There are three and they have a single goal. They are three paths, three tracks, three tools all directed to a single destination, a single outcome. What are they? What is the destination? Simply, they are psychotropics, self-work, and supports, all being used to heal me. Three paths, one destination.
Of course, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The decision not to die was made shortly after my attempt. It was immediately followed by a decision to try again to take my life. For a time, during the earliest days of my healing, the two see-sawed for dominance. Gradually, choosing not to die gained prominence. I no longer sought my death. Which gives rise to the question: what changed?
Is It Really Choice?
For me, and perhaps for others, it comes down to a choice. I choose not to die. This shouldn’t be confused with wanting to live. They aren’t the same thing. I choose not to die despite all the pain I suffer and the voice in my head telling me I’d be better off dead. I choose not to die even though the sense of worthlessness remains, a worthlessness that tells me death is the correct choice. I set aside that voice. I choose not to die.
Let me pause there for a moment. Some might argue that my suicide attempt was a choice to die. That’s not quite true. At that time, I was deep in depression, my mind diseased, my thinking horribly skewed. Everything about my illness at that time said that death was the answer. My illness was wrong. Death wasn’t, isn’t, the answer. The answer is seeking help and working on healing. So when I say I choose not to die, it isn’t really a choice. It’s more like accepting the natural order.
Let me pause once more. Wanting to live is more than not wanting to die. Wanting to live is being able to enjoy, not just endure. There’re times when that’s something I lack, something that’s currently just beyond my reach.
Three Paths, One Destination
So, I choose not to die. I make this choice because of three significant factors in my life. They are my three paths to a single destination.
The first, my use of psychotropic medications; the second, the cumulative effect of the work I’ve completed since my attempt; and the third, the support I’ve received, from family and others. The single destination is healing.
The First Path
Depression is all about the emotional mind. Depression alters the balance of power in the brain allowing emotion, not rationality, to rule. That’s the reason why rational arguments often fail to reach the suicidal person. They’re lost in the overwhelming emotion.
Psychotropics dull my emotional mind. They mute the excesses of my emotions, blunting excessive highs and lows. By reducing the influence of the emotional brain, my rational mind can reassert itself.
Rationally, I see that suicide, which remains in my thoughts, isn’t the only solution. Rationality allows me to investigate other solutions like talk therapy. My rational mind tells me that depression lies, and I can choose not to listen to those lies.
But psychotropics aren’t without a price. There are significant side-effects. For me, the most significant side-effect is a diminution of my creativity. Writing isn’t as easy as it once was. Painting is an afterthought. Colouring is fleeting. My creative energy is lost. For some, side-effects are off-putting. For me, they’re a necessary evil, a price I’m willing to pay to gain a semblance of stability. After all, I know where those unchecked emotions can lead.
By allowing the rational mind to be heard and exert influence, psychotropics make the second of the three paths more feasible.
The Second Path
Almost from the very beginning, I’ve worked hard to help myself heal. In this, Google was both friend and enemy. It fed me massive amounts of information, often too much, threatening to overwhelm me.
The information I found was printed and organized in a series of three-ring binders and outlined everything from what depression was (and wasn’t) to practical self-help methods. My research showed me that there were many ways to heal.
Through my research, I discovered the free book, The Antidepressant Skills Workbook. This book was my first real introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It helped to jumpstart the healing process. I remember sitting with my highlighter reading the ASW and struggling to comprehend it. I persevered and, over time, the skills it teaches sank in.
Shortly after, I discovered the book The Mindful Way Through Depression, which gave me another path to healing, mindfulness. Initially, the book was too much, too advanced, so I began my mindfulness practice by simply listening to the included guided meditations. For twenty minutes or so, my internal chatter was silenced and I heard a voice, not my own, in my head. Over time, as my mind recovered I was able to read more and more of the book and further my healing.
Of the two systems, mindfulness appeals to me more than CBT. There’s something poetic in learning to observe and let go of the thoughts that cause harm, rather than hang on to them and engage with them. For me, mindfulness is the preferred tool.
If you choose to explore CBT further, the books Mind Over Mood (the link is to the 2nd edition, I have the 1st) and Feeling Good are excellent. I have both in my library. And if you choose to explore mindfulness further, the books The Mindful Way Workbook and Mindfulness are also both excellent. Again, they’re part of my healing library.
Meditating, Colouring, Painting
My work hasn’t been restricted to research and reading. It’s also been following through on the research and reading by meditating, going for mindful walks, colouring, painting, and more. When I’m able, colouring and painting have been particularly helpful. Both re-introduced colour into my life and gave me a creative outlet. When I colour or paint, I’m very relaxed, entirely within that moment. They’re two of the most mindful things I do. Sadly, my diminished creative spark means I turn to these outlets less than I’d like. The motivation just isn’t there.
But by far, the best meditative tool for me is writing. I write in journals, in blogs, and in tweets. When I feel my best, my writing just flows and flows. When I feel my worst, it stops. This dichotomy helps me to gauge my mood. Of course, it’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that when I feel my best, I’m actually in a hypomanic cycle evidenced by increased productivity and enhanced focus. The hard part for me is finding and maintaining that balance between the two states, depressed and hypomanic. And like painting and colouring, creativity in my writing is difficult. Ideas don’t flow, words don’t present themselves. Sometimes the simplest sentences are a struggle to craft. But I believe that writing is a necessary tool for me. Words, in writing or in books, are integral to my sense of self’ They encapsulate so much of who I am. I no longer step aside and allow my illness to take this from me. I work to preserve it.
This brings us to the third of the three paths.
The Third Path
If it wasn’t for my family, particularly my mum, I wouldn’t be alive. That isn’t mere hyperbole. My mum’s actions on that fateful September day saved my life. Her support has gone beyond that in ways I didn’t expect. Other family members have shown support, again somewhat unexpected by me. I’m grateful for all of it.
But, by far, the most support has come from my son. My post, My Most Difficult Conversation, is about his support, support that continues to this day.
Big White Wall (now Togetherall)
I’ve been lucky to receive support from other sources. When my psychiatrist was on leave, his colleague introduced me to Big White Wall (now Togetherall) an online service I strongly support. Togetherall gave me an anonymous, free and safe online tool that allowed me to further my research and communicate with my peers. In doing so, I came to appreciate how it filled gaps in service in Ontario. For me, it’s a tool that Ontario badly needs.
Canadian Mental Health Association (Durham)
I also receive support from the Canadian Mental Health Association (Durham). That support has been remarkable, initially guiding me through the mental health system and services in Durham, and then providing ongoing monitoring of my mental health. The staff I’ve met are compassionate and caring. The CMHA (Durham) linked me with talk supports, group support and housing.
Talk supports are an integral part of healing. Counselling was provided through Durham Family Services. My counsellor was, and is, an iconoclast, counselling by pointing me in directions to further my research. He knew that I’d gain more value from doing the work myself than I would if he just gave me the answers. It’s through him that I discovered the value of journaling and gratitude. I’m glad to say that he’s a valued friend.
Group support was provided through Community Care Durham. Once again, I met a warm and compassionate person, the group facilitator, and a strong group. But it was in interacting with the group members that I grew. They showed me in the most real way possible that I wasn’t alone and allowed me to share without reservation or fear of judgement.
There you have it. Three paths, one destination. Three tools, each of which has a definite and profound role in my healing. While each path travels a different route, those paths converge to promote my healing. For this I’m grateful.
Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay