Today is the last day of September and today is also the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” which is a month long campaign used to raise awareness on this very stigmatized and still very taboo topic.
Although it may only be a month long campaign it doesn’t mean that it ends today. The conversation needs to continue each and every day.
We MUST continue to keep the conversation going.
We MUST continue to give hope to everyone affected by Suicide.
We MUST continue to educate others.
And we MUST ensure that ALL individuals, families and friends have the same accessibility to the necessary resources available to give us all a better understanding on how to prevent suicide and seek help.
I’m not okay.
I’m still having very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide. It consumes me.
I’m reminded each and every day by friends, loved ones, acquaintances and even strangers what life would be like for those I’d leave behind.
Trust me, I hear you. Your words echo in my head day and night. But sadly for many people suffering with a mental illness or suicidal ideations their pain can still become too much to bare.
One of those many reminders came to me recently by an old friend of mine who reached out to me to chat and I haven’t been able to get our conversation off my mind.
I was so honoured and grateful that she chose to share her overwhelming and very raw emotions with me as she tries to come to terms with the heart-wrenching grief and despair she’s been living with for months now after losing a loved one to suicide.
I could feel her disbelief, her numbness, her shock, her anger, her confusion, her rejection and her guilt all wrapped together as she desperately tries to begin her journey toward healing and acceptance.
The aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide and finding ways to cope with the sadness, the feelings of helplessness and the overwhelming consumption of what ifs or what more could I have done can be very triggering and both mentally and physically exhausting.
Just know that you are not alone.
Surround yourself with people who want to listen when you need to talk or who offer a shoulder to lean on when you just need to sit in silence.
Remember there is no “proper” way to grieve any loss, especially ones which are so sudden and without closure. Let healing happen at your own pace and in your own time.
Seek out others who may be experiencing similar grief. Sharing your story with people who truly understand your pain can often help bring strength to your healing process.
And lastly, find a mental health professional to guide you through your grief and help you adjust to life after suicide.
Yes, today may be the last day of September and the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” but today can not be the end to the conversation surrounding the many complexities of suicide.
Lets all make a promise to band together with more compassion and support to those who wake up each and every day battling very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide, show kindness and empathy to those who are left behind after a suicide occurs and help them in any way you can to honour the memory of their loved one who has lost their battle.
*visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information.
Many of you probably saw the pics I posted last night.
Our whole family out for dinner celebrating Rachel’s 19th birthday; the first time in a very long time.
Everyone smiling, laughing, eating, drinking, taking selfies and being present in the moment.
But the pictures didn’t capture everything. They just caught a glimpse of it.
What they didn’t capture was the very real and very painful reality of my illness. The reality and pain that follows me wherever I go no matter what the occasion is, especially lately.
My illness loves to suck the joy out of any occasion to be honest, even the happiest of ones.
By mid afternoon yesterday I could feel my anxiety becoming more and more intense and my sadness building deeper and deeper.
There was no reason for it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But my illness will tell you otherwise.
By the time we got to the restaurant and settled down at our table I had reached my breaking point. I was so completely overwhelmed with emotion.
Rich could see the build up happening from across the table but it was too late.
Just looking at the menu became incredibly burdensome.
There was nowhere for me to hide.
I did everything in my power to stop it from escalating into a full blown panic attack. I took several deep breaths. I reminded myself that everything was okay, that everyone was okay. I looked around the table and heard the sound of laughter. I noticed the biggest smile on my birthday girl’s face.
But none of that seemed to matter because moments later the panic erupted and before I knew it I was inconsolable. All eyes were suddenly on me.
My kids were left wishing they could somehow crawl under the table. I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world.
There was no reason for any of it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But for some reason my illness felt otherwise.
I am beyond overwhelmed with so much gratitude from all the beautiful and heartfelt messages of love and support I continue to receive on a daily basis from all of you. And the check ins are so incredibly appreciated.
