When Getting Better Is No Longer An Option

27 Apr

Trigger warning for talk of suicide

I used to think that I would outgrow it.

I used to think it was just hormones. The same hormones that caused the constellation of angry red pimples on my face and back. The same hormones responsible for the dark, wiry hair between my legs and nearly unnoticeable A-cup-sized swell of my chest. I thought that once the hormones settled down, I would feel better. Normal. But even once I grew used to my new body, even once I hit my twenties and everything was supposed to level out, I still felt it. The same howling misery, the same blind, raging creature whose claws and teeth were sunk somewhere too deep to find, was still there.

I did not outgrow it.

I used to think that I would get better, if by getting better I meant being cured. I used to think that I would find the right combination of drugs and therapy and life choices to make this thing, whatever it was, go away. Or maybe I would just wake up one morning and it would be gone, instantly and inexplicably, the same way it had come. I thought that it might recede like the tide going out, and then, like a bare beach scattered with seaweed and shells, I would go back to being the person I’d been before, only with a few small relics left over from what I’d been through.

I did not get better.

I might never get better.

These past few months have been hard ones. Really hard. And I don’t know how to talk about this, except that I think I should. For the last weeks of March and the first few weeks of April I was suicidal. Suicide was all I could think about. I didn’t want to die, exactly, but I didn’t want to be alive, either, and I couldn’t think of any other option. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t read. I’d injured my hamstring, so I couldn’t really do yoga. I couldn’t string two thoughts together. I couldn’t even follow a conversation. All that I could do was get up in the morning and drag myself to work, and then drag myself home and cry. On weekends Matt would take over childcare, because I couldn’t get out of bed. Everything seemed awful, without any understanding of why it was awful. I felt like I’d come up against a brick wall, and all I could do was scratch at it until my nails broke and my fingers bled. I couldn’t imagine what the future would look like, other than more of the same but worse.

None of these are especially good reasons for being suicidal. But the thing about being suicidal is that you don’t need a good reason. You just are, and you don’t know how to get out of it. What makes it even worse is that you can’t talk about it – suicide is too big, too scary to bring up with your friends and family. And if you mention it to a health professional, well, I mean, forget it. All they want to do is lock you up so that you can’t do it (and rightly so), but they don’t seem to want to talk to you about the whys and hows of the way that you feel. Which means not only is everything awful, but on top of that you don’t have any kind of outlet. Because you don’t want the worry or the pity or the fear of the people around you.

So you just don’t talk about it.

Things are slowly improving now, but I know it will come back. That’s the funny thing – when I’m well, I’m constantly aware of it waiting for me, biding its time, sidling around me like a constant threat, and yet when I’m in the middle of a breakdown I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be ok again. When things are bad, the only thing that exists is the pain I feel. That is my only reality. While some part of me logically knows that it’s a cycle and eventually I have to come out of it, there is just no way to make myself believe that fact. The only fact I can trust in is how terrible everything is in that moment.

I’m learning to live with the fact that I am not going to get better, if by not getting better I mean that I am probably going to live with depression for the rest of my life. This thing, this goddamn soul-sucking thing, is not something that I can cut out, or drown, or poison. I can’t look at a CT scan and point out where it is. I can’t even really know anything about it, except that it lives inside of me and feeds off of me and leaves me aching and exhausted and so sad that sad isn’t even the right word for it. I don’t know what the right word is; maybe there isn’t one.

I’m also learning to live with the fact that I am never going to be the person I was before all of this started. I’m not even sure that it makes sense to want to be her anymore – she’s an absurdly hopeful little thirteen year old girl with no life experience and little understanding of how the world works. She’s the last memory I have of what I was like before this dark creature began nesting inside of me, and for a while I clung to her image as something that I could maybe someday achieve again, but I need to recognize that she’s gone. She’s gone and she is never, ever coming back.

Mental illness destroyed who I was. And I’m at a place now where I’m trying to recognize that that’s not a bad thing. I mean, I don’t think that it’s a good thing either. It’s just a thing. A fact. A truth. My family and I have had to adjust to this reality; we’ve had to mourn the loss of who I was and who I might have been, while at the same time accepting the person who was left behind. It’s a funny sort of thing, a weird feeling that I’ve somehow lived two lives – like a building gutted by a fire whose façade stays the same but whose interior, once restored, is entirely different.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.

