FROM FEELING SUICIDAL TO FEELING SUICIDAL: A STORY OF DEPRESSION AND PMS
It was October 2011. I pulled myself from my bed to get ready for work and after taking a shower, I looked at myself in the mirror. That was when I finally accepted it. That was when I finally accepted the fact that I was depressed.
It had been three years of perpetual sadness, anxiety and constantly feeling suicidal for no obvious reason; yes there were some difficult times here and there but none that could explain my constant state of feeling suicidal. Life was so hard to live, breathing was like a chore and every minute of the day, I prayed that my life would end. So, the disappointment of waking up every morning to continue this life was deep and overwhelming. I didn’t understand why god wouldn’t grant my wish to die in my sleep.
My emotional pattern went from intense feelings of joy to even more intense feelings of despair; darkness was my comfort and because I was familiar with the pattern, those intense feelings of joy came with anxiety because of the knowledge that they were soon to be on their way out only for hopelessness to return for a longer while.
At the time, talking to family was not an option. I thought about talking to a doctor but that came with it’s own fear; thanks to google and some Reddit groups, I thought that the best doctors were going to do for me was to put me on anti-depressants. That will solidify my status of being mentally ill and thinking of that process made me feel more depressed. I didn’t want to take medication for the rest of my life, I didn’t want to be labelled ‘mentally ill’ even though deep down I knew that I was.
In an effort to not be discovered by the world, I made sure that no one ever saw the signs; whenever I was around people, I would be the most “joyful”, funny, and fun. My laughter was the loudest and my smile was the brightest.
I continued this until I could do it no more. Then the day finally came, when I decided to take my life and end the suffering. I gave out a number of my things as gifts to unsuspecting friends and family; my brother asked a lot of questions but I was able to provide him with reasonable answers. My choice of poison was sleeping pills; after all, dying in my sleep was the ideal way to go but something happened. A close friend of mine committed suicide.
The Turning Point
One night, as I lay in bed preparing my exit from this world; I received a call from a close friend of mine. We talked as usual, joked and laughed a little bit; the only thing that was unusual about the call was when she told me that she appreciated me. She hardly ever said things like that but I ignored it, instead reciprocating my love and appreciation for her because I knew that that was the last time that we were ever going to talk.
Three days later, she was dead and I was devastated. Not after her burial did I realize that our last call was her call to me to say good bye. From her suicide note, it was obvious that she was suffering depression but for some hypocritical reason, I couldn’t bring myself to accept her decision; A decision that I was planning to follow myself. Turns out that the fact that I wanted to commit suicide didn’t mean that anyone close to me should do the same. I still experienced all the stages of grief.
Through my grief, I got the opportunity to see what her suicide did to her family; her younger siblings most especially and that made me think about my brother. So, I began to doubt the decision I had made weeks before. I didn’t want to invoke the same pain on my family. But changing my decision did not change the fact that I was still suffering.
I won’t lie to you, going to the hospital to me at the time was worse than actually taking my life; because I didn’t want any document out there in the world certifying that I was mentally ill. Since I had decided that medication was not an option for me, I started seeking alternative help. It was another year of suffering while trying non medical techniques to help me come out of depression but alas, I found a number of things that helped me.
There was no magic solution, just a number of things I did and persevered in doing until I started seeing results. Things I read from books (about a hundred books), lectures and the likes. Three years later, my condition had improved tremendously but then in mid 2015 it all came crashing down.
One Saturday morning, while I was driving home from a friend’s house, I was plagued by intense feelings of grief and despair so much so that I had to park my car on the side of the road just to weep for a few minutes. This had happened a month before but I felt it was a one off thing and here it was happening again. The next five days came with me feeling suicidal. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I was back to where I was four years earlier; the only difference was that it happened for between five to ten days of the month and then I would be back to normal.
This made me feel defeated. After everything I had done and all the emotional and mental work I had put in to live a stable life, here I was, back to square one… feeling suicidal for no apparent reason. There was nothing left to do but to come clean, come clean about my situation to my boyfriend at the time and his words were my dread come true. “We are going to see the doctor”.
I don’t know if it was the way he said it, with such love and care that made me accept my fate to go see the doctor. What else could I have done? My current lifestyle which had worked in the past wasn’t working anymore and this time at least, I was strong enough to know that taking my life was not an option…yet. And so, we went to the doctor.
After all the necessary tests and questioning, I sat in the doctors office waiting for results. I didn’t wait in anticipation because I knew what the result was going to be; I had already heard the doctor in my head tell me that I had been diagnosed with depression. Rather, I waited in anxiety, waiting to hear the kind of medication the doctor was going to prescribe for me and how many years of my life I was supposed to take those medication for.
And so I waited until the doctor entered and shocked me with his words. “You are not depressed, what you are experiencing on a monthly basis is premenstrual stress” also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
I mean, at the time, I knew what premenstrual stress was but I believed that feeling irritable was the only way it showed itself. Some months I felt irritable days before my period and some months I felt nothing. So, you can imagine my shock when the doctor explained to me that premenstrual stress comes in different ways and the way you experience it could change depending on various factors (factors including your hormones).
Among the million and one questions that I asked my doctor, was whether my past with depression had anything to do with it and his answer was “maybe… maybe not, the effect that hormonal changes has on a person sometimes can be a mystery”.
So, what is the moral of this story? The moral of this story is that you should always speak to someone if you don’t feel alright mentally or emotionally. SPEAK UP!
I am not telling you to go to social media, in fact social media is one of the worst places to go to when you are suffering emotionally or mentally.
Speak to a loved one, speak to someone you believe can help, speak to a medical professional. Imagine if my friend didn’t take her life and I didn’t have the opportunity to see the aftermath of her suicide; I don’t think I would be here today to tell you this story. Or imagine if I didn’t tell my boyfriend my situation and he didn’t encourage me to see the doctor. I don’t even want to think of what would have become of me if I didn’t say anything the second time around.
So what if you are placed on medication, there is nothing wrong with medication. Don’t be as ignorant and careless as I was by not speaking to anyone because I didn’t want to be placed on medication. You’ve got to do all you can to be better. ALL YOU CAN
There are support groups you can join, both online and in person; mental illness is neither a crime nor a joke, please don’t be afraid to admit that you are suffering. Don’t be afraid to seek help. If you had a flu, would you be afraid to admit it and see a doctor about it? No. Being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t need the help of others; it means that you can recognize when you need the help of others.
Do I still have dark days? Yes and joining a support group has helped me tremendously. Plus the awareness of it (PMS) has reduced its impact on me. Whenever I feel those feelings, I check my calendar and I know that it’s a hormonal thing that will pass and that knowledge is freeing.
Since we all know how unstable hormones can be, PMS for me doesn’t always bring suicidal feelings; sometimes it’s anger, other times its anxiety and in this current moment as I write this story, it made my breasts a cup size bigger.
I still live a conscious life because of my past experience with depression; I know my triggers and I know how to handle them. Thanks to my support group, I have even learned more effective ways to manage my thoughts on those days when I can’t make sense of my intense emotions of despair. Life is indeed a journey, a journey that can be mastered, but not without conscious and diligent work.
See the list of suicide hotlines in most countries here