I am especially grateful right now knowing that my platform is reaching so many people from all across the Globe and that by me sharing my personal journey with all of you is giving permission to someone else like myself to have a safe place to turn to when they are looking for support for themselves or may be in dire need of a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear; without judgment and some reassurance that they are never alone.
But at the same time I am also so incredibly sad knowing just how many people, whether it be a stranger or someone I know that are out there suffering in silence.
But I love helping others and helping others really helps me too.
Even when I’m at my lowest.
This week has been excruciatingly painful for me as you probably know by now (if you missed my Vlog yesterday please feel free to check it out).
I can honestly say that I have no more tears left in me.
I am beyond overwhelmed, I feel empty inside and emotionally defeated.
So I have made myself a promise that I am going to do my best to treat this weekend as a “time out” for myself and I guess the “timing” couldn’t be better because for the first time in over 18 very looooong months the kids will all be gone for the weekend.
Taking care of me will be my top priority this weekend which will include our first #summerofrich “Fall Edition” of the season but first up on the agenda tonight is also another “first” in over 18 looooong months; Date night with Rich at my favourite restaurant using the gift card I received for my birthday (which was 3 months ago already) from a couple of my many beautiful friends. I guess I’ve been holding on to it for that perfect moment.
My Psychiatrist prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication last week as part of my new treatment plan. It’s been several years now since I’ve taken any kind of prescription medication at all to help treat my illness but I agreed to try this in hopes of finding even the slightest bit of relief because asides from my symptoms of depression and suicidal ideations becoming increasingly more and more active and beyond my control over the past month, so too has my anxiety and panic (do you know what it feels like to want to climb out of your skin?).
I began taking them on Saturday morning.
My doctor had told me during our Zoom call a couple of days earlier that I’d need to take one pill every morning and one pill before bed every night and to then increase the doses to two pills in the morning and two pills before bed after a few days. But just to be clear here, it was actually Rich he was giving the information to, not me, as Rich has been under strict instructions from any and all of my doctors to keep all of my medications out of my reach (like that of a toddler) ever since I began to abuse my use of prescription drugs several years ago.
I thought I was okay with all this because this medication was not considered an antidepressant as I have made it super clear to every new Psychiatrist I’ve encountered over the past many years, whether it be in a hospital setting or in a Doctor’s office that I no longer wish to be prescribed any more antidepressant drugs, EVER, after experiencing the excruciating side effects they had caused both my body and mind over a period of several years of trial and error which ultimately led to my diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression.
So I thought I was okay with all this.
But by Sunday morning when I awoke to another pill sitting by my bedside table which Rich had left there for me to take, I suddenly realized that I was not okay with it and by Sunday evening those feelings turned to rage as I went frantically searching throughout the house for his hiding spot in hysteria (he had stepped out of the house for a half an hour and I saw it as my golden opportunity).
To be honest though, I’m not really even sure what I was trying to accomplish had I found my stash of pills (including sleeping pills which I was also prescribed and has actually been helping me to get some sleep) but I became inconsolable and in that very moment all I could think of was finding the pills so that I could finally unburden Rich of me once and for all.
I didn’t find them.
It’s now 1:30 AM Tuesday morning as I write this. I could be fast asleep by now had I already taken my new sleeping pill that is sitting by my bedside table but instead I’m lying here in tears, scared and feeling like I don’t want to continue with our agreed upon plan, none of it.
I’ve been laying here in the dark for hours just staring at the pills which Rich left by my bedside table deciding whether or not to take them. And the demons in my head are dancing around claiming their victory (kinda like the Liberal party in Canada is doing right now as well).
I did eventually shut down the demons bantering just long enough to take them. But I’m not okay with all this, even if I know in my heart it is for my own safety and for the good of my health.
I have spent the better part of the past few days since my visit to emerg trying to process everything while still desperately figuring out whether or not I even have the strength anymore to keep going.
The Psychiatrist who was assigned to my care the other day was a very special and very rare find as far as any encounter I’ve ever had with a Psychiatrist in an emergency room before. He went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced during a visit to emerg and trust me when I say I’ve had my fair share of experiences.
