Is There A Light At the End Of My Tunnel?

*WARNING*  TRIGGERING TO SOME

Suicide is complex. Suicide is taboo.  Suicide is irrational thinking.  Suicide is stigmatized.  Suicide is distorted.  Suicide is hopelessness.  Suicide is guilt.  Suicide is permanent.

Suicide is in no way a character flaw, nor does it make you weak, instead it is an overwhelming pain that you wish could go away right now.  Over the past few years thoughts of suicide have entered my mind…daily.  I’m not going to lie when I tell you that I think about dying more than I think about living.  It crosses my unconscious mind probably 10 to 15 times per day, and it can happen anytime or anywhere.  I can be waking up in the morning, I can be watching TV, I can be spending time with you, it really has no boundaries.  

The act of trying to end my own life has entered my mind, and has been attempted with an unconscious plan.  Suicide can be broken down into two ideations, the first being passive and the latter being active.  Having active thoughts of suicide means that someone has a strong desire to die and it is accompanied by a concise plan on how to carry out that plan.  Being passively suicidal also involves a strong desire to die however there is no concise or active plan in place to attempt or complete their plan.  

I have been asked by many Mental Health professionals if I have “a plan” and if so what is it.  I have never admitted to an active plan, only to my passive ideations.  I have also been asked by many Mental Health professionals what stops me from actively carrying out my passive ideations.  The answer is always the same…my kids and the repercussions it would have on their future.  They would forever be left with the burden, the guilt, the anger and the grief associated with the stigma surrounding my death.  

Unfortunately there have been many times over the past few years when I look at it from a much different perspective.  A perspective where I feel so alone, one where I feel like the struggle isn’t worth it, one where I feel defeated by this disease, one where the pain seems like it has exceeded my resources and one where my passive ideations become more active.  

Having thoughts of suicide feels like nothing matters and that you are more of a burden to everyone by being alive, and that they would be much better off without you…maybe even happier.  I no longer recognize the once happy, outgoing, creative, and caring individual that I once was.  Instead I have become an empty, alienated, angry and tired shell of my former self.   Feeling suicidal is as though you are stuck inside a tunnel with no way out.  It’s dark, it’s scary, it’s lonely and you can’t see the light at the other end so it’s much easier to just give up.   

I am trying to refocus my healing process because I am running out of options.  Giving up I am told is not an option, so maybe as I refocus my healing process I will be able to one day reach that light at the end of my tunnel.

This To Me Is Unacceptable

Over the past several years I have spent countless hours in therapy, both one on one and in a group setting.  I have spent countless hours with Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Crisis Workers and Psychotherapists.  Many are covered by our Health-Care System and many more are not.  No matter what their title is or what the purpose for my visit is, one thing is always for certain, I become paralyzed with anxiety and panic leading up to my appointment.  It doesn’t matter if it is someone I have never seen before or someone I have seen numerous times, or even someone I see on a weekly basis, the results are always the same.  I go to bed the night before with heart palpitations, nausea and very negative self-talk, only to awake the next morning to continue the same cycle.  I stare at my phone desperately wanting to call and cancel my appointment feeling too sick and unable to drive.

This past week was no different.  My appointment was with someone I have being seeing quite regularly, but still I had a terrible night sleep as usual and the thought of getting out of bed was too much.  My husband drove me to my appointment which was at a hospital not so close to home.  I arrived at the therapist’s office which is in the out -patient mental health department of the hospital, so you can probably imagine how busy it is.  I check in with the receptionist as I do every time I go there, handing my health card to her to verify my information.  She thanks me and kindly tells me to have a seat while she lets the therapist know that I am there.  As I wait to be called in the feelings of anxiety and panic are only escalating.  What feels like an eternity, the receptionist calls me back over to her desk which was unusual.  She then informs me that she just found out upon contacting the therapist that he had called in sick that morning.  My feelings of anxiety and panic soon turned to rage.

It wasn’t as though my appointment was first thing in the morning and the day had just begun, yet no one seemed to have been informed of his absence.  I’m pretty sure that this would not have occurred if my appointment was in a private facility.  When dealing with an environment such as a mental health department where patients are already quite vulnerable this to me is unacceptable.

