Living in the Gray

Let’s talk about suicide.

I know, right?

Totally taboo!

This sensitive subject isn’t one that we like to discuss let alone admit to being one who suffers from suicidal tendencies. It comes with a social stigma that assumes weakness and mental instability are always to blame. Society definitely has its views of what’s normal and what’s not, whether or not you buy into those stereotypes or, have the autonomy to come to your own conclusions, is entirely up to you. I throw this out there because, as you’ve likely guessed, I’m going to write about my own experiences. I probably am weak and a little mentally unstable but your kindness is appreciated. My goal, as always, is that it might be of some assistance to someone else trudging along a similar path.

When you’re really depressed everything seems gray, flat, and lifeless. It is difficult to express how the world looks through this lens if you’ve never been there yourself. It is a bit like trying to describe the taste of salt to someone who’s never experienced it before. It’s not sweet, bitter, tart or any adjective other than… salty. The type of depression I’ve been struggling through is different from feeling “blue” for a day or two or the feeling of “let down” that you might experience after a crushing disappointment. It is more lasting and profound than that. It takes root deep within the soul and, like a cancer, poisons your hope and casts a pall over life in general.

Previously I wrote about the fact that the depression I felt earlier this year began to burrow deeper and deeper into my psyche until finally, in early spring, I was exhausted and completely worn out. Life had simply become too much to manage. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to die. The best way I can describe it is that I felt a kind of deep and all-encompassing fatigue. I wasn’t just tired, I was weary and discouraged beyond anything I’d ever felt before. I wanted an end to the suffering of mind, body, and spirit.

The first time I realized that I was losing the will to continue I was self-aware enough to jump out of bed, run to the medicine cabinet, and hide all of my narcotics before I did something stupid. In that moment I was still motivated to carry on for the sake of my children. I understood that they needed me, wanted me to stay and guide them through their lives. For a few weeks I was able to “pull up my bootstraps” and make a valiant attempt to overcome what I viewed as a temporary gloominess. I kept telling myself that it would pass, the feelings of exhaustion couldn’t last forever, and that if I could just pull myself together I would get over this melancholy feeling. However, as time passed, that “melancholy feeling” continued to grow until finally I began to realize that I was probably in over my head.

I began to do a lot more prayer and soul-searching. I think there is this idea in our culture that tells you that your depression will go away if only you can be a little more faithful, a little more prayerful, and a little less pessimistic. If you’re suffering from a bad hair day, maybe this strategy will work, but when your depression stems from a chemical imbalance, this is not the case. I think I mentioned previously that I felt like my faith had never been stronger. In fact I was clinging to it for dear life, pleading with my Father in Heaven for relief from the despair and despondency.

I would hit my knees every night before bed and beg the Lord to help me make the changes that I felt would bring relief. I asked for forgiveness and mercy, I pled for understanding, but most of all I would implore him to take me home, to let me rest from my labors, and to release me from this frail and suffering body. Then I would crawl into bed and hope that I would sleep before my wayward thoughts betrayed me and led me down paths that I dared not go.

I'm DoneOne night I had finished my prayers and was in bed attempting to cry myself to sleep when a thought occurred, “What if I just held my breath until my heart stopped.”

I tried it…

I failed…

I tried again and failed again.

I couldn’t really tell you how long this went on. It felt like hours but it was likely a few short minutes. After another failed attempt in which I had actually turned my face into my pillow hoping to smother myself, I lay there with tears streaming down my face begging God to take me home. “I am so tired, haven’t I suffered enough?” “Please take me home, I can’t do this anymore. I feel like I can’t breathe, I don’t want to breathe.” “I’m so tired of waking up in pain, so tired of striving through the mental and emotional struggles of life.”

Then I became agitated. I just knew that if I didn’t do something to help myself I would definitely do something to harm myself. So I hit the floor on my knees again and beseeched the Lord to help me remember why I needed to stay, even if, every day hurt more and more, even if, every time I woke up I found my life bleak and unfulfilling, and especially when I thought I couldn’t continue on my own. That night I crawled back into bed with stiff knees and cradled my scriptures against my battered and aching heart. I didn’t know what else to do. I must have fallen asleep that way because I awoke the next morning with my scriptures still nestled to my breast.

I needed help.

I think that night finally gave me the courage to admit that I wasn’t going to fix this on my own and that it didn’t mean that I was too weak or that it made me a bad person. It meant that I had been dealing with some pretty significant challenges in life. My health was definitely in the tank and each time I would go to the doctor I would come away with more questions than answers. I was a mother of a child with Asperger’s and another with ADHD. (That can only be covered in several blog posts of their own.) And I was a wife to someone with ADD. (That I will not be discussing on this blog, too painful and personal.) So it was no wonder I was at the end of my rope. Time to cut myself some slack and realize that I was doing the best I could.

With that in mind I made an appointment with a therapist, something I should have done long ago. I had been through therapy before, and after my hysterectomy so, I knew better than to try to tackle some of these bigger problems on my own. Unfortunately I had fallen prey to the aforementioned myths about depression. It was time to exercise my own autonomy and make an informed decision, one that would be beneficial to me and, to that end, my family.

