Anxiety, Mental Health, PPD, PTSD, Suicide

Mind on Fire

Have you ever been so low that you’ve felt unworthy of living?

I have.

You can sense the shift right before it happens. One day you are doing well, then the next something is off. You have a twang in your stomach that just doesn’t sit right. Your nerves are on edge, trembling almost with an invisible anticipation – waiting for something to happen. It’s like waiting for a bomb to go off, counting down the last seconds. Tick… tick… tick…

Sometimes the shift is gradual, almost undetectable, and other times it hits you like a tidal wave, overwhelming you to the point you’re drowning in your own pain. Your brain runs on overdrive. Your thoughts are rambling. You become rigid with fear. Your mind is on fire.

Suddenly, the most terrible realization hits you:

Death seems more comforting than life.

You start asking yourself a million questions: How did it get this bad? How did I not see this coming? Why is this happening to me?

So, you start playing the blame game: work is stressful, the baby’s not sleeping. Hell, you’ll even blame the mailman if it means not pointing the finger at yourself first. You’re riding on denial: Things aren’t actually that bad. I’m just overreacting. I don’t have a right to complain when X has it worse than me.

But this phase is short-lived, it doesn’t last long before you feel that decline in mental wellbeing. It’s hard to pull yourself out of bed. Showering is such a chore. Eating requires energy that you just don’t have. You’re running on fumes. Sleep is just a myth. Your head aches all the time. Your nerves are shot from the amount of stress. It’s happening, you’re slip… slip… slipping over the edge.

You know it’s bad. You realize it when you look at your husband and child. All you feel is overwhelming sadness, a heartache that has no words to describe it. The pain nearly crushes you. I don’t deserve them.

You convince yourself that this is true, because right now, you absolutely hate yourself. You can’t stand the skin you’re living in. You hate looking in the mirror and seeing the pathetic reflection staring back at you. You end up bullying yourself. You scratch at your skin till you see blood. You pull at your hair till it hurts. You might even give yourself a good slap across the face just to stop the endless thoughts pounding through your brain. Your mind is on fire, and there is just no way to put out the flames.

You might as well give up. But you’re not quite there yet because in sets the desperation. You start to panic. Jesus, I can’t be this crazy. Get your shit together, Amanda. So, you start swallowing pills to try to numb the pain, even though they make your stomach ache. You try deep breathing and visualize positive feelings, but hell, that just makes your heart race faster. Journalling… Yes, write down all the terrible thoughts running around your mind that’s aflame, but damnit, you when you look at those bleeding pages, that just freaks you out more. Again, a good slap across the face might remind you to stay in the present moment instead of focusing on the pain. Maybe that will help. You do desperate things when you’re pressed up against a corner.

Nothing seems to work. The pills do nothing. You can’t think of a straight thought to write down in your journal. That’s when the anger starts to rear its ugly head. Fuck the positive thinking. You become so mad at the world around you, and yourself, that you don’t know how to control the overwhelming emotions that seem to scroll through you veins at a hundred miles a minute. That’s why desperation and anger like to hold hands. You’d watch the world burn around you if it meant you stopped feeling the insurmountable pain wrecking your mind.

You lose track of time. You forget how long you’ve been feeling this way. Days? Weeks? Months? Everything in your life takes a back seat, because pain is at the wheel, and you’re just a helpless passenger along for the ride. It’s a road trip to hell where you have no GPS, the map is in Russian, and you haven’t seen a gas station for miles. You’re running out of options. Do you keep driving in circles, or do you find a new exit?

So, when you eye the bottle of pills on the counter and suddenly have the overwhelming urge to swallow them all and sleep forever, you’re not even surprised by the thought. You don’t even realize it’s a red flag. It feels like a means to an end. It’s the golden ticket to all your problems. It’s finally the gas station on your road trip.

But you don’t act on that thought. It’s just a suggestion, and a mighty good one at that. The thought rolls around your head several times a day, but you just shrug your shoulder mindlessly. It’s not until you start wondering: How many pills it would take to overdose? How would my weight and height plays a factor into that? What if it causes pain? Would a handful of Tylenol help resolve that?

Then your mind shifts gears again: Pills may take too long. What if you just drove into oncoming traffic on the highway instead?

And that thought gets your brain ticking. Tick… tick… tick…

So, how do you know you’re too far gone?

It’s the night when your husband takes your hands into his, gripping them tightly, and leans in to whisper, “Tell me what to do. What can I do to fix this?”

