Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Eleven years ago today, I tried to kill myself. I swallowed a good portion of a bulk bottle of tylenol and spent 5 days in the hospital. They kept me in to ensure that my liver hadn't been permanently damaged and to keep an eye on me in case I tried again. It was a horrible and pivotal experience that has shaped my life in ways I still don't understand.

The next couple July 4ths were brutal. When I wasn't getting bits of metal shot through my tender bits, I was in bed and/or crying. The piercings, none of which I have any more, were to commemorate the fact I was still alive, a fact that I was celebrating. More or less, depending on the day.

Even after those first couple years, the Anniversary Affective Disorder persisted. I would usually start feeling kind of down and twitchy around mid-June, with some of the old hateful thoughts coming senselessly back and the for-no-reason tears pushing swollen and uncried in my ducts. I'd get totally freaked out and worried that It was happening all over again, which was like fertilizer to the thorn voice twisting panic around my brain. Then I'd catch a look at a calendar and the date would register. The down and twitchy would stay, but the panic would dissipate.

Last year was the first year that I haven't spent at least a few days feeling low. I didn't even think about it till a day or two after. At the time, I thought it was because Hey! After Only One Decade I Am Finally Over It. Looking back, I think the new sad of my breakup was so fresh there was no room for old sad.

A suicide attempt is an odd thing to have gone through. Half of me thinks that it was really no big deal, that lots of people go through much more difficult things, that it was a long time ago and so enough with the moping already. Comes from the same part that thinks I maybe use the experience to make myself feel special in a completely ridiculous and possibly dangerous way.

But then that's the brain of the depressive, right? I mean, what makes me so special that I should be happy? Because obviously I'm not special: not especially interesting or especially nice or especially funny or especially cute or or or or. And who am I to even think that I could be especially any of those things?

I am, however, or at least have been, fucked up. Though not as fucked up as other people, who are much more especial than I am.

And then there I am, right back at the start of the spiral, but a little lower down, a little more tired after each go round. It's exhausting.

Depression is also addictive. It was easier to get over being depressed than it has been to get over seeing "depressive" as such an integral part of my identity I felt the need to hold on to it. Once established, your body feels comfortable bathed in whatever chemical wash takes the place of serotonin and norepinephrin. The neural pathways to sad become well worn and much easier to traverse than those leading to contentment. Happiness is a rocky, impossible trail high above the clouds.

It was incredibly difficult to build those happy pathways as I trudged my way out of the fog. I managed only through the glory of pharmaceuticals and by dint of hard work. Anyone who tells you that anti-depressants are a cure-all is full of bunk.

At the same time that I think it's really no big deal, just a small part of what will hopefully be a long life, it also seems like a really really big deal. I have a hard time talking about it, and with even some of my close friends, it took me years to even mention it. When I do talk about it now, I often say "When I was hospitalized..." because the phrase "When I tried to kill myself..." sounds jarring and too loud outside my head.

So writing this here - for strangers and acquaintances and friends alike to read - it's an odd sensation. I've never shied away from writing about being depressed or the attempt itself, but in poetry or obtuse prose. So I feel a little exposed.

But you know why I feel exposed? Because no one talks much about depression or suicide. Not like it’s real.

There's jokes and odd remarks and the occasional slightly disgusted wonderment. There's the snide "oh, it was just a cry for help" comments. But when you make it real, when you say "Well, yeah, I totally understand what would drive someone to do that," people most often flinch like you've thrown cold water in their faces.

So here I am, talking about it, with more to come tomorrow. Here I am, making it real.


Ariel said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this, Megan. My grandfather committed suicide when he was 83. My family doesn't really talk about it, but they are finally starting to get real about the fact that mental illness runs in the family.

We've all had bouts of it. And my brother recently discovered that a somewhat removed branch of the family was the subject of a test group at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, because of such high incidences of depression.

You're super-brave for writing about your experiences. It makes it easier for all of us.


Amanda said...

good for you for writing this here. i hope it's catharctic. and i am so glad you are alive !!!


Aggie said...

This is important. Thank you for making it real. Keep going.

Asteroidea Press said...

Thank you, you three. It means a lot to hear it.

Ariel: One of the things that drove me crazy about that time was that suddenly this family history came out of the woodwork - like my dad's had deep bouts that he's never talked about, and my great aunt and great grandfather and cousin so-and-so. But because no one talks about it, no one knew to look. Sheesh. Glad you're better too.

Ariel said...

Thanks! Yeah, I felt the same way. My grandfather's funeral was bizarre. All everyone could talk about was the inheritance. My ex and I actually had to rifle through his apartment after his first attempt, to try and find out what he took ... My Mom has been on ant-depressants for 30 years "to help her sleep." She'll never admit that she's really treating chronic anxious depression. My brother got hit pretty hard, but he's doing well, thanks to meds and counselling. I was on meds for a while, but I find exercise, close friendships, talk therapy and journaling to be the most helpful. And trying to eat right. It's a lot sometimes! But it's worth it ... I still have lots of cloudy days. I try to monitor my mental health daily, and I'm not afraid to take time off when I need to. That's what sick days are for ...