To be honest, I’d rather be writing about something else, and I look forward to doing that soon. At the same time, I know a lot of you have sent texts, prayers, encouragement and support my way. For that I am extremely humbled and grateful, and I feel like it might be helpful for you and therapeutic for me to explain what happened.
About a year ago I wrote about my occasional bouts with depression. I’m not going to repeat all of that here, but you can click on the link if you’re interested.
In that post I noted several of the triggers that always or frequently accompany my episodes. Last Monday night/Tuesday morning I checked off pretty much all of those plus a couple more, leading to the darkest time in my life so far.
No matter how illogical I knew my thinking was, I just could not overcome my feelings of guilt, self-hatred, and despair. I had no plan to kill myself, but I did wish that I could cease to exist. I felt that I was destined to die the same way my father did, whether it was that day or sometime in the future, and therefore nothing mattered. I was a terrible husband, a terrible father, a terrible human.
I couldn’t breathe, much less sleep. And sleep is what I needed more than anything. I needed someone to shoot me with horse tranquilizers and wake me up two days later. I knew this was worse than any of my other episodes, and it felt like there was no way it could end.
After keeping myself and Missy up all night, I called my brother Andrew. I didn’t want him to drive up from Norman but he was concerned so he came over. Talking to Andrew made me feel better, so when I got off the phone with him I called Chad in Missouri. That also helped but as soon as I was alone with my thoughts they went right back to that very dark place.
I knew I was extremely tired and that my thoughts weren’t logical, but after hours of hyperventilating, sleep seemed as impossible as happiness. It was just a never-ending cycle of negative thoughts about myself and my future. This basically went on uninterrupted from about 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. — 18 hours of bad thinking and crappy breathing, plus I was starting to get dehydrated from crying too much.
In the middle of that, around 1 p.m., my family decided I needed to get checked in somewhere so that I would be safe and get some sleep. They chose Oakwood Springs on the north side of Oklahoma City, so off we went.
For now I’m going to skip over what that week was like and get straight to the moral of the story. If you’re interested in what being locked up in a psych ward is like, that will be the topic of my next blog.
I learned a lot of things. Being without a cell phone and a TV for a week was a good way to reset and appreciate what really matters in life. Hearing about all the love and support my friends and family have for me was very heartwarming. It made me feel unworthy yet again but also gave me a purpose and motivation to fight through this.
It helped to be with people who had similar struggles to my own. There were about 24 beds in my unit, and basically everyone was dealing with depression on some level or another. Despite people constantly coming and going there was definitely a sense of community, and it helped to know I wasn’t the only person in the world going through this.
The staff at Oakwood Springs is amazing. I’m not talking about the doctors or therapists but the PCAs who hold the place together. They showed an amazing level of kindness, patience and love no matter what crisis was going on in the unit that day (and trust me, there’s some kind of crisis in the unit every day).
Some of the group sessions and time spent by myself thinking about those sessions taught me very valuable lessons. For one, I was able to write down all of my triggers and think logically about how those can cause me to tip over the edge. Before, I knew what my triggers were but kind of just did my best to get by until one day I didn’t. I could afford a couple of crappy, crying nights every year, but I knew I couldn’t afford another night like the one last week where I desired death for the first time. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.
I learned some small things I can do to help check those trigger levels and push them back a little. Journaling, breathing exercises, things to think/meditate on, situations to avoid, etc.
I started on a low dose of an anti-depressant. I’d never taken them before because I didn’t feel like my episodes were frequent or severe enough to warrant it, plus I’ve always been scared of the side effects. I’d still like to be completely med-free, but for now I recognize the importance of getting past this stage. So far I haven’t had any side effects to speak of.
I also started getting some therapy. In hindsight, I realize that never getting counseling after my dad died was stupid. Never getting counseling when I started having sleepless nights filled with guilt was stupid. Waiting for it to get this bad was stupid. But I’m in it now, and I’m hopeful it will help.
Again, I’m so thankful for my family and friends. I feel incredibly loved.