This will likely be the most difficult thing I ever share. I really debated whether or not to, it’s still incredibly raw and the healing process doesn’t happen overnight. But I’ve been so open and transparent thus far and as an advocate for mental health awareness, I felt compelled to do so. If one person reads this and finds hope to keep going or to ask for help, it will be worth it.
Tough love is the hardest to give and even harder to receive. It’s the kind of love that makes you acknowledge you have a problem. The kind of love that not so subtly forces you to get help when you don’t think you need it.
As someone who’s deeply empathetic and highly sensitive, I hate tough love. When I’m in the throes of despair I want compassion and understanding. But as a dear friend reminded me, what we want is not always what we need.
I was the recipient of some tough love last week.
It made me uncomfortable.
It made me defensive.
It made me feel unloved.
It made me feel judged.
It made me feel like everyone around me was out to get me.
It made me question if I had made the right decision in who I trusted.
It made me feel like no one trusted me.
That no one believed I was in control.
But I wasn’t in control and those closest to me could see it.
One week ago, the light inside of me just shut off. That’s the best way I can describe it anyways. Nothing significant happened. I think that’s been the hardest thing for those closest to me to understand. There’s no one or no thing to blame. Recently preliminarily diagnosed with a serious mood disorder, I realized I haven’t managed my highs and lows as well as I maybe thought I have over the years. But I have, mostly managed them alone. If you live with anxiety, depression or any kind of mental health illness, you’ll likely relate that you don’t always have a definitive answer to explain the way you’re feeling. Moods can change drastically and triggers can be hard to identify or are ever changing. But this low was different. It lingered for much longer than usual.
Things got very dark, very quickly.
I started having debilitating panic attacks multiple times a day.
I would cry inconsolably for no reason for hours on end.
I was unable to be alone without completely breaking down.
The simplest and routinist of things became unbearably overwhelming.
Showering was hard.
Eating was hard.
Driving was hard.
Sleeping was hard.
Breathing was hard.
Thinking about anything other than ending my own life was hard.
I was at rock bottom.
And I kept it from almost everybody close to me.
I’ve had passive suicide ideation before (suicidal thoughts or wanting to die with no intent to act) Passive suicide ideation, along with intrusive and racing thoughts often accompany depression. As scary and as uncomfortable as they are, you almost just get used to them. They are often fleeting and fairly easily brushed aside. This week those thoughts became much more active. This week I couldn’t get them off my mind. In short, I’ve never been so f**king scared in my life.
Worried about being a burden to those around me, I tried to shake it off. I’ve always just dealt with these lows myself. When I finally told my two closest friends that I wasn’t “doing well,” I immediately tried to lessen the severity and convince them that I was “ok” several times. One friend told me that saying I am ok when I’m not, is akin to the boy who cried wolf. Now I was depressed and a liar. Tough love stings. And even though the intent behind the lie was out of guilt, it was still a lie. One of the things I advocate so strongly for is that it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay not to ask for help. Apparently that applies to everyone but myself.
Towards the end of the week I finally broke down and they knew things had gotten bad. And so 200km apart, barely knowing one another, they banded together and told my husband. From there is a bit of a blur. Tears. Guilt. Denial. Mostly a lot of conversations of what we should do. What I needed to do. Not what I wanted to do. Again with the want vs need. And that was to seek professional help.
Though the stigma around mental health is changing, as is our healthcare system, it really challenged me last week. On Wednesday, I went to my family doctor where I saw an RPN who told me that “February is a hard time of year” and that I should take some melatonin to help me sleep. She gave me a card for Here247 and told me to go to Emergency if I felt suicidal. She said that because I had been “fine” up until this point, it was likely just seasonally related. I insisted I haven’t been “fine” in a long time and that given my new diagnosis, I was really panicked and scared. She said she would talk to my doctor and follow up the following evening but it was unlikely she would prescribe me anything for my panic attacks and that I needed to wait to see a psychiatrist to talk about new medication. I left that appointment feeling so defeated. Just going in and asking for help was so difficult for me and I felt ignored and more alone than ever.
I don’t remember driving home from that appointment. I sat on my bathroom floor for over an hour and felt nothing at all. All I could think about were the razorblades in my bathroom closet. I texted my friend who joined me on the bathroom floor. I put her in an impossible situation but she showed up for me in a way that I will be forever grateful for. I handed her the razor blades which she took without judgement. I’ve never felt so ashamed. So numb. She continued to check in on me, as did my husband. Together they kept me afloat.
