On her blog, Beckie of Beckie’s Mental Mess has introduced a set of prompts that touches on mental illness. Each week she offers up 2 prompts for bloggers to use in a nonfiction, fiction, or poetry piece. You can respond to either prompt, or both. For more information, clickhere.This week, I am responding to Prompt 1.
Week #7 (Delicate Topic) – Suicide Ideation
Prompt #1 Questions
I am glad that Beckie chose “suicide” as this week’s topic. We need to talk about it instead of being silent.
Have you ever experienced suicidal thoughts? Many, many times.
Have you ever attempted suicide? A number of times.
Were you ever hospitalized for a suicidal attempt and/or ideation? Several times.
When you were hospitalized, what was your experience like? I’ve been hospitalized numerous times at different hospitals, so my experience is varied. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed at a truly frightening psych ward. All but one were bad, but at least they weren’t worse, which I’m certain some places are. And then there’s my psych unit “of choice,” in which you were allowed a number of personal freedoms. And you got your own room.
Do you ever feel suicidal ideation since your release? Yes, I have, but I haven’t acted on it. Although medication is readily available to me, my husband has hidden all of our knives and razors.
I was discharged yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, my inpatient psychiatrist didn’t feel that we needed to go down the ECT route; I told him that my short-term memory is finally improving since my last ECT treatment (March 2017).
He talked to my outpatient psychiatrist, and they agreed that changing my mood stabilizer, Tegretol (carbamazepine) to lithium will be my treatment plan. Because I’ll need blood tests in the first few weeks while transitioning from one medication to the other, the inpatient psychiatrist suggested that we begin changing the med after I return from a short vacation that my husband and I are taking next weekend. However, I do have an appointment scheduled with my psychiatrist on Tuesday.
It felt great to be discharged after a pretty short stay (5 days); most patients had longer stays on average. I thought for sure they’d keep me until this Friday or next Monday.
However, as my husband and I walked to the car, I felt scared about going home. What if I go back to my old routine instead of the new one I picked up in the hospital? (I’ll write more about my inpatient experience in later posts.) Fortunately, I was uncompromising this morning with regard to my routine: I followed the new, healthier routine, including showering as soon as I get out of bed.
Although I’m no longer suicidal and feel better, I still have a lot of healing to do. If I can’t keep up with reading your posts, I apologize. Also, I apologize for my husband not responding to the comments you left on his post. He doesn’t know the ins and outs of WordPress/blogging very well lol!
Thank you all so much for your love, support, and encouragement. The WordPress, particularly the mental health community, is truly awesome. <3 <3 <3
The following post discusses suicidal thoughts. If this is a trigger for you, please discontinue reading.
I don’t know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, but I do know that in order to slow down you have to downshift. That’s exactly what has happened to whatever cheer and energy I could muster throughout this current depression. It has downshifted.
Fortunately, I still have some presence of mind not to do anything stupid, but the truth is, I don’t feel safe. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow. I’m trying hard not to take my entire bottle of trazodone and sleep my last sleep. I’m living one moment at a time.
Once I hit the Publish button, I will probably text my therapist to tell her that I don’t feel safe. I don’t want to go to the hospital, but I’m afraid I may have to. I’m already thinking of what I can wear that doesn’t have drawstrings or shoelaces, which the psych ward staff takes away from you so you can’t hurt yourself with them. I’m drawing blanks.
My husband is lightly napping on the love seat while I type this from the sofa. I’ve told him how I feel, and he’s encouraging me to hold on until tomorrow, when I have my next appointment with my therapist, and to talk to her then. He’s told me how much he would miss me, and how much he loves our family of 5 (the 2 of us, the 2 cats, and Rudy the dog).
NOTE: If the topics of suicide and self-harm are triggers for you, I suggest you discontinue reading.
I hesitate writing this because it’s so personal, but having attempted suicide in the past is a part of my journey living with bipolar disorder. There have been times, even as recent as a few months ago, that I no longer wanted to live, though the intensity of this feeling varies. Now, when I have suicidal thoughts, I contact my psychiatrist and therapist immediately, and depending on how intense the thoughts are, I’m scheduled for ECT. But it wasn’t always that way.
I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve tried to kill myself because the attempts mostly happened in the mid-’90s, when my diagnosis was in its infancy and I was unstable, and which are hard for me to remember, probably because of ECT. I tried again in the 2000s, according to my husband, which was my last attempt.
