Hell and Back

A lot has happened since my previous posts (most of which you will not find here. I’ll explain this in a moment.)

When I wrote “Depression Confessions” it was a breakthrough for me. I had been up until that point, crippled by the weight of my emotions, and too afraid to talk about them. I was terrified but turns of events inspired me to suck it up and put a few things out there. I wanted to liberate myself and I hoped to liberate others. It felt like a huge relief, a release of so much pain. I had hope. I wanted to share that hope. I felt like I had suffered for so long. Little did I know, my journey had just begun. This was only the first step. It was inevitable that I would spiral downwards again. I thought I had already hit rock bottom, but there was further to go. I had admitted my problem, named it and analysed it. I had left myself exposed and vulnerable. But had I really dealt with my problems? Perhaps not. Same issues, different day. I eventually figured I couldn’t change my situation and environment as quickly as I would like and I just had to change the way I dealt with things and adopt new coping mechanisms. But that came much later. Sometimes coping just wasn’t enough.

I was surviving, just about. Emotionally and physically drained, but surviving. I let my self-worth be determined by others, the biggest mistake you can make. I had been fighting so hard but I felt like nobody was listening. When I didn’t receive the support I sought from family/friends/professionals alike, I eventually began to give up on myself too. I thought I wasn’t worth it. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I so exhausted all the time? Why couldn’t I hold down a job? Could I do anything useful? Did anyone really need me? What was the point?

I was at the age where I was a little to old to be living with my parents. There was a lot of pressure on me to move out and get a job. The pressure led to me taking on  work that I was not physically or emotionally prepared for. My mind and body were too exhausted, still processing recent events. I had been miserable sitting at home, unemployed, isolated, bored, useless. I was now taking on a very full-on role that involved working around the clock, little to no pay and no social life. It was residential and on a voluntary basis. Normally this job would suit me, I very much enjoyed working with the service users but it was too much and at the wrong time. I enjoyed the work but I didn’t have the energy or the motivation. I was simply escaping one situation and putting myself in an equally unsatisfactory one. My energy was drained, I started off well but eventually wasn’t able to complete tasks. I felt more useless than ever. I felt irresponsible. I knew people didn’t understand. They thought I was lazy and complacent. Sometimes I believed them. I eventually felt so useless and guilty I had to admit defeat and move back home. This didn’t go down well.

Immediately I started looking for jobs again, even though I knew I would not be capable of working. The pressure was building and building. Things were getting tense. Its hard for people to empathise with you when they just don’t understand. They see your lack of energy and difficulty getting up as laziness and your sadness as moody and dramatic. They don’t understand why you can’t just go and get a job you hate like everyone else and just do it. They think you’re being selective or you’re not really trying. I tried, I tried really hard but my efforts just weren’t paying off. When I moved home I also had to part with my beloved pet rabbit. You may laugh but this was extremely difficult for me. He was a companion during some very difficult times during my residential work placement. But alas, there was a cat at home and we couldn’t have both. It was heartbreaking for me. It had only been two weeks since I had moved back home, but I was getting more and more anxious. Jobs weren’t coming and the pressure was becoming overwhelming. How was I to get a house and a job and ease the constant tension around me.

I had gone to college but I didn’t really know what I wanted. I never felt I had the freedom to choose my own path in life. I was trapped. I felt like a failure. I had no real skills, I had never excelled at anything and I had wasted my parents time and money doing a college degree that I had no real aptitude for, or no confidence to follow up. In my mind, I was completely useless. I became over-sensitive to criticism, which is normally unlike me, but my own self-loathing had taken over. I resented everything about myself. I felt guilty that I hadn’t been around to see my friends. What was I to people? I didn’t even know if I was a good person anymore. Had I ever done anything good or useful for anyone? Was I a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister? Was I talented or smart? Did I have a purpose? In my mind, I most certainly did not. I didn’t want to exist any more. I began to think that nobody would mind if I disappeared. After all what had I done for them except make their lives more difficult. Why did I exist? What was I? Nothing.

