“Something’s got to give,” I told my wife on the evening of December 4, 2018.
Less than 24 hours later, it was abundantly clear that I had been the “thing” that had given.
74 days later, on February 17, 2019, I started writing this blog entry.
I thought nearly 11 weeks had given me the much needed “breathing space” that I needed (hence the title) in order to “get back to normal” and function among the world of the living again. I figured it was time to think clearly, contemplate my journey, and memorialize it in a blog entry.
I had the idea of using a semicolon in the middle of “breathing space” to remind myself I needed to stop and mindfully breathe, something beyond autonomic respiration, or I would simply be spending time in “space”. Get it? Breathing; space? Plus, the semicolon is a symbol of suicide survival, so I had multiple levels of cleverness going on. I was ready to be impressed with myself.
But working through mental illness is not about being clever.
In fact, it’s the opposite of clever. Sometimes you have to stop thinking in order to ever think clearly again.
It’s been 534 days since the day I decided to “think clearly” and 609 days since “that” day of my most clouded thinking ever (one year, eight months, and a day, give or take – but who’s counting?). Never finished or published the entry. I realize, in retrospect, how premature I was in thinking I could so easily move on…
Sometime after February 17, 2019, I went back to work for several months, realizing I was not feeling at all better but pushing through to the best of my ability because that’s what one does after surviving a suicide attempt, right? Eventually, however, white-knuckled will-power failed me. After missing a couple days of work in September and lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, my wife asked me,
“Are you dangerous?”
My answer ended me up in ER. After two more weeks of inpatient psychiatric care, we decided to try a round of Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), to try and shake me from my profound depression. Many others had experienced near-miraculous transformations from the treatments, and I was ready to try anything.
Without going into great detail, it’s not fun. See the link above for what all is involved, but it’s basically all-consuming for about 4-5 weeks, despite the fact the actual procedure itself takes less than 10 minutes.
Everyone’s experience varies, but I basically slept the entire day after having an early morning procedure (seizures take a lot out of you, even the intentionally induced variety), and then I’d feel pretty much like shit the next day. By the time I’d start feeling a little better, it was time for another treatment.
Top that off with everyone asking, “So do you feel better yet? Different?” Short answer: no, not really. Which was, of course, disheartening for everyone, including to me.
After (another) three months away from my job, the doctor felt it was time for me to go back to work, even though the mere thought was crippling me with anxiety. I notified HR of my anticipated return date and waited to hear from my manager regarding what was next.
What happened next was miraculous. Some may choose to call it coincidence, fate, a lucky break… and any of those would be OKAY. No judgment from me!
That’s part of moving towards mental health, I’ve learned.
The miracle was the phone call with my manager. Well, “Miracle – Chapter 1”. In short, I was not going to be returning to the client I had been servicing for over two years. I would receive new clients to manage, have a new team of employees reporting to me, and report to a different manager. I would no longer be an “on site” resource to my client and would be 100% “home-shored”, which is fancy for “working in my basement.” This may not sound to you like God breaking into the earthly plane, but to me, the instantaneous lifting of the fearsome “back to work” burden was nothing short of supernatural. It was an opportunity to “start fresh”. Suddenly working for a multinational behemoth corporation was proving to be a fount of many blessings.
I relished my new role. Even though I sensed that my inherited clients were a MESS (a sense later proven woefully on point), I felt effective, knowing the skills and experience I brought to the table were really making a difference. Enter “Miracle – Chapter 2”. Whether it was the newfound sense of purpose and productivity or the ECT kicking in, I suddenly became “A MORNING PERSON” (it is 6:11 a.m. as I type this). I awoke with energy and an anticipation of the day like never before. And more than just being “A MORNING PERSON” (sorry, I can’t seem to type it without the caps and quotes of disbelief), my overall energy level throughout the day increased, my interest in things long dormant were revived, and I was a functional member of my family again – the much needed partner to my wife and parent of my children.
Life was good again.
This seems like a good place to stop, not because it’s the happy ending, but because “Miracle – Chapter 3” is too much to fit here and ever hope you read it all (if in fact you made it this far). I think it’s also important to note that I’M STILL NOT OK. There is no destination – only the journey, and the highs only last so long.
More on that next time.