I looked at the calendar today and noticed that this Sunday is Father’s Day (oops). Then I realized, out of nowhere, that this weekend marks an anniversary for me.
A year ago this weekend, I tried to take my own life.
I think about the time that’s passed and can hardly believe I’m the same person I was a year ago. Maybe I’m not. After I got out of the hospital, I started intensive outpatient therapy. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it changed my life and is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, mental health or otherwise. I met some amazing people at different places in their own journeys, and I learned how to handle various types and levels of emotions with a new set of skills – the most important being what to do when I’m freaking the fuck out and sobbing uncontrollably and presenting a danger to myself. (Most interesting trick I learned? When your distress is at an 8 or 9 out of 10, hold an ice pack on the back of your neck. It works.) I always saw myself as good at being in touch with my emotions and understanding why I felt a certain way and what to do about it. After three stints in a psychiatric hospital, it became apparent that I didn’t have the coping skills I thought I had. So I kept seeing my regular therapist, my psychiatrist, and going to outpatient therapy, and I got through it. I learned a lot, I got myself stabilized, and I was released back into the wild with a new set of skills and, most of all, a good feeling that I’ll probably never need to be sent to a hospital again. Since then, that good feeling has mellowed out into more of an “I will work as hard as I can on myself so I will hopefully never go to the hospital again,” type of thing. Life comes with no guarantees.
I’m writing this while in the throes of a pretty nasty depressive episode, which I guess is ironic. Last week, when Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died by suicide, I did not take it well. I was very, very sad and felt very, very triggered. I held it together, but earlier this week my brain just gave up and I spiraled down. But I’m safe. I’m dealing with it in the healthiest ways I can manage while feeling exhausted and sad and shitty about everything. I cried myself to sleep the other night because when I’m depressed, all day long I want to isolate and wish everyone in the world would just fuck off, but at night, all I want in the whole world is to have someone in my bed with me. No need to talk to me, no need to lay a finger on me…just be in my bed. It’s awful. But I have hero-friends who have been coaxing me out of the house, which means I’m washing my hair and wearing normal clothes and even putting on makeup sometimes. That helps a lot. Depression makes you only feel like doing things that keep you depressed, so dragging myself out into society is a big middle finger to my depression monster. Sometimes self care is solitude and rest. Sometimes it’s sitting in a bar while laughing so hard I have to wipe my tears with a tiny square napkin. Because it is possible to laugh my ass off while depressed. It takes a little more than usual, but in the right circumstances, it can happen. And I’m very lucky to have people in my life who go out of their way to help me create those circumstances.
So here I am, one year post-attempt. It sucks that I’m marking this moment while in the middle of my worst depressive episode since it happened, but you know what? While last time I spun out of control and almost put a period at the end of my sentence, this time I’m pausing, semicolon-style. Outpatient therapy taught me how to do that. I know, even in this darkness, that life is good and I’m going to see the sun again soon.