So I’m learning to live like this. I’m learning to ask for concrete things – help with housework, help with childcare, help with routine daily tasks. I’m getting used to the idea of talking to my employer about my mental health, and negotiating the possibility of time off when I need it. I’m trying to be better about accepting the fact that sometimes I just need to lie in bed and do nothing. I’m trying to be better about accepting all of this, because fighting it tooth and nail has gotten me nowhere.

I’m trying to tell myself that I am not weak. I am strong, and I will get stronger. The person that I was might be gone, but this version of me, the one that exists now, is just as good as she was – mentally ill, yes, but kind, compassionate, smart, funny, and with so many people who care deeply for her. She, too, is worthy of love.

If you are depressed, experiencing suicidal thoughts or otherwise need someone to talk to, please call 1-800-273-8255

For international readers, here’s a database of crisis centres listed by continent

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95 Responses to “When Getting Better Is No Longer An Option”

  1. krishna April 27, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    You have so perfectly said the things I have felt for over 25 years, but I never had words for. I am sorry you have battled this monster for so long . I dont know if it gives you any solace but you are not fighting this faceless intangible beast alone and evr day we do not end it is a small victory in our ocean of pain.

    • dominicaduo April 28, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      I want to share a story of hope because the demon of suicide has left my side after 40 years of struggle since my break at 27 when the black hole opened. Maybe age and wisdom, finally true love, my daughters having grown into lovely women has given me this will to live. Knowing the cycle repeats never gave me hope in the hole nor fear during my highs. I wish krishna and belljar and all of us the love we need and a soul at peace.

  2. leanne April 27, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    I feel this post is misleading. Depression sucks- but it does NOT last forever. Depression can cycle…and for some, that’s more frequent than others. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in October – in the 99 percentile. I was also diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD. I went on sick leave from work and started seeking all the help I could. I was medicated for a few months. I saw Naturopaths, did detoxes. saw my family doc 2x a month, did EMDR therapy…just to mention a few things. Depression is a BITCH- but it is absolutely beatable. it sounds like you have great support…for me, support was key. I’m happy to report I no longer take meds, and am on the other side of depression. I wish you well- be gentle on yourself. Ask for support- which, like me, may require professionals.

    • ZuRG April 30, 2014 at 1:43 am #

      The vast, vast majority of personal accounts of depression are compiled after it’s been beaten. I think the difference is the timing of this post, that she’s still in the thick of it RIGHT NOW. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that at this point, it honestly does feel like something that might last forever. If/when she beats it, she’ll be able to place the experience into perspective, but it’s a process and she’s not there yet.

      I appreciate the brutal honesty of this post.

  3. Arianna Editrix April 28, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    You don’t look that old, though you said you have a family to deal with whilst dealing with yourself too, and that is harder than doing it alone. One nice thing is that some types of depression will go away when your hormones change again! I suppose you’ve been all over the block with doctors and meds and such, but there are a few new ones out here that have shorter half lives and MUCH fewer side effects if you are a “Side Effect Sally” as my endocrinologist calls me. If you ever need to tag someone in the middle of the bad day at black rock as I call it, hit me up online. I’m over 50 and still here and not for lack of trying, so I do “get it”. I’ll be watching out for you sis!

  4. svruddell April 28, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Thank you for your exceptional clarity and transparency. I have two children who are seriously depressed and your words immediately highlighted what I imagine they feel. For me, you have spoken for them and this helps me understand and see what’s possible: to accept and manage even if that’s very difficult at times. I feel your strength and courage. I’m also noticing what a contribution you have made to so many others.Thanks again.

