Monday, April 8, 2013

Thoughts After a Suicide Attempt

Talking so frankly does not come easy to me.  I often reveal bits and pieces of who I am and what I have gone through, but for the next few moments I will share what it is like to come back from a suicide attempt.  For those of you thinking about it, this is a warning and a plea for you to seek help instead of throwing your life away.  For those of you dealing with someone who attempted, or is at risk for attempting, suicide this is a  suggestion on how to handle your own feelings.

The beginning of February marked two months that I had been out of work.  Out of work, depressed, in physical pain.... so many compounding issues that I still don't know where one begins and another ends.  It started out just wanting the pain to go away.  A few Tylenol  then a few more.  Then some other pain relievers.  I became desperate to be out of the hell I felt I was in.  Soon I found myself taking more meds than necessary and well on my way to the pain being extinguished. Forever.

My wife, being the helpful woman she is, helped me get to my therapy appointment, where I admitted, in a drugged up stupor, to taking too many pain meds.  My therapist called in my wife and I was taken to the hospital.  Several things happened in the next few hours: I managed to fake the ER staff into thinking I was having just side pain, I managed to write an auto-send suicide note via email to my therapist, I asked to be taken to a local Acute Mental Health Services facility. From there I would go back to an ER for medical clearance, go inpatient for two weeks, start an outpatient program, go back inpatient, and generally live in chaos for a month.  

Somehow, through all the chaos, I managed to get a second interview for a residential counselor position at a program for teenage girls with mental health problems.  I began to see through all the fog and once again had to piece my life back together.  I was offered the residential counselor position and suddenly I found myself on the other side of the badge.  The side where I was the one wearing the badge.  Still, I was dealing with all that had happened: I was sad at what I had done and scared at what could have been.  Most of all, I felt guilty over hurting those who cared.  The one person I hadn't planned on hurting was my therapist.  I mean, she's a therapist, right? Wrong.

Here's my disclaimer for those from the old school  patient-therapist relationship camp:  My therapist and I have known each other for ten years.  She has coached me through a move cross-country, a near-death suicide attempt, several hospitalizations, and my coming-of-age realization that I am not too fucked up to be a therapist myself.  She has served as my mentor and guide, my very own Shaman of sorts.  So if a new-agey therapeutic relationship offends you, you may wish to stop reading here.  If you are curious about how your feelings can help the ones you love, continue on.

So I go back to private therapy during my orientation, as I cannot attend the outpatient program I was doing and my job orientation at the same time.  I go back hoping to blow over the events of past and then run screaming.  As per normal, my therapist chooses the direct approach in discussing what happened.  She received the suicide note email and while it was well written, she was devastated to receive it.  I heard her explain how horrible it would have been to actually receive that after I had died and how even more devastating it would have been.  My heart broke.  Never did I think I would have that much impact on my therapist.  I knew I was naive to think everyone was better without me, but until I saw the pain in the face of my therapist, I didn't understand just how severe my actions were.  

We talked and I was honest about the things I've learned about myself in the past two months.  I owned up to wanting someone to save me and wanting an easy way out.  I still don't know how to truly own up to the hurt I caused her and the others who care for me.  Hearing my therapist tell me she cares about me put my own life into harsh perspective: I take my life for granted thinking I don't deserve the help I get.  Meanwhile, that is unfair to those giving the help.  I needed to hear some point-blank reality from her in order to really understand just how much I have to live for and how much I'm loved.

So for those of you thinking of suicide: STOP thinking and start calling. Call the Lifeline Number (1-800-273-TALK (8255)), call your therapist, call a friend.  Get yourself to a local ER, mental health services, or other place where you can get help or be brought to help. YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!!!

For those of you trying to help: be honest.  Be transparent and tell your loved one how you feel.  Don't be accusing ("you would make me want to die if you died"), instead be honest ("I would be horribly devastated if you killed yourself"). Honesty is the best way to approach any situation and this is no different.  If you're scared, tell them.  If you're sad, tell them.  We don't know how you feel  until you say it. Sometimes words mean so much more than you can ever realize.