Thursday, January 2, 2014

4 Years Clean


It’s January of 2014, and that technically means it isn’t Suicide Prevention Month. That’s in September, which also happens to be the month of my birthday and my anniversary. Truthfully, I’d usually much rather spend September celebrating my birth and the life I enjoy with my husband, than touch on that monster known as my past. However, January is much more appropriate for me. January doesn’t just mark a new year for me. It marks something so, so much more.

January 10th, 2010. I was stressed beyond my ability to cope. I was about to start my first semester of college in a week, and all I could think was how I wasn’t in the least bit prepared to handle it. It had been almost 2 years since my last suicide attempt. I didn’t care. I felt I was at the end of my rope. I felt I wouldn’t live up to everyone’s expectations. I felt like everything about me screamed failure. I felt like I didn’t deserve my boyfriend. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything—yes, even my right to live. I had given a speech years before, where I spoke about yet another one of my suicide attempts, (there were 4, total), and how I had so much to live for. In this dark moment, 4 years later, that didn’t even matter. What I heard coming out of my 14-year-old mouth was lip service, just words that sounded really deep coming from some kid with a history of self-harm. Words that said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine” and hid the message underneath of “I don’t know if I’m going to want to live to see my 21st birthday.”

I didn’t want to live to find out what would happen when I finally let everyone down. I talked it over in my head a few more times, and finally made my choice. I walked back to my parents’ bathroom, grabbed a box of Benedryl, filled up a glass of water, and consumed the entire thing. I locked the door to my bedroom, and sent my boyfriend a text goodbye. I felt this was the best way to leave a suicide note, without anyone being able to stop me in time.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

You know, the mind has a way of forgetting extremely important details in moments of crisis. In this case, my forgetfulness saved my life. My boyfriend had my mom’s number. He was panicked. He did what any rational person in his shoes would have done, and called my mom. She wasn’t home, but answered the phone when she saw who was calling. He told her everything I had told him—that I had just consumed an entire box of Benedryl in a suicide attempt. My mom called my Dad, who was home with me, and as soon as he heard the news, he came banging on my door, and the gig was up. I was caught.

I was taken to the ER, and kept over night. I spent the entire evening explaining my very, very personal fuck up to complete and total strangers. I was stuck there, being forced to pretend that these people were asking these nosy questions out of any reason other than having it on file, to never be looked at, or seen by another person. They didn’t genuinely care about what happened. They were just doing their paid jobs as doctors, nurses, and technicians, which was to keep me from being dead.

I’m sure people would love to hear some touchy-feely story about how I did all of this, but came out the other side of this life event saying, “You know what? Life IS worth living.” No. You don’t get to tell my story. My story is way more complicated than some simple shift in paradigm. You want to know why I’ve been clean from self-harm for 4 years, come January 10th? It wasn’t out of hope of a better life. It was out of realizing I was fucked. I was stuck here. I was somehow invincible to dying, and every time I tried to die, there was always someone there to stop me. Pretty depressing, right? Well, not entirely. I actually like being alive now more than I have in a long, long time. But please, don’t piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining. Sobriety for me doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about hurting myself. It means that when I do, I ask myself a non-accusational, “why?” It means that I have those thoughts, and realize that I have 4 years under my belt—which would be time wasted if I tried my hand at self-harm again. It means knowing when I’ve reached my limit of what I can handle, and putting on my brave face as I try to take on America’s horrifically troubled mental health system from inside the walls of an inpatient unit.

There is nothing easy about my sobriety. There is nothing I can do in my darkest hours but volunteer to be a lab rat in the name of my own safety and sanity. And being sober means accepting that, owning it, and choosing not to die in spite of it.

If there is any one thing you should take away from this post, it’s this: if you are struggling with suicidal ideation, self-harm, or thoughts of self-harm, DO. NOT. DO IT. Not for the reasons your family and friends will give you—that they love you, that they’d be devastated if you died, that you just gotta try a little harder to be happy—all of that is just cliché, and probably not the words of wisdom you need in your moments of crisis. Here’s what I needed to hear: your suicide attempt may sound like a great idea to you right now. Your suicide attempt, should you go through with it, might even be successful.

Don’t assume it will be. Assume the worst. Assume you will wake up in a hospital bed, with a vague memory of the night before, and be surrounded by angry loved ones who want to know why you would do this to THEM. Yes. That’s how they see this. Not as your tragedy, but theirs. There is no shame like the shame you feel when people ask you why you tried to kill yourself. In their eyes, you just tried to kill someone they really care about. So expect anger. Expect rejection. Expect that you will have to spend at least 2 years trying to get people to trust you enough again to be alone with things that you could use to kill yourself with for 5 minutes, because every time I crossed the line into acting on those thoughts, that’s what fucking happened, one way or another.

Know that you aren’t alone. Know that you’re not wrong for being reluctant to seek intensive inpatient treatment for your problems, when your mental health system provides cookie cutter care for people of highly diverse backgrounds in crisis situations. Know that it’s an evil necessity sometimes to go to those places. Just make sure that when you do go, it’s on your terms. It’s better to be there voluntarily, allowing you to leave whenever you’re fed up with the BS/are properly medicated/no longer an immediate threat to yourself, than to be forced to stay until they’re satisfied with your progress, or your insurance runs out—whichever comes first.

Trust me. It’s worth it to hang in there just a while longer. You’re worth it, even if you don’t realize it. When you finally manage to come out the other side, you’ll be stronger and better than you could have ever imagined.

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