You see, it’s very difficult to advocate for yourself when you don’t believe that you are worthy enough or deserving of.
Knowing how overwhelmed I was feeling and knowing how hard it is for me to even complete the simplest of tasks (scheduling appointments being one of them), Rich took it upon himself to help jump start the process of self-advocacy the very next morning, starting with making a follow up call to my GP’s office on my behalf, hoping that she could somehow escalate an appointment quicker to see my Psychiatrist.
That’s when he learned that the referral he’d requested 3 weeks earlier in order for me to make an appointment with my Psychiatrist because I hadn’t seen him in over a year had never been sent out.
She had been on vacation that week but Rich was assured it would be sent as soon as she was back in the office the following week.
Upon learning the disappointing news that it had never been sent out, Rich was assured again the other day that it would be taken care of right away. He waited a few hours to give my doctor’s office some time to fax it over and then he called the office of my Psychiatrist to make me that appointment. They still hadn’t received the referral and still would not make the appointment without it even though I was already his patient but just hadn’t seen him since last year when the new treatment I was scheduled to begin the week of March 15th 2020 was abruptly cancelled due to ya know, a Pandemic!
Feeling frustrated and desperate and very impatient by now, Rich said screw this bullshit and sent an email directly to my Psychiatrist himself to explain what’s been going on.
Within a few hours of sending him the email my Psychiatrist answered Rich’s pleas and copied his two assistants on the email asking that they schedule me in for an appointment to speak with him after hours the very next day on Zoom.
So late yesterday afternoon, feeling emotionally drained from the past few days and hungry from fasting all day being that it was Yom Kippur I finally reconnected with my Psychiatrist. A true gem and another rare find.
We spoke for the better part of an hour where along with Rich’s input a new plan was put into place immediately including a plan to pick up where we had left off last year and have his assistants schedule a first appointment at one of his other clinics to begin the treatment I was to start in March of 2020.
There have been many changes to the treatment’s protocols and the actual administration of it as well and not just due to Covid but several other factors that have come into consideration since then while conducting many clinical trials. The treatment itself has also evolved as well due to more and more research and scientific discoveries.
I’m still really overwhelmed and mentally exhausted right now to say the least and filled with so many mixed emotions today.
I’m so appreciative and grateful though for all the incredible support I have in my life (especially you Rich 💚), even if I may not feel worthy enough or deserving of it.
Fact: Most people who take their own life don’t really want to die, they just want to stop hurting.
So then what is the alternative when your pain is just too unbearable to handle and you feel so hopeless? Or helpless? Or empty inside? Or you can no longer live in the skin you’re in?
These are all questions I’ve asked myself over and over again for many years now. I’ve attempted suicide before and every time there has always been a voice inside my head begging me to stop or telling me that perhaps today may not be the perfect day to carry out my plan afterall and then they silently pray that I haven’t gone too far this time.
The last few weeks have been some of the most trying and horrifyingly scary days for me and for many of my loved ones as well.
I have been consumed with active thoughts of suicide, day and night and way more than usual. That voice inside my head has been watching me closely, as have the demons as well. The voice has been listening to me come up with a perfect plan and doing everything in its power to distract me from the demons in my head who keep egging me on while dangling a bottle of pills in front of its face.
Yesterday felt too much, once again. I knew I felt unsafe and Rich could sense it. He asked Hannah to drive me to the hospital as she was the only one home with me at the time. I did what I’ve had to do many times before when the pain is just too unbearable. When I feel most hopeless and helpless and empty. I seek safety.
The emergency room doctor I spoke with was kind and supportive. She put me on a Form 1 which panicked me and meant that I could not leave the hospital for my own safety which also meant having security guards standing outside the room I was in for my own safety.
After spending some time with the doctor she put in a request for the Psychiatric team to come talk with me further and figure out a plan.
The Psychiatrist was a gentle and very understanding soul. We talked in length about what’s been going on, some of my history and of course whether or not I should be admitted to the Psych floor for further observation.
