The flight, the wind, and then nothing…

TW seriously TRIGGER WARNING this post discusses my worst night when it came to suicidal depression. If you are suicidal or easily triggered, please do not read this post. Also, I have a whole slew of phone numbers, text lines, and websites on my resources. If you need one (or more) please use it.

I wrote this post for my storytelling group and shared it with them today. I’d meant to post this here in January for Mental Health Month but life, aka depression, got the best of me. I’m only ten-ish days late. And so, here it is. I hope this helps and makes at least one of you feel less alone…

hardest thingI stood at the patio door and stared into the distance, my hands leaving sweaty prints on the glass. The space between the door and railing was empty and beyond that there was nothing but air between me and the ground seven stories down. Eight if you included the slope to the basement. Who knew however many feet down down to the pavement… or the dumpster if I aimed well enough. And if I hit the dumpster no one would have to do anything with me at all, they’d just take me away with the trash. That’s all I was, wasn’t I? And this would make me a bit less of a burden. No fuss, no funeral.

I couldn’t see the ground below but I knew it well enough. The dumpsters. The cracks travelling toward the sewer. The random tossing of what Colin and I figured was white paint. Whatever it was never washed away although we couldn’t figure out why anyone would throw paint there in the first place.

Colin. He was off at youth group, on the other side of a copse of trees, and wouldn’t be home for another hour. That’s why I’d picked now, I didn’t want him to be the one to find me. But… I pictured him coming home from group all cheerful and wanting to talk about what happened and discovering an empty apartment. He knew how I was feeling. What if he went to the balcony to check and found me anyway? Or found me as he came through the back door from his group? My family loved him but didn’t understand him. They’d take him in but would it be a good fit? ‘Maybe they’d do better,’ a small voice inside me whispered. ‘It’s not like you’re a particularly good Mom, maybe they’ll get him succeeding at school and making more friends. Maybe you’re holding him back’ the voice continued.

I thought about the dumpsters again and figured they were close enough… but they held mostly garbage bags, which were a lot softer than pavement.

I backed away carefully. Was it far enough of a drop considering the relative softness of the bags? I figured it was but what if it wasn’t? I didn’t want to end up a quadriplegic, unable to try again.

Was it or wasn’t it?

Meanwhile I pictured jumping over and over; the flight, the wind, and then nothing.

My feet inched another step back and another until I was in the corner of my room, as far away from my balcony  door as I could and then I reached for my phone. I immediately went on Facebook and searched through my friend’s list for anyone who could help and M showed up right at the top of the list.

M is a mental health friend of mine who has paranoid schizophrenia. While I don’t think she’s struggled with depression, she knows too well the feeling of being out of control in her own mind and was more than willing to chat about inconsequential things until Colin got home. I have no idea what we talked about. I’m not sure I even knew while we were messaging, but she stayed online until Colin was safely inside the apartment and that was what mattered.

Then I told him what happened. And then he pulled my bookcase in front of the balcony door. And then he tucked me into bed and called me his pocket sized Mom. And I slowly drifted off to sleep with my biggest stuffy, scared but with no tears. I’d promised myself I’d never cry again a few months earlier.

The next morning I got up and carefully packed a bag full of safe items, plus a handful of quarters for the payphones on the fourth floor. Then I went to the hospital, by bus, to be involuntarily committed. They were pretty damn concerned about me, right to the point of parking me in front of the nursing station before I got to see the doctor and get that Form 42. Then they kept me in the back part of the ER until the psychiatrist arrived. And then I went upstairs where there’s nowhere comfortable to sit, nothing to do except colour with crayons, where talking to my Mom costs 50 cents (and if she calls the payphone someone has to come hollering down the hall for me), and there’s that all time favourite meal time task of buttering cold toast with a spoon. I stayed for a week, I’ve stayed for a week in all my five or six stays. And then I went home.

I ostensibly got better but I wasn’t really. I was simply auditing my life. I had one foot out the door and, if things went south, I was gone. I’d made a new plan and was all set. Life was going okay so far but I always felt like something awful was waiting around the corner. And I was ready.

