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The Power of Giving My Mental Health Experiences a Name

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Editor's Note

The follow details an overdose and may be triggering to some readers. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

One pop, two pop, three pop, four! Five pop, six pop, seven pop — I lost count after that. I’ve forgotten what I was mad about. Sprawled on the mattress, on the floor, sheets unruly and still in my outside clothes, semi-conscious. My roommate found me. I took her hand and with my right thumb I wrote the number seven on her palm many times over. It took her awhile to realize that I took one too many of my anxiety pills. And off we went to the ER, yet again.

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I wasn’t planning on ending my life. I didn’t plan on overdosing. Although that’s what my doctor called it: an overdose. We had to call it something. We had to identify it in order to articulate it, face it head on. But really, I just wanted my anger to subside, to go away. I wanted to pause and take a break. I wanted all the zips and zaps in my head to stop. Whatever it was that angered me that day led me to an out of body state and I had lost control. Snacking on each pill one by one didn’t seem like a bad idea. But it was what it was: an overdose. After several debates and denials, I can’t not agree. It was an overdose. A non-fatal overdose. And thank God for that.

I guess I didn’t have to die to call what happened an overdose, which is really defined as taking more than the prescribed dosage. But more than this realization, it was the need to give the incident a name in order to make sense of it. Naming something, whether it be a thought or a concept or in this case, an incident — something intangible and abstract — helps in getting to know it a little bit better, to know where it’s coming from and to identify where it likes to go. Naming the incident also helped me remove the guilt and the shame by being able to break down the events that led to it. “An overdose happened because something angered me,” instead of, “I overdosed because I was angry,” is a more productive approach in dealing with my emotions and the external triggers that I inevitably have to face.

After my overdose, it became a practice for me to name everything around me. My not-taking-a-bath days are called Depression, my over-productivity is called Hypomania, my restlessness is called Anxiety, my sudden naps are called Over-Fatigue, my bipolar disorder is called Super Power, my refusal to drink at parties therefore being a killjoy is called Sobriety, my breakdowns are called Grief, my car is called Susan and my snake plant is called Michael. I even have a sponge called Lester. Naming each element that surrounds me and affects me doesn’t only personify the experience but also aids in identifying how to address them in a healthier way. It is easier to understand something you know. And the first step to knowing something is to know its name.

It may have taken some popping of pills to get here. But the popping of pills, the overdose, the overdose, the overdose — I can go on repeating it — doesn’t trigger me anymore. It doesn’t give me discomfort anymore. In fact, I feel more powerful than it and because of it. And just like any “failure,” I’ve come to realize how I can be grateful it did fail. I failed. I’m glad I did. I’m proud I did.

Getty image via MangoStar_Studio

Originally published: January 28, 2021
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