I’ve decided to do this because I have just gotten so tired of people not really understanding depression, PTSD, and suicide and the people who suffer with these. We are not “sick” or just a little “sad”, and we are not, nor should we be treated as pariahs, psychos, or contagious. The brain is epically complex and can be profoundly resilient, but there will always be times when someone needs extra help and cannot do it alone. These can often be fairly controversial subjects, but I am going to do my best to break them down into realistic bites and maybe answer some questions, dispel misinformation, as well as offer some insight for loved ones as to why someone would even think about ending his or her life.
I want to let anyone reading this understand that I KNOW what you’re feeling. I know what it is like to feel bombarded from all the pain and you just want it to stop. I know what it is like to think everyone would be better off without you. I have been standing at the edge of the cliff, toes gripping over the edge looking down into an abyss and ready to jump off. But I also know what it is like to step back from that ledge and feel a little bit of hope. The further away from the edge you can step back – the darkness you feel in your soul and in your entire being, will lessen. Does it fade away completely? No, not always, but that is the struggle of being human. I am here with you on this journey together.
I was first diagnosed in 2011 with a myriad of mental disorders which include Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), severe Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Actually the OCD is the least of my worries in the grand scheme of things! The depression is rather new and only perhaps the last 15 years, but the PTSD I have suffered almost my entire life. This has resulted in my being suicidal many, many times. I am currently battling suicidal thoughts as I am typing this and on a daily basis. I feel this makes me a little more knowledgeable than someone who has only read about it in textbooks or saw an article online and never been there themselves.
I’m not saying that psychologists and psychiatrists don’t know what they’re talking about, at least most of the time. It is just hard to get the right answers or at least the answers that an individual may need. I personally have seen 3 psychologists and 1 psychiatrist for my depression and a different psychiatrist and another specialized psychologist for my PTSD. I have been told by all that I will need to stay on antidepressant and anxiety medications for the rest of my life and also that my PTSD is untreatable. Untreatable in that any talk therapy, or what is often referred to as mindfulness, would only make my PTSD worse, as I have become a “master of avoidance.” We will get into more of that later.
When I first started seeing a psychologist, we started off with talk therapy. This took FOREVER as I had such incredible difficulty talking about anything. As soon as a subject that was even a tiny bit sensitive came up, I could not get any words out of my mouth. I would start to speak and then it was like an invisible gag was stuffed in my mouth. This is referred to as avoidance. Avoidance can manifest in several ways such as changing the subject, inappropriate laughing, or in my case, an inability to speak. The people and events that my psychologist asked about were things that I had gone over in my mind repeatedly over the decades, but thinking about things and speaking about them are seriously two different brain mechanisms.
As soon as a subject was broached my brain immediately went into survival mode. Writing this now I can hear Beaky Buzzard from the Bugs Bunny cartoons saying, “Aaahh nope, nope, nope, nope, nope….” Trying to say anything at all came out in broken sentences and incomplete words. Things like, “I, uh ok…it’s li…I…don’t……..(very long pause)…….I mean,…it’s…because wh…I can’t…oh my God I can’t even speak normal!” This would go on repeatedly throughout my sessions, every single session for well over a year. I am surprised that my therapist could put up with the incoherent mess that I was.
This was over 10 years ago and even now I am still the same way. Type it out on the computer or write it down on paper? Sure, I can do that. But speaking out loud about the pain, injustice, and verbal abuse makes it more real, I guess. Not that it was not real, or I feel like it happened to someone else, it’s just speaking about everything out loud is truly reliving the moment and my brain just will not let me go through it again. It is protecting me in a way that is seemingly subversive and behind the scenes, but it is a protection that I obviously desperately need.
Over the course of therapy with my first Psychologist I was prescribed four different antidepressant medications before one finally worked. The first one I was prescribed was Prozac.
I LOVED PROZAC
The first week taking Prozac I had a profound moment when my brain literally sighed with relief, if that is even possible. I had no previous moment in my entire life that I could honestly say I felt absolutely nothing. I could exist in my own skin and observe the world around me without any emotions at all. I was in awe of its ability to let me just – be. Most people, from what I understand, do not like Prozac because of the emotional numbing. But I LOVED that about it. I did not realize how much mental and emotional pain I was in 24/7 until it was all finally completely gone.
But therein lies why I did not stay on Prozac for long. After a few months of what I can only call mental bliss, I could not reach that glorious numbness, so I started self-medicating and increasing my dosage on my own. When my psychologist realized I was rocketing through my prescriptions I fessed up to self-medicating and I agreed, albeit reluctantly, to try something else. Three different medications (and 45 pounds later, 10-15 pounds increase per med change) I finally found one that kind of worked. Not completely numb but able to not dwell on negatives either. We had to up the dose 4 times and two different versions of the dosage before I got there. It was many years later I would learn that this medication unfortunately was literally THE most difficult anti-depressant to successfully wean off – Venlafaxine (Effexor). Lorazepam was a secondary antidepressant added to my regime for an extra boost if I needed it, which was rather often.
I successfully weaned myself off of all my antidepressant medications during 2020-2021 on my own. However, if I had known Covid, the pandemic, lock downs and all the crap that would ensue during this time I probably would have picked a different year to do it. Even though I am back to battling my suicidal thoughts again I feel a little more in control of my body at least than the previous 10 years medicated. Since getting off of all my mental medications and other changes I have made the past year I have lost 50 pounds….so yay, I guess?
I still struggle daily with depression and suicidal thoughts at the very least weekly. I’m sure some would say why don’t I just get back on the medications? Well, there are many other medications and supplements I can’t take while on antidepressants. Now that I have to deal with a degenerative brain disease there are medications and supplements that can help with my memory, sleeplessness, pain, etc. that I would not be able to take while on antidepressants.