Life came back in the weirdest of ways. Our local Pet Valu had two white kittens and I’d always wanted a white cat. I wasn’t worried about finances at the time, for obvious reasons, so decided now was the time. Colin couldn’t imagine the second kitten being left alone without her sister and begged for us to get her too. So we did. But the Humane Society only took cash and we didn’t have $200 between the two of us. So we ran around withdrawing money from my credit card and buying pack after pack of gum so we could get the maximum cash back at the grocery store. Then we finally had enough and took them home. Colin fussed over them but it was me who dealt with all the tiny details. I kitten proofed my balcony to the point where they couldn’t escape even if they took up pole vaulting, and supervised them outside playing every 5am.

Both kittens were tiny and still had an intense urge to nurse. Smudge on my stuffed lamb Rufus and Lara on our then 10 year old cat Blackie. I was the one who kept them in my room at night and woke to them sucking frantically. Who moved them to their food and water bowls and made sure they ate and drank. They gave me a focus and a sense of purpose. And then one night I woke suddenly just as Smudge, who was playing near my head, rolled off the side of my bed… and I somehow managed to reach out and grab her.

I was a bit shaken. That was a big drop for such a little kitten. But she was calm, staring peacefully into my eyes. She knew I was going to catch her. That I always was going to catch her. I was the centre of her world. And that’s when I realized I couldn’t kill myself. People could talk to each other and comfort each other but she’d never know. The centre of her world would simply disappear. And I couldn’t do that to her.

There are many reasons why people decide against suicide. As for me, I did it for a cat.

Four years…

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My eyes are so swollen from crying for two days

CN: frank discussion of suicidal thoughts

My heart felt like it had stopped. I couldn’t breathe. This wasn’t happening. Lenny had broken up with me and I felt like I’d lost the last support I had. I’d been plummeting into depression for months; all that kept me going was the promise of moving to England and making a fresh start with Lenny. It was going to be my biggest adventure and then it was gone with no way of getting it back.

Four years ago today, the day after my break up, I sat down at my computer desk and wrote a suicide note. I didn’t bill it as such, in fact I lied and said I had no plans of killing myself. That wasn’t true. I had a plan and now I had my note. I also had the courage or desperation to climb over the railing and jump. The only thing holding me back was the fear it wasn’t high enough. What if I didn’t die? What if I ended up as a quadriplegic, unable to try again. Meanwhile I pictured jumping over and over; the flight, the wind, and then nothing. I didn’t think of the people I’d leave behind except fleetingly, assuming they’d quickly get over me. Goodness knows I wasn’t worth caring about.

Then my sister called and asked if she could take me to the hospital. It wasn’t like I had anything pressing to do other than dying so I told her I would. She coached me while in the car to exaggerate a little so they’d take me seriously. I didn’t think that would be an issue.

Going to the hospital for mental health issues takes so long. There’s the initial waiting room and then triage and then the nurses station and then the waiting room. Then, after an hour or so, there’s a trip to the back part of the ER and a meeting with a doctor. Then it’s back to the waiting room for another hour or two… or three before finally meeting the psychiatrist. It’s almost a day long event; it’s worth packing snacks and a book (if you can concentrate).

Finally we sat in a quiet room with a couch, a couple of chairs, and dim lamps. I sat on the couch silently crying while my Mom perched uncomfortably on a chair. My sister had long since needed to go home to get her kids from school. The psychiatrist explained that I could be admitted but, if I was serious about suicide I could always find a way. There was no guarantee I’d be safe. Or I could go home with my Mom. I ended up staying almost two weeks with my parents before going home again and, over the course of the next few years, got admitted around four times. I had my first admission that June and got blocked by Lenny the morning after I got home. I haven’t heard from him since. I have no idea how he’s doing but I wish him well. He was struggling with his own demons.

My life has changed so much since then. I’m no longer able to work so groups took over as a way to interact with people (at least until covid-19 struck). I’m on a handful of meds a day, carefully balanced to keep me balanced. I adopted two kittens to go with the three senior cats I already had and they keep me busy and loved. No matter what’s going on in the world, they need me and that matters. I got involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association and I got a subsidized apartment. This is the first time I’ve lived on my own and the first time I’ve lived outside of Oshawa and Whitby (two cities just outside Toronto).