Everybody’s experience is different; for me, the depression becomes a source of deep, emotional pain, and I want that pain to end. On occasion, I have cut my forearms to let that pain “bleed out.” If it turns into physical pain, the wounds heal. But guess what? The emotional ones are still there.
During certain periods of my life, I’ve wanted to end that pain permanently. The emotions wash over me in a black wave through which I can’t see or feel anything but the pain. I can’t see the people in my life who love me; I can’t feel their love. The depression compels me to end the pain, and so I try.
Other forms of suicide scared me, so I always tried to overdose on one of my medications. I naively imagined that I would just feel drowsy, fall asleep, and that would be the end of that. Except it never got to a point where I became unconscious. I’d get frightened and tell my then-husband or current husband what I did, and they would call for help. I genuinely wanted to die, but after taking the pills and having some time to think, I couldn’t go through with it.
The last time I remember being in the ER for this was what made me stop deliberately ODing on my meds. It hasn’t stopped the suicidal thoughts, but it has definitely kept me from trying to kill myself again.
I guess they never did this during my past suicide attempts because I hadn’t taken enough medication, but the last time I was in the ER, the nurses told me to drink this mixture made up of black powder that they called activated charcoal. It was in a 16-ounce styrofoam cup (I’m a coffee addict, so I recognized the size). It was supposed to neutralize the medication I’d ingested, or something like that. It looked like a shiny, black milkshake, and had a similar consistency. The picture on the right is the closest thing I could find, except imagine it much thicker.
I refused. It looked as gross as it sounds. They repeatedly tried to make me drink it, and I repeatedly refused. Finally, they said that if I didn’t drink it, they would pump my stomach. That sounded worse, so I held my breath and drank the nastiness called activated charcoal. All 16 ounces.
Because it was so thick, I couldn’t gulp it down all at once. It took a while, and it was disgusting. I gagged, had black stains down the front of my hospital gown, and black liquid drying in the corners of my mouth. I can’t remember if I vomited (probably the goal), but I also can’t forget the experience of drinking that stuff. It has certainly kept me from ODing again.
This isn’t to say that I may not attempt suicide nor have suicidal thoughts in the future. But since then, when I have felt like killing myself, that activated charcoal experience comes to mind. So far, it’s kept me from acting on my thoughts. Knowing that I have a family who loves me also keeps me from acting on my thoughts. As I said, I contact my psychiatrist and therapist immediately, before that black wave washes over me and I forget about everyone and everything but myself.
For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been struggling to get out of bed. I still manage to get up, but an hour later than I normally would, which is 7:30 AM — even if I go to bed early. I can function for the most part, like shower, do my chores, go to physical therapy, etc. But last Monday, getting out of bed was a lot tougher than usual.
During the day, I had thoughts of wanting to die. I had also started PMSing and wondered if that, along with the perimenopause, was what was making my depression symptoms worse than usual. So I e-mailed my psychiatrist, described what was happening, and made an appointment for that Wednesday.
On Tuesday, I felt worse. I didn’t get out of bed until 10:00 AM, which is very unusual and late for me, and I had intrusive thoughts of suicide: like I should just go ahead and OD on one or all of my medications. This frightened me, but I had no plans for carrying that out. I didn’t exactly want to exist any longer, but I wasn’t going to take my own life. I immersed myself in a book and read until my husband came home from work a few hours later.
When I met with my psychiatrist the next day, the doctor suggested putting me on a low dose of Prozac. He said that the FDA has indicated that that particular SSRI, or serotonin reuptake inhibitor, helps remedy mood symptoms that are possibly related to perimenopause. (My regular antidepressant isn’t an SSRI.)
He said I should give it 3 or 4 days to work, but I know better — as I mentioned, I’m currently PMSing, which makes everything worse. I’ll give it a month and see how it works. It’s been 5 days, and I’m able to get out of bed again, and haven’t had suicidal thoughts. Showering is a struggle, but I’m able to do it. I’m able to walk to my physical therapy appointments alone, but doing chores is still tough.
Incidentally, I decided not to try progesterone cream or magnesium glycinate supplements, which I mentioned in the post I linked to above. I’m going to see how the Prozac works first.
My psychiatrist also suggested that I get my thyroid levels checked. Some of my symptoms, like constant fatigue and feeling cold a lot, could be an indication of a thyroid problem. I’ll see my primary care physician in about 2 weeks, so I’ll mention it to him then.