Not able to get the dark thoughts out of my mind, I called the crisis hotline. They told me I could go to Emergency but that they wouldn’t prescribe me anything for the panic attacks. They told me about a type of therapy I could benefit from but said the waiting list was over a year long to get into. Another dead end.
Thursday was my worst day. I told my parents I could just use some help with the boys and asked them to pick both boys up from school. I got into my van after telling my two friends and my husband I was “ok” and I started driving. I got to the highway feeling physically and mentally out of control and turned around. I showed up at my friend’s house and gave her my keys. I called my mom and told her what was happening and asked her to keep the boys overnight. And then I waited for my doctor to call me back. That hour felt unbearable. I had no plan in place to get help and was hitting dead ends. When she finally called I told her I couldn’t cope, that I had sent my kids to my parents because I couldn’t safely care for them. She prescribed me a sleeping pill to help me rest and told me she’d submitted an urgent request to be seen by a psychiatrist. My friend took me home and stayed with me until my husband got home. I was afraid to be alone. Though what I was prescribed knocked me out, I woke up Friday morning even more down than when I fell asleep. I think I was honestly upset I had woken up at all. The hospital called at 9am – my appointment with a psychiatrist was booked for March 22. A month out. I fell apart.
On Saturday I told a couple more people close to me who noticed I’d been “off.” My sister took the morning shift and sat with me while my boys played around us. This was going on 6 days of a major depressive episode. Surely this would pass. It didn’t.
By Sunday morning I felt more lost than ever. My wrists physically ached. I lay in bed just picturing myself with the razor blades I had given my friend. I realized then that I had lost all ability to cope. And while I still had no distinct plan, it’s all I could think about. I didn’t trust myself any longer. I worried I would make a rash, regrettable decision and not be able to come back from it. It’s when I needed that tough love the most and also when it hurt the most. My friend texted my husband telling him it was time for me to go the hospital. I broke down at the realization I wouldn’t be able to manage this on my own.
With my husband by my side, I walked into the emergency room and typed one word into the computer where you enter why you’re wanting to be seen.
I don’t know if that waiting room and the 3 hours that followed were worse for my husband or for myself. A young girl, who couldn’t have been more than 16 was in the private waiting area for the same reason. She’d come in overnight. It was like looking back in time. It made me realize how far I’ve come in the last 16 years. The life I’ve built. The hurdles I’ve jumped. How the f*ck did I get back here?
I talked to a crisis worker for 5 minutes who took notes on a lined sheet of paper. He asked me how long I’d been married. How many kids I have. Where I work. We spent more time talking about my resume than the reason I was there. I just wanted to scream. I talked to a doctor for another 5 minutes. With a prescription to help calm me during my panic attacks I was sent on my way. Told to come back if I had a suicide plan in place and they’d try to get my appointment with the psychiatrist bumped up.
I don’t know if it was being there, seeing that young girl, or having finally told my family what was happening and actually opening the door to support – but I felt more at rest than I have in a long time. For 6 days I was free falling and I finally opened my parachute.
It’s Monday night. It’s still difficult for me to leave the house, especially to be surrounded by people. I spent the day alone without breaking down. The panic attacks are lessening. I’m laughing again, like really laughing. I’m asking for help when I need it. And I’m patiently waiting to talk to someone who can help me better cope when something like this happens. Before it gets so bad.
I guess I will reintroduce myself. My name is Danielle and I have been preliminarily diagnosed with bipolar disorder, type 2 and Borderline Personality Disorder. They are scary. I don’t know a ton about them and I’m still waiting for a formal diagnosis and new medication. They come with high highs and low lows. They come with anxiety, depression and mania. They come with judgement and common misperceptions (mostly due to lack of knowledge). And they make it so that I have to work ten times as hard as the average person to maintain the amazing relationships I have.
But they don’t nor will I let them, define me. They are just part of my story. A story that’s filled with family, friends, laughter, love and so much happiness. Some days and weeks may feel hopeless but I have an army behind me now. An army who are learning my “tells” aka the signs that I’m in crisis or not being fully transparent with how I’m doing. And I am learning, albeit slowly, to ask and accept their help.
And when I need tough love, the hardest kind of love, I know they will do it because it’s what I need. And because they love me.
As my friend put it, “tough love is still love.” And sometimes, it might just save your life.
Title Lyrics – “Walk Me Home” by Pink