If you are suicidal I want you to know that you have value and meaning. You are worthwhile no matter how you feel (or how you’ve been made to feel). And life changes. What’s happening now is no indication of what your life is going to be like in a year or four. My resources page has a bunch of phone numbers and websites for help and I can be reached on my blog’s Facebook page or email address (both are on my about page). You are not alone.

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Dear Dr. K

I’m writing because it’s so much easier than talking. If I leave this to talking I’ll be so anxious I lose half of what I planned on saying and will have misworded another quarter. Chances are you’re too busy to read this on your own time but I’ll have it up on my phone at the next appointment.

Zoloft sounded like a great idea and it’s dropped my anxiety a bit but it’s also doing almost nothing for my depression. I’m back to plotting out my death and coming up with reasons for why none of them would work, mostly because it would be unfair for the person who finds me (or in the case of the train, the person who hit me). And then it struck me. What would happen to my cats? I love them dearly and want them to have the best lives possible but none are kittens. Even the ones I call kittens are almost four years old and the rest are seniors. Angel needs a step up to climb onto my bed, where she spends most of her time sleeping. And I just watched Blackie slowly settle herself on the floor, gently easing each joint down. My family won’t take them which means they’d end up languishing for months in a shelter, if not years. So suicide is out of the question.

I feel like I’m hollow inside and that hollowness is filled with pain, like I’m a person suit filled with broken glass. I’m counting down the days until I die… until the pain goes away. Wishing for death and then, once again I think of my cats and gingerly back away from those thoughts.

I planned on going to the gym today. It would have been my third day in a row. I took a nap instead. I crave sleep like a person with a heroin addict craves their next hit. I’m never sure if I want to sleep because it gets me out of life for one more hour or if it’s because I’m really freaking tired. Maybe it’s both.

I have to force myself to finish my food lately and, even then I end up throwing things away… like half an apple. Ironically I’m not losing any weight. My scale and I currently have a hate-hate relationship.

Meanwhile I’m doing everything I possibly can. My home is spotless. The dishes are washed, laundry done, bed made, kitty litter scooped, and garbages emptied. I’ve been going to the gym regularly although I just started. I made an attempt to join a group. Sadly it was really triggering and I had to leave but CMHA is setting up groups for this building, so I’ll be in a group soon. I’m listening to music daily and will be singing karaoke with friends in two more weeks. And still I find myself wishing I would just die. I don’t know what else I can do to make things better.

And I help my 14 year old cat onto my bed and give her forehead scritches then head into the living room to listen to music. Hopefully you’ll have some ideas for what to do because I’m lost.

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Me snuggling Smudge on my swing chair. You can’t see it but she’s drooling with happiness

A Hormonal Tilt a Whirl…

There are so many things that could be affecting my mood right now. The medication adjustments (albeit minor ones), the season’s change, “normal” hormonal fluctuations, and so on. What I do know is that my anxiety and depression are not playing together well. Or, more realistically, they’re playing together too well. Anxiety’s screaming, “OMG we’re all going to die!!!” and depression replies with, “Great idea. If we get some momentum going, we could jump the railing before cowardice steps in.”

I’m not going to jump. I’ve got too many friends and family who would miss me plus Blackie and Lara would never understand why I didn’t return. I couldn’t do that to them. People talk about cats being aloof, Blackie and Lara are anything but aloof. And they love me dearly.

I hate this feeling. Everything seems scary but I have no idea why and, at the same time, I don’t really care. Part of me is craving sleep while the rest is dreading it. Last night I drempt I was standing beside a river, watching body parts floating by. The only good thing my mind could come up with was at least they weren’t climbing out of the river after me. I don’t remember what else happened but I was up for an hour afterwards.

And I try to make bedtime comfortable. Calm pillow spray with chamomile, rose, and white tea. My big squishy stuffed carrot. Soothing bedtime music. And my heart still pounds.

It’s not much better when I’m awake. I struggle to get anywhere, breaking each trip into pieces and only focusing on one piece at a time. Sometimes that works, other times it doesn’t. Then I just make do without whatever I was going to get. Going with someone helps… except my someone is Colin which means a monologue on how the conservatives are better and how hard done by men are. I’m hoping this is a phase he’ll grow out of but am losing hope on that one.

