In December 2022 I almost died.
Ordinarily I would say that “almost” only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and h-bombs, but in this case, that “almost” was too close for comfort.
In particular because the death would have been at my own hand.
For anyone not following along, to be blunt, in December 2022 I almost committed suicide.
My struggles with anxiety and depression are well documented both on this blog and other areas of my life. I was raised by a mental health professional and firmly believe that mental health is health. I am not ashamed of caring for my mental health any more than I was ashamed of caring for my body when cancer struck. Illness is illness and all health concerns deserve care.
Ironically, my cancer survival is directly related to my recent near-death experience.
When my mother fell ill a number of years ago, the stress of caring for her was enough to push me to seek pharmaceutical interventions in the form of Prozac. That little drug helped me through the hardest part of my life, and allowed me to care for her in her final days in a way I otherwise would not have been capable of.
In the year or two following her death, I wanted to wean myself off the medicine, as I never intended it to be a permanent part of my life. And then the big C hit – cancer. Breast cancer.
So much for getting off the anti-depressant.
I fought cancer the way I fight most things in my life – completely. From the first scary scan report on I was aggressive. I created my “Boob Job Binder” where I kept meticulous notes from every specialist I met, schedules, plans, and more. The decision to have a mastectomy was “easy” in the sense of I asked each doctor, “If I were your mother, wife, or daughter, what would you tell me to do?” and the consensus was because of the locations and lack of clean margins, mastectomy was best.
Done and done.
Scary preliminary test results in May 2021, confirming imaging in June, every test known to man in July, boob job in September. Period.
Thank God for REALLY good health insurance.
Post-surgery, the Prozac had to go because it was highly recommended that I begin a hormone therapy drug for a duration of 5-years, which does not play well with Prozac.
The consensus was that with all the trauma, I should go on another anti-depressant, that would also potentially help with expected hot flashes (fun times). So, I agreed.
Well, 2022 was a rough year on a few levels. And it just seemed to get worse and worse in a variety of ways.
I knew something was wrong. I knew I wasn’t myself. I knew I was “off”. But I kept dismissing it as situational depression – because I had A LOT of situations going on that were legitimate reasons to be depressed.
But this was depression unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t explain it to anyone – in large part because I didn’t understand it myself.
But the darkness was persistent – and growing.
The weight of the very air around me became unbearable.
The idea of continuing to exist each day was becoming more than I could stand.
I began having consistent thoughts that I was ruining the lives of everyone around me, and they would all be better off without me.
I needed to end the torment.
I wanted to die.
There were multiple times of being curled in the fetal position on my bathroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably, hardly able to breathe, wishing I were brave enough to just end things.
I begged God to just take me, because I was “too weak” to do it myself.
I would take Xanax for my anxiety, aiming for numbness at the very least.
I would tell people I was just tired.
I made excuses and tried to fake my way through.
I was losing the fight.
It was one night when I was working a shift (ironically) as a crisis counselor on a text hotline that I realized how much trouble I was in.
As part of my training, I learned to risk assess every contact. There are four rungs on the risk assessment ladder that we check:
Thoughts – are you having thoughts of ending your life?
Plan – do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?
Means – do you presently have the ability to carry out that plan?
Timeline – do you have a timeline by which you plan to commit suicide?
We assess every client we work with. And as I was performing a routine assessment, I realized – with no small degree of horror, that I had reached rung three – and was thinking about rung four.
I was in trouble.
I had a full plan – two actually – and the means by which I could execute either/both. I’d begun thinking about tying up loose ends to make things easier once I was gone.
Rung four was getting dangerously close.
That’s when the logic-driven voice in my head decided to step forward for a moment and get in the driver’s seat of my mind.
I began to assess. I began to evaluate. I began to research. I began to obsessively review when things had begun to slide so far off track, and what was going on in my life.
And I realized the timing coincided with being ramped up on the new anti-depressant.
Have you ever seen commercials for anti-depressants that warn you that they can actually worsen depression and cause suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions?
Yeah, they’re not kidding.
Long story short (too late, I know) – I worked with my doctors to wean myself off of the drug beginning in December. Turns out it’s a drug you can’t just stop without risk of “Brain zaps” and other not-so-nice side effects.
Then I began talking.
You see, until this point, no one knew how bad of shape I was in.
I wasn’t ready to share with the whole world, but I wanted/needed to tell a few key people. I knew there was a chance that the drug wasn’t the full answer – and the reality was that if getting off of it did not make a massive change in my headspace, I was going to need more intense, serious, drastic help.
Fast-forward six weeks.
Actually, not even six weeks.
Two weeks in, I began to feel a change.
Four weeks in, I was smiling again.
At the end of six weeks, I was off the medicine, and I could breathe.
Yes, I know I’d never stopped breathing, except I had stopped breathing effortlessly. I’d spent weeks, months, almost a year, having to work to breathe. To remind myself to breathe in and out. To keep going.
Now I’m remembering just Who...the fuck...I am.
Now I’m realizing I’d been experiencing side-effects I hadn’t realized – one of the biggest of which was I’d stopped dreaming and didn’t realize it.
This may not sound like a big deal to some, but I’m a vivid dreamer. My dreams rival Hollywood movies almost nightly, and I’m prone to lucid dreaming. I dream in color and remember my dreams most days. But I hadn’t had a dream that I could recall in months. And I only realized it because I had a REAL dream – that the world had become zombies, but they were mostly confused zombies, and I had a cookie recipe that was the cure…I didn’t say they were dreams that made sense, just that they were…substantial.
My point is that while I still
have a lot to unpack over this experience, I’m still here.
I have survived.
I’ve decided to thrive.
And I’m getting a new tattoo.
It’s a semicolon.
If you’re not familiar with Project; check them out. But in short, why a semicolon?
To quote them, "A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life."
I could have ended my sentence – I could have ended my life.
I almost did.
But I chose not to.
I chose my life.
I’m going to keep choosing to write more pages in the story of my life for a long time.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of yours.
And if you ever find yourself on those ladder rungs, please reach out for help.
Mom used to tell me the thing about suicide is you can always do it tomorrow. Thank you, mom, for helping me pause long enough to find the answer, and still have many more tomorrows.