It didn’t take long for my thoughts to spiral out of control. Its hard to explain how I got there. It was a long  tedious process but it happened all at once. I felt like my brain was on fire. My whole body felt sick. I couldn’t stand it anymore. It didn’t feel like it was just my own voice criticising me anymore. I could hear it all around me. Everyone agrees, I thought. I made the decision to take an overdose. It was the most peaceful solution I could think of and I had thought about it quite a lot. I thought it seemed less messy than the other alternatives. I wrote a long note apologising for what I had done, but mainly apologising for my existence. It wasn’t their fault, I told them. They didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to be born. They would move on and forget me and everything would be ok, I promised them. It would be like I never existed. The note was one I had written a few days in advance. I had been going back and forth in my mind about whether I was going to do it or not, until something in my brain finally snapped. I wasn’t scared. I felt peaceful, I was doing the right thing I told myself. Everything was going to be ok.

When I came round I was lying on a hospital trolley. Everything was blurry. The concerned faces of my family were around me. They seemed calm one minute, teary eyed the next. They were asking me questions, their voices were like echoes.I was hallucinating and drifting in and out of conciousness, I didn’t know if any of this was real. I think it was morning but I couldn’t be too sure. Suddenly day became night and I was in a hospital ward. There were two drips in my arm and I was connected to some sort of machine. One drip was draining my blood the other was feeding me nutrients. I was a little out of it, but appalled by the drips in my arm. I tried to pull them out which lead to the machine beeping and nurses rushing over to stop me. I was hallucinating like crazy, there were colours and patterns everywhere and nothing made sense. I wasn’t sure if I was alive or if I had entered another dimension. In between staring at the floral pattens swirling around on my hands, I started to realise what had happened. I had survived.

 

You would think I would be grateful for this second chance, but you would be wrong. I yelled at the doctors and nurses, tried to escape. “Let me leave I told them, it’s OK. You won’t lose your job, it’s fine”.  I was highly paranoid. I thought I was evil and needed to be destroyed and that everyone thought so too. It was what you might call “a psychotic episode”. I can’t fully remember what happened but I know I spent the remainder of the night trying to escape, asking strange questions and telling nurses what a terrible person I was. I feel ashamed when I think about the chaos I caused and what a nightmare I was for the staff and other patients, who were clearly very frightened because they viewed me as being unstable, and I guess I was.

I wondered if my organs were failing. They had to be. How was it possible I had taken such a pathetic overdose. I asked the nurses over and over again why I was alive. Why hadn’t I died. I was supposed to die. Why hadn’t I even vomited? It made no sense. I was disgusted with myself and ashamed, for all the wrong reasons. I was embarrassed I had messed up so badly. Now everyone would know that I had tried and not succeeded and I would have to live through that and live through all the disappointment. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours which of course led to more hallucinations and psychosis. I was still out of it when I arrived at the psychiatric hospital.  I didn’t fully understand what was going on but I signed the agreement that I would stay there of my own will. Going back home and causing my family more pain was not an option. Especially considering the fact that I wasn’t planning on surviving. If all else failed, the overdose would eventually kill me I thought. My organs would slowly fail. I wasn’t me anymore. I was a shell of a person.

I stayed in the psychiatric ward for two months over the summer. Some of my friends knew where I was. Others had no idea. The first few days were strange. I was so paranoid I was hearing voices. My friends, family and acquaintances. And they were taunting me. I made a series of strange paranoid phone-calls the first night. I don’t even want to know what I saying. I was talking to the “cameras in the walls”. (There were no cameras). Clearly I was still suffering the after-affects of my overdose and lack of sleep. I was confused and I was angry. The confusion eventually faded but the anger stayed.

Over those two months I somehow managed to make some really nice friends. I met lots of interesting and inspiring people who were going through very difficult things. Everyone seemed so normal, everyone seemed OK. But we knew best of all, that things are not always how they seem. We laughed a lot, made inappropriate jokes (dark humour was a fairly prevalent things and a strong coping mechanism…and also hilarious) and relentlessly teased each other. It was all in good spirits. But we checked up on each other too. The scary thing about making friends in hospital is that there is always this fear in the back of your mind that something really bad is going to happen to one of them. An empty bed could be a good sign or a bad sign. Nothing terrible happened while I was in there so I was fortunate enough not to experience anything like that. But I still panicked when I saw an empty bed.

