I’ve been neglecting my little blog. I had thought that I could try and write my way through the depression, but it has been tougher than I imagined it to be. Though to be fair, when I’m depressed I’m even more easily distracted than when I’m not depressed. When I sit at the computer to write, Twitter is more distracting than usual. (I don’t Facebook much, but I can always find something there to distract me as well.)
This does not mean that I have not been writing. I have. I just haven’t written much that’s interesting. Of the interesting things, I’ve yet to actually complete a piece of writing. It is as if completing something I’m actually interested in will leave me floundering, wondering what to write next.
After years of not having insurance, or having insurance that didn’t cover long-term therapy sessions, I now have insurance which allows me to see a psychiatrist. I have had a session most every week since the early part of the year. The sessions have been beneficial in giving a name to the conditions I’ve been dealing with for a good portion of my life: Bipolar Disorder (I’m cycle rapidly through the ups and downs of bipolar — I have had days where I’ve been both manic and depressed: starting with one, then ending with the other); anxiety disorder; and Borderline Personality Disorder. Having a name to put to the conditions has meant that I’ve been able to be treated for them. It has also allowed me to start looking at my thoughts and behaviors in order to understand and control them better.
The downside to therapy is that the sessions are always so brief. Maybe it is because I talk so much that the time seems to go so quickly. Often, I feel as if I didn’t get to say everything I wanted, or was not able to answer a question as fully as I would have liked because I’ve gone off on another tangent, or my doctor has asked me a follow-up question. I’ve left the sessions thinking of things that I want to remember to say the following week but always seem to forget what the thoughts were by the time the next session comes around.
I decided I need to start writing them down. Therapy is more than just the forty-minute session. Therapy is about all the thoughts that happen after, it’s about looking at your thoughts and working through them. It is about trying to have a more complete understanding of yourself.
Last week I brought notes to my therapy session, notes about something we’d talked about in the previous session. It was really helpful for me to write them down, to carry the thoughts through, to try and make sense of some things.
And, since this blog is about my journey through the stark landscapes of mental illness, I thought that as I have notes for me session, I’d share them. I think it is written in such a way that you can figure out what the topic of the prior session was about. I don’t know that I’ll have notes for each week, but as I do, I will post them. I find that writing them down is helpful — not just because I was able to bring up something I didn’t get to say, but also because it helps me articulate my thoughts.
Notes for Session 9/12/14:
You always ask me questions I am not prepared to answer. Maybe prepared isn’t the right word, as that makes it seem as if I am trying to give a pre-planned answer, or that I am trying to give a “right” answer.
What I should say is that our therapy sessions go by so quicky, and my answers often seem shorter than I would like. You should know by now that I can give rather lengthy answers, and that I can easily distract myself by heading off on another tangent. Because of my tendency towards long-windedness, and the quick passage of time in our forty minute sessions (there used to be a time when sessions were fifty minutes, but that was twenty years ago, and you know what they say about time and change) I often leave or sessions feeling as if I hadn’t been able to give as complete an answer as I would like ( you know context is important to me). And then, as there should be when therapy sessions are going well, there is the post-session reflection period when I think of things I want to say next session, but always manage to forget to mention them, because I have new things to say. Writing out these post-session thoughts seems like a good way to help me remember the things I want to say, and to help me work through the new thoughts and ideas that occur to me in the hours and days between each therapy session.
During the last session you asked a question to refresh your memory: “Have you made an attempt at suicide?”
I answered “Yes.” And then you followed up with another question, and the discussion moved on. Then, suddenly (it always seems to happen suddenly) the time was up, and it was time for me to go.
As I walked out of the session, I thought about the question about attempting suicide, and it was at that point I realized I had only given a single-word answer. I’m not good with single-word answers — especially to such an important question. “Yes” is not a sufficient answer because the question is rather meaningless. Yes, I made an attempt. No, I have not made another attempt. The discussion can’t end there. There is much more meaning in the word “attempt” than you might realize.
When I made my one attempt (swallowing eight or ten Valium), no one belived me. The school nurse gave me ipecac syrup and called my mother. By the time my mother arrived, I’d thrown up, though it had been well over an hour since I had taken the pills — perhaps closer to two hours. The nurse looked at my vomit, saw no capsule cases, and concluded I hadn’t taken any pills at all. My mom took me home, examined her bottle of Valium, and concluded I couldn’t have taken as many as I said. She was angry with me — not that I attempted to end my life; rather, she was angry that she had had to leave work.
A year or so later, in a moment of searing anger, I yelled at mom that I was going to kill myself, “Then you’ll be sorry!” I remembered yelling, though what I was angry about I no longer know. I just remember running down the hall and locking myself in the bathroom, and laying on the floor, crying. My mom banged on the door, demanding to be let in.
I ignored her and she went away.
A few minutes later, the police were banging on the bathroom door, threatening to break the door down if I didn’t open it and let them in. I toyed with the idea of letting them break the door down, but figured my mom would be angry about the door. I stood up, unlocked the door, and sat back down on the floor.
One officer came in the bathroom while three or four others stood in the doorway. The officer was apparently the designated ‘good cop’. When I didn’t respond to him, one of the officers who had been standing in the door came in, and attempted to get me to talk by taking the ‘bad cop’ attitude. I refused to speak to him. I remember thinking that with his beligerant, in-my-face attitude, deciding that I was just going to remain silent. I wasn’t going to let the bully succeed where the friendly cop had failed. Shortly after that, an ambulance arrived, and I was taken to an ER, and I was held there for two nights.
After my attempted suicide, and after the stay in the ER, I saw a therapist. I learned something very important during those therapy sessions: people who attempt suicide “don’t really want to” kill themselves. What they “want is attention.” What they want “is to be prevented from dying.” Their attempt at suicide “is merely a plea for help.” And I learned that talking about suicide merely got you labelled as “troubled” and “a troublemaker”.
Time allows us a perspective on events that we don’t always possess at the time. The act of swallowing the Valium was most probably a cry for help of some kind. The fact that I took the pills, went to school, and then told someone after my first class, who took me to the nurse’s office says to me that I was seeking something other than death that day. If I’d wanted to die, I probably would have taken more pills, not gone to school. I could have just swallowed the pills and stayed home, alone. The fact that I went to school, where help could be called if I passed out (or whatever it was that would happen first), tells me that I was in need of something: help or attention, I don’t know. And then, being held against my will for simply expressing the thought of ending my life, taught me that some thoughts are best left unexpressed.
The most profound thing I learned was that I would not again make an attempt. That sounds as if I learned the value of therapy, or the value of life, or the tragedy of taking my own life. However, my statement deserves a closer look. “I would not again make an attempt.” No. Ending my life will not be the result of an “attempt”. I’ve read the psycho-babble about most people who die by suicide weren’t really wanting to die. They were just making an attempt, and, for whatever reason, the attempt was successful. They weren’t trying to die — they wanted someone to stop them, or they only wanted to be slightly injured (hence the slicing of the wrists, crosswise — a gesture more likely to create blood and scars, but not very likely to be a success.) What I learned was that I needed to know what to do when the time comes. No shallow cuts; no bullets that go astray, leaving me alive but crippled in some way; no jumps that might just leave me with a broken neck or spine. I learned that I would not make an attempt. Instead, I would simply and competently take my life.
There would be no “attempt”, only a success.