And today is the 80th day until I move. It feels like it’s so far away but I have to give notice at the end of this month and then I’m into the final crunch. Another huge chunk of anxiety to deal with.

I’m struggling with posting this. Half of me says that no one wants to hear me whine while the other says there are people who need to know they’re not alone. I can deal with people thinking I’m boring. It’s the people who feel alone that matter to me.

For those of you who feel you’re alone and drowning in pain. There are people out there. They might be hard to find but they are there. You can do it! I believe in you!

keep fighting

I don’t know…

filtered-flowersI was walking through the field in front of the park I usually visit and I realized I absolutely did not want to be there. I wanted to be safe at home, curled up in my swing chair right now. Short of a teleportation device, that wasn’t happening. I managed to keep on walking.

Tears prickle my eyes for no reason multiple times a day and I keep hoping I won’t start sobbing, which would be embarrassing if I was out, and often causes a headache.

I don’t want to die. I don’t want to kill myself. And yet I have a completely detailed suicide plan. And Colin’s away and I got a sudden idea that I could implement it before he gets home. I won’t.

I ate a handful of crackers for lunch today and nothing at all yesterday because I’m not hungry. To be fair, I had packed an apple for lunch yesterday but there was an elderly man rummaging through the garbage and I figured he could use it more than me.

And I’m so very tired. All. The. Time. I wake up from a nap and feel like I should be sleeping again.

So much of my future is up in the air. I have a floor plan that likely looks like my unit but I have no idea if it’s accurate or not. I have a move in date but what if my building wants me out on the 31st? I’ve found several apartments for Colin and he’s turned them all down. I have no idea how much a moving van costs and am too scared to find out.

Will I make friends there? Will they be the sort of friend who hang out with you and do stuff together? Will they accept me for me? Autistic, asexual, panromantic, vegan, atheist. I don’t want to hear “I like you but…”

I have a psychiatrist appointment on Friday and I have a sinking feeling my answer to “And how’s Kathleen been?” will be “I don’t know”. But I really don’t know. And I’m going to take out the garbage and wash some dishes because leaving them as is will not help my mood. And hopefully my doctor will have a better idea to deal with this than I do.

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Me with glitter gel in my hair. Because depression’s on the inside, not on the outside

Letting go of the past…

Head’s up: My ex and I have multiple friends together. I don’t care if you’re friends with him, best friends with him, or engaged to him. Congratulations on the latter. He’s a decent person who deserves friends and loved ones. I don’t want you to have to choose sides… I’d really rather you don’t. This is purely my opinion of my own relationship with him. Thank you for understanding.

It felt like we were perfect for each other. We both loved cats and each had three. We had similar tastes in music and veganism. In fact he converted back to being vegan while we were friends. We both loved to read and enjoyed Doctor Who. And we were both creative, me with writing and him with jewelry making. Several years went by as we slowly started talking more and more. By the time he asked me out as his girlfriend we were talking all day, every day, from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. The only time we weren’t talking was when I was at work and, even then, we talked at every break. I even messaged at family gatherings.

my-dressWe made our relationship Facebook official within minutes of deciding to date and had our wedding roughly sketched out by our one month anniversary, something I’d carefully recorded in my calendar. My dress was bought by our two month anniversary, a lovely pastel pink and gold one, with enough sparkle for me and room for my boyfriend’s lace butterflies. I bought tickets to go meet him for that October and started counting down the days with an app. He immediately bought tickets to go see Wicked in London and informed me he would be singing all the songs. I assured him that chances are I’d end up singing them too. I pick up songs very quickly.

I look back at that time and remember how perfect everything felt then. I wasn’t lonely. How could I be with a boyfriend I talked to all the time? One who knew all my secrets. And soon I was going to have a dream vacation, followed by a dream wedding, and a move to Richmond, England. Me, the woman who, other than my first two months of life, had only ever lived in Whitby and Oshawa. And now I was going to move across the ocean. It was going to be an adventure.

The adventure came quickly to an end the day after he promised he wasn’t breaking up with me and two days after I confessed I was suicidal. The words didn’t seem real for a moment. Then I couldn’t breathe. He was breaking up with me? But he promised he wouldn’t.

