This post originally appeared on amotherthing.com on June 8, 2012.
WARNING: This post may contain triggers for those who have dealt with suicide or depression.
Today I read an article that got me to thinking about my history of depression. The comedienne, Sarah Silverman has admitted that she would be afraid to have her own children for fear of passing on her depression to them. Having suffered from it myself, I can say with authority it is not much fun to admit to people that you have self-harmed, attempted suicide and been committed. It is even less fun to have lived through it in the first place.
Six months before I got pregnant, I was in the hospital being treated for an attempted suicide. Having been depressed for years, I had been taking Citalopram for about eight months, and for a little while it was working. But two months previously, my marriage had broken down, and my husband and I had decided to call it quits. I’d moved out for a month, but came back when we realized that I wasn’t yet able to make it on my own.
My job was wreaking havoc on my life, and I was far away from my family and friends, with no one really to talk to about all the things that were on my mind. I wasn’t taking my meds properly, and since I was on such a high dosage, this created certain issues… not least among them a mild form of psychosis.
One night, November 8th, 2009, in fact, I “realised” that I was just not cut out for this living thing. Ross and I had spent the evening watching The X Factor, and the Black Eyed Peas had guest-starred and sung their new hit, “Meet Me Halfway.” I don’t know why I remember that, but ever since, whenever I hear that song, I jokingly refer to it as my “Suicide Song.”
When the evening ended, Ross went to his room to get on his computer, and I went to my room (we were in separate rooms by then). Instead of going to sleep, I wrote a note. In it, I said goodbye to everyone I loved and begged forgiveness. I remember that Ross came in at one point and asked what I was doing, and I smiled and said that I was just writing a list or something. He left, and I set about the task of removing 3 months worth of anti-depressants from their blister packs and into a small bottle.
Later, Ross admitted that he’d heard the noise of the medicine being popped, but he hadn’t thought much about it.
I was very calm, I remember. I think I must have stared at all the little pills for a good five minutes, not really thinking about anything in particular, but just wondering if I’d feel any urge to stop. I didn’t.
I had a glass of water next to me, and I very calmly swallowed the pills in two big gulps.
I sat there a moment, again waiting for regret to take over. But it didn’t. I felt eerily rational.
I realised that I was a bit sad that I couldn’t say goodbye to my family, but I knew that there was one person I could say goodbye to. I went into Ross’s room and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I told him I loved him. And I began to leave.
He was always very perceptive, and he immediately put two and two together and said, “You’ve taken something, haven’t you?” I smiled and told him not to worry and tried to leave. He was panicked. He shouted at me, asking what I’d taken, grabbing his phone.
He dialled the emergency services. He screamed down the phone, “MY WIFE HAS TAKEN SOMETHING. SHE’S TRYING TO KILL HERSELF. GET OVER HERE. NOW!”
His fear was scaring me, and I ran back to my room and jumped into the bed, hiding under the covers. He followed me in, screaming and crying and looking wildly around. He was screaming answers to questions from the operator, and it was only then I realised that I’d made a mistake. No, not with the pill-swallowing. I was still convinced that was the right move. I knew the mistake was allowing him to sense what was happening. What if he stopped me? What if they saved me? Statistics raced through my mind, and I remembered all the things I’d read online on suicide websites about how people are left with failed organs from not taking enough pills to finish them off. I kicked myself for not washing them down with whiskey, as apparently alcohol makes it more effective. Damn!
Soon, there was a pounding on the door downstairs. The operator told Ross that they paramedics were there, but he’d have to let them in. He screamed at her on the phone, “TELL THEM TO BREAK THE FUCKING DOOR DOWN!”
I laughed. I regained my composure. “Go and let them in, Ross. It’s fine.”
He looked at me incredulously before bolting out of the room and flying down the stairs. The next thing I knew there were two uniformed men standing over me asking me what I’d taken. I didn’t want to talk to them. I hid under the covers.
I could hear them all talking about me. They found the empty blister packets and asked Ross how many I’d had. Ross didn’t know, but said he’d thought that some of the packets were already empty.
One of the men spoke to me. “Mrs Williams – I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us. We need to get you to the hospital. We’d like you to come willingly, but if you won’t, we WILL forcibly remove you. Do you understand?”
I stayed quiet and refused to budge. I could hear sniffles. I wanted them all to leave. Just leave me alone. Forever alone.
The man repeated himself, saying that if I didn’t come right then, he would put me over his shoulder.
Amazingly, it’d only been about 10 – 15 minutes since I’d taken the pills, and I knew they hadn’t had time to work yet. I didn’t feel anything.
The man moved toward me, and I sprung up. “Fine. I’ll come.” I didn’t want him to touch me. No one should touch me.
Down the stairs and out the door we went. To the waiting ambulance. Ross made to get in after us, and the paramedic told him he’d have to follow behind in the car.
I was sat on a stretcher, refusing to talk. They tried to make conversation, but I was having none of it. I felt the twists and turns in the road as we made our way to the hospital. I started to feel strange.
The man looked at me and got closer. “Are your eyes always this dilated?”
“Yes,” I woozily responded. “People always think I’m on drugs.”
The ambulance came to a stop, and the paramedic said we’d arrived. He stepped down to the curb and turned to help me.
That’s the last thing I remember.