I get that as Canadians we are lucky that a visit to the hospital doesn’t involve paying out of pocket, but our healthcare system is failing us in so many other ways.  Have you visited an emergency room recently?  I have, and it’s a nothing short of a nightmare.  It’s overflowing with sick and elderly people.  People are lined up everywhere on stretchers sometimes waiting several days to be admitted to a room.  When making a visit to a hospital it’s usually no less than 4 to 6 hours of wait time. This to me is unacceptable.

I get that we as Canadians don’t have to pay to see most specialists, but at what cost?  I have been on wait lists for months.  I just realized recently that one such referral made by my GP close to a year ago to a specialized therapist has still not even scheduled my appointment.  When I had called in the past to find out when I should expect to hear from them, the answer is always the same and so I just stopped calling and put it out of head.  This to me is unacceptable.

What about when you do finally get a much anticipated appointment with a specialist.  I have had to go through the process several times with different types of doctors and although the wait times may have been unacceptable none have been more discouraging than the process of finding a new psychiatrist due to mine moving away last spring.  There is a lack of psychiatrists in Ontario, and I get that they are very busy, but from my knowledge, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who focuses on mental health and in many circumstances prescribes medication to their patients.  So why then have I been introduced to not one, but two psychiatrists who have met with me and made suggestions on medications and other things only to put the onus on my GP to look after my follow up care and prescriptions?  My doctor is not a psychiatrist nor has she ever claimed to be one, nor is she comfortable prescribing medication for mental illnesses. This to me is unacceptable.

There is really no right or wrong answer or the perfect System and it can be debated for days or months or even years, but from someone who has been living through the nightmares of our Health-Care environment I can tell you firsthand that this to me is beyond unacceptable.

Turning My Dreams Into Goals

From the time we are very small we begin to dream.  We dream of becoming a princess or a superhero.  We dream of becoming rich and famous.  We dream of becoming successful.  We dream of finding love and happiness.  We dream of building a family which may mean something different for everyone.  We dream of living in a world filled with peace.  We dream with purpose and desire.  Some of our dreams can be scary, some can be frustrating and some will come true, but first they need a plan, a vision and a focus.  First they need to be written down, discussed out loud and turned into a goal.

When suffering with depression and anxiety setting goals is probably one of my biggest obstacles.  It is both overwhelming and extremely discouraging to say the least.  Goals that were once easy to accomplish, simple and realistic are now filled with regret, guilt and negativity.  I write my goals down almost daily, even the ones that are straightforward, effortless and uncomplicated for most people like running an errand, getting my nails done or booking an appointment over the telephone will in turn cause me severe anxiety and panic.  For many of these simplistic and attainable goals I find myself staring at them on my calendar and moving them over to another day, sometimes taking me the better part of a week to accomplish it.

I have stated before that suffering from depression and anxiety is like playing a game of tug of war.  You are constantly  being pulled into your past and fearing your future.  This continuously vicious cycle has lead me into a very dark place recently as I try and reach some of my goals.  Not the small, simple and realistic goals, but the ones that have begun pulling me WAY, WAY back into my past, and CAPSIZING my future.

Even through my darkness I know what motivates me, I know what I would do if I could do more, I know what I want to be able to do, I know what I care most about, I know where I wish my life could be and I know what brings me happiness.  With all this in mind I know I need to be realistic, I know I need to focus on what’s important, I know I need to readjust this haze, I know I need to be proud of my accomplishments, I know I need to do this without feeling societal pressure and I know I need to do it for myself and no one else.

Feeling like my life has no meaning or purpose is what is obstructing me from acquiring my goals.  I have been taught recently that in order to be successful in achieving my goals I need to start by setting S.M.A.R.T goals. This acronym stands for

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Attainable

R: Realistic &

T: Time Specific

For now I will continue to write down my goals, even the most simple ones.  For now I will continue to review my goals, even the most simple ones.  For now I will continue to amend my goals, even the most simple ones.  For now I will continue to visualize my goals, even the most simple ones.  For now I will look for inspiration in attaining my goals, even the most simple ones.  For now these are my S.M.A.R.T goals.

Loving Someone with Depression

Suffering from depression is more than just a feeling of sadness.  It affects how you think, feel and function on a daily basis.  It can prevent you from working, going to school or participating in many social settings.  It can hinder your ability to concentrate, or enjoy activities that once gave you great pleasure.  It can interfere in your sleep and appetite, either eating or sleeping too much or too little, deeply affecting your energy level, and it can impede greatly on your relationships with your loved ones.

