When I Decided to Give Myself 'One More Week’
August 11, 2016
Things are bad. Really bad. The only way I can find to keep myself “safe” is to to sleep, especially during the day. I wake up in the morning with an immediate intense sense of dread, doom and horrific anxiety.
The only thing I want to do and feel capable of doing is going back to sleep. So I take something to make myself sleep, and I fall blessedly back into oblivion. When I am in oblivion, I don’t hear the voice in my head telling me no one would even notice if I wasn’t here and I have no friends.
I either have zero energy or too much anxiety to make plans with friend and follow through. I stopped making coffee dates because I always cancelled them at the last minute. I hate going shopping. It makes me really anxious. Basically, I don’t like leaving my house. So now, at a time when I feel like I need a lot of support around me, it feels ridiculous to call someone up who I haven’t talked to in weeks or months and ask them to listen to me talk about how crappy my actually great life is. It’s just crappy in my own brain.
I hate my brain right now. I am so angry at it. It runs over me and ruins everything for me, including my relationships with family and friends. It screams at me I am a terrible mother. Terrible mother. I am ruining my own children. Will they each find themselves in a psychologist’s office years from now talking about the effects of an emotionally absent mother on their lives? They might be better off without me.
Yet, I know if I take my own life, that would be the worst scar I could ever put on them. So I am left with two choices: Endure my own pain, even though I feel like a walking corpse who is not an involved, active “normal” mother. (I am a mother who sleeps.) Or just be done with this fight and finally end my own pain.
That takes me into a whole train of thought about “the how” to end it. I try not to let those thoughts linger for long in my mind. Those are horrific, terrible thoughts. What am I doing? I should be ashamed of myself.
You ungrateful b*tch. You spoiled, lazy b*tch. You don’t work. You just sleep. You don’t take care of your kids. You just sleep. You have no friends. No one would really miss you anyway.
Stop! Stop! Stop!
Your doctor can’t help you. No one can help you. It’s hopeless. You’ve been fighting this battle for years. Years and years and years. It’s not going away ever. It will sabotage everything. It already has.
You are divorced and alone. You have no hope for a future relationship or any hope to progress in a career. The motivation you need to write, work or create is gone. The depression has stolen so much from you and every time you grab your life back, it takes more and more strength to do it.
Help! Help! Help!
I come sleep with my kids at my ex’s house so I am not alone and I keep myself safe. I call the crisis line in complete hysterics. It’s the first time I’ve called the crisis line and opened with the words, “I’m going to kill myself. The psychiatric nurse asks me questions about my location, my plan and then she begins to talk to me.
We use the skills I have learned to help calm anxiety. I tell her three things I feel with my body. I can barely grasp the words, the carpet, the handrail and my breath. I tell her between gasps. Three things I hear: the refrigerator running, the wind outside and my snotty nose.
I blow my nose. I am not crying anymore. Three things I see: the coffee maker, the kitchen sink and the window. I am not shaking anymore. I am not sobbing anymore. She asks me what’s been going on. I broke up with my boyfriend three days ago, and I can’t stop crying. I feel completely numb and detached from everyone, even my own children. I think they would be better in the sole care of their dad.
Just don’t do it. Don’t do anything you can’t take back. Go to sleep. Just go to sleep. That way you’ll be safe. You’ll be OK for another few hours. Help me!
I’m a danger to myself, and I’m so terrified this horrible feeling of cement like depression in my body will never, ever go away. I tell myself to wait one week before I take away my own life. Then, I am so tired from crying that I go to sleep.
My last resort to keep myself safe, sleep. Blessed sleep takes me away from the pain for a while. When the crisis line team calls me the next day to check on how I’m doing, I tell them I am feeling much better and to please pass on my thanks to the nurse from the night before. She truly, truly saved my life.
I tell them I can make it to my appointment with my psychiatrist tomorrow. I manage to get myself dressed and drive to my doctor’s office with a glimmer of hope and a dump truck full of dread. Will I walk away feeling a little encouraged or sent off to fight the battle at home alone yet again?
