Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Year I Survived Suicide

[Trigger Warning: Uncensored exploration of self-harm, suicide, and extreme exposure to the vulnerable side of Luna's brain. May contain trace amounts of navel-gazing.]

This year, I survived suicide. At least three times. The incidents have started to blur together,  so let's go with three. It's a nice round number.

I've only recently stabilized enough to process what that means. Last week a friend attempted, and the strong emotions that bubbled up showed just how much I needed to process my own recent encounters with death. I'm not here to tell her story. It's not mine to tell. But I've decided to finally tell my own. 


There are far more reasons to not talk about it. Those of us who suffer from suicidal thoughts also suffer shame for thinking them. The illnesses that lead to anguish and despair are themselves shameful, without the added "sin" and "crime" of killing oneself. I didn't want to talk about it then, not on Twitter, not to friends or family, not to therapists, and not even to crisis lines. I didn't want to be drama. I didn't want anyone to think I was manipulating them. When I felt better, I lied and told myself I was fine. When I felt terrible, I wanted everyone to think I was fine. I'm strong, independent, smart, rational. All the time. I wanted to pretend my weak times weren't really me.

Even well after the fact, I've hesitated and procrastinated writing this post. I've debated the merits and drawbacks. And then, along came Suicide Prevention Week. The Bloggess wrote a timely post on it, so I figured...

It's time. I am throwing aside my shame. I will use my aspy powers of unorthodox bluntness, and unwise social decisions, and a general blindness for knowing what's appropriate, and a pinch of impulsivity to tell everyone exactly how close I came to killing myself this year.

Because the stigma needs to end. Because those in pain need to feel okay reaching out. And those who suffer need to realize they're not the only ones who suffer. Anyone who finds themselves grasping the sheets in despair on those long, dark nights need to know that successful, talented, beautiful people also have dark nights, or weeks, or years when we hate ourselves. If someone like me can hate myself*, then maybe, just maybe, those other beautiful, talented, worthwhile souls will realize they, too, have something to be admired for. Something to contribute. Just one more little excuse to hang on a little longer. Because on those dark nights, every little excuse is a lifeline.

* Yes, I just called myself successful, talented, and beautiful. I'm also impulsive, blunt, socially unwise, and yeah we already covered that.

I didn't attempt, but I did everything up to that point. Had there been a quick and painless way to do it, I surely would have. I own a handgun, and thankfully, at the first sign I was remotely suicidal, Roland made me send my handgun to live with my parents, because there were nights when I repeatedly and vividly imagined what I would do with it. There were times when I wished I hadn't given it up. Or that my parents lived closer. Or that pills or knives would be quick and painless. Because honestly, fear of pain and the thought of surviving an attempt were my only deterrents.

I survived suicide. It is hard to admit that to myself and be sympathetic. There is a trauma in surviving any brush with death, and as I've discovered, suicide is no different. Hearing about suicide takes me away to another place now, where I drift off into a melancholic, mild dissociation, where I'm tempted to erect walls to keep away the tears or depression, where I practice avoidance behaviors which are not typical for me, because I normally like to face emotions and problems head-on.

I have worked through enough PTSD to recognize it. Which only follows. If I'd had a gun pointed at me by an angry person (I have) or almost gotten into a car accident (I have), I'd feel the same.. a remnant of fear, lack of safety, the awareness that the same thing could happen again, at any time. And sadness because I remember how I felt. The desire to kill myself was the least of my worries. The relentless pain and terror that led me to that state is a not-too-distant wound that time has yet to heal. I fear that state, I fear myself, I fear the people around me who unwittingly helped me get into that state.

And the empathy I feel for anyone else in that state is overwhelming, if I let myself think about it.

This is not the first time I've felt suicidal. Long, long ago, when I was a young single mother with no prospects, I suffered relentless depression. I ideated, but never got serious. My religion listed suicide as the third worst sin (after murder and denying the Holy Ghost, but slightly worse than sex). The eternal consequences would make my shitty temporal life seem like heaven. This is exactly the type of harmful stigma I am now against, but at least it worked as an effective stop-gap measure to keep serious suicidal desires at bay long enough for me to get help.

I went to 12-step groups, read self-help books, got therapy whenever I could afford it (rarely), and learned about cognitive behavior methods (CBT). My depression became manageable and I left suicide in my distant history.

