As I come closer to the one year anniversary of my most recent hospitalization for active suicidal ideation, my thoughts turn to what keeps stopping me from killing myself and how exactly it is that I manage to get help. After all, I’m not the only one with this problem, and I already know too many who have not gotten help and committed suicide.
The reasons that I moved from fine, to passive thoughts of suicide to active suicidal thoughts aren’t incredibly important, but I’ll give you a quick run-down. I say that these things aren’t incredibly important because the people in this story are not at fault. My bipolar/depressed/anxious brain is at fault.
However, last year we opened our home to my husband’s son, my stepson. My Mother-in-law had moved in 2 years before and our small home was already stretched to it’s limits. However, my step-son had nowhere else to go, so we took him in.
Now, my stepson had his own pile of problems and the codependent part of me wanted to help fix them. My husband and I had many disagreements on the right course of action and I felt rather powerless to do anything. Until he got a job, my stepson planted himself on the couch all day, every day. Once he got a job, we became his personal Uber service.
My nerves were stretched thin enough to use as strings for a guitar. And then the depression set in. It started as a feeling of uselessness, but the depression gained ground and started pushing me further and further down until I began to have passive suicidal thoughts. I had no plan of action to kill myself, but the thoughts kept going through my brain.
When I mentioned these thoughts to my therapist, she upped my weekly visits from two to three. This kept me from going further into the ravine of depression for a couple of weeks.
However, yet one more argument between my husband and I sealed the deal. I explained about the suicidal thoughts. He told me that I needed to change my attitude or I would never feel better. Again, not his fault. He was terrified. And his fear always presents as frustration or anger. So, not his fault. Not the most helpful piece of advice, but still, not his fault that I ended up where I did.
The worst day was July 1, 2016. I woke up barely able to get out of bed. But, anxiety forced me up to make coffee. It was probably also the co-dependent side as well, because I couldn’t have my husband get up to no coffee. My step-son was asleep on the couch.
When my husband finally does get up the silence between us is deafening. Our conflicting ideas about what to do with my stepson, and his terror over my suicidal thoughts keep us quiet.
I rifle through my coping skills toolbox. I don’t have enough concentration to color. Or read. Or write. I can’t be bothered to weed the garden. Nothing is working. All of my tried and true coping skills are failing me all at once. I don’t even have it in me to watch TV. I tell my husband that it’s getting bad. I don’t think I’m going to make it through today. He reminds me that if I continue to think this way then that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Looking back, I know that he was frantic. At the time, I felt like the weight of me that he wore around his neck was just getting heavier. Wouldn’t he be better off without a sick wife? The worry could end. The endless doctor visits and medication changes and refills would end. There would be no guessing my mood and trying to adapt. He would get that life insurance money from the policy he has on me through work. He could pay off the house. He could pay off the medical bills. He could have money left over to supplement his paycheck. The only paycheck that funds the lives of 4 people. Because I can’t work. Because the doctors say it will only propel me to this place I’m crashing towards anyway.
Active Suicidal Ideation. Now, I have a plan.
A pair of scissors sits on the bathroom vanity, taunting me with my inability to just open a vein. My plan of choice this time is my medication. The very medication that is supposed to keep me together is now going to be my way out.
But out of the corner of my brain’s eye, I see the red thread. I believe in God, so I choose to believe that He puts it there as my choice. My choice to give in or to fight. You may believe differently about how that choice comes to be, as long as you see the choice if this time ever comes to you.
I reach out and touch the red thread. And I instantly know I need to lock up my medications. So, into the safe they go. Lock the safe.
I’m the only one with the combination. So, probably not super helpful, but better than nothing.
I touch the red thread again. And this time I go to the only place that I know I will be safe. The pool. I know I cannot drown myself.
I sit out there for a little while, but the craving to end my life is so strong. I touch the red thread. This time, I go back to the house and grab a couple of the cigarettes that I rolled for hubby. I don’t smoke anymore. I haven’t smoked for almost 2 years. But the need to kill myself is too strong. I need to occupy my hands. So, I smoke.
It’s not helping.
I touch the red thread. I call my therapist. She doesn’t have a receptionist so I end up in voicemail. I leave her a message, through tears, that I want to kill myself so badly. My coping skills are not working. I’m sitting by the pool, because I know I can’t drown myself. I’m smoking. Please call me back.
But, in my heart, I know she’s in session and won’t get back to me for a couple of hours at least. Hubby comes out to let me know he’s leaving for work. He works second shift and once he leaves, he won’t be back until midnight. I tell him I’ve called Karen. He says good and he leaves. He takes my stepson to work when he goes.
And now I’m alone with my Mother in Law. And I’m suicidal. And my therapist hasn’t called back. But, I also realize something. I’m no longer just reaching out to touch the red thread. I’m holding it. I’m climbing it.
I look up the number for the Psychiatric Hospital I stayed at 2 years ago. I pick up the phone and put it down several times before I finally make the call. I’m worried they won’t believe me. I’m worried I will have to try to convince them. I speak with the intake nurse and she is kind to me. I tell her that I want to kill myself and the steps I’ve taken to not attempt.
She says come in right away.
I call my therapist and leave a voicemail updating her on my new plan. The plan where I will not take my life but will get help instead.
I go to pack a bag. I know from repeated experience that I can take nothing with me with laces or drawstrings but it’s all I own. So, I pack the clothes that I don’t mind the drawstrings being cut out of, pull on my slippers and prepare to go.
But, I haven’t taken my Mother in Law into account. She insists that I’m not to leave the house. Hubby told her what was going on and I’m not to drive. An argument that, at the time, is unbelievable to me ensues. I’m 46 years old and if I want to leave the house I will not be stopped by her. But, I understand now. Fear drives her.
But, the red thread is now driving me. I will not be stopped from getting help.
I call a cab.
At the hospital, I meet the nurse I spoke with on the phone. Questions upon questions upon questions need to be answered. But, my therapist has called ahead and told them not only to expect me, but that I need to be admitted. I’m beyond grateful for the wheels that have been greased. I don’t have to prove myself.
She takes me to the ward and gets me checked in there. I feel conspicuous as I sit at the nurse’s station getting the drawstrings cut from my pants and filling out forms. People are staring, but I refuse to look up. These people are going to be my whole world for the next 7 days, but I’m not ready to meet their eyes yet.
I stay for a week.
I reset to factory defaults.
I begin to see how my husband’s anger was born of worry for me and his own stress over his son living with us.
I begin to see how to express my concerns about my stepson.
I begin to plan my new daily schedule for home to take into account my stepson’s presence.
I reload my coping skills toolbox.
Suicidal ideation is not selfish. None of what I felt on July 1 and the days leading up was about me feeling more comfortable. It was about a sense of uselessness. It was about knowing with absolute certainty that those I love would be better off without me. It was about knowing that my bipolar will always be here with me, but my husband shouldn’t have his life made harder because of that. And it was about an absolute certainty that the lives of my loved ones would be easier without me. Packing a bag and moving out wasn’t the answer. Because my husband would have to continue to deal with me and my bipolar. Death was the only answer. It was the only way to free HIM.
Looking back, I see the fear that I thought was anger. I see the stress that I read as hate. But, I was wrong about all of it. Suicidal ideation will always have you read a room wrong.
But, the red thread led me through to help. Whether you believe that the red thread is divine, as I do, or not, simply doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that the red thread exists.
I urge you, the next time active suicidal ideation rears it’s ugly head, to grab that thread. Grab it with all your might and don’t let go.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255