Blogtember: Fear

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guess who didn't catch up over the weekend? THIS GIRL. First, the world's quickest weekend recap:

- Class
- Lab
- Played a performance of Les Mis at the Levoy Theater in Millville
- Amazing flatbread
- Pie
- Writing
- Lifetime movies
- Ironing
- Sleep
- Heating pad

BHI plate with my lovely streaking for isolation. I STILL GOT IT!

Look, I have a lactose-fermenting bacteria growing here!

A sign a saw on my way back from lab
Delicious flatbread from Miles' Table

Bourbon Caramel Peach pie from Magpie with an amazing mocha
So, that was my weekend. Now, on to the belated Day 4 post!

Day 4: A story about a time you were very afraid

I've told this story before, but it bears repeating, especially since this week is National Suicide Prevention Week. There is something about September that makes depression seem worse than usual. As The Bloggess says, ". . . there’s something about September that wants to eat you.  I don’t know why.  I just know that depression lies and it lies the loudest and most convincingly in September." 

My story doesn't take place in September. In fact, in September of 2008, I was doing pretty well. I had just started med school in mid-August and I was making friends and enjoying classes, probably because we hadn't had any exams at that point. Somewhere between then and December, things all went downhill, my depression became incredibly bad, my anxiety was through the roof, and I was on a crazy cocktail of medications to keep me functioning. My poor psychiatrist, who was employed by the school, was doing his best but it wasn't exactly working. By the time I started second semester, I was in a serious hole. I had failed 2 classes in the fall semester (by 2 points and 1.5 points, each) and knew that I had to remediate them that summer in order to go on to second year, the guy I was seeing broke up with me (I had no business dating him anyway, and honestly, I would have broken up with me too because I was losing it), I felt completely isolated, and I cried all the time. Every day when I walked to class, I crossed the highway and hoped that I would get hit by a bus. That is not an exaggeration. 

In February, the Dean of Students (who was also our histology and neuroanatomy professor), who is one of the kindest people I have ever met, asked me if I was okay and I guess my response of bursting into tears in the hallway was a good enough answer. She pulled me into her office and said that I "didn't look well" and asked if I had considered a leave of absence. I asked when I should take it. She said, "How about now?" I was so broken and blindsided that I just followed her up to the Dean's office and signed the paperwork. With a single signature, I was no longer a med student. I said something about having to go to lab, and my professor said, "No you don't. You're not in class anymore." I had no idea what to do.

So I went home. I laid in bed. For two weeks, I barely got out of bed. I barely ate. I hardly showered. I fed the cats. I didn't talk to anyone. I cried. I half-heartedly applied to jobs because now that I had no classes to go to, I didn't have loan money anymore, and that was bad because I had nothing to live off of. I wanted to go home, but I didn't want to leave my dad (who lived 10 minutes from me). I didn't want anyone to know that I had "failed" at medical school, and in my mind, that meant that I had failed at LIFE.

At the bottom of my depression, I was laying in bed, contemplating taking every single one of my pills on my nightstand. For weeks, I didn't want to die, but I certainly didn't want to be alive anymore. I was fortunate that my depression was still so bad that I couldn't even motivated enough to act on my suicidal feelings (or "ideations" as the clinical world calls them). I was on the phone with my mom when the words fell out of my mouth, and as any mother would do, she immediately started freaking out (but quietly). She insisted that I call the crisis hotline provided by the school, or any crisis hotline. She threatened that if I didn't, she'd call my father and the police. I hung up and called the hotline. I wished my therapist had been on that night, but he wasn't. A very nice lady made me stay on the phone while she called the police, who showed up at my house within minutes. I remember thinking that I should put on real clothes and that I hadn't worn a bra in a long time. The police officers asked if I had any weapons, and I said that I had 2 cats (which looking back, is confusing and hysterical). 

They ushered me into the back of a police car. At this point, I started crying and I essentially didn't stop for 4 days. As I checked into the hospital, I had never been more scared in my life. I felt like I was losing my mind. I was afraid of what people would say, what people would think. I was afraid that I would never leave. And I was afraid that I had felt as horrible as I did. What if I hadn't been on the phone with my mom? What if I had hurt myself somehow? None of it felt good.

I spent four days in the hospital and it was terrible, mainly because they switched all my meds, I had terrible side effects, and I couldn't stop crying. Also, I was in a mental hospital, so that is pretty terrible all by itself. My dad came to see me every day, and my friends (who I hadn't really spoken to in weeks) came to sit with me as well. When I was released, I realized that I had lost 12 pounds (I don't recommend this diet) and that I had no idea what to do with my life. 

Since then, things have gotten much better, but I always remember how bad things were and how at any moment, they could theoretically get that bad again. I'm healthy (ish) at this point; I see my therapist every other week and I take my singular psych med religiously (being on multiple ones was a disaster!). I try not to think about the fact that I could get sick again someday, because worrying about it now only robs me of my present moments of healthiness. 

If you or someone in your life is struggling from depression, you don't have to do this alone. You are worthwhile, you are special, and we need you. Reach out to someone; you have people who love you and who need you here. If you'd like to get involved in mental health awareness, here are some places to check out:

IMAlive - The world's first online crisis network

To Write Love on Her Arms - A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

Post Secret - While not a suicide prevention organization, Frank Warren and the supporters of the blog are heavily involved in promoting mental health awareness

And this is one of my the best TedTalks I've seen:

So there you have it. A time I was really, truly, afraid. I apologize for the "downer" nature of this post but... it's important. The more we talk about depression and anxiety, the faster we can destroy the stigma around it.

Take care of yourselves. Be kind to yourselves. 

- A

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