On the day after Halloween in 2015, I found myself in a vacant lot alone and terrified after a nearly successful suicide attempt. Left sad, confused, angry and just plain exhausted from years of denying that I had a problem, that was the day that ultimately ended up saving my life.
For years, I kept up a ruse that ended up not only nearly destroying my life, but ending it altogether. Despite keeping up appearances that I was leading a happy and fulfilling life in an effort to convince myself and others that I was ok, I had been overwhelmed with hopelessness, despair, numbness and confusion for many years. Left unchecked, I began to rapidly decline.
Much too stubborn to ask for help and frankly ignorant to the fact that I was struggling so much, it was that day that I finally understood that I was trapped in a vicious cycle that I couldn’t escape alone. A cycle that I had endured for most of my life without knowing why. A cycle which made me feel as if suicide were my only solution.
Talking myself out of ending things each day became the focus of my life. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t make it to 2016. For months, I kept a suicide note in my drafts folder and a hand-written one on my person nearly every day.
I had no desire to be alive any longer.
I kept the torture that I was internally enduring each day a secret from everybody in my life until it imploded. When you keep up a lie as big as I was, it becomes increasingly easy to deceive yourself and others about much less important things in an effort to keep your head above water. I became a dishonest, unfaithful, erratic person and a stranger to myself and others. I felt as if I were a caged animal that had finally snapped.
I had destroyed relationships, self-destructed, and even faced the prospect of homelessness.
In the years leading up to my implosion, my life had become an unpredictable roller coaster ride. I would experience long spells of euphoria during which I felt invincible and indestructible. When that spell would end, I would feel so severely depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch. There was no in-between. It was a type of turmoil hard to describe unless you’ve been through it.
It all came to a head on that fateful November day in that wooded, empty lot, where I stopped myself short of ending my life and decided it was time to regain control.
I would learn soon after that neurotransmitters in my brain were
misfiring and sending the wrong signals, causing me to have suicidal ideation and act dangerously and self-destructively on impulse. The chemical imbalance in my brain was causing me to be irritable, angry and unbending in my resolve to fake it until I made it.
Simply put, I was suffering from a mental illness.
The day I heard my diagnosis, I realized that life as I had known it was over. Big changes had to be made in order for me to successfully manage my mental illness.
For the next 45 days, I spent my time in intensive in-patient treatment at the start of a long and winding road to recovery on which I’m still traveling today. Shortly after entering the hospital, I was given an official and terrifying diagnosis – Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder Type II.
I have a long way to go, but I am so far from where I was that it’s hard for me to remember the person I was before my journey started.
Toward the beginning of my hospital stay, the head of my treatment team sat with me as I sobbed. That day, she told me that even though I couldn’t see it then, in six months my life would be completely different if I committed myself fully to recovery. As I sat at rock-bottom, I wondered if she realized how broken I had become.
It turns out, she was right.
When I was at my lowest point, and frankly probably didn’t deserve it, only one other person in my life remained steadfast. She believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Nightly, despite all of the hurt, chaos and destruction I had caused to myself, her and others in my life, she visited without fail. I failed her so many times in those first couple of weeks, but she didn’t give up on me. She kept coming back. It created a bond that I’ve never come close to feeling with any other person in my life.
Some very tough months have passed, and I am ecstatically and gratefully proud to call that visitor my partner. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a little girl in March of 2016, and life continues to show me the gifts that I had missed had I prevailed in my original plan.
There are many folks who struggle every day and who are embarrassed or afraid to turn to loved ones for help. This site is for you. And for your loved ones. When your leg is broken, you get it fixed. When you have the flu, you take medicine. Your brain works harder than any other part of your body and deserves the same TLC you give to your physical health.
My aim is to do my part to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. To show to the rest of the general public that those who fight valiantly every day can lead a normal lifestyle and be a productive partner, parent and member of society.
Mental illness is not something that should be romanticized. It is an unrelenting monster that can rob people of their dignity, relationships and ability to lead a healthy lifestyle.
I continue to see a psychiatrist and talk to a therapist every week. I take a regimen of medications that keep me at baseline and ensure that I avoid relapse. Each of those things will be a lifelong commitment for me. I owe it to myself. I owe it to my partner. And now, I owe it to my daughter.
Recovery is nearly a full time job and sometimes feels overwhelming. Despite all of that, for the first time in as long as I can remember I feel something that has been foreign to me for a long time.
Chris is an aspiring writer, speaker and mental health advocate and the man behind Dad; Diagnosed. He lives with his partner and soon-to-be newborn daughter just outside of the nation’s capital.
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