Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. As someone who has struggled in the past with bone crushing depression, I am keen on spreading the news about this day of awareness.
Depression has been a part of my life off and on since I was a teenager. However, there were two time periods when I became so overwrought that death appeared to be a welcome relief. The first time was in the Fall of 1996, when I became officially diagnosed with OCD. I felt like an incredible failure as a human being. I was absolutely mortified that I needed to (gasp!) take "psychiatric medication." I thought I was one of the biggest losers in the world. It took several months, but I finally regained some equilibrium in my life, and I started to accept the fact that I had a mental illness. I continued to live with a sort of low grade depression, but the acute crisis had passed.
The second, and more dangerous time period, was in the Fall of 2009. I had just begun CBT/ERP. At first, when beginning this therapy, it is not unusual for OCD to get temporarily worse. This makes sense, because in therapy the patient no longer avoids everything that he or she has been avoiding for so long. Indeed, my illness got worse. However, I started to make some progress with ERP. Then, I had an episode where instead of making forward progress, I went several steps backward. Again, that is not unusual in treatment, but to me, it felt like the end of the world. At that point, I became despondent and lost all hope of recovery. I was just sure that I would spend the rest of my life in OCD torment and that there would never be a way out of my living hell.
I began to fantasize about dying all the time. I was not actively suicidal, for I never made any attempts. I did believe that suicide was wrong, and that I would hurt my God, my family, and my friends if I chose to follow that path. However, I think you could say I was passively suicidal. I asked God to take me. I hoped all the time that I would get in an accident, or get sick and die. Just breathing was agony. One of the big mistakes I made was that I never told anyone, including my psychologist, just how badly I was doing. I was embarrassed and I thought people would think I was being overly dramatic. Even though at that point, I thought that CBT/ERP would not work for me, for some reason I continued to attend therapy. I think it was because I scared myself. I didn't know what the future held for me and deep down, I knew that I was very sick.
My psychologist and my family continued to push me forward in treatment. Somehow, someway, I started to make a little progress again. Then, on December 17, 2009, (yes, I remember the day) I walked out of a mildly successful therapy appointment with my husband, and I noticed that the sun came out. It was literally just like that. All of a sudden, there was color in the world again. I regained just a little tiny inkling of hope. It was enough for me to grasp onto and to begin to look at the future again. It took several more months of CBT/ERP to really get a handle on the deep depression. Mild depression still pursues me to this day, but it no longer has a stranglehold on my life. I have recovered a tremendous amount of my health from OCD, and I have so many joyful days now that I can hardly believe this is my life.
I share this story because I want you to know that you are not alone if you have ever struggled with horrible depression and suicidal thoughts. Depression is a serious illness and it is not to be taken lightly. If you are fighting suicidal thoughts, you need to get help. Today. Right now. On the top right hand side of my blog, there is a button that you can press, and it will send you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Please, don't suffer in silence! There is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you feel like things will never get better, I am pleased to tell you that it is not so! I remember feeling so convinced that my life would never improve and that things would never change. Thankfully, I was wrong. I'm glad I never followed through with my fantasies. I am grateful to be alive. I'm grateful to watch the leaves changing color. I'm grateful that I got to enjoy my frozen pumpkin latte yesterday. I'm grateful I got to hug my kitty last night. I'm grateful that I get to connect with wonderful people like you today.
It is important to remember that how you feel today and how your life looks today, is different than how you will feel or how your life will look tomorrow, or next month, or next year. There is a reason God has put you on this earth. His work in your life is not done yet. You are meant to be here and you have a purpose. You matter. There is help available. Please, don't be afraid. Reach out and get help. There is hope for you.