“It’s not your fault.”
Dr. D got down on her knees, forced me to make eye contact and said very clearly… “It’s not your fault.”
It was less than 48 hours after my last suicide attempt. I don’t remember a lot of what was asked of me that day. I don’t remember a lot of what was said, but I do remember those four words. Dr. D knew exactly what she was talking about.
After hearing my story and seeing the multiple medications the doctors and clinics had put me on in another city, she could say with absolute certainty…. this was not my fault.
Let’s jump back a few months.
I knew something was wrong. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like my life was swirling around me… going too fast or not fast enough but always dizzy. I would spend hours crying. Countless hours of my day just lying in bed. Going to school or keeping up with homework was just too much to deal with.
So I made the decision to get help. I went to counseling over a course of a few months. One counselor said I had depression. Another said anxiety. Everyone else said it was “typical college student stress.”
Things continued to escalate with every medication they prescribed.
On top of my uncontrollable emotions, I had the worst migraines I have ever had in my life. They lasted for days. So they gave me more medication for that as well.
By the time I found myself in Dr. D’s office, I was on a cocktail of medication – most that were very clearly labelled not to be taken with each other. But the manic mind does not say to read the paper that comes with your prescription. The doctor would do that… right?
Things went from bad to worse, and I spent over a month going to the emergency room, telling them I felt suicidal. Telling them I didn’t feel safe. Asking for help because I knew something was wrong. They would have me wait until a crisis counselor would come down, usually hours after I had arrived. I was exhausted by the time they got there and then they wanted to talk. It was the same conversation every single time.
“Why do you feel suicidal?”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Are you having thoughts of harming others?”
“Why do you feel this way?”
After answering the same questions, they would deem me safe to go home. The last time I went in, I looked the nurse right in the eye and told her I was going to kill myself. I looked the doctor in the eye and told him I was going to kill myself. I looked the crisis counselor right in the eye. I told him I was going to kill myself. They sent me home a couple hours later.
There’s no need to for anyone to relive what happened between that time and this moment with Dr. D. The whole point of this post is to write about a moment of kindness related to my health that didn’t seem significant then, but is important now.
That moment was when Dr. D said those powerful words:
“It’s not your fault.”
Those four words are written on a sticky note above my desk. Not as an excuse for my actions… I truly believe we should live with the consequences of our actions. I leave it there as a reminder that living with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder allowed a lot of things to happen. A lot are things I am ashamed of. But those words put my past manic actions into context. I can sleep soundly at night knowing had I not been manic, I wouldn’t have acted the way I had.
That moment where Dr. D stood up for me — that was where my life began to change.
I had the opportunity to meet Dr. D again a few months ago. She had no idea who I was… but I knew her. I told her I was an old patient. I told her a short version of my story, and as my eyes began to water and my voice began to crack, I thanked her for those four words – now on a sticky note on my desk – and told her how they were a main part of my healing.
Dr. D retired a few days later. I am so thankful for her and the work she has done. It’s doctors like her who make a world of a difference for those of us who are diagnosed and/or struggle with a mental illness.
Dr. D, if you’re reading this, thank you. You were the first doctor to see my illness for what it was. You were the first doctor who stood up for me and demanded a recovery plan. Well done.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo by megaflopp