“I suffered in silence for many years while Major Depressive Disorder slowly destroyed my mind. Alongside the disorder, I also had worsening sleep apnea which denied my body, and mind, the rest it needed to recover. Together, my self-esteem was destroyed and my ability to function in the world was negated. I reached the point where I did not eat because I was unable to leave my apartment to buy food.
Eventually, the daily struggle became too much and I attempted to take my own life.I survived. And it is in that survival that my story may have a difference.You see, my action was not about seeking death, it was about ending my pain. And in that very narrow sense, I succeeded. Now, let me stop here for a moment. I do not in any way advocate suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek help. If you have a plan, stop reading and call emergency services immediately. Whether you believe it or not, you are worthy of life and should take steps to preserve yours.
So what do I mean? I was fortunate. Somewhere in the haze of my near-death-yet-surviving-mind, I experienced stillness and silence. The incessant noise that was within my head stopped. The oxygen mask that I wore acted like a CPAP device and I slept. Together, these fortunate events meant that I awoke with a clarity of thought where none had existed for years.I awoke rested when no rest had been experienced for years.I woke with the conviction that I would do everything necessary not to be in such pain again. I accepted that it was unsafe for me to be alone. I accepted that it was unsafe for me to act alone. I needed a safer home than the one I had, and I needed to reach out for help.What followed were the first simple successes of the post-suicidal me.
I asked my parents if I could stay in their home and I asked the hospital counselor to refer me to resources near that home. Such small victories but huge given that they happened the day after my near-death. Another small victory followed. I found the telephone number of the agency the counselor referred me to, the Canadian Mental Health Agency, and I called it. Upon hearing their response, I broke down on the phone and begged for help.I was fortunate again. I received their help, and still receive it to this very day. I am grateful for that help for it has given me support over each of the low days I experienced during the past eighteen months.
There have been many low days. There was the day when my son learned his mum was in crisis. I had to explain to him what his mum was experiencing and tell him about my suicide attempt. That is a conversation no parent should ever have with a child, nor a child with a parent. But I had no choice. My son needed me, and he needed to hear the truth. So I told him the truth, the ugly fact of my actions and the beauty of the moment of silence and everything that the silence fostered. My son made me proud, he forgave me.I learned from speaking to my son that my recovery required me to be open about my experience with MDD.
Being open about it was liberating and gave the professionals an unvarnished glimpse into my broken mind. If they were to fix it, they needed to know what they were dealing with. This openness was very new to me. I had been, until these events occurred, a very closed person, keeping my privacy very closely guarded. Additional good fortune followed. I sought out a new family doctor and found one. With the guidance of CMHA, I sought out counseling supports and found them. I told each and every one of these professionals my story and told them, half in jest, that I’d now told them more about myself in that twenty-minute meeting than I had to anyone else in my prior fifty-one years. The sad part was that it was true. But I had learned the lessons from my silence and the conversation with my son, so I shared.
Just as I now share with you. There is a way out of the dark and it is not suicide. It takes time, it takes work, it takes patience, it takes perseverance. The way out is fraught with pitfalls and dead ends. But if you are truly trying to recover, you will find a way to overcome the pitfalls and dead ends and keep going. Again, recovery takes work, lots of work, and it takes time.
In my case, I was silent for thirty-five plus years, so it should not be surprising that recovery may take years as well. I have made progress. But I am ever vigilant. If I stop using the tools of recovery, the darkness will return. Of this, I have no doubt. So I keep working on my recovery. I owe this to all those who helped me. I owe it to my parents and my son. Most of all, I owe it to myself.
So what are the tools of my recovery? The most obvious tool is my writing. I write – a lot. I have two blogs which share the two sides of my story, the days of Black and the days of light. I write guest posts for other blogs. I share on Twitter (probably too much, according to my son). I write in notebooks, lots of notebooks.
Another great tool is mindful meditation, particularly meditation of the breath. Your breath is always with you and you can use it to have mini-meditations, just concentrating on the sensations of breathing, throughout the day. Writing, to me, is a mindful exercise because I am in that moment as I write.I have rediscovered the importance of colour. I have several colouring books where I allow myself to explore colour and allow it to calm and heal. In fact, while I’m not an artist, I did buy a drawing tablet so that I might create my own colouring pages.
I walk as much as I can. I walk to appointments. I walk to the shop. I walk for the sheer joy of walking.I have a tendency to prefer seclusion. Being by myself energizes me. But, I also know that it can be a danger to me, a pathway for the MDD to return. So I seek seclusion in public places – I take my laptop or tablet to the library or the local coffee house – allowing me my privacy while in the midst of the hustle and bustle.I also have a wellness toolkit.
I have a box, a smartphone and a digital picture frame that all remind me of happier times, that all contain photos, or sounds, or diversions that help me to manage excessive distress. The use of my smartphone gives the toolkit the element of portability I need to be able to divert myself from distress while on the go. These are the tools that work for me. They may also work for you or they may not. There are tools that I tried that did not work.
Finding the right balance is trial and error but it is worth the effort.My story is not unique. That is the great lie of MDD, that you are all alone. Many of us live this story and many of us use tools that keep the Black at bay. The difference, in my mind, is that not all of us share our stories with each other.
Sharing heals. It is a vital part of my recovery and I urge you to make it a part of yours. Again, SHARING HEALS.”