When I awoke, I was in a small room. I could hear noises far off, but I was disoriented. Ross’s voice was in my ear, “Kate – you’ve had a seizure. Just stay calm. Don’t move.”
I swam in and out of consciousness. Sometimes there were more people in the room. Others it was just Ross and me.
I remember another seizure. I remember my body going rigid and shaking uncontrollably. I remember tiny tremors that went on and on for hours.
At one point, I was desperate to wee, and I begged to go to the bathroom. I was brought a bed pan, which they had to put underneath me. I wasn’t in control of my own body. I felt that I’d fill the bowl, but I couldn’t make anything come. When it did, it was a trickle.
Years later (or hours, or minutes) a doctor came in and said something about dosages and weights. I couldn’t follow, but Ross was obviously relieved, and I realised that I wasn’t going to die. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t happy. I just didn’t care.
I was soon transferred to another room, and I don’t recall much until I woke up the next day. Ross was there, having brought me a cute cat pillow he’d named “Porple.” He looked stressed. He said he’d called my parents and told them. I was devastated. It was bad enough that I’d failed, but now everyone would know. He also said he’d found my suicide note.
Not much was said. I tried to eat and drink, but I just threw it all up on the floor. A Polish male nurse had to give me a sponge bath and help me onto a portable toilet, as I was too weak to stand or move much.
Ross came and went, but I was exhausted and slept for the next couple of days. I was sent to new wards twice. Finally, I was told I would be released once I’d spoken to a counsellor.
How this woman ever became someone they trusted with suicidal patients, I’ll never know. She asked me why I’d done it. I didn’t have an answer. She asked me if I was serious. I said yes. She asked if I’d left a note. I said yes. She asked me why I chose pills. I told her that they were all I had on hand…
“Well if you were REALLY serious,” she said, “you should have jumped in front of a bus or a train. That’s pretty much guaranteed to kill you. It’s much more effective than a bunch of pills.”
I stared at her. Was she serious? She was giving me TIPS? I was quiet before I answered. “I’m not interested in making someone else responsible for my death. If I threw myself in front of a train or bus, then the driver would have to live with the guilt of having killed me. He would be scarred for life at having to actually SEE me die. Why would I ever put someone through that? Why would anyone?”
The woman was sadistic. “Do you think you’ll try again?” she asked me eagerly.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, if you were serious, you would…”
I asked if I could leave now. She smiled and said yes. And then she signed me off and I was discharged from the hospital.
The next few weeks were hell. I quit my job. I couldn’t go back there after that. And Ross and I were well and truly over. I didn’t know what was coming. I endured Christmas at Ross’ parents house, as usual, but there was little merriment. I had a new job lined up for the new year, and I’d decided I’d save up enough money to go back to America.
But within two weeks, I had met Mark. And everything changed.
Suddenly, there was happiness in my life. Years of self-harm and depression were pushed behind me. And though there were a few instances of upset (the first time I knew that I really loved Mark was when he caught me huddled on the floor, crying my eyes out with a pair of scissors in my hand… instead of yelling, as I was used to, he simply held me and sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to me), I was pretty damned happy.
We had met mid-January, and at the beginning of April, I moved in with him. In May I got pregnant.
As soon as I found out, all the terror came pouring out of me. In fact, the night before I found out, I cut myself. My arms were covered in bloody scabs as I peed on the stick, and after my initial shock and ecstasy, my reaction was of pure fear.
How could I be a mother? I can’t take care of myself. What if I hurt myself? What if I hurt the baby? What if he gets my depression? What if I can’t love him? What if I kill myself and he has to grow up without a mother? What if what if what if what if…
Mark tried to help, but my hormones were all over the place, and whatever fear and paranoia I had was magnified by a million.
I don’t know what changed… but somewhere during that 40 week period, I made a vow to myself to be better. I wanted this child, and whatever happened, I would love him, take care of him and keep him safe and happy.
I now have a beautiful and amazing nearly 16 month old son, and I STILL struggle with depression. But I love him and would do ANYTHING for him. I know many parents say they would die for their child (and I would, too… in a heartbeat!), but for me the more important promise is to LIVE for him.
I am by no means cured. Depression will be a battle I fight until the day I die. After my hospitalisation, I was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which explains my inappropriate anger, my impulsiveness, and my self-harm. There is no cure, there is no real treatment other than talking about it, which I am loathe to do. I fight it. Sometimes I win, and I can relax a tiny bit. Sometimes I lose, and I have to wear long sleeve shirts for a few weeks. But through all of the horrible, crippling depression, I hold on tight to the fact that I love more than I knew I could, and I am loved more than I think I deserve.
UPDATE 10/7/2020: I originally wrote this post when I had a toddler and was working through my mental health issues as a new mom. I still had some post-partum depression, and I had literally just moved from the UK to the US.
It is now more than eight years later, and I have added to my family significantly with three more beautiful sons, and I even married their dad.
This particular post has resonated with so many people over the years, and I get emails so often from women who have experienced their own version of it. BPD is a very intimidating and frightening diagnosis, and it can feel like you are all alone. I promise you, you are NOT.
If you are ever in need of someone to speak with, please feel free to reach out to me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am more than happy to chat, and even if all you want is someone to listen, I can do that.
Do not give up. Ever.