Trying to help a loved one suffering from depression can be extremely frustrating, stressful, challenging and exhausting to say the least, in turn causing some of the strongest bonds to become strained and/or terminated. Just like the individual who is suffering from depression, a loved one may feel helpless and discouraged in their attempts to support them.   For the individual suffering from depression it can and does transpire into feelings of being a burden to their loved ones and can and does create a great deal of guilt, no matter how old or how young you are.

I have felt first hand the affects my depression has caused for my loved ones, their frustration, their sadness and their inability to “fix” me.  Please know first and foremost that it is not up to you to “fix” me, you are not to blame and you are most certainly not responsible for what I am going through.  I know that my depression is hurtful to you and I know how difficult it is for you to understand, let alone know how to help.

Please know that I don’t “choose” to feel this way, please know that I can’t just “snap out of it”, please know that I don’t always have a reason, please know that it is never my intent for you to take it personally, please know that it overpowers me and please know that it is a constant battle.

Please know as well that I am very much aware that “others have it worse”, please know that I am grateful for my amazingly supportive husband and that I have been blessed with 3 beautiful, healthy children and please know that I appreciate you and all your sentiments, I really, really do.

If the Stigma surrounding Mental Illness is ever going to end, it needs to start with kindness and education.  When someone you love is suffering from depression or any other Mental Illness the first and most important thing someone can do is to start by educating themselves and learning how to talk about it in a thoughtful, compassionate and sensitive way.  It’s not advice we may be looking for, but instead it’s wanting and needing someone to listen and offer words of encouragement and hope.

It’s okay to ask questions, in fact it’s imperative to ask questions.  It’s important to be non-judgmental and patient.  Show you care with words and gestures, check-in as often as you can, give hugs when needed, stop by for a visit, let them know you are there for them.  Just please don’t ever devalue our feelings or desert us no matter how hard it may be.  You wouldn’t desert a loved one suffering from any other debilitating and sometimes deadly illness, would you?

You Are Enough

This week I once again faced a difficult challenge.  I was asked to look inside myself and make a conscious effort to find one personal strength of mine.  Once upon a time I could have answered you without batting an eyelash.  Now, instead what it did to me was trigger emotions and feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness and vulnerability creating darkness beyond repair.

Depression and Anxiety have taken away my ability to feel any type of pride or confidence in myself.  They have taken away my ability to believe in my own capabilities and successes.  They have taken away my ability to be satisfied, feel valued and accept both my strengths and weaknesses, and lastly, they have taken away my ability to feel love for myself.  In a nutshell, they have taken away my “self-esteem”.

Self-esteem is a subjective view based on one’s own personal and favorable impression of their worth and abilities.  Most people with a high or healthy level of self-esteem are very self-aware and confident in their own character, feelings and desires, but when someone like myself struggles with depression and anxiety they lose those feelings and desires.

Having an unhealthy or very low self-esteem has caused me to view myself and the world around me in a very unrealistic way.  It exaggerates my limitations, mistakes and imperfections, putting significant strain on many important relationships in my life.  Over the past few years it has undoubtedly kept me from setting achievable and attainable goals for fear of more failure or the improbability of success.  It also has and continues to rob me of the ability to appreciate or value my external being as well, no matter how hard I try.

Trying to boost your self-esteem back to a healthy level takes a great deal of strength.  “Of all the judgements I pass in life none are as important as the ones I pass on myself”.  This quote is from Nathaniel Branden, a Psychotherapist and author of several books on the topic of Self Esteem.  One such book he wrote titled Six Pillars of Self Esteem focuses on the importance of creating healthy, attainable achievements and healthy, successful relationships with oneself and others, providing the foundation for happiness and worthiness.

I know deep down I am solely responsible for my own actions and choices, I know deep down I am solely responsible for fulfilling my wants and needs, I know deep down I am solely responsible for achieving my goals I so desperately want, I know deep down I am solely responsible for my beliefs and how I conduct myself and I know deep down I am solely responsible for finding my purpose in this world through compassion, understanding, and acceptance.  I know deep down I need to learn to forgive myself…

 

Raising Three Teenagers Through a Distorted Mind

My Inner Voice

‘How Are You?’ My A to Z Through Depression

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