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I Got Help for My Suicidal Thoughts by Accident

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I got help by accident.

I imagine, for some, getting help by accident might be the only way to get help.

My jaw hurts. And my teeth. And the back of my head where it meets my neck. This pain is a result of one of the many involuntary ways my body tries to deal with not being OK. I am not OK. That is the best and only way I can describe what is happening. Not being OK is not new. Trying to articulate it is new. Seeking help is new. But not being OK has been my disposition since as far back as I can even remember.

I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be alive. I just don’t want to be. I am fixated on death, but not the act of hurting myself or even the act of killing myself. I just want to disappear. I’m frustrated that I have a physical form. I don’t want to leave behind a mess to clean up. I simply want to stop being. I want to evaporate.

When I was in the Army, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure at 26 years old. The doctor scolded me at a check-up months later because I was horrible at taking the medicine. He said I was young and fit and unless I wanted to have a stroke or get heart disease, the only way to regulate it was if I medicated. So, for the following 15 years, I sometimes took my medicine.

When I was in seminary, I had to take a class called “Pastoral Counseling and Care.” An assignment for the class was to make a genogram, which is a graphic representation of your family tree illustrating every defect, disease, disorder, and behavior you can think of. Before the assignment, I was very much aware of the heavy dysfunction in my family and felt the prevalence of chronic depression and anxiety in my bones, though no one dared to speak of it out loud. Seeing the graphic evidence in that chart startled me.

I had only experienced a few debilitating episodes, but for the most part, I felt like I was managing just fine. One afternoon, I had an episode. I felt weight in my chest, I was shaky, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I had tunnel vision. I locked myself in the back of the house and tried to control my breathing to calm myself down and I checked my blood pressure. My blood pressure was elevated, but not dangerous. In my mind, I thought, welp, I guess it’s time to see a doc and get back on blood pressure meds, no big deal.

I made an appointment with my primary care nurse practitioner. Her nurse, the nurse who takes the vitals and does the evaluation before the appointment always remembers me. In our back and forth, I casually asked if high blood pressure causes physiological symptoms of anxiety or if actual anxiety could be causing my high blood pressure? It was such an innocent inquiry. We wrapped things up and she said the nurse would be right in and she gave me a questionnaire to fill out while I waited.

I was completely blindsided. The questions were straightforward. I had seen versions of this questionnaire a million times before. It asked how often I felt depressed, if I had trouble concentrating, if I lacked pleasure in things I used to enjoy doing, if I wanted to hurt myself. I was fine bending the truth by circling the “sometimes” and “rarely” options until I got to the question about wanting to kill myself. It was either yes or no. I froze. I wanted to wad it up and run the fuck out of there. I couldn’t bring myself to answer it. I skipped it and answered the last few remaining questions. I don’t remember what they were, but by then, I was sobbing.

It was too late to flee the scene. My care provider entered the room and there I was, pen in hand crying inconsolably.

This is the story about how I started to try to get help. It was an accident and I wasn’t fucking happy about it. I had no control over it. This happened over two years ago. If I’m being honest with myself, had this not happened, I’d be dead.

Before I go any further, it is worth mentioning I am still not OK. I wouldn’t even say I am any better. Not yet, anyway. But I am still here.

An antidepressant, anticonvulsant, another antidepressant, an antipsychotic, another anticonvulsant, lithium, and another antidepressant. Talk of bipolar II and general depressive disorder. All because I momentarily couldn’t lie on a survey about wanting to be dead.

I am in the process of becoming ordained clergy. Part of the process includes a two-hour proctored psychological evaluation and an in-person psychological assessment. I feel like I can neither tell the truth nor lie… but I told the truth. Let’s see what damage stigma can do….

Saying you’re not OK out loud feels risky. It feels like a bell you can’t unring. I ended up exploring clinical treatment options by accident. I never would have gone to the clinic specifically to seek help for of my behavioral health. I am still not OK. But saying I am not OK out loud is helpful. It has kept me from making a mess for my family to clean up.

Unsplash image by freestocks

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