We went back to friendship but it wasn’t like before, even though we still messaged regularly, and he blocked me a couple of months later with this message:

Well, I told you. It was your self fulfilling prophecy and you were the one pushing me away for daring to grow and change, so now, I am done.

Even at the end he couldn’t accept responsibility for his actions. Instead he blamed it on me. I was hurt enough to archive his message thread so I didn’t accidentally find it but that also made it really easy to find. Several years later I scrolled through to find a bit of information and was floored at the gaslighting and manipulation. It was not a healthy relationship at all. It took a while longer for me to realize that messaging with anyone constantly throughout the day isn’t healthy and while the relationship wasn’t good for me, it wasn’t good for him either.

I blocked him on Facebook this week which is something I would never have believed back in 2016. Then I figured he’d unblock me within weeks, months at the most. At this point I’m reasonably sure he’ll never unblock me and I finally, honestly, don’t care. I wish him all the best in his future and am simply relieved that future will not include me.

not my baggage

Why do I keep going?

You keep going because puppies and kittens are a thing and tomorrow might have the best sunset you’ve ever seen. You keep going because of belly laughs and your favourite ice cream. For the glimpse of a cardinal. For music so pure and lovely that it sends shivers up your spine.

You keep going for the sound of a baby’s laughter and a new book from your favourite author. You keep going for a bubble bath that smells heavenly and for the crisp crunch of snow beneath your feet. You keep going for summer swimming and sunlight through new green leaves. You keep going for a glimpse of that big, fat orange moon in the fall, the one so impossibly orange you can’t believe it’s not photoshopped even though you’re looking at it in the sky right now.

You keep going because of your favourite meal and how you can’t imagine not eating it ever again. You keep going because your favourite show has been renewed and it’s only four more months until the new episodes. You keep going because that couldn’t be the last mug of coffee you’ll ever savour.

You keep going because life isn’t an exciting movie with cliff hangers and a fast paced plot. It’s a series of small things all strung together by you. And you keep going because maybe one of those small things is big enough to convince you not to cut the string.

You keep going because the alternate leaves you with nothing.

Trans Lifeline (Canada): 877-330-6366 (US): 877-565-8860
Crisis Text Line (US): text “go” to 741741
Crisis Text Line (Canada): text “talk” for English and “texto” for French 686868

Suicide Prevention Month…

I stood at the patio door and stared into the distance, my hands leaving sweaty prints on the glass. The space between the door and railing was empty and then there was nothing but air between me and the ground seven stories down. Eight if you included the slope to the basement. Seven or eight stories down to concrete or the dumpster if I aimed well enough. And in that case they wouldn’t have to do anything with me at all, just take me away with the trash. That’s all I was, wasn’t I?

I backed away carefully. Was it far enough of a drop? I figured it was but what if it wasn’t? I didn’t want to end up a quadriplegic, unable to try again.

Was it or wasn’t it?

My mind flipped between the two as I sat down to write a rambling note on Facebook. Within half an hour my sister was on her way to pick me up and take me to the hospital. Within four hours I had a diagnosis and a psychiatrist. Then I went to my parents’ house to stay safe for a week.

medsI’ve been admitted to the hospital around four or five times since then, luckily not in the past year, and take enough pills each day that I’m surprised I don’t rattle. I still struggle daily with anxiety. Some days I can’t make it out of the house. Some days I panic in the grocery store. And I have down weeks where I struggle to keep up with the chores and make semi regular meals. Everything seems too much. English muffins get turned into a meal far too often and, even then, they seem so complicated. I’ll stand in the kitchen, near tears, hoping the muffin will be toasted soon so I can scurry back to my room. And did I turn on the microwave for hot chocolate? Maybe… maybe not… and a five minute chore turns into a half hour.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and today is National Suicide Prevention Day and I want to tell you something. Depression lies. It lies hard and it lies deep, hitting at every sore spot it can. It tells you that you’re worthless, that no one cares, you don’t matter, you’ll never matter, no one will ever love you, you’re ugly, stupid, lazy. Meanwhile it’s the one that’s lazy because it tells those same lies to everyone. It’s not just you. I honestly felt the same way too. I didn’t think my family cared. Meanwhile I’d been pulling away from them and they thought I didn’t care.

