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trigger warning: suicide/death/depression/PTSD
There’s a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. It was something I never liked to talk about, and still don’t. It’s taboo. People look at me and think, “There’s no way!” because all they see is a huge smile, makeup, and crazy red hair. My goal is to reach other women who struggle with mental illness and let them know that they’re not alone–there’s help, there’s hope, and here’s how:
Five years ago I wasn’t in a good place.
I suffered from PTSD, which was further aggravated by being in an abusive marriage. I was taking 20 pills per day, leaving me feeling numb, tired, and depressed. I wasn’t happy. I had tremendous guilt because all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. My anxiety was through the roof. I missed months and months of work at a time. My anxiety was so bad, I’d have panic attacks just calling into work and I didn’t even have to speak to anyone – all I had to do was leave a voicemail on our call-in line.
I had had enough and decided to go to intensive outpatient therapy several times per week for hours at a time. Here, I didn’t feel alone. Here, I learned that my marriage wasn’t a healthy one and that I had to get out.
It was a chilly night in April when I told my husband I was leaving him. At first, he was incredulous. His emotions cycled between anger, sorrow, and then something I recognized as manipulation and gaslighting. He is an incredibly brilliant man, and was naturally manipulative because of it. He got into my head and had me convinced that because of my depression, I’d never see my kids again.
I believed him.
I believed with every fiber of my being that my children were better off without me. I was a burden. They didn’t deserve to have a mom like me. I had put them through far too much. Who needs a mom who just sleeps and cries?
The details that follow are a bit fuzzy as I was so heavily medicated. From what I remember, I had tucked the kids into bed and then went into my bedroom and I took my entire bottle of prescription sleeping pills, and downed it with a glass of water.
The next thing I know, my husband is dialing 911, and I hear my 2 year old running up the stairs to my dad sobbing and saying,
Mommy Die! Mommy die!
The last thing I remember that night was feeling deep regret. What had I done? How could I have done this to my kids? My dad? My GOD. What did I just do?! I call out, “I’m sorry. I’m so so so sorry.”
The next thing I remember, I was waking up in the ICU with all kinds of cords and wires strapped to me. I was so groggy and had had a lot of visitors but I don’t recall who. I was so heavily medicated.
I remember my dad sitting next to me, sobbing. He had given me a hug and told me he was sorry. Apparently my sister had told him the source of my sexual abuse I had endured my entire childhood, and he felt immense guilt from not being able to protect me.
I spent the next nine days in the hospital, and left my husband when I got home. A few months later, I was completely medication-free.
It turns out, my body doesn’t metabolize medication normally. It explains why I bottomed out (blood pressure got too low) in the hospital after they had given me Effexor.
During the peak of my depression and anxiety, I had never had any blood work done. They didn’t know if I was low on vitamin D or b12. They also didn’t know I had many genetic markers that made a lot of depression medication ineffective. Instead, I was near comatose on the amount of medications I was on.
It’s really important that you work with a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist that looks at the entire picture…and isn’t so quick to just write a prescription. I’m happy to report I’ve since remarried and have had another baby since then.
If you are feeling suicidal or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
I’d love it if you would join me at the Alive & Running Sky Lantern Ceremony in Dunkerton, Iowa, and at the 5k held the following day. For more information, please visit Alive & Running.
Do you have a story you’d like to share with others that might inspire hope? I’d love to hear it below. The more we get people talking, the less stigma there’ll be around mental illness.