I didn’t know how else to start this post, other than with this preface. I’m looking back at the notes I wrote on the day, and I am dismayed. Intellectually, I know TMS may not be my miracle treatment; intellectually, I know this has become more about the journey than the final results. Still, I can’t help but feel, though I’m doing all I can to be well, that any level of backslide is a letdown to my readers. It’s a product of our society; we crave that happy ending. That neatly tied up conclusion. Fair warning, there is a degree of struggle in this post. I never promised a perfect, linear course; nonetheless, given the aforementioned, I wanted to give that heads up. I’m still here, still writing in the present day…that’s about all the comfort I can give at the moment. I guess it’s important to note that, like struggles with grief, addiction, etc., progress is rarely linear. There are ups and downs. This was a down moment. But it’s important to include it, because after all, this ain’t no movie script…it’s real life. To the story:
Today Angela treated me to a little GnR. November Rain, to be exact. The irony of a distraught man having nightmares after his bride was killed- while I’m receiving a treatment for major depressive disorder- is not lost on me. I have two solaces. One is- not to mock your pain, Axl- the corny, unconvincing theatrics of those late night and funeral scenes. The other is the wedding, because I love weddings, especially this one, because Slash plays a guitar solo outside the chapel (that is laughably small from the exterior, considering it’s like a cathedral on the inside).
Have you seen this video? If not, you should. It’s really a short film with music. Beautifully done.
But GnR isn’t really what I was thinking to write about today. I was thinking about writing about something else.
“What something else?”
Oh God this is always so awkward.
I always hate having to admit in the blog to any sort of regression. And yet. Here we are. I’m writing about suicidal ideation today.
Yeah, I know. Anyway, the last post covered an occurrence that made me feel…inconsequential. Erased. There is perhaps nothing worse, feeling like you’ve been abandoned. And I don’t just mean by X. I mean, by anyone who claimed to care about me and what the divorce did to me, who have- merely a few months in- since promptly gone on to cheer on his wacky, bewildering journey that involves him doing exactly everything (and, ahem, the one) he swore he wouldn’t do. So many people, not able to reconcile his great joy with what the cost was to me- inconvenient me, with my embarrassing feelings- just…walked away. They just walked away. All those people. All those people I trusted. I bet no one said a word about the public gloating. It is easier to pretend I don’t really exist outside of social media.
Depression thrives on this sort of isolation.
I’m going to get into some sticky territory. But we have to drag these things out of the dark corners they’re relegated to, or we’ll never understand them, and as long as that’s the case, we’ll be terrified of them. Being terrified means we won’t speak of them, outside of that hushed-tone way…and a big part of this blog is about destigmatization. Stigma doesn’t help anyone.
(Ugh. I sound like a broken record.)
Well, here we go.
Putting it bluntly, I had my first suicidal ideation in a very long time. Last night. What does that mean? Suicidal ideation means thoughts of suicide. To be clear, it does not mean suicidal intent, and there is a big difference. And now at this time, I find myself running through my head right now The Questions the Therapists Ask. One such question:
“Do You Have a Method?”
Yes, actually, there is a method. That method has been established since the month before I broke down last fall. Because I am a planner and I am a pussy about pain. Not sharing further on that, thanks.
“Do You Have a Time and Date?”
No, no time and date. That there, a schedule, that’s the true sign of suicidal intent. When it’s an appointment on the calendar. So no, I would not say I have active suicidal intent.
Let me talk about distinguishing between suicidal ideation and intent, because I think these two things get conflated at times. And it’s really important to know how they are different…and indeed, how they look different- at least, when it comes to me, and potentially a lot of other people. This matters, what signs to be on the lookout for, because obviously we don’t want people to kill themselves.
Here’s how suicidal ideation and being acutely suicidal often differ. The states of mind feel very, very different.
