So I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. That’s probably why it’s been quiet here. That and pandemic. Hello. It’s been a lot. The world feels chaotic and unstable and all things.
Whether or not I actually publish this is yet to be seen. I mean basically if you’re reading this I decided to just send it out into the world. The thing is sometimes these things are easy because I can process and say what I say and don’t have to worry about a reaction because I never see it. But sometimes, like today, I worry about the reaction. But on the other side of the coin, I feel like if it helps someone understand someone else in their life and give them the grace they need, then it’s worth it.
That’s a lot of build up. It’s verbal procrastination at its finest. Let me preface by saying, my mother never let me quit anything. (With the exception of soccer because of the threat of bodily harm. I’m pretty sure there’s a previous blog post about that). Everything I started growing up I knew I’d have to finish. When I was learning piano, I remember being told I could quit when I learned to play out of the hymnal. Y’all. It’s a long road from hot cross buns to How Great Thou Art. Just saying. It’s a commitment. But we were taught to finish. We were taught not to quit. And honestly, that’s probably why I’m still here to write these things.
The first time I remember looking in the medicine cabinet thinking about how many pills it would take to make it all stop, I was in college. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but I remember feeling like I was going to fail. I remember being overwhelmed with not enough time to do things. I remember being unsure that I even wanted to have a career in my major. I remember thinking of the money that it was costing for my private education and the Christian college I was in. I remember feeling like a fraud in the ministry I helped with. All the things.
For perspective sake, failure was a C for me, so very much not failure to anyone but me. I was pledging a sorority. I was working. And I was an English Major. I did not have free time. Any free time I found was stolen from something I should have been doing. As far as my Christianity, there was a disconnect from what I said and what I believed. But that was on me, as I didn’t spend time developing that relationship with God.
And so I found myself in the bathroom, counting Ibuprofen and wondering if Ibuprofen even did anything. Because if I was gonna fail at that too, I might as well not do it. And then looking at myself in the mirror I realized I’m not a quitter and I couldn’t imagine what my mother would think of me. So I put them all back, dried my tears, and figured out how to carry on.
And I never spoke of it to anyone. It was a dirty secret.
But every time things got really hard, I would think about it. Sometimes it was a passing thought, like I wonder what the weather is like and also what’s in the medicine cabinet that can do damage. Sometimes it was a little more enticing. But I never followed through, obviously. Because I’m not a quitter. Because even at my lowest, even when I wanted the hard to stop, it didn’t seem right.
You see, the real problem is I had been running from some demons my whole life. Anxiety and depression has always been there, but they were too shameful to acknowledge. Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety and depression. They are supposed to have faith. Crazy people have mental illness. (Also I don’t want to be like my grandmother). If I were better at my life, more perfect, more all the things, no one would see the struggle. No one needs to know the ugly side.
And that struggle between my rational brain and my monkey brain caused war within myself. It led to discontent with life. I could never achieve enough. Someone was always better than me. I doubted my gifts. I doubted my abilities. I couldn’t see where any of this ended up.
And denying the problem, escalated the problem. Fast forward to a little over a year ago, and my first anxiety attack in the midst of health struggles and feeling like I was failing at work and at friendship and at life in general. My achiever brain and my inner time table were not matching my reality. And I found myself again staring at the medicine cabinet, only this time with the means and as a nurse, the knowledge.
The month prior, my cardiologist had changed my Cardizem dose, right after I filled it. So I had 30 days worth. And I had saved them because “I might need them”. I’m not sure for what but there they were. How many would it take to stop my heart? I mean probably not many. Again I didn’t do it. My friends sat with me on the edge of that pit for weeks, maybe months, though they never truly knew how far that pit was or anything about that level of thoughts.
To one of my friends, I just want to walk away from all the things. “What does that mean? Like all the all the things? How deep is that all?” No nothing like that. I would never do that.
And I started therapy. “Do you ever think about killing yourself?” No. Haha. Of course not. I would never do that.
Then one evening, after I had been training/shadowing in my new job and we’d done a depression/suicide simulation and I was talking to a person and she said, “I don’t understand that mentality. I don’t know why anyone would ever think that’s the only way out.” I said, I do. I have thought that before. And it was out. Before I even thought about it. The words I’d never said to a living soul. The dirty secret was out. We talked about it a little. Oddly I felt better not worse.
Then that night I’m sitting on my couch, perfectly fine, and monkey brain says, “hey, you know you still have those 30 pills. You could still do it.” And for the first time I realized the problem with having them. The propensity for monkey brain to think that was the answer.
I told my friends. We destroyed the pills. I fessed up to my therapist that I’d lied to her. Oddly she didn’t seem surprised. I told my friend I’d lied to her too. I couldn’t stomach the lying about it any more.
Strangely enough, my brain still goes there when things get hard. But I am not a quitter. Having people who know my brain goes there sometimes, is accountability. Having people that care makes a difference. Having a few good friends who can ask the questions matters.
So why tell this story? Because truthfully it’s still a dirty secret that only a few of my friends know. The truth is I’m tired of it being a dirty secret. It’s easier to get trapped by secrets.
The other thing is I heard someone again say I don’t understand why someone would think like that. They must be really crazy. And I just felt like the time was right to tell the story. Because it’s a hard story, but it’s part of my story. It’s a part that I’ll always struggle with a little. It’s a part that I rely on my friends to get my through. It’s a demon that my thoughts will always battle, even as recently as last week. But I have more tools, more weapons.
I want you to know if you struggle that it’s okay to say something to people you trust. This struggle doesn’t make you crazy or a failure or any of the things. But it’s not a fight you can fight alone. Therapy is a good thing. It’s a great thing. Faith is necessary too. But needing help doesn’t make you less of a Christian and I’m sorry the church hasn’t done so good with that. I think they’re doing better. Find someone you trust. Tell them your thoughts. Speak the words. The only dirty secrets are ones not spoken.
If you love someone who struggles, know that just loving them is huge. I don’t always know what I need, but a lot of times I just need love and acceptance, to know I’m not letting people down, to know I’m still good enough. My inner circle knows to ask the questions, the hard and ugly questions. But know too that this being out there isn’t a license for everyone to ask the questions just yet. The main thing is to be there. To let the person know you care. To check on them occasionally. Don’t hover though.
And ultimately we need to be able to talk to each other about the hard things. Life is hard y’all. 2020 has given us all a run for our money. And it’s pushed some extra buttons. The loneliness is hard. But we’re gonna make it through. I’m ok today. If I wasn’t I couldn’t tell you these things.
So that’s my dirty secret. September is suicide awareness and prevention month. No matter what you think of me after this, if it helps one person either reach out or help their struggling friend, it’s worth whatever your thoughts are. This is my story. I have to own it. Not just the pretty for public pieces, but all of it. The good, the bad, and the downright dirty.
Life is hard. God is good. And now I’m signing off for a trip to the place that gets me back on track. I’m off to the lake again.