When the Universe Whispers, Answer the Call
This post has been scratching at my writerly brain. I feel the universe nudging me. As self-proclaimed “possibilitarian” artist Kelly Rae Roberts says, “Your beautifully messy complicated story matters. Tell it.”
I’m absolutely terrified to post this, but secrets make you sick. It’s time I tell mine. I hope it might help you or someone you know. My intention is not to glorify this topic, nor is it to overshadow anyone who might be in the midst of the aftermath of tragedy. My intention is to spread hope and awareness, as World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10.
The Perfect Storm
The gun wasn’t pointed at my head when it went off.
I didn’t want to die. I just wanted it all to stop.
Spring 2016. I found myself in the midst of a perfect storm. I just wanted it all to end.
I was living in a new city that – for my highly sensitive soul – was overcrowded and noisy, with horrible traffic and hot, humid weather. My new job had me in the car most days, navigating a city with which I was unfamiliar. Each night, I’d arrive home in tears. No family or friends nearby, and everything was coming at me likes darts to a board.
The radio stopped working in my car. My first reaction was not to get it fixed, but that there was absolutely no way I could be left alone with my racing thoughts.
What if my phone died? How would I get a hold of people?
The train chugging past my apartment every single night, its horn blaring a warning signal. It was so loud. I couldn’t bear it.
Driving gave me anxiety. When I looked down the street to turn, I couldn’t tell which way the street went. Was it one-way or two-way traffic?
What was happening to my brain?
I also was dealing with a chronic illness, an autoimmune condition called ulcerative colitis (UC). My symptoms had returned in a fitful, screaming rage, hijacking my already delicate body and psyche.
The MRI machine. The pulsing rotations across my body. I found myself laying there thinking die, die, die in tune with the pulsating rhythm of the scan.
The night I finally decided it was time to go to the emergency room, I had left a trail of blood and mucous on the bathroom floor, reaching all the way from the toilet around the corner to the bedroom. I could barely walk.
I spent Easter weekend in the hospital, pissed off at God. Too weak to shower by myself, my husband guided me and my squeaky IV cart to the cold bathroom. As the soap slid down my bony frame, I wanted my illness and racing thoughts to just disappear down the drain forever.
I wanted the pain and the sadness and the anxiety to go away and never come back. My head was not their home. It was time to evict.
It was all just too much.
The Gut and the Brain Are Linked
You may have heard about the link between gut health and brain health. That’s a real thing. My body wasn’t manufacturing enough serotonin to feed my brain the happy chemicals it needed in order to function.
I became a shell of myself, monotone when I spoke, uninterested in everything, and barely able to move my then underweight and anemic body from the couch. I was terrified to take my dogs outside for fear I’d have an accident right in the middle of the grass.
I could barely sleep. My brain wouldn’t shut up. It didn’t matter what I ate—it all went right through me. My brain chemicals were off; I wasn’t getting enough nutrients through my diet. My mind and body as I knew them were fading away.
Do the Work
After the gun went off and the bullet shot through the window, I knew I needed help. I realized this was not what I was made for.
I wanted to stay, but how?
I barely remember the plane ride home. I spent the night at my parents’ house, begging them for just one night in my old room. The next morning, I admitted myself for a 72-hour hold in a mental health facility. My journey back was beginning.
There are relapse statistics for those who attempt suicide and live to tell about it. But I am not a statistic. See, I was always the one who had her shit together. I never saw this coming on my life’s path. It was a shock to me, too. But you know what?
Life is messy. And sometimes we’re not okay. It’s okay to say you’re not okay. I was totally jacked up by the time I came home.
With support from my husband, family, friends and licensed mental health professionals, I found the glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to walk slowly and tentatively back into the light. I was on a cocktail of medications for about three months and slowly tapered down to one medication. I completed one year of individual counseling and 15 months of psychiatric therapy and am now medication-free. For me, I struggled with situational depression, not chronic or clinical depression.
There was help for me, and there is help for you. Just stay.
You don’t have to get the words right. Just speak. Use your words to breathe life into a conversation that must be had.
End the stigma.
I promise it gets better.
If you would’ve told me last year when I was feeling so horrible that I’d be a Who’s Next in Education winner, an O, The Oprah Magazine Insider, a radio show guest, and be interviewed by Family Circle magazine about hyperhidrosis, I would’ve scoffed in your face.
The universe conspires with those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Don’t give up.
I have work to do, and so do you. We can do it. Together. Just stay. You matter.
Mental Health & Suicide Resources
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741741.
*Note to my readers: this essay is in no way related to my hyperhidrosis condition.