Suicidal ideation: There is a lot of psychological pain. This is because I’m fighting the thoughts. They’re admittedly quite strong and shockingly horrific in their intentions, because humans are generally programmed to be horrified by being destroyed. The impact of this bewildering- dare I say, robustness- of depression’s (not my) conviction is enough to leave me gasping for air, push me to the ground, leave me not just sobbing, but howling, pulling and scratching at…whatever. My sheets, the carpet, my clothes, my skin. Weakened, helpless.
Oh I’m sorry, did I startle you with imparting the particulars of my illness? Many apologies. Just kidding I’m not sorry. Get used to it. It’s an awful thing to have, and a lot of people have it, and we’re talking frankly about the shit it does.
I’m about to knock you off kilter again. That aforementioned, disturbing episode of a psychologically tormented human? That’s…actually a good thing. For me, anyway.
Here’s why. It means I’m reacting in a resistant way to what’s happening to me. It means I’m kicking and screaming inside. It means I’m fighting. And fighting….fighting is a good thing.
So what does bad look like?
Suicidal intent: It does not look like fighting. It is beyond the pain of fighting and moves into the territory of resignation. It looks like cooperation. It looks like the army that has surrendered and is now trudging, zombie like, towards wherever the enemy says it has to.
It looks like being an accessory to the…well…
It looks cool, calm, and collected. That is the emotional state of someone who has a plan to- excuse the choice of words but…execute. As a natural born planner, I’d have to have a certain amount of togetherness in order to do such an extreme thing. I’d have to have a certain level of detachment to disassociate myself from how terrible it really is. Beyond the plan itself, and the prep work of settling affairs, nothing else matters. There is no left over energy to devote to crying. There is very little fear. When there is very little fear, it is often too late; only something circumstantial could work as a lifeline. Someone found the perfect words, the perfect action…the point is, it’s a hell of a lot harder to combat the depression of someone with intent.
This stage- where depression has its grip on one totally- is where there is commitment to the plan, and part of that commitment is lying to everyone around you about your plan, because they will attempt to stop said plan. This is why often, No One Saw It Coming. If you know someone who was in a really bad bad emotional state recently, and then suddenly, they seem almost disassociated…too content, very much in their own world for no discernible reason (i.e., they weren’t just on a week-long ashram retreat or something), in the moment to where they don’t talk about the future…or suddenly pick themselves off the floor after pounding their fists and screaming about suicide, with a startling, fresh focus to go somewhere alone…yes, you need to worry then, and keep an eye on them.
I know that sounds awful, because you can’t know for sure they’re experiencing intent. But that’s my point, you see. That’s why we need to see ideation for what it is- an expression of an illness, not something to be so horrified by that we just avoid people going through it. We should help people going through that.
This minimizes the chances of the individual ever crossing over into intent. The frenzied, turbulent chaos of suicidal ideation is the thing that seems to scare people. But in reality, to me, it’s actually less frightening, because it is merely an expression of pain. A lot of people have trouble with seeing that, but I don’t. I wish fewer did. Consider the alternative to the howling and writhing in resistance to the pain- someone calmly, unblinkingly stepping off the edge of a cliff. The latter is far more disturbing, because you cannot come back from that.
More reason, when you are in a balanced state of mind, to try not to feel scared and helpless when someone is experiencing a depressive episode involving ideation: ideation is far less focused. Given that so many psychological (and physical) resources are devoted to expressing pain in that state, one has less of a chance of the suicide being carried out. There are just fewer resources to draw on. And in a severe episode, suicidal thoughts generally do not adhere to a time and a place that makes sense. It is a voice I do not agree with that screams at me, “DO IT HERE AND NOW”. Which, though extremely upsetting, is- for me- ridiculous. I mean, what if I’m in an office building and the only option is to be a jumper, which would create a huge mess and there’s those 3 agonizing seconds of falling and of course, you can fail? Being hardwired to plan and keep things tidy, this is not a thing I see myself doing.
What we don’t want is so many episodes where someone doesn’t get help, that they cross over into intent, because the pain of the episodes day after day is just Too. Fucking. Much.
