Suicide Prevention Month – My Story Part 4

I never expected to have psychosis.  I guess no one really puts that on their To Do list, but it was absolutely not on mine.  Prior to my psychosis, the only idea I had of it was a vague memory of some dude standing naked in the street and hitting people with a wooden sword.  I think it was a schizophrenic man in the cul-de-sac down the street in my neighborhood.  I suppose that’s the vision I had always held in my head of what crazy looks like.  

After my psychosis, crazy is what I see when I look in the mirror.  Even now.  After spending my entire life fearing that I was crazy, there’s a humbling acceptance in saying, “yeah…I am.” I’m still in recovery from psychosis, which for me means learning to trust myself again.  There is a bizarre sense of freedom for me, because I feel like I can finally abide by my own rules.  I desperately tried to adhere to everyone else’s standards and norms and drove myself insane trying to prove I’m not crazy.  Now that I can freely admit I heard demons talking to me on my radio prior to heading into the mental hospital, life feels a bit more authentic. 

The psychosis did not look like a naked man swinging a wooden sword.  The psychosis was more like me suddenly being unable to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time, being terrified of everything, convinced I was going to be killed, and I was also convinced I was god.  Outwardly, I worked, cooked and cared for my children, and cleaned my house, wrote, or sat on the floor rocking back and forth instead of sleeping. Over time, it worsened, and I began losing time.  At one point, I opened my eyes to see me heading for a telephone pole at 60mph.  I have no idea how I got there. A few days later, I heard a demon on the radio making fun of me, screamed “I’ve killed us all” to my family over breakfast, and off to the hospital I went.  

While I was alone and waiting to be admitted, I kept sneaking into the bathroom trying to kill myself.  My resources were limited, but I was convinced if I did not kill myself, my children were going to die.  In all the years of my suicidality, I have never wanted to die more than I did in those hours.  They hadn’t taken my hoodie strings, and I was desperately trying to strangle myself with them.  Fortunately, it did not work.  

This is where I will take a pause and once again rant about all of the ignorant people who blithely comment suicide is selfish.  I want you to picture me desperately trying to kill myself because I did not want my kids to die. I am standing in the bathroom at a mental hospital pulling hoodie strings as tightly as I can, gagging, choking, and cutting my skin.  I am sobbing hysterically because if I don’t kill myself, they will be killed.  Am I selfish?

This is the hell for people who live with invisible illnesses.  I look fine, because I usually am.  If you saw me on the street, the only reason you’d call me crazy is because I’m wearing Merry Grinchmas pants and it’s September.  If you knew the version of me I presented to the world, the only reason you’d call me crazy is because I do too much and I don’t relax, get naked when I’m drunk (occasionally, I also climb on a roof and howl at the moon then go out for pancakes), or say the funniest shit you’ve ever heard.  You might also call me crazy because of how hard I am on myself.  You would not see the actual “crazy” woman who struggled to get out of bed, cried herself to sleep, has panic attacks so bad that she stutters and twitches, or tried to kill herself to save her children – unless I tell you about me.  And in truth, how many people want to talk about that side of themselves? Is that really the status you throw up on Facebook? “Hey Guys! It took me two hours to get out of bed today, I haven’t showered in 3 days, and Sally won the canoe race. Ttyl! xoxo”  My life goes on regardless of how my brain feels about it for the day and sometimes my mouth doesn’t feel like telling you about it.

When someone dies by suicide, no one knows what happened in the moments, hours, or days leading up to their death.  Like Chester Bennington’s wife posted, you would have seen pictures of me smiling and laughing – leading up to and during my psychosis. Had I been successful, no one would know that I believed my children were going to die and my only option was to kill myself to save them.  If I hadn’t opened my eyes before I hit the telephone pole, no one would have known I hadn’t slept in 2 weeks, and I was driving because I was scared to be at my house alone, because I was convinced someone was there.

My psychologist had told me a week or so prior how well I was doing, and I was.  The psychosis took over so quickly that I did not know something was wrong until the day I went to the hospital.  I knew I wasn’t sleeping, and I thought it was because I kept having awful nightmares.  I would wake up screaming and covered in sweat.  I don’t know when I went into psychosis, and it would ultimately take me weeks to come out, but in the course of a day or two, I went from not sleeping to lost all grip on reality and trying to kill myself.

I don’t think this experience falls under selfish.  I don’t know what help I could have gotten sooner, because I was being treated by a psychologist and I was scheduled to see a psychiatrist in a week.  I was busy trying to take care of my kids and keep my cool. I was a single mom of 3 young kids and I was working full time.  I wrote everything off as insomnia and I was doing the best I could to rest and take care of myself. If I can tell this story, how many people can’t because they didn’t get to the hospital in time, they didn’t open their eyes before the telephone pole, or they weren’t fortunate enough to have people in their lives to notice maybe something wasn’t okay.  

The craziest part in all of this – no one knows what happened. Depression, mania, or insomnia can trigger psychosis.  My psychiatrist also said recently it could have been the Chantix I was taking, which would be the biggest kick in the ass of irony… Psychosis does not “only” happen to crazy people, apparently quitting smoking with a cessation medication can trigger psychosis.  When I was in the hospital, more than half of my fellow patients were in or coming out of psychosis. The reality is yes, I did get very sick and I almost died from my illness, which is what happens to people who die from suicide.

I was my own worst enemy in terms of the mental health stigma.  But I’ve come to realize “crazy” people don’t usually wander the streets naked swinging wooden swords. They’re moms, dads, kids, men, and women whose brains just work differently. Like with anything, they can get sick.  It’s just harder, because you can’t see it on an x ray, or run a few tests.  It’s hidden behind a body trying to their best just like everyone else.



Previous Posts regarding suicide:

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