There were different wards. If you got really bad you were moved to the special care ward. I spent a few days in there during my first week. There were a lot of rules down there and very little responsibility for yourself. I found it comforting for a while. While I was there, I ran into one of my friends from the outside world. It was really nice to know someone in there (and obviously a bit worrying too because its not really somewhere you want to see a friend). I was shocked at first. I felt like a bit of an idiot for assuming that everyone else was OK and not considering the fact that some of my friends could be in trouble too. I had been busy having my own meltdown I hadn’t been aware what other people were going through. We became better friends while we were there and I genuinely believe that not half as many people would have talked to me if it weren’t for her. Her humour and charm and honesty got me through a lot so thank you. You know who you are ❤

To be blatantly honest I was quite a nightmare during my stay there. I was bitter and angry and sarcastic and challenging. In social situations I was awkward and twitchy and blurted out random confessions every now and then, a side affect of my new-found paranoia. I guess I over-shared a bit and was generally quite eccentric. I laughed a lot. This is quite normal for me actually for people who know me. I find most things hilarious, it can be impossible to take me seriously sometimes. Basically just an exaggerated, more awkward, socially challenged version of myself with sprinklings of paranoia and bitterness. I also had this strange need to force people to confront their demons. After all, I was confronting mine, somewhat. I was strangely numb and I simply couldn’t take life seriously. It was all a big joke to me. I was strongly encouraged to attend some groups. By strongly encouraged I mean that it was basically mandatory despite the fact that the term “voluntary participation” was thrown around quite a bit.

I gave the nurses hell. I found it extremely difficult to communicate and to word my thoughts. There were too many things flying around in my head. I was on a lot of meds and they were making me slow and confused. I eventually found out why I never vomited, ( the idea of me being so bad at overdosing was plaguing me. I found it embarrassing to have survived and to seem like a cry for help). Apparently it was too late, all the drugs were already in my system. I was amused by my supposed high tolerance of drugs but also irritated.

I behaved somewhat inappropriately in groups, collapsing into giggles during serious discussions and challenging the methods of professionals. I was probably quite offensive and unhelpful for the other group members and I feel bad about that. I simply just couldn’t take things seriously. I have a nervous giggle and a strange sense of humour. I’m also quite emotionally challenged. I have often responded to sad stories with laughter because I get uncomfortable and I’m not much of a crier. More than anything, the friends I made while in hospital really helped me so much. We would constantly laugh and joke and have open conversations and it felt really safe to be around people who understood. It was an absolute blessing and the most important thing I will take with me.

Friends and family from the outside came to visit me. They wrote me beautiful letters and brought me gifts. I felt guilty and ashamed because I felt I deserved to be punished, yet here they were. I never expected so many visitors. I had been worried about letting everyone down, I didn’t think I would have anyone left. But I had regular visitors who were absolutely amazing. I don’t think I would be here if if weren’t for them. Myself and my outside friend who was also in hospital had communal visits. Its only now I realise how completely blessed I was.

When it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave. Not because I liked it there or enjoyed the strict routines, or my many clashes with everyone who tried to help me. But because I was terrified of the outside world. I didn’t know how to be a person anymore. While in there I had developed some awkward habits and my anxiety has increased ten-fold. I didn’t know how to hold myself or communicate with people or walk like a normal human. I did this weird awkward walk thing and had become increasingly self concious partly due to my weight loss and the fact that I deeply uncomfortable with my inner and outer self.  By the time I was leaving I was completely free of meds. This for me was a great achievement because before I was admitted I had been on 100mg of serotonin every day for over a year. However I was completely terrified. I had had some experiences of the outside world while in hospital. When I behaved myself (or pretended to, in an attempt to seem really stable) sometimes I got to go home for the weekend.

I remember my first night out when I went home. I dragged a lovely friend with me for moral support. It was an intensely awkward experience. I thought that everyone knew, that they were all judging me and thought that I was a bad person. There were friends who had tried to meet up with me and people whom I hadn’t told about my new residence. “Yeah I’m just at home at the moment looking for jobs”, I lied. I got increasingly drunk as the night went on and confessions were starting to pour out.  I woke up full of disgust and self-loathing after my antics.

