You can Read part 1 here
Over the course of all the years I've been depressed and anxious, as I stated, I've found different ways to cope. I've coasted along fairly well since the point where I accepted that medication would be a constant companion in my life. I've changed medications a few times, been to therapy for a couple of different periods, and then... life goes on. It's not something I think about on a daily basis, at least I didn't until recently.
Recently, it became evident to me that my depression and anxiety had spun out of control. My family went through some pretty heavy issues and I was not longer able to be the glue, (as we moms often are tasked to do), that held everything together. I had pushed my own feelings aside for too long and I experienced the full effect of the backfire that caused.
I tried treating this as just a blip, and went to my family doctor for a medication check/adjustment. This time, unlike previous times, the adjustmen wasn't doing the trick. No combination of medications were making me feel normal. Because I know myself, and am the best judge of how I am coping- I knew after several weeks on new medications, I was not coping with life. Life was kicking my ass, and something drastic needed to happen. I knew it in my bones. Although I knew I couldn't handle life any more, no one was listening to me.
For the first time in my life, I felt powerless over my disease. I'd had some bad times before, but nothing that knocked me so flat that I, apparently, lost myself. I thought I was telling people- family members, friends, therapists, etc., that I seriously needed REAL help, but somehow, my message wasn't coming across. I suppose after years of hiding my secret mental illness, I had become so adept at hiding that it didn't show, outwardly, as vividly as it felt inwardly.
At one point, a few weeks ago, I called a Mental Health Care Center (a highly recommended and rated one). It took me all day to screw up the courage to make that phone call. One of my anxieties is phone anxiety. It's always been a little hard for me to use the phone for personal use. Business calls, calls for my children's teachers, doctors, therapists, etc. was no problem, but if it was for myself, it was hard.
Yes, I know that doesn't make any sense. That's the point-- IT'S NOT NORMAL. At any rate, I fought off the anxiety beast and called the help line. I stuttered around for a minute trying to explain the reason for my call, and finally managed to say that I was really depressed and in need of inpatient care, or, at the very least, intensive outpatient care.
This is how the phone conversation transpired: The girl on the line asked - Are you suicidal? I said- No, but being alive sure is awfully painful for me right now. Then she said - Are you able to get out of bed in the mornings? I said- Well, yes, but I force myself, and then stumble through the day with no joy. She said - Are you under a psychiatrist's care? Well no, I said, I have made an appointment with one, but it's three weeks away. And she said to me-- you really don't qualify for any of our programs right now. If your symptoms get worse and you feel suicidal, you should go to the emergency room. Stunned, I stammered out an "okay, thanks." and hung up.
I was so demoralized. I mean, how many people want to voluntarily go out on a limb and reach out like that? Do you have any idea how much contemplation and angst went in to making that phone call? So, to be turned away was horrible. Screaming into the wind - that's how I described my feelings at that time. I was just screaming into the wind and the only person the words were penetrating was myself.
To make a long story short - oh, wait, it's too late for that, but anyhow-- I screwed up my courage again, and made an appointment with a therapist, who subsequently, administered a personal inventory test. I went back the next week to have my scored read. I scored out of the normal range in all categories (there are about 10 diagnostic categories), depression being very, very high on the scale.
As the psychologist interpreted the scores, I thought to myself - how sad is it that I had to take a 370 question test, and wait an additional week, to prove to the professionals what I already knew to be true? I was having a Major Depressive Episode and need extended care, not just a once a week therapy session. It was ridiculous really that I had to go so far to get someone's attention. My scores got his attention alright. As a matter of fact, before I left the office that day, they asked a number of questions to make certain that I wasn't going to harm myself in the imminent future. I told them, no, if I were, going to harm myself, I would have already done so.
I never had, until that moment, understood why people threaten, or ineptly attempt, suicide. Then I understood-- Most don't really want to die; they just want someone to listen to their pain and address it, and figure that is the only way to be taken seriously.
I had always figured that if someone really wanted to kill themselves, they would just do it, not threaten to do it. The sad truth is, there are people who can't take it any longer, so they end their life. In the aftermath, people seem stunned, and say things like "Well, I knew she was kind of depressed. Or, "He didn't seem himself lately, but we never thought he would actually kill himself." And most of the time, that's likely true, they don't actually want to die, they just want to be heard. But then, if they continue not to be heard, I suppose some figure, "I might as well end it for good".
It occurs to me that the last paragraph is awkwardly written and a bit meandering. That's kind of the point. It's hard to put into words the way a person feels when they don't actively want to end their life, but, they don't find life worth living either. There is no hope of anything ever being better. The world would be better off without them, because each day they only cause more damage and pain to those around them.
There have been several times in my life where I have felt thus, but I've always known suicide isn't the answer, or an option for me. I have a faith in my God that is strong, and, that faith, keeps me going even in the most hopeless of moments.
I guess I have just enough foresight, or something that tells me, in the bouncing ball of depression, ups and downs are the norm. Depression slaps me down, but I know I will get back up. I always do. I just need more help to pick myself up, this go-round. I can't answer the question of why I stop short of that final, irrevocable step over the edge, and some don't stop short. Or can't.
So, what is the purpose of this post? When should you intervene and get a depressed person some help? When should you let them be? That's a hard question, and one with no easy answers. Every person is different and every person's illness is different. This is why you can't, as the help-line operator did, simply go by some arbitrary checklist, and if someone doesn't tick enough boxes, assume they'll be okay once you hang up the phone.
As I've said before, and I'll keep saying it - it's hard to admit to mental illness, and I can say with confidence, that if someone is speaking to you, and telling you they need help - they need help, or they wouldn't be putting their pride on the line, just for the heck of it. I hope no one every has to go through the Odyssey that I endured to prove that I needed help, that's the whole point of this blog post.
Listen closely - The fact that a person is asking for help should always be proof enough. Don't let someone suffer just because they don't fit into the typical mold.
Furthermore, if it is you who are depressed, please, don't be afraid to speak up. No one is going to help you if you don't ask, that's for sure. Don't be ashamed to admit to feeling overwhelmed with life and depressed beyond capacity to cope. There is no shame involved in that admission. If you had any other illness, would you be afraid to go get it treated? Mental illness is no different. It's an illness, just like any other, and with proper treatment, it can be managed, if not cured. Speak up, and keep speaking up until someone listens.