I would try to explain all this to therapists, but the second you even say you have a method, in ya go to the ambulance, then they lock you up somewhere, where you don’t get better via say, individual therapy….you just have to do arts and crafts, eat far worse food than you’d choose for yourself, and also don’t have access to things like shoelaces, computers, phones, fresh air, and other things that will totally kill you. It makes me want to make the joke that they don’t have to deny me access to those things, because literally none of those objects are a part of my method.
Dark, I know.
But sometimes we make these jokes. To cope. But back to the subject at hand, “You say to help, but how?”
Good question. I know that if I feel I am in danger, I am far better off in terms of recovering in my home, as long as someone is there. I tell you this because it’s something to think about when you offhandedly recommend someone call the hotline, because That’s What You Do…which can lead to involuntary commitment if the caller says the wrong thing. Which (depending on the hospital, I suppose, although you don’t get to choose if you’re involuntarily committed) often does more harm than good (why? that’s another post, but just trust me, I’ve done my homework). I mean, if there are no other options and the person is alone then yes, the hotline, but if it’s possible for someone to just simply be there in that suicidal person’s comfort zone (usually home), do that, if you can make it there and mentally handle it. Sometimes that’s all the person needs, is the presence of another person.
Of course, a person behaving psychotically (speaking nonsense, intense paranoia, hallucinating, etc.) or violently towards others is another can of worms, but I don’t have experience in those areas. I’d venture to say most suicidal people are not those things. They just feel alone and inconsequential and hopeless, which causes the emotional pain. The presence of another helps dispel these notions.
Listen, I’m aware there are a lot of generalizations up there and what I’m saying can’t apply to literally every situation you can think of. All I’m saying is there is 1) an alternative way to look at things other than E’erbody Call the 911, and I’m explaining why that makes sense…2) That we need to try not to be freaked out by extreme displays of emotion, and I give reasons as to why it’s better to keep a cool head and face the ideation problem head on instead of avoiding it.
And so. Back to today. Seeing as I am, at the moment, on the side of Ideation Mountain and not looking to find my way in Intention Valley, I do turn to someone. That person talks me down. That’s all I really need. All I need is to know I am loved, that not everyone has gone crazy and adapted this new normal that X &…eh, let’s call her “O” for fun (because omg you guys THEY ARE THE PERFECT COUPLE SOOOO “X&O”, GET IT??!!) have whipped up to suit their purposes, because not doing so- asking questions- means being uncomfy. There are people who can deal with the uncomfy reality of the abandoned ex-wife that is me. I am lucky these people exist, and I do not take them for granted. I would do anything for them.
I recover, I pick myself up the floor, I give the depression a gentle beatdown with the- excuse me if this sounds corny- newfound power I have, fueled by outside love and support. I am frustrated, because this isn’t supposed to be happening. But if I look at it objectively and simply say, Welp, this is what it is, I admit I have a small amount of pride that I knew just what to do to counter Maj and send her back down to the pool where she belongs.
I don’t know what to say about the fact that I’m on Day 28 and this still happens. All I can tell you is that TMS is not necessarily a miracle cure, episodes happen a lot less, and when they do, I handle them better. Maybe this isn’t the perfect solution for me. Or maybe I will just need a second round. Maybe my brain will always struggle with emotions. Maybe the balance I have found will make it easier for me to look into other treatments so I don’t struggle. The point is, it’s better than before, when I had no idea what I was doing. It really is.
Those who have been suicidal may very well be nodding with a certainly level of understanding right now,
so I hope those who have experienced intense ideation feel a little less alone. And those of you who thankfully have not, I hope you’ve come out from underneath your chairs
and gained some perspective in terms of what to fear and what to merely be on guard with, should you have a suicidal loved one. And if God forbid you are in that situation, what you can do that will help them.
Which is often a simpler solution than we realize. Sometimes all that’s needed is not a phone call to have that person taken away, but something as simple as patience, objectivity, and compassion. And yet, sometimes those things are a lot harder to do than what you thought you should be doing.
Yeah. I get that.
Next post: Day 29: Area 6, Who We Gonna Call.