Here’s where things get more complicated for me and besides the panic of having my phone taken away from me while in-patient this is where I begin to tell myself again, it’s hopeless because I’m helpless.
I have not been on meds for my depression for several years now. They have not worked for me, all twenty plus of them. Infact most of the meds caused further damage both mentally and physically.
From my experiences with in-patient Psychiatric care it mostly comes down to medication and finding a balance that could potentially help me find my balance. I won’t do it again. I tried for many years and it just led to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression.
Since my last visit to emerg a few weeks ago (where I thought I’d give the new hospital close to my home a try, but never again!) I have been waiting for an appointment to see my Psychiatrist I’d been with since before the Pandemic began. In fact it was March 15th 2020 that I had a scheduled appointment to see him and for him to begin a new treatment with me. It was cancelled and I just stopped going. I got anxious about going especially to the one hospital in Toronto that was consistently on the news for the amount of Covid outbreaks they were having.
It’s now been over a year since seeing him, so I needed my GP to fax another referral to him. I haven’t heard anything as of yet and as I began to spiral even further over the past few weeks since my last visit to emerg I stopped caring because the hopeless feelings, the helplessness, the emptiness made me believe there was just no point anymore in trying because aside from all the medications, I’ve also tried probably 50 other types of treatments as well. You name it, I’ve done it. So why would this treatment be any different?
Well the Psychiatrist I spoke with last night came up with a plan with his team for me regardless of me telling him I’m helpless because he was certain that I’m not. He also told me that whenever I feel like I did yesterday or days previous that I am always welcome to come in just to sit in a quiet room and speak with their team and just get through the moment.
He made me promise to continue to reach out to my safety net as well when I am at my breaking point. He also said something to me that I haven’t been able to get out of my head right before he agreed to cancel my Form 1 and release me from the wolves standing on guard outside my door.
I had told him during our initial conversation how I have found purpose in writing and blogging and educating people on mental illness and advocating for others who are just like me to do whatever is needed to seek care. He told me it’s a wonderful thing that I am doing for others, and very selfless and important and much needed work but he then said “But now it’s time that you start advocating for yourself as well”.
This he said, includes (with the help of Rich and my GP) that I get in touch with my Psychiatrist immediately to reinvoke our plan from last year and that I make sure to follow up with my GP on the plan he will be forwarding to her today as well for her to distribute a new anti-anxiety medication to me and to refill the sleeping pills he gave me which Rich will once again be burdened with to keep in a safe place and distribute them to me.
Thank you all for your continued love and support. My apologies for not getting back to each one of you individually who took the time once again to comment on my posts or send me words of encouragement to me privately. I am overwhelmed right now and allowing myself to heal today in private.
As ere of Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar) begins this evening I am praying to find forgiveness within myself and will take this time to reflect on today in order to find the beauty in tomorrow.
It’s 1 am as I begin to write this. I just spent the better part of the past hour bawling my eyes out while Rich held my hand and Maggie tried to work her magic.
Right before this scene played out I had been lying in bed watching my mindless Sunday night Reality TV shows while texting with some friends.
I’d just had a “picture perfect” weekend which many of you may have seen from the #summerofrich pics I had posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing the things I love; being outdoors, enjoying quality time with family and friends.
But as I lay there in bed watching my mindless reality TV and chatting with several friends, the highlight reel of my own reality started playing out in my head and the overwhelming disconnect I’ve been feeling from the world lately, even during these “picture perfect” moments left my mind spiraling out of control faster than the fan spinning beside my bed.
It felt like a big gust of painful emotions blew right through me.
And then I felt an emptiness inside of me as those “picture perfect” moments quickly got tangled up in the blades of my fan, leaving me in a ball of dust on the floor, convincing myself that maybe happiness doesn’t belong to me. That maybe I don’t deserve to feel joy and that maybe I’m truly not worthy of love or friendship or purpose afterall.
This is what living with Depression and Anxiety can feel like somedays.
If ever you feel like your “picture perfect” moments are getting tangled up in the blades of your fan please remember that there is always help available to slow down the speed when it starts spinning too fast.
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