whatever good reason they never have to deal with it again. For me and many others with chronic mental illness it’s more complex. I’ll say again once suicide leaves its mark that’s it, or I believe it is anyway you’re changed by it in positive and negative ways. Some people will sometimes struggle with these thoughts and feelings during certain crisis points and at others will not. Sometimes people will feel that way for no discernable reason at all which really confuses people most of all the person affected. For some people with whatever particular mix of disorders being suicidal is a daily moment by moment struggle. That no amount of therapy, meds, or peer support can magically fix. It’s up to that individual to fight every single minute to stay alive and not just do what’s become automatic which is to go down that path of t thoughts. Or for those who have attempted multiple times to attempt again. Because they’ve actually gotten it trained in their brain that’s the go to place to go when in crisis.

I was in this position being suicidal for months. It was isolating, lonely, and most of all infuriating. I hated the world. I hated being “forced” to live. I hated doing everything. It took meeting a person who loved me unconditionally from the first moment we connected who had been where I was and some darker places I never wish to go, to slowly bring myself back to life. Because you can physically prevent suicide. I mean you can drag someone off to the hospital and drug them out and restrain them, and then transfer them to a place like Albany care where they’re kept physically safe. But in a way you’ve just put them on life support. They’re not living. They’re existing day to day. And Jonathan said that’s why my identity felt so split. I was so far removed from my past my future my former passions I had to start from square one. And this relationship I had with Jess slowly brought me back to life. For a long time I lived for her because we were connected and I didn’t want to hurt her by dying. I don’t remember exactly when I began to build a life where I lived for myself again. But it took many many months and a lot of internal work.

Everyone has choices about their lives. I say this most nonjudgmentally. People can choose to continue to work on the ongoing and often totally baffling issues of mental illness, of keeping these thoughts away of the day to day struggle. I think many people have found and will find good supports. I’ve run into far too many people including myself at times that can not find adequate ongoing support most often due to finances and what’s accessible on Medicaid and the hoops you need to jump through to access it. For people that have issues like poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, disabilitys, physical illness ETC the situations and factors contributing to being suicidal multiply to an overwhelming point. Depression, psychosis, cult programing, and other aspects of mental illness can really mess with your head. It can make someone absolutely feel totally suicidal when that’s the last thing they’d ever want to do without those symptoms acting up. There are many situations, and here’s the tricky part, where a person is facing truly insurmountable issues because the resources, whether its knowledgable staff, money, combination of services, nature of the situations ETC are truly impossible. We don’t want to think this happens but it does. I’ve seen it multiple times when supporting others and it’s beyond tragic. Because these people when they finally make that decision, often are not so much highly influenced by a flood of symptoms that if cleared would straighten out their perspective, but have thought through options are very articulate about the matter and came to the conclusion that this was the best most painless option. Of course they know family and friends would be heart broken, beyond heart broken. But they’re at a level of peace with it, they know they can’t live for others, and that they’ve just run out of that will to live because they know there just isn’t the support for them based on whatever circumstances that’s really gonna lead to lasting stability.

What I’msaying might be quite controversial. But it’s how I feel about suicide. That in most cases help should and can be found. But that suicidal thoughts and feelings are extremely complex andvary from person to person and in the scope of an individual’s life. And that people can’t snap out of it no more than they can any other symptoms. And though the clechae is that suicide shouldn’t be an option, for many sadly it’s the only option they feel they have. I highly recommend and applaud the Samaritans for their adherence to this philosophy. As well as the work of all organizations reaching out to those struggling. I want to end by saying that while this is amazing work that will keep growing, having initial crisis intervention isn’t enough. People need adequate and affordable services beyond that first call for help. And a society that understands that beingsuicidal can be a chronic condition, like cancer or any other long term illness. And needs to be treated with gentleness compassion and respect.

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