  5. amyschacht April 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    I just heard Krista Tippett talk with a poet/philospher, who explained a couple of things that I found super-helpful: 1. By NOT ending your life, even if you do nothing else, not a damn thing, you are in the plus column, because you are saving others enormous, huge, unspeakable suffering. 2. Children under the age of 18’s risk of later suicide rises exponentially if a parent kills themselves. 3. Write these things down where you will find them when the demons come again. In the meantime, you are brave and beautiful – a grateful follower. amy

  6. staceylanier7 April 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Beautiful post. I’ve struggled with (primarily) situational depression and anxiety off and on, and with my job have talked to those who have more biologically based depression. It seems in a lot of ways the more frustrating of the two; you can’t point to a cause, you can’t “blame” anything; it simply is what it is, and people don’t understand that. I’m thinking of you; it sounds like you have had some comfort in acceptance, but I do hope that you start to feel better soon. *hugs*

  7. Anna April 28, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve lived through it too, but I tried to kill myself twice when I was younger, and really should have died by what I did. But I think I’m still alive because I am needed in this world. Not sure why yet, but just trying to live one day at a time. Blessings, Anna

  8. Rachel April 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    I just want to offer a different perspective on something you mentioned in this post. You said that you cannot talk about feeling suicidal with healthcare practitioners and I found this disheartening. I am a counseling student who has dealt with clinical depression and suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. I agree with you that some healthcare practitioners do not know how to talk about suicidal ideation and might jump to hospitalization. However, as a counseling student I am being taught to fully assess suicidal ideation which means talking openly about the related thoughts and feelings and trying to understand the client’s motivation for considering suicide. Yes, hospitalization must be considered as a practitioner needs to err on the side of caution, but skilled healthcare practitioners do exist who can support you while you explore your thoughts and feelings.

    I hope you find a counselor or have already found one that can be more helpful and accepting if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts. I really appreciated your post, such a vivid description of the thought processes and feelings when one is suicidal.

  9. AModernUkrainian April 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Sarah J. April 29, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    Thank you. In sharing your story you tell of something more timeless and transcending. I recently dreamt I lived in a building that was two houses one built upon the other, side by side. Along the wall they shared one house was charred by fire and the other overflowing with piles of things. Thank you. And good luck.

  11. andreakine69 April 29, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    I have to say it was like reading my own thoughts… although I KNOW where mine started from, which was sexual abuse starting at the age of 9 until I was 19… ( including two rapes). But I attempted suicide 8 times over the course of my life because of it all, and it had also led to an eating disorder, anorexia, which has almost killed me too and at 45 I am desperately struggling with that and that is very embarrassing at this age not only to have mental illness issues on your back that you want to hide away, but also the anorexia and self harm too… people do NOT look kindly on any of it. I feel like I belong on another planet. No one understands. And worse yet, most of our family doesn’t believe that my issues are “mental health” things… or that mental health exists. I know your struggles, pain, the darkness that you feel.. how it sucks you in and wont let you go. How it holds you hostage and makes you feel as if there is no reason to get up, much less live. All the while there are so many reasons to live…. they are all outside of the bedroom door. I have spent as long as three months at a time under one spell of darkness without coming up for air where I was so far below the radar of reasoning or understanding of logic, all I understood were my own suicidal thoughts that led to actions at the end of that period this past fall and let me tell you… talk about snapping me out of a trance. For NOT wanting to do something and finding that you did that very thing, and how close you came to killing yourself… and trying to hide it from EVERYONE…. talk about hard. Each time I attempted or like this past time when it was a ‘mistake’, I never went to the hospital for it… NO WAY… like you said, they will only lock you away.. they do not understand, or let you talk about it. I know, I have been in the hospital locked away twice in twelve months. Only this march 2014 for an accidental overdose did that hospital let me talk and try to help me…. the first hospital I was ever at that DID let you talk, try to help… make a difference. So not all are bad. Some people want to help…. you just have to find them. Here is how I am getting better: For two years I have been seeing a therapist twice a week…I have been on wellbutrin for a year, and they just added in march Lamictal.. which that is making a difference, although we aren’t at my full dose yet… but it is helping much more than when I wasn’t on it. I think that the combination of these two will help stop the bouncing from good to bad to suicidal. keep me out of that danger zone. I don’t know if you are on any meds…. but I encourage you to check it out… with the history you shared, you definitely should seek help and see about something if you aren’t. just know IT CAN GET BETTER… maybe not over night… but it will. I am telling myself that too. Just know that there is always light after the dark… and as this quote I found says… “The darkest hour only has sixty minutes” good luck to you… I hope that you can hold on, and find happiness in every day, do something every day that makes you smile, brings joy to your heart to chase away the dark.
    :)

