I do not remember the majority of my Psychotic break. Like walking through a thick fog, I only have flashes of the night I walked off the planet. Of being in the kitchen and seeing a knife on the counter. The ease of how it sliced my wrist. My surprise at the amount of blood. Going upstairs and getting in the tub.
Cutting deeper. My husband fighting me. Wrestling to keep my arms above my head. The strength of his hands around my wrists. A call to 911. The realization that the screaming I was hearing was my own. And the blood. So much blood.
I just wanted to die.
I have spent a lifetime contending with severe mental illness. Staying alive has become a daily battle. I have come to understand my seasons of thriving and my seasons of struggling just to get out of bed. Not showering for days.
Not wearing pants.
Enter last summer. I thought I was doing well. Taking my medication. Going to my psychiatrist. Digging into my faith life. Loving my family. What I didn’t know was that I had been wrongly diagnosed and was being wrongly medicated. Slowly growing sicker.
I remember that warm August evening just five months ago. Being in my car. Driving nowhere. Something was wrong with me. I was not ok. My mental illness was erupting. I was in crisis.
Before I knew it I was at the Emergency Room of the local hospital. Thank you Holy Spirit. I walked up to the check in counter. The nurse asked me what I needed to be seen for.
How do you explain to the world what it feels like to be at the end of hope? When your own body has turned on you? To not be able to trust your own mind. Your thoughts. Even when you have a beautiful life.
I simply said, “I don’t feel safe right now.” Before I knew it I was in a white room laying on an exam table in an ugly hospital robe. Alone. All of my dignity stripped away. A room with no outlets, cords, nothing you would find in a normal exam room.
I do not remember the next three days. Nothing. Not the hospital transfer to a Psych ward. Not the new Psychiatrist. Not the new diagnosis or the new meds. Not the fact that I had been taken off of my regular meds. Cold turkey. And especially not the release to home.
With fear as my leading adversary, I had no idea that within days of being home I would try to take my own life. Just moments from succeeding.
I don’t remember the first responders or being naked, wrapped in a blanket, and loaded into the ambulance in the parking lot of our town home. The neighbors all looking on.
The next three weeks were spent in the Psych ward. Again, my mind allows me only portions of this time. I’m not sure if the severe memory loss is part of the disease or just my mind in survival mode. Only allowing me what it thinks I can handle.
I remember wearing the ugly orange scrubs. Like a convict. On a television show. And I can tell you from personal experience, orange is definitely not the new black. Rooms with no door handles. The regularity of having to go to the nurses station where my meds were handed out like a scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Great. I’m Jack Nicholson.
At least my humor is still in tact.
I was surrounded by the most incredible mix of people in this place that most of society views as humanities trash can. The throw aways. The garbage. And somehow I have never felt safer. More comfortable.
With my people.
I do not remember signing the form to receive ECTs. A form of Electro Shock Therapy. It was literally conducted in the dimly lit part of the basement of the building we were in. Eleven sessions. Each stripping my memory even more than it was already suffering. Erasing the ground beneath my feet. Making each step I was taking in life feel even more unsteady.
I do not remember my visitor’s. This is simultaneously my most and least favorite part of this whole ordeal. Discovering the unbelievable number of people who showed up. Who came to see me. To surround me. To carry me.
Dozens of family members, church friends, neighbors. The village that stepped in to watch my sweet twin five year old boys. To bring food. To love and protect.
For each of them. I am overwhelmed. The gratitude is unending.
For my Church. Who allowed my husband to work from home. Who filled the gap where most work places or businesses would not. Who put my boys in pre-school. Who told my husband that the only thing that mattered was seeing me get better. I was the priority.
My church has been a beacon of light that has drawn me home. Back to hope. Back to living. What the Church is truly meant to be.
I have continued to silently heal at home over the last few months, taking one day at a time. One counseling, psychiatrist and group therapy appointment at a time. My husband by my side. Giving me my meds. Taking me to appointments. Never leaving my side.
Speaking nothing but love into my life. Reminding me daily of who I really am. Who I was created to be. Reflecting my true worth and purpose back to me.
I’m 42 years old today. It feels different than any birthday I have celebrated before. The truth is that I am lucky to be alive. But loved by a God that has caught me with every fall. The truth is that I will never be the same person again after this. And that’s ok. I am discovering my new normal. I feel quieter and softer. More mindful. More humble. Especially with my purpose. With the trajectory of my life.
It’s been a battle. Finding the right combination of medications has been hell. The setbacks. The side affects. The 60 lb weight gain. What is causing what? How the hell do you treat an invisible disease? I’m currently on 10 meds. You read that right.
Like the unclean and cast out woman in the Bible, I am desperate to touch the cloak of Jesus. For healing. Aware that He tore the veil so that I can touch heaven.
Jesus be my everything. My trials will not determine who I am. My identity is in you.
The world is encountering a suicide epidemic. The ugly word. The silent, sly disease that is stealing the most beautiful and precious souls.
Wake up, folks.
If we don’t start talking about this. Loudly. In public. Without guilt or shame. Death is going to continue to win. If suicide and mental illness makes you uncomfortable, you are believing a lie that is killing people. It’s time for everyone to be part of the solution.
This is life and death. And it deserves a platform.
It’s mothers, fathers, famous people, pastors, the elderly, the homeless, family members, co-workers, neighbors, soldiers and veterans.
22 veterans a day. Read it again. Let it sink in. The men that fight to keep us safe with little reward or recognition.
We are everywhere. You will not walk through your day today without encountering one of us. We are not contagious. We are good, deserving people.
We have to stop writing off the mentally ill. The easiest group of humanity to make fun of. And usually the people who end up taking the bulk of blame when something, anything goes wrong. Even when it’s not their fault.
And I am here to say I have NO SHAME. I do not blame myself. And neither should you. I do not blame the afflicted for losing their battles. We do not all have the community that I have been blessed with. And so here I stand.
Feeling the earth beneath my feet slowly begin to solidify. I encourage each and every one of you today. For the suffering, I see you. I acknowledge your pain. You are not alone. You are loved and have a beautiful purpose.
You may be an oddly shaped puzzle piece but nothing and no one else can fill the space that you are meant to fill. Ask for help. It’s the most courageous thing you can do. Reach out. To someone. Anyone. Like I did.
For the rest of you wondering what to do. How to help. Start by asking questions. If you suspect anything. Be an open and honest hand. A safe place for the people in your life.
I know that this BLOG is not the answer to mental illness or suicide. But I pray that it might be a stepping stone. A raw and vulnerable, first person example of this disease. The hope that remains. A bright light shining in a very dark place. Where the birth of vulnerability and change might bring the end of stigma and shame.
It’s a start.
One that could save a life.
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