After I returned to the hospital I got a lovely text from someone I had seen that night asking to meet up. I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to explain my situation and I didn’t see a future for me outside of hospital. There were many texts and messaged I didn’t respond to. I didn’t know how.  During my stay in the hospital I decided that it would be a good idea to destroy all evidence of my existence so people wouldn’t have to remember me. This happened quite early on. I deleted all my social media accounts. The most painful thing I deleted was my blog. I managed to recover one or two posts but that was a real sign that I had lost all hope. I had somehow come to the conclusion that I was a deranged, delusional person who could not be trusted. Everything I had written was probably damaging to other people and my mindset would only lead people down the merry road to hell. I thought that my endless optimism was pathetic and naive and that I was giving people false hope. Maybe the world I dreamed of did not exist. Furthermore, maybe I was the one with the problem. Maybe everyone was happy with the way the world was and the culture and norms of our current generation. Maybe I was the only person who wanted to change things. I was defective and had to be destroyed. Honestly writing this now it sounds hilarious, like some kind of satire but it was how I felt at the time.

I had successfully shut myself off from people and isolated myself and now I was to return to the real world. It was a scary thought. It took me a long time to adjust. I leaned heavily on friends and family. I was needy and clingy and emotionally manipulative. I wanted to know that I was supported. I wanted somebody, anybody to show me unconditional love. My family were probably crippled with the weight of my reliance to be honest. I couldn’t face leaving the house on my own or using public transport. I got out at the end of August. It was probably October before I started to feel somewhat human again.

I felt ready to be useful again. I was still somewhat numb, I was not overly affected by anything. But I felt stronger. Stronger than ever before. Everything was just water off a ducks back. Nothing could hurt me now. I started to apply for jobs, I was attending interviews. This was a huge achievement for me, considering how I had felt not so long ago. The mere idea of me being capable if doing such things was mind-blowing.

I eventually got a Christmas job.I was shocked and very proud of myself. Doesn’t seem like a big deal but to me it was. I had started to go to the doctor again and discovered that I was gluten intolerant. (I know, it actually exists, its not just a hipster fad). Changing my diet helped me regain so much energy. Honestly, I feel like such an idiot for not doing it sooner, but I love bread and pastries and hate restricting myself. I stopped being exhausted all the time and I wasn’t in constant physical pain. I felt somewhat useful. I was still something of a robot but I was getting there. I wasn’t overly friendly or responsive. I didn’t feel much. Its only now that I have way too much free time on my hands that I’m starting to really feel again. And I feel it all.

The same day I got the phonecall about that job, a few hours later I got a phonecall that a friend has passed away. He was a dear friend, someone who I adored and viewed as an utterly magical person. I was heartbroken. I was deeply disappointed and annoyed with myself for distancing myself from everybody. How often had I thought about reaching out to my friends and how much I missed them. I hadn’t been in touch, I hadn’t been on social media. I had been busy being a hermit. I had wasted months shutting myself off from people and months in hospital when I could have been spending time with my friends. Now I would miss him forever. All my photos of him, all our conversations and memories gone. I hadn’t saved a thing. I was too busy getting rid of the evidence of my own existence. I never thought I would need those memories so much. I never thought I would be saying goodbye to someone else.

It’s a terrible thing that while you are wishing your life away, somebody else can have theirs taken from them unexpectedly. I know how happy he was in my last moments and that will always comfort me.  While I was wasting my life away being miserable I missed a lot of things. From now on I want to be there. I want to be present. I want to be there for all the people who have been there for me through my worst and best times. I want to be there for weddings, funerals, birthdays, graduations, heart-breaks. I want to be there for the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t want to miss a single thing.

When we go through difficult things it makes the good things even more of a cause of celebration. For the first time in months I see everything as the miracle it really is. The unconditional support and love of my friends and family and the brave and inspirational people around me. The fearless, fabulous friends who have come into my life. And the ones who couldn’t stay. When I think about the incredible people who I have met, I’m not sure how one person could be so lucky.

Today I celebrate life. I celebrate the love and support of friends and family. I celebrate the little things and the big things. I celebrate getting up out of bed in the mornings and getting out of the house and seeing the world. I celebrate knowing that I am never alone and knowing that there is so much more to experience and learn.

 

Stay Golden,

Every single one of you ❤

 

 

 

 

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