I do walk away encouraged. She tells me this feeling of hopelessness is temporary. She reminds me depression is cyclical, and I’ve felt this way numerous times before and have always come back to life. She reminds me this is not my fault.
So I get through that one week and things are a tiny bit better. I have showered and gotten dressed at least twice. I write down the things I accomplish each day so I can see my progress. I give myself another week and then another week. I do this by living one day at a time, one hour at a time. I try my best to take it one moment at a time.
When I am overwhelmed with despair, I tell myself, “All I have to do is manage this minute. Right here, right now. I am breathing.” My daily accomplishment list slowly gets longer and longer. I go from “brushed my teeth” to “took my daughter to Wal-Mart for back-to-school clothes shopping.” That is huge. That is victory.
Today is September 25, and I feel better. A small medication adjustment directed by my psychiatrist seems to have helped tremendously. I have way less anxiety and the mood swings are not as low. I’m not suddenly thrown to the bottom of the depression pit in a horrific way that catches me off guard.
I reflect back on that day about six weeks ago, when I felt so desperately ill that I called the crisis line and the psychiatric nurse talked me off my metaphorical bridge. She stopped me from jumping. It has not been easy to recover, but I have recovered much more quickly this time around.
I’ve been around the bend and back with this depression thing for more than 20 years. I’ve learned a lot of skills to deal with this depression and anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The day I called the crisis line I told the nurse, “I know all the things I am supposed to do to be well, but I just can’t do them.” I hated myself even more in that moment because it was all just one more failure, having so much knowledge about my illness and the skills to become healthier, but not being able to use any of them.
I decided to treat myself gently, as if I was in the hospital (but at home). I made no commitments to anyone. I took time for myself, even away from the responsibility of my kids, and I decided to saturate my brain with things that made me feel a little better. I listened to worship music. I wrote in my journal. I ordered groceries online (so I didn’t have to go into the store), and I did my best to put healthy food in my mouth.
I force myself to do the things I didn’t feel like doing. I got vertical. I stood up and got out of bed. I did things from my own “coping” list that would either help calm me or help get me active. Sometimes, instead of sleeping, I took a hot shower when I felt anxious. One day, I actually put on my running shoes and walked around the block. I rewarded myself with sleep after I did something healthy.
Within a week, I was able to actually able to concentrate enough to get into a Netflix series. I was able to lose myself for a while, stop thinking about my own thoughts and just watch the show. Then, I took out my sewing machine. I’m an art quilter. I didn’t want to drag my sewing supplies up from the basement, but I did it anyway.
It all sat in the dining room for a few days. One evening, I finally sorted all my fabric into containers of different colors, something I have been wanting to do for years. That felt really good. Then, for about five days, I would just look at the quilt pattern I was planning to make as a gift, and I would get overwhelmed and set it down. Finally, one evening I decided to just cut the first piece of fabric. Do one thing.
The next night, I did some more, and soon I was working away on my latest quilt in the moments I felt “lost” and like I had nothing to do except sleep. I finished the quilt four days ago. I love it, and I can’t wait to gift it to the person I made it for. We are having lunch tomorrow. I had a project with a purpose and I finished it. Sitting at the sewing machine, concentrating on the intricate stitches also stopped my brain from the repeating sound track of my own negative thoughts.
Last week, I saw a quote somewhere that said, “Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.” When I told myself I would wait one week to see if things improved, that week became two weeks, then three and four. I climbed out of the pit when I had said, “I just can’t do this one more time.”
I did do it one more time, and I learned when I am feeling that horribly depressed, it doesn’t mean it’s going to last for months or I am going to end up in the hospital like before. I learned I can take good care of myself when I need to. I remembered all the survival skills I have tucked away and I used them.
I’m back to my flexible work from home job. I’m back to being able to take care of my three children on their regular custody schedule. I’m back to my creative self. I decided to wait. I decided to stay. For now, in each moment, I’m OK and I’m back.
Image via Thinkstock