Reality suddenly crashes down around you instantly. You realize things are that bad. You’re hanging off the cliff by your pinky finger. The bomb is about to go off.

You notice the desperation in his eyes, the silent pleading for you to see things from his perspective, and Godfuckingdamnit! does it shatter your heart in a million pieces.

And you realize it’s time to choose. Your husband and your baby or the bottle of pills you’ve been eyeing for weeks. No more thinking, no more teetering back and forth. Even though your insides are screaming in panic, there’s no going back now. Make a choice. Make the right choice.

You take a step back from your husband, releasing his hands. You bow your head in shame as you turn away from him.

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

For the briefest of moments, the burning in your mind stops. It’s as if someone hits the pause button. For that moment, it’s just you, your husband, and the truth hanging in the air. You’re waiting for the explosion.

Was it the right choice?

It takes you a moment to register that your husband is hugging you again. It takes another minute before you’re aware that even though he’s not crying, he’s shaking in fear. He’s trying to keep it together because what’s the sense of two people starting to freak out? Your mind is on fire again, but he just nods his head with all the confidence in the world and says, “Let’s go get you some help.”

You don’t really break down until the triage nurse asks, “What brings you in tonight?” You don’t really cry until the mental health nurse starts to evaluate you. It isn’t until the ER doctor asks you, “Do you feel safe going home tonight?”

That’s when it hits you. You don’t. You don’t feel safe. You haven’t felt safe for weeks.

All you can do is let silent tears drip down your face and shake your head. Words aren’t needed because she understands completely what you’re silently asking her.

I need help.

And that’s when the real fight begins.

The steps to recovery aren’t simple. Your stay in the psych ward doesn’t make you feel any less “crazy”. When you’re put under supervision for three weeks, it makes you feel like a child. You resent all the new medications you have to take, but hey!, at least you’re not thinking about swallowing them all this time. You struggle with talk therapy because it’s hard to admit out loud the dark thoughts that have been swirling in your head for months. You still can’t stand to look at yourself in the mirror, but at least to stop beating yourself up.

It’s not to say you feel any better, because frankly you don’t. Not yet. You still feel absolutely crappy. Your mind is still ablaze with chaotic thoughts and mixed emotions, but you start to realize that you’re in the driver’s seat again. Pain is still backseat driving a bit, but your in control now. It’s scary and daunting, and the map is still in Russian, but you get to choose the destination. It’s just going to take some time to get there.

Is your mind still on fire? Yes, because there are all sorts of new worries that you must add to the mix now, but you have to keep reminding yourself it’s not a race. Healing is a slow, and sometimes painful, process. Sometimes it’s aggravating and annoying. Sometimes you just want to throw your hands in the air and quit again… but you don’t. And that’s the point.

You don’t always have to be in control, you just have to learn to navigate – the good and the bad.

For me, that’s why my mind feels on fire at times. It’s because I feel like I’m losing control of the world around me. When my mental health takes a huge dip, and I start to slip again, my whole world feels like it will fall to pieces. There’s a fine line between feeling balanced and secure and feeling chaotic and defeated. It’s a line I’m still learning to walk and sometimes I trip along the way. I don’t always get it right.

Lots of time the demons in my head win. I’ve lost a lot of battles over the years, but I always seem willing to get back up and fight, even if it takes me awhile to put on the armour.

I still have many battles to go. I’m no where near victory. And right now I don’t have a lot of confidence in myself, but I’m glad my support system does. Thankfully, I have people I can lean on right now because I can’t fully hold myself up. It’s frustrating at times, and daunting to admit on the bad days I need help, but I know I will be met with love and compassion. Not everyone I know has that kind of support system.

But I’m not the only one with a mind on fire. I’m not the only one who is in a dark place right now. Right now it’s hard to be an advocate for others when I feel so defeated myself, but the least I can do is say this: I get it, and I understand.

To those out there suffering in silence right now, let me leave you with this: I will stand for you. I will stand with you. I will always fight for a better world where you feel safe to express how you are feeling because I’ve been there too. I’m there right now, and I’m going through it with you.

I won’t be a cheerleader right now and spout off endless positivity because that sometimes does more harm than good. All I can do is merely share my story to maybe help you through yours. I will keep fighting because I know there are better days ahead. I know now it’s better to struggle through the pain than suffer in silence.

The world needs us, sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are worthy enough to live. We are loved, we are cared about, and we deserve to not live in pain.

Because you matter. Your life matters. And I hope you’ll keep fighting, too.

And as always,

Fight the good fight.

-A xo

World Suicide Prevention Day, 2020

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