Suicidal Thoughts

**WARNING This section may be upsetting or disturbing, proceed with caution.**

I never thought this would happen to me, to be so despondent that I’d consider taking my life.

Those thoughts belong to other people, the homeless, victims of violence, those with mental illnesses. Not me. But anyone could feel this way. Depression, anxiety, stress, these are all emotions everyone experiences at some point in their lives. They don’t discriminate between gender, race, age, financial success or disaster. They just exist.

Just as my exposure to epilepsy had been nonexistent until faced with it, so too was depression and suicidal ideations. To have reached my limit of endurance, often exceeding it, was new to me. I’ve always just plunked along, taking each new drama in stride. The old 3 steps forward, 10 back scenario was second nature to me, and like Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic strip, a black cloud followed me everywhere.

I considered myself a realist, some would say a cynic, with a dash of optimism. Plan for the worst and hope for the best was one philosophy I held. What goes around comes around, another, and It is what it is, a standard expression. But that first time standing on my 12th floor balcony looking over the railing contemplating how it would feel to fall, was frightening. How could I…where did that…why the fuck did I think that? It came from a voice buried deep down, a tired, scared, frustrated, and angry voice sick of the life it was in.

The move to Calgary was the best decision I’d ever made, but it had its drawbacks.

I traded one half of my family for another. I lost my beloved seaside. I missed my mother. The timing of our move couldn’t have been worse, but also the best. Eight months after we’d left, Mom died. April 1st. April Fool’s Day of all days! My best friend, my confidante, partner in crime, gone. And, of course, the pandemic and all the grief and suffering that followed.

In some ways, a lot of ways, being here in Calgary has been for the best. We don’t see our family here very often, but they’re close by, Dev hasn’t any friends or coworkers, but we have each other. I have access to my doctors and a hospital that feels like a home. With my official PNES diagnosis in September 2019, the therapy I require is available to me, unlike back in BC. Without it, I’d be screwed. Without it, I’d be dead.

My suicidal thoughts graduated from jumping 12 stories to running in front of trains, to knives. Ideas of, what it would feel like, would it hurt, how much would I bleed, would it be a slow death, or instant? Horrific and scary, shocking. Envisioning my son’s face and how he’d be left alone was enough to dispel those gloomy ideals.

It’s happened again. The third time now.

The first was in the kitchen, the next on the balcony, twelve stories up, the railings beckoned me. Dared me to come closer. But I didn’t. I couldn’t do that to my son and leave him alone in new surroundings, it wouldn’t be fair to him.

Who’d have thought knives could be so enticing? Smooth metal reflecting light, sparkling like polished metal as its forged into hardened steel. The urge to twist it, turn the point towards me and ram it into my Pillsbury pouch. What would it feel like? How bad would it hurt? Would there be lots of blood? A brief moment gone as quickly as it arrived, left me standing as if Medusa herself had caught my eye.

The last time I knew. I knew I needed help, cried out for it relieving the tension the knots loosening the noose that threatened to cut off the life that still burned deep inside.

Another seizure, and off to the ED and deposited in a bed. My second home. Unit 111. A space for neurological issues of body and mind. I know it so well.

Just days before April Fools’. One year since Mom died. My best friend gone. The dust of her remains, planted into the earth, and sealed off with a plaque as proof of her existence. It was more than I could bear. Her new ‘home’ is hundreds of miles away, her spirit up past the clouds. Between that, the seizures, and a world thrown into chaos, all the sick and dying, tipped my scale of emotions spiraling me down into oblivion.

I remember the room and feeling groggy, out of sorts. Drained of all energy, stunned, and riddled with grief. I stared at the tray scanning each item of what remained of the breakfast I could not eat. The shiny plastic caught my eye. Long and smooth on one side, rough and jagged on the other. A plastic knife sat unused, clean, and white. I sat there, staring, my vision blurred by the gathering storm, a rising tide of tears that distorted my view overflowed. The trickling increased to a gushing wave, pouring out. The meagre breakwater crumbled, allowing the torrent through. I gasped for air, my shoulders shook as the sobs escaped growing in momentum and strength. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wanted it all to stop. To end.  

I stared at the breakfast tray, lost within myself, a little voice said ‘pick me up, go on, do it.’ With trembling hand I reached out, grabbed it, placed its serrated edge on my wrist, pulling it across, lightly at first. I didn’t know what I’d intended. Did I really think a plastic knife would do any damage? I didn’t care. I was so tired of my body attacking me from the inside, the damage hidden from view. I could feel my seizures, but couldn’t ‘see’ them. The battling neurons, the suppressed emotions, are not visible to the naked eye, if at all. I had no scars, no bandages, I could walk, see, hear, and speak. To look at me, I was healthy, albeit overweight. I needed to see and feel my illness. I needed something tangible to show the pain and how scarred I was.

The knife passed over my wrist, back and forth, the pressure increasing with each pass. I knew it wasn’t right, that something was seriously wrong. I had to stop.

I rang for the nurse.

I hadn’t meant to kill myself I only wanted to leave a mark too see the pain which coursed through me unseen hidden from the world including myself. I needed to feel pain and see it to know it was real.

How did I come to be in that place? A space where I felt trapped and alone? How had I fallen so low? To think of death as a solution, the only way to move past an existence so unbearable it wasn’t worth the effort. Those thoughts and dead feelings were new to me had never experienced them before. Never thought I would.

Anything is possible, I guess.

I have a new doctor, a neuro psychiatrist. We’re changing up my anti-depressant. The old one doesn’t seem to be working. I feel better, like someone understands me. I’ve got an outlet a safe place to talk and share what’s been dammed up for too long. Experiences of pain, trauma, guilt, anger, and fear. The pressure inside my head has eased, levels have dropped, I no longer feel like I’d combust disintegrate into a Ka jillion pieces.  Life is smoothing out. The ride is almost pleasant. I think I will make it.

By that time, I’d been in therapy for over a year, my willingness to control my PNES and share my thoughts, saved me. When I saw the neuropsychologist the day after discharge, I told her what’d happened, relieved to have unburdened the grief and shame of my actions.

At 55, I’d reached my lowest point ever. Can you blame me?

Patients with epilepsy or psychogenic non-epileptic seizures have a suicide rate 2.5 times greater than the general population.

So, since I have both conditions, does my chances of suicide increase further? Probably not. But, in the end it doesn’t really matter, the risk is there.

Having someone to talk to, whether a friend, family member, or doctor does help. Putting those thoughts into words, speaking them aloud, alleviates the stress of carrying them around, letting them bounce around in a brain so sad, so unhappy, it feeds itself off the misery of living while feeling dead inside. Sharing those emotions is like opening the door to a bird cage, enticing you by the freedom awaiting outside those bars that surround you. It’s hard to mentally shake off the depressive state and spread your wings and fly away. With the right tools, it’s possible, may take a few attempts, and the light will filter in.

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