Reach out for help. There is help available. Check my resources page above for phone numbers and websites. Go to your local PFLAG meeting for community. And go to your ER if you are at the end of your rope and just can’t manage any longer. It will be a long and boring wait but they’ll have staff there to help you.

Be honest with your friends. You’ll be surprised by how many of them are suffering themselves and are looking for someone to talk to. You’ll be surprised by how much support you can get.

You are valuable. You are important. You are worth it. You matter.

Save a life today. Save yours.

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Where are the stars?

picture 2First came Kate Spade. I knew about her vaguely  because she brought out a purse shaped piggy bank titled “Kate saved” and I’d debated on buying it for Kait for her birthday. My Mom pointed out it was a play on words with the designer’s name, which I’d never heard before. I didn’t hear about her again until I found out she’d strangled herself to death with her red scarf.

Then came Anthony Bourdain. I don’t even know anything about him, just that he was 61 years old and had been fighting depression and substance abuse.

And then came the Facebook posts saying that he didn’t die too soon. He’d struggled for years and had lived a lifetime. That he’d had 30 more years than someone who’d died at thirty-one and the poster would have given anything for those thirty extra years.

I’m a hell of a lot closer to 61 than I am 30 and I can tell you right now that it isn’t enough. I want the chance to see my grandchild grow up. I want to see him finish high school, to fall in love. He’d only be 13 if I died then.

And I sit here in the sunshine and wonder where’s the light. It’s supposedly darkest before the dawn but I’m staring into the east and there’s no sun rising there.

They say that in the darkness there’s stars but the depths are inky black and no pinpricks of light are shining back at me.

I told my psychiatrist that those two were rich, with all the amenities that affords. The best therapists. The best counselling. I’m, well, not rich. I worry about falling through the cracks to land seven stories below. I guess technically eight because there’s a slope under my apartment.

My psychiatrist is worried about me.

When is going to the hospital the best choice to make and when is it running away from my problems? I’m already avoiding both balconies. My mind spools like an old film projector, showing reel after reel of me jumping. But, at the same time, I need to get the letters from our office for Revenue Canada. I need to deliver my new prescription to the pharmacy. And my cats would miss me.

And I look to the sky and hope, in vain, to see the stars.

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Two years…

I deserve better blankTwo years ago I cried until I thought I could cry no more and still the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes swelled shut and my head ached. I felt like my entire world had fallen in on me and there was nothing left but ruins. Like there was only one option left and that was to jump off my 7th storey balcony to the unforgiving pavement below. All that stopped me was the concern that it might not be high enough. What would happen if I ended up paralyzed? I wouldn’t be able to try again.

Luckily for me I’m a writer. I write about everything and this was no exception. I got on Facebook and a veritable flood of words was released. I lied and said I wasn’t planning to kill myself. Even so, what I said was worrying enough that my sister Jen called then drove me down to the hospital. My Mom traded off with her when Jen had to pick up her kids. It takes a long time to be seen for mental health issues but they do keep close track of you.

In some ways that day feels like the beginning of a whole different life but it wasn’t. I’d been struggling with my mental health for at least a year. My family doctor started me on Effexor the spring of 2015 and prescribed Ativan for my rare panic attacks. It was getting harder and harder to stay at work. Some days I’d grip the sides of the cash register or my arms in an attempt not to run screaming out the door. I had always been the fun loving person. I cracked jokes, sang along with the radio, hugged people who liked hugging, and joked with the regular customers. My manager joked that Happy was my theme song. All that slowly drained away as my focus turned inward, a silent struggle to keep running my life.

20180418_101120.jpgIt’s been two long years but I’m slowly rebuilding my life. I’m printing out my scrapbooking pages and am finally up to mid 2017. I’m starting to read again and am thinking, once again, about my novel. I’ve joined three groups and enjoy every one of them. I visit my family every week and try to get out once a month for karaoke (yes, I can sing LOL). It’s not the same life I had before. My attention span is negligible. I find two hour classes to be just long enough. Any more would be overwhelming. But I’m surrounded by friends and family. Life is good.

Am I back to normal? No. I’m currently taking twelve pills in order to function and still struggle with anxiety. Am I happy? Yes. And I think that’s the most important answer of them all.

building your life