I want to share more in depth about finding hope after my suicide attempt. This post diverges from a strength training focus, but it absolutely connects with my strength training journey. I know that my experience with depression is not uncommon, so perhaps my story will help you.
This is going to be really personal, transparent, and probably polarizing.
First, some background, then I want to share with you an excerpt from my senior seminar paper in college. It details my experience with depression and my suicide attempt. Then, I want to talk about what I believe has been key to my healing and recovery.
Factors I believe precipitated my depression.
- I grew up in a family with codependency/alchoholic issues (it’s likely you did too)
- My personality type was very different from my other family members and different from the population at large, leading to feelings of inadequacy and “What’s wrong with me?”
- I was very involved with a fundamentalist Christian church in high school which encouraged low self-worth.
- I was eating poorly–lots of bread, carbs, sugar, very low fat, very little protein.
- During college I was getting very little sleep–maybe 5 hours/ night.
- I was being challenged (torn down? yelled at?) at every turn in my college career–confronted every single day with my shortcomings as a dancer.
- I had very little support (a common American circumstance for all of us)
Now, I don’t list all these things to play the blame game and to shirk responsibility for my life. However, I think if we don’t look at our circumstances, then we point the blame all upon ourselves. Thinking, “What is wrong with me? Why am I not happy? Why can’t I buck up and deal with this?” Then, we conclude, there is just something fundamentally wrong with us, or our brains, and we go on meds (that can have huge unwanted side effects). We never challenge the culture around us and the people around us who are contributing to making this world a stinking mess.
I list these factors to show that I don’t think this was a “biological” depression. Given the circumstances I should have been depressed!
I think this is true for most people. If you really examine your circumstances, you will likely find that you are truly in a tough situation, and that is how the human psyche and body respond to extreme amounts of stress–with depressive symptoms.
I got news for you baby! It’s not just you!!
Here’s the excerpt:
I wished that I had never been born. Life was not worth living. I wanted to die. I slept at every opportunity and I was barely making it through classes—my grades were dropping. My friends and roommates did not like being around me. I cried constantly, even in class I cried. Everything was bleak, dull, and lifeless. I thought numerous times of stepping in front of an oncoming car or train. At one point, I kept a knife in my room, thinking that if I just got up enough courage I would use it. After starting antidepressants, they kept me awake at night, so I then was prescribed Ambien as a sleep aid. All I knew was blackness and utter despair. My low grade chronic depression had become a full blown episode of acute depression.
Where was the God of my childhood in all of this? God was nowhere to be found. In a family therapy session, I yelled out, “God has abandoned me!” God certainly was not good and God certainly did not care about me. I had stopped attending church and gradually stopped reading my Bible and praying. God was a mockery to me. I began to seriously doubt the existence of God. Christianity could no longer answer all of life’s big questions. The bottom had dropped out from under me and I was falling. I did not know what was going to happen when I landed, or if I would fall forever.
(I quit college and moved in with my sister)
After a particularly intense argument with my sister, I slammed the bathroom door and proceeded to take all three bottles of my antidepressants—Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Zyprexa. They were three quarters full as I had just recently had the prescriptions filled. I sat down on the toilet and waited to see what would happen. My sister, knowing that something was wrong, burst into the bathroom. “What did you do?” she demanded. So I told her. She threatened to call an ambulance if I did not let her take me to the emergency room.
Once we reached the emergency room, I was able to answer all of the nurse’s questions and sign the admission form. The nurse gave me a gross gooey charcoal drink in a Styrofoam cup. She told me that if I refused to drink it that they would pump my stomach and that that would be far worse.
I remained conscious and coherent for about thirty minutes after arriving at the hospital. After that things became fuzzy. At some point they put an IV in my arm and I lay down on a gurney. They continued to ask me questions and it became harder and harder for me to answer them.
I cannot accurately describe the physical effects of the massive overdose I had taken. The best I can explain it is that it was similar to nausea, but not localized in the stomach and digestive system. It was a full body nausea—a nervous system on the fritz. My body was contracting in and expanding out trying vainly to throw off what I had taken. I was involuntarily moaning as I experienced these horrible sensations. I was on the border of consciousness. I told them that if I could just get up and walk around, I would be okay. I was convinced that I just needed to walk it off. I was denied this privilege. I probably could not have walked around if I had tried. I told them I was thirsty and could I please have a drink of water. I was denied again. I was allowed ice chips.
I suddenly sat up filled with an inexplicable frustration, something nameless I could not express (especially since at this point I could barely put together a sentence). My sister asked me, “What are you feeling?” “I’m just so angry!” was my response. I did not know how else to express what I felt and it certainly was true. I was angry. I was angry that I was not allowed to walk around, or to have a drink, I was angry with myself for putting myself in this situation, but most of all I was angry because they were not addressing the real problem—why I had overdosed in the first place.
It felt like my body was pulling in on itself with wave after wave of this awful, strange, contracting. I realize now it was my body’s way of trying to purge itself of the incredible amount of toxins that I had just dumped into it.
At some point amid the awful twitching convulsions I mercifully lost consciousness. I barely remember hands touching me and being moved to another gurney. At one point, there were many people surrounding me. I was later on told that my condition had become serious sometime that night. To this day, I still do not know the extent of how close I was to death or serious damage.
I awoke sometime the next day, to find a nurse’s aide sitting in my room. He had been there a long while just sitting there reading, and he did not seem about to leave. He watched me intently as I got up and walked my IV pole into the bathroom. “I just have to pee” I said. It was then that I realized that I was on suicide watch.
To my complete and utter irritation, the man who was assigned to watch me tried to talk to me about Jesus and God—the nerve. That was part of the reason I was there in the first place. If the God of Christianity was like they said He was, would I be hooked up to this IV pole?
My parents never came to visit me. They called and said I should come home. No words can explain how hurt I was that I had just tried to end my life and that my parents did not come. They said they were too far away (eight hours), and that they could not have done anything for me anyway. I understand now that they did not know what to do, but deep down I know that they were in denial. I did go home for the summer, but after that incident, I knew that they would never love me in the way that I needed to be loved. I cry now for my past self and what she had to go through. As much as it has made me who I am, I would never ever want to go through that again.
After this incident, I managed to pull myself together enough to go on with my life. To this day, I am not sure how or why. I still loathed myself and my life. I did not know what else to do, or what other options I had but to keep going. Therapy, medication, leaving college, and now suicide—I had tried them all and nothing had worked.
Hope after Suicide Attempt
Here’s my take. And I know I might get some flack for this, but that’s ok.
Depression is not a pathological response. Depression is the normal physiological response of an organism under extreme duress.
So, what do you do now? You’re depressed (and not just a little). You’re in the Pit. It’s black. You can’t see any way out. Or, you’re circling the edge of the Pit and want to keep yourself from ever going back there. Or you know someone for whom this is the case.
It’s not easy. It takes time. But here is what I’ve learned.
One person to believe in you. One person to stand by your side no matter what, no matter how dark, crazy, suicidal, and negative you are. One person to walk with you through the valley and believe that you will come out on the other side. I know it sounds cliche’ but for better or worse, my husband was that person for me. More than one person helps, and a supportive community is jackpot, but one person is all you need.
Sleep. No you can’t sleep when you’re dead. When you’re dead you’re dead. We underestimate how much lack of sleep affects our moods, perceptions, our bodies, and how well we can perform our daily tasks. You must make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Movement. Yeah, you knew this one was coming didn’t you? That’s what I’m all about–movement. Slow movement at first, but building up to more vigorous, intense exercise. Exercise raises your endorphins and boosts your mood. It helps both in the short and the long term. I believe movement saved my life and continue to every day.
Movement, and strength training can change your life.
If I didn’t keep a movement practice, I am sure I would slide into the Pit again. In a very literal way I have to move. I think we all do. When we stop moving we start dying. All our systems begin to atrophy.
So play. Dance. MOVE.
You have to support your brain and body with optimal nutrition to function well and have any chance at being happy. What is optimal nutrition? In short, you need:
- Less sugar
- Less processed foods
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, an Omega 3 supplement, fats from organic pastured animal meats including organ meats, eggs, raw milk, butter, cheese, avocados.
- Eat organic where it matters (leafy greens, apples, peppers dirty dozen list)
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, kimchee, and femented veggies.
- Vitamin D supplements or get your D from sunshine, or a tanning bed.
This whole topic of nutrition deserves another post.
I do not have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. Most of the time, I kinda think life sucks. I do have that melancholy tendency to see the glass as half empty. (Warning: I’m going to offend some people here). As much as I think that the Christian dogma is a bunch of bullshit, I also think that the New Age dogma is a bunch of bullshit. Saying positive affirmations doesn’t get you what you want any more than does praying to some old guy in the sky. Bad things happen to good people. So here’s my motto for now–
Life’s not fair–kick ass anyway! Tweet this.
Because what’s the alternative? Putting yourself prematurely six feet under? You’re going there anyway, might as well take the full time you’re allotted and see what other interesting things happen.
If this post resonated with you, and you want more on living strong, sacred, and sensual–
Put your email in the box below and share below your experiences with depression and tough shit in life. What has helped you? Thanks and Big Love to you!