My story is one you have heard before. I suffered in silence for many years while Major Depressive Disorder slowly destroyed my mind. Alongside the disorder, I also had worsening sleep apnea which denied my body, and mind, the rest it needed to recover. Together, my self-esteem was destroyed and my ability to function in the world was negated. I reached the point where I did not eat because I was unable to leave my apartment to buy food.
Eventually the daily struggle became too much and I attempted to take my own life.
I survived. And it is in that survival that my story may have a difference.
You see, my action was not about seeking death, it was about ending my pain. And in that very narrow sense, I succeeded. Now, let me stop here for a moment. I do not in any way advocate suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek help. If you have a plan, stop reading and call emergency services immediately. Whether you believe it or not, you are worthy of life and should take steps to preserve yours.
So what do I mean?
I was fortunate. Somewhere in the haze of my near-death-yet-surviving-mind, I experienced stillness and silence. The incessant noise that was within my head stopped. The oxygen mask that I wore acted like a CPAP device and I slept. Together, these fortunate events meant that I awoke with a clarity of thought where none had existed for years. I awoke rested when no rest had been experienced for years.
I awoke with the conviction that I would do everything necessary not to be in such pain again. I accepted that it was unsafe for me to be alone. I accepted that it was unsafe for me to act alone. I needed a safer home than the one I had, and I needed to reach out for help.
What followed were the first simple successes of the post-suicidal me. I asked my parents if I could stay in their home and I asked the hospital counselor to refer me to resources near that home. Such small victories but huge given that they happened the day after my near-death. Another small victory followed. I found the telephone number of the agency the counselor referred me to, the Canadian Mental Health Agency, and I called it. Upon hearing their response, I broke down on the phone and begged for help.
I was fortunate again. I received their help, and still receive it to this very day. I am grateful for that help for it has given me support over each of the low days I experienced during the past eighteen months.
There have been many low days. There was the day when my son learned his mum was in crisis. I had to explain to him what his mum was experiencing and tell him about my suicide attempt. That is a conversation no parent should ever have with a child, nor a child with a parent. But I had no choice. My son needed me, and he needed to hear the truth. So I told him the truth, the ugly fact of my actions and the beauty of the moment of silence and everything that the silence fostered. My son made me proud, he forgave me.
I learned from speaking to my son that my recovery required me to be open about my experience with MDD. Being open about it was liberating and gave the professionals an unvarnished glimpse into my broken mind. If they were to fix it, they needed to know what they were dealing with. This openness was very new to me. I had been, until these events occurred, a very closed person, keeping my privacy very closely guarded.
Additional good fortune followed. I sought out a new family doctor and found one. With the guidance of CMHA, I sought out counseling supports, and found them. I told each and every one of these professionals my story and told them, half in jest, that I’d now told them more about myself in that twenty minute meeting than I had to anyone else in my prior fifty-one years. The sad part was that it was true. But I had learned the lessons from my silence and the conversation with my son, so I shared.
Just as I now share with you. There is a way out of the dark. The way out if fraught with pitfalls and dead ends, But if you are truly trying to recover, you will find a way to overcome the pitfalls and dead ends and persevere. Recovery takes work, lots of work, and it takes time. In my case, I was silent for thirty-five plus years, so it should not be surprising that recovery will take years as well.
I have made progress. But I am ever vigilant. If I stop using the tools of recovery, the darkness will return. Of this I have no doubt. So I keep working on my recovery. I owe this to all those who helped me. I owe it to my parents and my son. Most of all, I owe it to myself.
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I’ve had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I’m a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.