I was a wreck. I had to come off Lithium before starting a new drug, Lamotrigine (an upcoming post). I was also experiencing some other stressors at work which was aggravating my mood. I was feeling hopeless, like we’d never get a medication in place to stop these depressive cycles.
It’s probably a good spot to note that medication does not completely resolve the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. What they do is lessen the effects. The hypomania will be less severe and the depressive cycles will be shorter and less debilitating. And medication alone cannot keep Bipolar at bay, for a lot of people, it requires a multi-prong approach; medication and therapy.
I’d had a particularly rough day at work and was sobbing uncontrollably on my way home in the car. I was so distraught that I started screaming, animalistic screaming because I had no other way to get the pain and anger out. That’s when my brain seized its opportunity, it was finally time. My depression had waited for this moment of desperation and exhaustion.
‘You could drive your car off the road, you know.’
I don’t know what other people’s experiences have been with suicidal thoughts but I’m going to share my own and take from it what you will. I was so far into my depression that I felt like I was a burden to my family. I was such a mess that everyone, especially the Bear would be better off without me. I hurt so bad inside and I was certain it would never stop. We would never get the medication right, I would keep going through these unbearable cycles. There was no hope.
Some people call suicide selfish.
How could that person do that to their family and friends, what were they thinking? They can’t think, they’re in a 24-7 battle with their mind and they are exhausted. They’re thinking that they’re a burden to everyone around them, that they’re worthless.
Why didn’t they reach out for help? Maybe they did and weren’t heard or taken seriously. ‘Choose to be happy.’ Maybe they didn’t have the money for therapy or have resources available to them.
I’d like those people, who are so judgmental, to extend some grace and empathy for those that are hurting so bad that they can only see one way out. Imagine being in a place where the only way to finally get relief is to take your own life.
I found myself clutching the steering wheel and for a moment, revved my engine in preparation to drive into a light pole. And that’s when I knew I needed help, right now.
I went home and fell apart in front of Darren, letting him know what had just happened, how close I was to ending it. I look back on this and feel shame and guilt that I would lay this at his doorstep, completely unequipped with what to do. He said I should call the Distress Line and talk to someone.
I crawled into the bath tub, ran the water hot and proceeded to dial the number. The lady was very kind and soft spoken. I told her what I had just went through and she read off the standard protocol.
- Are you safe right now? Yes.
- Are you in danger of harming yourself or anyone else? No (even though my brain was still picking at me, relentless)
- Do you have a support system? Yes. I had Darren but I’m pretty sure this is the last straw and that he’s packing up and running to China…
- Are you able to make an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist? Yes I could do that.
- Are you able to make an appointment with your doctor? Sigh, yes.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel a lot better when I got off the phone. I thought there would be a therapist on the other end, someone who could talk me through my thoughts, bring me down. So I made the appointment with my psychologist and I called the doctors clinic to.
When my doctor came in the room I was already a mess and she gave me a big warm hug. I couldn’t cope with everything that was going on, coming off the Lithium, having suicidal thoughts, work, life. It was just too much at that point. Darren and I had discussed possibly needing a couple of weeks off work to just get things under control. I would be starting the Lamotrigine shortly and it would take awhile to kick in.
My doctor looked at me and said, ‘You need more than two weeks off, I’m prescribing 6 weeks’. I was mortified. We were just entering our busy time at work, school start-up, and I didn’t know how I was going to tell my boss. I knew how people viewed others on leave, especially stress leave. There’s always that stigma attached. She typed out the note and handed it to me and said very seriously, ‘We need to do this to keep you alive Michelle.’
I went straight to work and told my boss that I needed to talk to him. We went into his office and he shut the door. I became weepy and explained that I was having a rough time and that my doctor wanted me to take 6 weeks off work. I added that I had been suicidal and now going onto a new medication, it was just a lot to handle. Without hesitation he agreed that it was the best course of action, to go see our disability coordinator and get things rolling. It was instant relief.
When people go on leave, it’s usually hush, hush. No one knows the reasons why but there’s whispers. I wanted to avoid that so I crafted an email to my coworkers explaining my diagnosis, the trouble with getting my medications right and that I was taking time off work.
I spent the next 6 weeks in bed. I felt lousy doing it, self-care was not and is not my forte, but Darren assured me that I needed that time to just decompress and adjust to the new medication. I would take the dog for walks and I would read. I ate because I knew I had to. It was about the four week mark that I started to feel more myself, a bit more even.
Maybe Lamotrigine would be the answer…