Trigger Warning: Depression, Suicide, Graphic Content
Do you know what it’s like to lose your mind? I do.
Around Christmas last year, I wasn’t doing so great. I was showing symptoms of a yet-to-be-diagnosed mental illness, and my symptoms had worsened. I would lie in bed and try to calm myself down.
I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t eat; all I could do was try to distract myself from my thoughts.
These thoughts would come and go but then got much worse.
They became sickening and disturbing and one day, as they say, I went mental. I genuinely thought that I had lost my mind and that I would have to live in a psychiatric asylum for the rest of my life.
I stayed in bed, cried, lost my appetite. I didn’t know what to do. I thought being outside might help but it didn’t. Then, I thought laying in bed, in effect cocooning myself, might help, but it didn’t. Instead, the thoughts increased.
I reached out and called a dear friend. My friend happens to be a therapist and helped calm me down.
I called another friend, who listened to my anxious and scared voice. She and her husband visited me and took me out for dinner, and my friend held my hand. I was able to calm down and feel normal again.
I ended up going back to my therapist and started seeing a psychiatrist as well. I was prescribed medication for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD. My OCD wasn’t necessarily behavior such as making sure a dozen times that the front door is locked, though I used to behave that way when growing up. My OCD was having thoughts that were unwanted and intrusive. My psychiatrist described them as a mental tic, that once the thoughts started, they were hard to stop.
The medication didn’t help at first. I was very wary of trying psychiatric medication because of Big Pharma, but I knew I needed all the help I could get. I knew that things had gotten bad, really bad. I needed help, and so I was willing to try out medication.
The ironic thing about anti-depressants is that they can make you depressed at first.
I became depressed about having OCD thoughts, about being ill, mentally ill, and I wanted to feel normal again. Problem was, I didn’t know if I was ever going to feel “normal” again, like my old self again. I would get hopeless and lost in my depressed thoughts and would feel low.
Soon enough, I had thoughts of suicide.
Perhaps this was my OCD kicking in, but my thoughts of suicide kept coming back.
As I type this, it’s hard to write these words, but yes, I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to end myself. End my life.
I didn’t want to keep living anymore. I didn’t want to keep trying, to keep fighting. I wanted to die.
I wanted to feel normal again, but I didn’t know if I ever would, and so I wanted my life to end.
I would think about suicide every day. Every single day. Usually on my way home, on the train, gathering my thoughts and reflecting about yet another difficult day with my symptoms. I would think about suicide so much that those thoughts themselves became normal, and I assumed that my suicide would happen eventually.
That it would be the conclusion to my life.
About seven months ago, I was having a really rough month with these thoughts of suicide. My therapist and psychiatrist did their best to help me. My thoughts of suicide could have stemmed from the medication. Or it could have been my OCD. Or it could have been depression. But I think it was just me, that I wasn’t able to handle everything going on. I wasn’t able to look forward, past the present, and imagine a future. I couldn’t imagine a future. I wanted to die.
Sometimes I thought, “Okay, maybe I can’t end my life.”
And so I would think, please God, end my life soon. I would wish to be hit by a car or a bus as I crossed traffic when I went outside. If I wasn’t allowed to kill myself, then hopefully something or someone would kill me soon instead.
That was a really difficult month.
I would call my friends almost every day and would cry on the phone.
Through this horrible time in my life, my friends were really there for me. They went above and beyond and showed me what true friendship is. They visited me when I couldn’t get out of bed, they listened to me crying on the phone, they made sure I ate, they responded to my late night texts for help, they checked up on me and with each other, on how best to take care of me. At one point, they even talked to my therapist in a group call to best figure out how they could help even more, even though I told them they were already doing everything they could.
I was in the depths of darkness but my friends were a bright light that guided me on my way to being myself again.
Before I could get better though, I got worse.
One night, I started to cut myself. I took a knife into my room and started to cut my arm for the first time. Many times before I had thought about it, but this time, I was actually cutting myself. I could barely scratch the surface of my skin with the blade; cutting is very painful, and skin is a lot thicker than one thinks.
Months later, though, as I look at my arm, the scars are still there, so clearly I did some damage. The pain was sharp and immediate as I cut myself that night, and I wanted to increase it. It was a release; I wanted to channel my emotional pain into physical pain, to escape in some way.
I realized, though, that I didn’t know how far I was going to go.
It was at this point that I phoned a psych ward at a hospital, a number I had gotten earlier. A man with a kind voice picked up, and I told him I was thinking of ending myself. He recommended that I go to the ER.
But after I hung up, I continued to cut my arm.
It was close to 10 pm.
I phoned up a friend who was from my neighborhood and asked her what the nearest hospital was, and texted my therapist saying that I might go to the ER. I looked up the hospital, put on my bag and jacket, and walked there, as it was only fifteen minutes away by foot. I had never been to the ER before, not for myself or for anyone else. I had been to hospitals, yes, but not the ER ward, and so I had no idea what to expect. As I walked to the hospital, I kept thinking, I can stop. I can stop right now and turn back and head home, watch some TV, call it a night. But I thought of the knife and I knew that I didn’t know what I might do to myself.
The part of me that wanted to live, wanted to survive, kept my legs walking to the hospital.
I ended up in the psych ward that night in the hospital, in blue pajamas, in a blue room, with a camera watching me and a security guard outside my room. Everyone that talked to me that night and the next morning, all the doctors, nurses, friends, therapist, shrinks, I knew they all wanted me to get better. For me to be okay.
I left the next morning, feeling in shock at having to go to the ER for suicidal thoughts.
A number of things helped me to eventually get better. A new medication was very helpful and at the same time, I learned how to deal with my OCD thoughts, how to make them go away. There was also a new birth in my family, that gave me the perspective and hope I needed and had lacked so desperately. Seeing and meeting a newborn, holding him, watching him sleep and breathe, made me appreciate the gift of life and the fact that I was alive to see this miracle happen.
Every now and then, I would relapse and my OCD thoughts would return. But my friends were there again, and my thoughts kept decreasing as time went on. I then took a considerable amount of time off, knowing I needed to get away in order to further clear my head.
My head did get clear, and I did feel like myself again. I felt normal. When just a few months prior I thought I would never feel normal again.
I’m trying to put my life back together, piece by piece. It’s not easy, and it’s very stressful, but I have to try. Hard. With himut and takut, as my mother told me, with courage and strength. It might take time, but I need to be patient. And grateful.
I’m still on medication, but I think I should be able to get off it soon. I lost my job and no longer have health insurance, so when my medications eventually run out, I’m hoping I won’t relapse.
I know what it’s like to have a mental illness.
What it’s like to feel like you’re going mad – like you’re going crazy. But I also know what it’s like to survive and to feel grateful for being alive. I traveled recently, and I feel grateful for being able to see new sights and places, for seeing such beauty in the world.
During my travels, I went to a bridge where many people have died, where many have ended their life.
I thought of them and wished that they could have survived, like me.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial: 1-800-273-8255