Mental Illnesses are Real: Situational Depression and Suicide
By Kelli Breton
With Robin Williams’ shocking death earlier this week, there has been a lot (A LOT) of talk about depression, suicide and mental illness. It is such a complex and controversial topic, isn’t it? I hate seeing people bash each other over differences in opinion, sources, experiences, etc. It is so sad. Some people get on edge when these topics are brought up, others are so tired of the stigma and they want to open the flood gates and let the words pour out, regardless of how socially unacceptable it may be. They want to sift through the confusion, stand in the uncomfortable and talk about it. They know that awareness and discussion are key. This isn’t the first time these issues have been a hot topic, but reading all of the articles and hearing all of the talk has hit me differently this time. I find myself taking a new perspective on it all because I find that I can relate on some level. I have experienced a taste of what it feels like every day for the courageous people who battle with depression. I now know I was going through situational depression/adjustment disorder.
Adjustment disorder is a short-term condition that occurs when a person is unable to cope with, or adjust to, a particular source of stress, such as a major life change, loss, or event.
I remember back to late last year when it seemed like my life was falling apart due to a horrible, horrible situation (details of this remain private due to respect for others). Hopelessness, rejection and darkness started to trickle in until I felt like it was suffocating me and consuming me. For months, I would just stare at the wall or out the window for hours. I would go home after work and sit in the dark or watch endless episodes of Scandal and drink alone every night. I was numb. I had never felt this way before. Ever.
It was around Christmas time when it got worse. I couldn’t sleep at all – regardless of all the tips and tricks I found online. I would leave work, Christmas parties, time with friends with a smile plastered on my face, but by the time I got home, I felt so empty that it took a while to get out of my car because I felt so depressed. I wasn’t always a ball of sobbing emotion; it was usually the opposite, I was just completely gone. Spaced out. Numb. I didn’t have words. I didn’t have energy. I felt like moving was pointless. I started lying to friends and family so that I didn’t have to go to events or social gatherings. I just wanted to be alone all of the time.Thoughts of suicide began to come into my mind and I would either fight them off or entertain them, depending on the day. After a while, I found that I would entertain them more than I would fight them.
How would I do it?
What is the quickest way?
Would I leave a note? What would it say?
Would anyone find me?
Who would tell me 5-year old niece?
Should I make some phone calls first and tell my loved ones how much they mean to me?
How long will it take for someone to find me?
Will God forgive me?
I went to the doctor and shared some of what I was going through. The first 5 minutes of the appointment I just cried. My doctor prescribed me anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I found it very odd that they would freely give 2 bottles of pills to someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. When I got the medicine from the pharmacy, I stared at it and thought that I could swallow them all and it would be all over
In some low moments, I remember I had written out a few texts to friends, but I would just stare at the words. How will they react? What will they think of me? Will I be the friend with “issues” that no one really wants to be around, but they just feel sorry for? I didn’t send the texts. In a few desperate times when I felt out of control, I would call a friend, planning to tell them everything. But when they answered the phone, I would get too scared and tell them I was calling for some other made up reason.
I was too afraid to tell anyone until one day. I had come to grips that there was only one solution and it was simple – die. It would “solve” so many problems, I thought. My pain would go away. Just do it. Do it. End it all.
I sat there for a while staring at my wrists with a knife next to me. Do I cut horizontally or vertically? I forgot which was the right direction. How long would it take to bleed out? What if it takes a long time? Should I do it in the bath tub like I have heard people do? I accepted I was going to do it, but I just lingered on all of these horrible thoughts and questions.
Finally, I thought that I might as well just see what would happen if I did tell someone that I was pondering it. I sent a text to the Women’s Pastor at my home church who I had been talking with weekly since the “situation” happened. I told her in the text that I was “struggling” with the thought of suicide, but didn’t tell her the point where I was at.
She called me immediately. I was so surprised – I was expecting a more convenient response like “Oh dear, I’ll pray for you”, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “get over it and stop feeling sorry for yourself”, “it could be worse”. Of course, she wouldn’t say these things but I projected her response to be either negative or bland.
She talked to me and told me to call the Suicide Hotline. She didn’t ask, she told me to. I really wouldn’t have unless she made it clear she was serious. Fine. I called. Hung up. Called again. It was a guy, so I hung up again. I called back. When a girl answered, I opened my mouth but nothing came out. It was silent for a while. I just didn’t know what to say. So awkward. So embarrassing. I finally muttered something and ended up talking to the girl on the phone for about 30 minutes and was honest with how stupid and hopeless I felt and that I couldn’t see my life continuing after this situation.
The girl on the other end didn’t say anything magical. She didn’t open my eyes to a new perspective, speak hope into my life, encourage me or repeat any quotes from a motivational Pinterest board. She didn’t rush me. She just listened. It wasn’t anything powerful at the time, but it helped.
That entire hour, from calling the pastor to calling the hotline, started a change in me because I actually reached out. I admitted I was not okay, it was all too much and I couldn’t do it. I cried and stuttered and made a teary, snotty mess of myself.
The days that followed I felt the change. My circumstances had not changed, but I felt a glimmer of hope. Sometimes a glimmer is all you need. For me, the glimmer was my faith in God. I decided to believe Him for real.
“I’ll breathe my life into you and you will live.”
When I opened up to the pastor and the girl on the phone, I then felt more comfortable sharing what I was going through – not just details about my circumstances, but my feelings. Even if they sounded crazy, dramatic and totally unstable (which I did!), I still shared them. I knew in order for me to get over this, I really truly needed to go through it. I needed to give myself permission to be honest and to take my time. It can be so hard to give yourself grace, love and patience!
It was a slow and rather unsteady process, but I am so happy to be able to confidently and strongly say that I got through it and the depression and thoughts of suicide are under my feet. It was ONLY with immense help from God, consistent support and love from my friends, space and understanding from my family, and a commitment that I made to myself that I will get through this one day at a time. There was also a lot of $$$ and time spent with my beloved therapist. It was worth every penny. (PS – If you are in the Sacramento area and are looking for an amazing therapist, I am happy to give you her number. You will not be disappointed!)
Thank you to the other Girls On The Grid that paved the way to share their personal stories and put themselves completely out there. It is difficult and scary but it is also incredibly beautiful and brave. I would not have been the one bold enough to start this, but I am happy to follow in your steps.