  12. cara April 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    well put, sister. I wish I could have said it as well myself. My parents have been living with us since my desperate text message to friends at the beginning of January , and then my meltdown and hospitalization starting Jan 3. My second. I hate what this is doing to my husband and my kids, and yet I’m tired of hearing that I’m not the same person he met in college. I had a career, a profession; now I have multiple chronic illnesses and a cupboard full of prescriptions and supplements and a laundry list of doctors and healthcare professionals.

  13. drkrisg April 30, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Your description of depression is so resonate with my own experiences. Sad, but not sad. The feelings of suicidality. Thank you for breaking the silence. I feel the only people one can talk to about these feelings are those who have been there and know the difference between a pervasive feeling and action. But finding those people? So difficult. Thank you for being brave and outing yourself as one.

    • Matie Leaves May 25, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      “know the difference between a pervasive feeling and action.” So well put. That’s what I wish I could talk about with someone. but oddly enough, no one wants to talk about wanting to be dead. (Which I don’t at this very moment, but it’s always around the corner.)

  14. Pockets Full of Silk May 1, 2014 at 4:54 am #

    thank you. sending love.

  15. uptightloveswild May 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Getting better is always an option – but sometimes, mental illness necessitates a new definition of ‘better’ because that word is as ridiculous as ‘normal’ – what does it even really mean, anyway?

    Asking for concrete things, that is a beautiful adjustment – those are the changes of heart, mind and action that will help you find your way in this version of yourself.

    You can always, always heal… Don’t forget that. I know it is easy to lose sight of, but our minds are like our bodies, always trying to close the wounds – sometimes the scars are just nastier than others.

    Good luck, and keep talking about it. Honesty is a tool that will always serve you.

  16. alitanaka1 May 7, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    Thank you for your honesty; it’s so refreshing to know that there is someone out there talking about these issues so candidly; these things need to be discussed. I know I felt less alone after reading this, and so many others will. I hope one day that my blog can be as candid and amazing as yours.

  17. fateandmemory May 13, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    It’s so comforting to read your words and to know that someone else has felt what I feel. Thank you for having the courage to write this.

    -B
    fateandmemory.com

  18. rawzineart May 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I wish I could hug you. You put a lot of my feelings into words. Maybe I will never be okay again. Getting better is not an option. I have to learn to live with my sickness.

  19. sammykur May 18, 2014 at 2:35 am #

    let go! dont give a fuck for a day Ask yourself if what i fear takes place whats the worst thing that can happen? who is going to care in a hundred years? platyhooky for a day get up early fly a kite and plan on losing it.if it crashes or there is no wind make a boat out of it and take it to a river tand see how far it sails.RELAX
    Eat something wierd you never ate before like froglegs,weird stuff on a stick.
    wear an outfit that is the opposite of what you usually would wear.
    dump bubblebath in a fountain
    Let go of all the hate you have inside dont forgive people who have wronged you just put yourself above them and the pettyness beneath you.let go of your anger for you.
    most of all stop caring what everbody else thinks of you that isnt important in your life

    and remember this”when you are falling off a cliff you might as well try to fly , what have you got to lose at that point”

    PS dont jump off a cliff or neglect a child but beyond that just let go of everything.

    • sammykur May 18, 2014 at 3:11 am #

      it wont “cure ” you but who the hell doesnt like flying kites

    • Matie Leaves May 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

      Sammykur, you have a great attitude, but it’s totally unrelateable to a depressed person. None of those things would result in happiness. Enjoying anything when you’re depressed is almost impossible.

  20. Matieofleaves May 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    I’ve been depressed since I was 4. I almost remember the day. I’m 72, now. Mine is biological with heavy elements of situational. The only things keeping me going now, are will and weed.
    (And, yes, I’ve done the therapy and the anti-depressants ….)