I hate to leave you here but, truly, I’m exhausted. Revisiting these times and emotions is cathartic and draining all at once. I’ll finish this story another day. Know that I have clawed my way out of my own personal “pit of despair” (thank you Princess Bride.) I’ve been working hard to rise above the depths of sorrow and I no  longer feel as though I’m drowning.

I also owe you the latest health update.

Where I live, Rheumatologists are few and far between. I have been struggling to find one that I can communicate well with and one who can give me a definitive second opinion. I’d kind of given up on ever finding a doctor who could truly help me and had settled in with my current Rheumy, the second one I’ve seen, who has me on Remicade for Crohn’s, Ankylosing, and RA. The problem is that, many other health professionals have attempted to communicate their ideas with him about my health care and he refuses to acknowledge or even listen to their input.

Clueless Doctor_1So… I got to thinking, maybe it was time to finally get that third opinion I’d been putting off. It is hard to explain the emotional and psychological trauma that occurs when you try a new doctor unless you are chronically ill and experience it for yourself. To make a long story short I drove (or rather my mom drove) an hour and a half to come away with twice as many questions as answers. This doctor isn’t convinced that the other two Rheumy’s have the diagnosis right. In fact, two doctors are convinced I have one set of rheumatological diseases but not another; and one doctor, who, isn’t convinced of the other set, but is sure that I have the set of diseases that the two previous doctors deny. Then there is a set of diseases that exist in the middle that everyone is sure I suffer from but there isn’t really any help for those other than to treat the symptoms. To muddy the waters even more, the treatment for one set is different from the treatment for the other but stopping the Remicade could have some really disastrous consequences if we “guess” wrong. UGH!

For my family who has been asking, and anyone else who is wondering, I guess, here’s the latest list of possibilities and current diagnosis? In other words, no wonder I hurt.

Lupus

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sjogren’s

Raynaud’s

Crohn’s

Meniere’s

Ehler-Danlos (not sure which type yet)

Avascular Necrosis

And… drumb roll please… something they may not have identified yet. Maybe we can call Stina’s Syndrome. Why not? It could be my claim to fame right along with the planet I’m bound to discover after I finally finish my degree in astrophysics, that way there can be a planet named Stina too.

Planet Stina_2

I like it! How about you?

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10 thoughts on “Living in the Gray

  1. Stina, I am SO sorry you gave going through such a hard time!! {{Hugs}} You have so much on your plate with physical illnesses and, now, depression, too! It shames me when I think of my complaints but having a few mental illness labels is its own burden. I, too, have tried to suffocate, thank God, unsuccessfully. I am so glad you got a therapist’s help and hope you are working on this suicide thing because that depression is the most fatal illness you can have. You are, as always, in my prayers. Nurture any hope you can.
    Blessings of health going your way, Ellen

    • Ellen, Thank you. Don’t sell yourself short though, I admire all that you have done to overcome your labels and the burdens that come with it. I’m so very glad that you’re here to help guide me along my path! You, too, continue to be in my prayers.
      xoxo
      Stina

  2. I had no idea. I am so sorry and so very glad that you’re getting help. Your kids and the world need you more than you know. And the Aspergers/ADHD thing? I have a son with that also. There’s a reason many marriages with kids that have Asp. end in divorce. And a reason so many of us mothers look so tired and struggle to help our kids. Hang in there. You are not alone. A lot of us out here fighting the good fight.

    • I am so glad to have found you in the blogging world! You are an inspiration to me as I feel I can relate with so much of what you share in your writing. You bring me hope and help me remember that, indeed, there are many out there fighting the good fight right along with me. As always, thank you for reading and sharing your insights, I love it!

  3. You are helping many people by being honest about your depression. It makes me sad when people feel like they don’t have a better option than suicide and that there is no hope. Depression is a physical illness and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps or having faith won’t make it go away. To help people understand mental illness, I liken it to diabetes. Positive thinking doesn’t fix mental illness any better than trying to control insulin just by diet. They both are physical illnesses with chemical imbalances in the body. Those chemicals in the body need to be in balance – and it is not always easy to get the chemical balance right.

    Thank you for your post.

    • I agree with you. I wish more people were educated so that when someone is suffering they would understand that it is an illness. Thank you for reading and for this wonderful, insightful comment!

  4. Very well captured. I can definitely relate. I need a bit more space between my struggles before I can properly blog about it (also because in a probably silly and cowardly way, I want to have already “come through it” before I allow the general public in to give advice, which can often be harmful. As you said, a lot of pray more, smile more stuff. But in an attempt to show solidarity and empathy I’ll say to you that I went through a LOT of the same stuff after having a early but still devastating miscarriage AND finding out I’m clinically infertile. I’m in treatment now for the infertility and I took a bit of time off work to heal and figure myself out, and the world is a bit less gray now. I’m hopefully on a decided upswing. But in the grayness, it’s so important to find others who are right there too, who feel the same things, and who share as candidly as you do. It makes me feel… not quite like everything’s going to be okay, or that I’ll be 100% better someday, but just nice to know I’m not the only one here. Like you said about your children, I think the scales truly tip on loneliness. Feeling needed, or feeling camaraderie with gray fellows – that can literally be the difference between life and death.

    OH HEY LOOK HOW LONG THAT GOT.

    Oops. But I love you. Thanks for writing. ❤

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