This is going to be a very difficult post to write. However, when first I decided to write about my illness, I did so to increase awareness – to let the rest of the world see what goes on inside an otherwise healthy mind afflicted with a mental disorder. I remain committed to that, even in the extreme cases. So even though I’m dreading spilling my heart/insecurities through the web, I realize the need to do so.
I am not writing this to canvass for sympathy, though I know some of you will feel moved to leave some. It will be received with thanks.
To be chemically depressed is like having a monster in your brain trying to take it over. The monster is never dead, but you can keep it chained in the corner by taking certain steps. Sometimes it tries especially hard to get loose. And even for the most well-managed loon, sometimes it does break free. When that happens, it changes your opinions. Things you believed to be true just the day before – that life was worth living, that there was hope for things to get better, that you’re not extremely obese, evaporate as the monster sinks its tentacles into your mind. You literally lose track of ‘you’, and with it your ability to realize that the monster is lying to you.
This happened to me on Friday. It’s not merely a feeling of unhappiness, or hopelessness – it is a matter of full out panic.
It is like being tortured. You just get to the point where you’re willing to do or say anything to make it stop. Pain makes us do stupid things, and I was very much within its grasp. I grabbed my meds, poured out a fistful of them, and swallowed them.
Your immediate reaction is probably that that was a stupid thing to have done. I agree with you. It was an idiotic thing to do, but for all my faults I don’t believe myself to be an idiot. That is sadly the debilitating power of mental disease. Looking back, I cannot fathom how I felt compelled to do something so irrational. But when your mind is in that state of desperation, you just want to do something. You have to make it stop no matter what. Like I said, you stop being ‘you’.
I immediately felt tempted to swallow the rest of the bottle, but thankfully there was enough of me left to go hand my meds off to a friend and instruct her to give me one in the morning and then to pass them off to a co-worker on Monday. In about half an hour the symptoms of serotonin shock began to set in. Thirty minutes later and I was again alone on a bed, shivering, sweating, dry-heaving, and trying to ride it out. At first my pulse raced and then really slowed down.
Thankfully, a friend had noticed that I had left the mess hall and came looking for me. She stayed with me for a while, taking my pulse when I was shaking too much to do it. At one point it was five beats over ten seconds (30 bpm). She begged me to let her go and get the camp doctor and I kept forbidding her from doing so. My reasoning at the time was that I didn’t want to be a burden. I wish my friend had ignored my pleas. Thankfully, after a few hours, another friend showed up who was perfectly capable of disregarding my request.
Within another few hours I was in the ER. After another 3.5 hours I was out of the shock but in an ER bed being plugged into a bunch of machines. Even though it had been about 12 hours since ingestion, my heart rate was still hovering around 40 bpm. By this point I was still nauseous, but no longer shivering or exhibiting any other symptoms. I was back in my right mind, but they took special care to make sure my heart was going to be alright. They took enough blood that they may as well have taken it with a garden hose.
I am loved, and that makes a great difference. I had a veritable entourage of compassionate friends who really care about me in the ER at my side. I am grateful that so many are pulling for me, and I hate being a burden on them. I never meant to hurt anybody, including myself. I’m just sick. I’m not weak – I’m sick, and as much as I hate it I’m grateful for people who realize that if I could trade anything to be well, whether that be my mind or a host of other comforts, I would do it in a moment. But that option isn’t on the table, and so with the most wonderful support group in the world I just try to get back on top of the monster and keep it tied down for good.
Some people don’t take mental illness seriously because they cannot see the injury…at least, you can’t see it until the end. On Thursday I deadlifted 275 lbs eight times. I’m at least in moderately good shape. Yet come Friday night my invisible disability had reduced me to this.
Mental illness is a physical disability, just not obviously so. Those afflicted with mental illness should be treated before this point. This condition does not discriminate. Because of the inability of the victims to will themselves better, people all around you could be moments from a scenario just like this one. Once more, I was lucky that I have good people around me looking out for my well-being. Were I left on my own, things would be very different. They would be sinisterly different. Make sure those around you are not left alone. Go and get the doctor when you need to. Be that support group and help them fight, and know that there will be times when the monster takes over – that is when they’ll need you most.
Thanks for reading.