    • sammykur June 2, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

      Went through depression in during my childhood/teens/20’s changing your attitude/activities had everthing to with ridding myself of it forever(or at least the last 20 some years)

      sometimes just saying fuck it I dont care,I am going to go have fun-fuck the rest of the world is a good thing
      (to a certyain extent)

  21. hardwarestorequeen May 26, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    I, fortunately, have never faced the feeling of wanting to end my own life. I do suffer from an anxiety disorder and it always… I don’t know if comforts is the right word because I don’t take pleasure in the fact you feel the way you feel, but I guess I find some solace when I can read what others face, and realize that I am not alone. That even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, you do suffer from something that is mostly mental, and trying to explain it to someone that doesn’t face a… mental disorder? emotional issue? I dont know what the right term would be. Thank you for having the courage to talk about your own issues, and it gives me courage to talk about my own

  22. smartypants196 May 28, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    I am a stranger but i love you just the way you are, looking at you standing out on your patio, you are beautiful, don’t change a thing. I know how hard your life can be at times and you are fighting a monster, what i call mental illness. Don’t let it destroy you, don’t resist. Learn to live with your monster. Assign places where he or she can live, like out on the patio, and when you are done with it you close the door. Sure you can still see them from inside . Then start to love that monster. I know it sounds ridiculous. But my story is that i worked 35 years with people with disabilities and I got Multiple Sclerosis, it forced my retirement at 53, i have severe nerve back pain, my right leg has paralysis in some of the muscles, i walk with cane,s walkers and sometimes in a wheelchair. I call my monster, MS, my dragon. He lives out in my back yard below the mulberry tree. He sometimes leaves for periods of time and sometimes he lurks in the dark. But i no longer allow him to make me feel sad. i could one day lose the ability to even move, and i know he will someday come inside and take me away and consume me. But until then i fight, i find distraction its the best medicine. Stay active, get some potted flowers out on the patio, a tomato plant. And stay active, it really helps. And take care of you, sleep well, be in the moment. Close the curtains on your monster and be without it. You will survive. There is so much you could do.
    I turned to writing, i found my journals from the seventies and eighties and wrote and self published three novels, “The Eve Chronicles” by Diane DeVillers. If i wouldn’t have retired they never would have been written. I forced myself to forget about my monster. Try it. You are beautiful. And be around good, non-toxic people, if you are around some, dis-associate yourself with them. They suck you dry. Be comfortable with being alone.And love, heals all. From one stranger to another. I have followed you for awhile but was spending more time blogging about my book. Today i felt there was something someone posting that i could relate to. Stay awake, be, belong, present. Love yourself

  23. Cla May 31, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I wish I knew you and I could make you feel a little better, every time I read you I feel less lonely.
    P.S.: You look GORGEOUS <3

  24. Jess June 8, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    You perfectly articulated what it’s like to be depressed and/or suicidal. I struggled with it for years and a few months ago was suicidal for a month straight with flare-ups here and there before and after. I almost made an attempt, but I finally found the right medication and was actually happy for the first time in years. I’ve been mostly content since then, with bad days of depression or anxiety, but overall am much better now. I hope you can find strength and hope to go on and live a good life! Sending love and positivity <3

  25. Oracle of the Pearl July 24, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    I appreciate your honesty, and your beautiful insight.
    The frustration and futility felt in the face of expectations of “better” are the worst pains of all for some. Depending on what “better” means. It’s an enormous pressure. There can be a better but it isn’t necessarily “the same”. I’ve come to realize that,and made some peace with it. While reading your words, I remember that I give myself permission to not measure my well being or my healing by anyone’s yardstick of what better is supposed to look like, including that I may or may not ever be “cured” of what ails me.
    I can really add nothing to what you’ve written; just wanted to say thank you. Much respect.
    Pearl

  26. Libby August 14, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    My heart goes out to you. I’ve not been suicidal, but I’ve dealt with some pretty dark times in the past couple of years, and have just managed to pull my head out of the water – it still threatens to rear it’s ugly head sometimes. I wish you peace and joy. x

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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