One of the main reasons I was FINALLY diagnosed was that I became more and more aware in May 2002 that the depression that had allegedly gotten better was still there at a very deep level and that although I was able to smile again, I was spending a great deal of time planning how I could kill myself if and when I became severely depressed again. I knew I very likely would and I just could not stand the idea of living through that again. So I finally admitted how bad I felt, accepted better medication, and started therapy after years of refusing.
For that first year I struggled with suicide. After I lost my best friend because she thought my illness was due to things I was/wasn't doing, I just could not see what value I had and I wound up fighting very hard to stay out of the hospital. The only reason the doctors weren't more forceful, I think, was that my insurance didn't cover psychiatric admissions so instead they saw me more frequently outpatient.
During that time I realized/was taught about the consequences of suicide. I was reminded over and over that before doing anything that was a last option I needed to be sure that was what I really wanted. Ultimately that turned into something I use even now, a simple but very effective tool. Essentially I have a list of things I must do before I can harm myself. I have several people I must tell to see if they can help (a friend I know doesn't panic, my therapist, my psychiatrist). I have to find care for my cats; it is not right to leave them without care. Bills must be paid. I don't really remember the original list, and the list can be modified to meet current circumstances. It can also be extended by the therapist and myself to go on and on so that eventually I reach a safety zone. This works so well for me that I have never gone beyond call a friend, despite having wanted to die plenty of times.
Another reason that knowing I have a lot of safety valves is that I know how to do this effectively. I know meds well. I know anatomy. And because I'm on such high doses and go through so many meds per year, I have access to a lot of harmful stuff. I need to constantly make safe decisions.
A year ago my therapist forced me to give him a carpet knife I was trying to use in a home improvement project. Much, much later, after I was not angry and humiliated anymore, I admitted this was a good idea. Not because I wanted to hurt myself, but because I was dangerous to myself. Walking wasn't so safe so I guess sharp objects weren't so safe. I rambled on about was he going to want my kitchens knives next? My forks? Was I allowed to operate a hair dryer? But he was right.
It wasn't until much later that we talked about how amazed I was that I made it through last year without really wanting to hurt myself. Usually at least at some point the rage turns in and I no longer want to live through the mixed episode, although I can talk myself out of that rage. Last year it just didn't build.
Tonight though I was digging through my nightstand for something. That is where I store all my pills. I realized that over the years I have stockpiled plenty of pills that I really shouldn't have. I had a bunch of sample boxes of Geodon, which I took 3 years ago. I had a full bottle of Trileptal. I have sleeping pills. And I have my current meds.
I realized that even though I've gotten far beyond really wanting to hurt myself I have been afraid to totally let go of that for all these years.
So I flushed them. It was actually harder than I thought. I even considered handing them over to my therapist, but since that would open me up for the whole monitoring thing and I have no desire right now to hurt myself ever, I did it myself.
I realized I'm probably not the only one hanging on to bad things. So that's my challenge to the mentally ill world: rid yourself of dangers. Turn over that carpet knife. Flush the pills you don't take (and be prepared, capsules don't flush easily). Do whatever it is to make yourself safer the next time things are out of control.
I did. And I'm glad. Glad enough I'll even tell the psychologist, who is going to yell at me. But you only have to tell me. Or not.
Just do it. Please.