“As a social worker, I’m seeing red flags when you say that. Do you feel like you are a burden on your friends and family?”
I was completing my discharge after-care plan with the social worker provided to me by the hospital. Her name was Hanna and she was soft spoken and kind. She also had the power to delay me leaving.
This wasn’t my first time answering questions like these. I have been in counseling since third grade, including a prior inpatient hospital stay when I was a freshman in high school. I know the red-flag answers that make your freedom questionable to mental health workers. There I sat, only a couple hours away from being discharged after 7 days in the inpatient unit. I was admitted on Valentine’s Day, ironically. A true broken heart.
The answer was yes. Yes, I did feel like a burden on my family and friends. I have an idea of what the people in my life are experiencing. They have their own challenges, and when I see me added to the mix, I’m a problem. I require time, and care and strength – the burden of simply keeping me alive. But I kept that truth to myself. Hanna and I finished my after-care plan and I was discharged knowing I may hang myself any day.
Coming home I was restless; being home I was confused. I journaled my first night home, detailing my hanging. Just being suspended, floating away to somewhere. I knew the songs I wanted playing, I knew which door I would use, which scarf. The thought of everything coming together to create my death felt beautiful, desirable. My letter to family was written. I gave instructions on what to do with my belongings and my body. I looked around my apartment at all of my stuff and started thinking about what I would take to the donation center and what I would sell to help with final expenses. My rational, methodical thoughts and actions scared the shit out of me. This is really happening, I thought.
My earliest memories as a little girl are of me feeling lonely and unwanted, hopeless and wishing to die. Those feelings persisted. I became self-destructive at an early age, doing poorly in school and having conflicts with friends and teachers. My self-destruction became a beast in college and I was the catalyst of so many of my own problems. I also had spurts of amazing progress – Dean’s List, long-distance running, doing well at work. But the good was few and far between, always temporary and I never felt I was worthy of much. So I damn sure did what I could to cheapen myself.
Family checked on me in the weeks following my discharge. Understandably, the texts and calls slowed as everyone got back to their own lives. They have no idea, I thought. I was taken aback that they didn’t suspect I was ending my life soon. They are going to be shocked. But they shouldn’t be shocked. Did they really think I was going to make it?
Well, I did make it. By the grace of God and every power in our big, beautiful Universe, somehow I made it. I started seeing my old psychiatrist again and we got me stabilized on a cocktail of medication. I also began seeing my old counselor, which I believe is the most important component to healing. I need the medication to stabilize my moods but medicine can only do so much.
My family doesn’t know how close I came to ending my life, and that’s something I may keep between myself and my counselor. Maybe they should know. At this point, I am not sure what’s best for them, what’s best for me. Do I want to open old wounds? The important thing is I’m getting better and I no longer want to end my life.