Trigger warning: recalling suicidal thoughts and actions
This post has been edited and updated from its first appearance in my Substack newsletter: action potential, on March 8, 2021
Throughout my life, I’ve survived at least two severe depressive episodes that nearly ended me. The most recent one happened in late 2016 when I was 33. But the first started much earlier, when I was a young teen.
I remember feeling trapped in my own life. I lost all desire to pursue my hobbies. Started feeling like my chest was caught in an invisible vice that squeezed harder with every breath.
I decided to kill myself as I was staring at a plate of strawberry crepes my parents bought me at Vermont Pancake House when I was 13 years old.
I couldn’t eat those crepes. I couldn’t eat crepes at all until a few years ago.
But my suicide attempt was unsuccessful. What ensued was many years of overmedication by a sadistic psychiatrist that turned me into a bloated, drooling mess.
I went from being an honor student, first-picked in gym class, and a first-chair saxophone player to a space case that nodded off mid-conversation. My grades plummeted as I slept through my classes, and all my hobbies were abandoned along with any hope for my future.
While my peers were discovering their passions and figuring out who they wanted to be, I was half-asleep and watching the world go by from some faraway place.
Have you seen the Britney Spears documentary on Hulu? (so good).
I mention it because it reminded me that, at some point, my mom told me this evil psychiatrist, Lynne Weisberg, who had been managing my mental health from ages 13-18, suggested I be placed under a conservatorship.
I can’t recall the details, (my memory of that entire period is hazy at best) but I imagine it had something to do with the time I refused to take a higher dose of meds while hospitalized, and then proceeded to check myself out of the hospital against medical advice.
She didn’t tell me until many years later, but apparently, my mom supported me in this decision because one of the psychiatric nurses in the hospital had pulled her aside and told her she thought I was being overmedicated. The nurse didn’t think my case was being handled properly.
I don’t know where I’d be now if that mystery nurse hadn’t discreetly advocated for me.
I’ve processed a lot of anger about how my mental health was managed during that period, but, ultimately, I’ve learned to find the hidden gems in all of it.
In so many ways, I think that early experience with suicidality prepared me to get through the second episode. I knew that I’d find the light at the end of the tunnel eventually. I believed it was there, even when I couldn’t see it.
At age 33, I also had a few things I lacked as a teen: trail running, psychedelics, and my dog, Bruce. These three things kept me from acting on the impulses racing through my mind.
At some point, my mom (who must’ve used her mom superpowers to sense something was wrong) suggested I come home for a bit.
That’s when I dove into radical self-love, as taught by one of my sheroes, Gala Darling.
Back in the comfort and safety of my parents’ house, I began building a collection of tricks and tools to keep my head above water the next time I felt that dark force trying to pull me down.
Self-help books and podcasts – I devoured them.
I took lots of aromatherapy Epsom salt baths and generally treated myself like a wounded child.
Three months later, I was ready to go off on my own again (with Bruce, of course). That year, I set multiple personal records in ultrarunning. I met my husband. Then, after three years of trying, I got my career to a point where I could support myself by freelance writing without relying on side jobs.
Now, I’m living my dream. Homesteading, writing, and doing life on my own terms. A far cry from the 18-year-old girl who was told she was out-of-control and incapable of managing her own life.
But doing well doesn’t mean it’s okay to abandon self-love practices.
I still do them. Every. Damn. Day.
Now that I’m strong enough, I feel a wounded healer’s responsibility to share what I’ve learned in hopes to help others get through their own struggles.
I felt like I had to find an alternate route to mental health because my adolescent experience was so… traumatic. I think the healthcare system wasn’t designed with a patient’s well-being in mind, and I don’t trust it to help me.
With that said, I believe medications help a lot of people cope with the debilitating symptoms of psychiatric disorders. I want to make it clear that I don’t condemn anyone for taking meds if they feel like it truly helps. You know what’s best for yourself.
Currently, I pay my bills working as a medical copywriter. In this career, I spend a lot of time researching innovative approaches to treating depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions.
So, if medication doesn’t work for you, or if you can’t tolerate the side effects, I have good news. There is still hope.
Ketamine is gaining popularity for its rapid effectiveness in treating acute suicidality, treatment-resistant depression, and various other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The effects are immediate after one dose. You don’t need to wait two or more weeks for a therapeutic level to accumulate in your blood.
But ketamine is still a drug. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-pharmacologic treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of your brain associated with depression. rTMS is not the same as electroconvulsive therapy, (aka electric shock treatments).
I hope reading my story has helped you in some way, whether it’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone, or relief at finding a resource you were previously unaware existed.
Thank you for reading!