But the anxiety never really went away. Instead, found the strength to push through it, day after day after day. I did what I had to do to keep down a job and rear a child. I felt fear and did things anyway, never realizing I was suffering needlessly. I also coped by solving all problems as quickly as possible, and avoiding things had no solution.

If I can't solve or ignore a problem, fear builds and leads to situations that cause more anxiety. I'm especially set off by conflict, which, up until I met Roland, I was able to avoid most of the time. But being strong-willed, living with a strong-willed life partner leads to ample unavoidable conflict, which only escalated and compounded over the years. With every fight, so increased my anxiety, until I was melting down regularly, and terrified the rest of the time that a fight was just around the corner. I got to the point where I welcomed depression as a soothing relief from the long term throb of anxiety. It became the new normal. This became unsustainable.

So it was in April 2013 that I got my Asperger's diagnosis. First came relief. Finally, some answers. Finally, validation, an official certificate* I could wave at other people saying, "Yes, I'm really hurting this much. I'm not just throwing a tantrum; I'm not trying to manipulate anyone. I really am terrified and overwhelmed and want to disappear into a tiny dot."

* They don't actually give you a certificate.

But like a blade with two edges, my diagnosis carried with it a frightening new truthI will always be this way. Before, I held onto gossamer threads of hope: Therapy's this week. Once I get to the bottom of this trigger, I'll be okay. Once I improve my communication skills, everything will get better. I'll just read this book. Okay, now that book. I'll try harder to listen. I'll try harder to explain myself. I'll be more patient. He will eventually see how much he's hurting me. He will eventually listen to me. If only, if only... Solve, solve, solve.

Suddenly the spider had stopped spinning the silk. The fantasy of hope had transformed into... into what? I didn't know. All I knew was that parts of me, not sure which parts, but some parts, would never change. I'm just wired that way.

During my meltdowns, I've always tended to turn inward. The pain is raw and searing, a physical pain, like molten lava or acid is pumping through my veins. I am not exaggerating. I used to think it felt this way for everyone. I used to think burning skin was normal anxiety. So I curl inward when I'm melting down, and scratch at myself. I find odd relief in visualizing a physical cause for the pain. Knives stabbing. Razors slicing. I dig my fingernails into my wrists and hands and arms because the sharpness distracts a little from the fire playing on my skin.

So there's an Asperger's element that is not neurotypical, and totally different from traditional self-harm. I seek a sensation strong enough to wipe out my pain. Sometimes that means more pain, or different pain, or at least pain I have some control over. And this leads me to want to stop existing. And that leads me to wanting to die, to cease existing, to vanish from a world of horrors.

Out of long-habit, I grasp for a reason for my pain, and for a comforting explanation for why I'm behaving so shamefully and out of control. The argument begins with me trying to convince the other person of how much they are hurting me. This strategy often fails (why can't people just listen?) so after awhile, I start to blame myself. Every bad thing the other person has said, every shred of criticism, even that spoken out of pain or love, I turn inward, like a dagger. I imagine their words are a knife, and I make up my own phrases, and with all those words, I stab myself in the gut.

I fight off this moment in the conflict. I tell myself to stay calm, rational, but eventually, the dam breaks, the scale tips, and out come the internalized phrases of self-loathing. There's no rational thought left at this pointit isn't even possible. My amygdala has taken over and I'm in flight-fight-freeze-or-appease mode. Yes, I know I should be telling myself rational, true things, not these forms of verbal self-abuse, but I can't help it anymore.

It's like I have two sides, a little cartoon angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other, representing my healthy and unhealthy voices. The deeper I go into anxiety, the louder the unhealthy one gets, until the healthy voice doesn't even try. That unhealthy voice starts out wanting to protect me in the only way she can. Defense is her goal. Protect the vulnerable bits. Be vigilant for danger. Everything is dangerous. Destroy the danger before it destroys me. Until the unhealthy voice gets too loud, and she wants to lash out, hurt myself, hurt others, wallow in self pity, or die. Her methods take on a life of their own. When it gets that far, I have a murderer living inside me. An ugly, spiteful murderer who knows all my weaknesses.

The healthy voice delivers all the hopeful phrases, the CBT, the patience and validation and self-care. It's that healthy part of me that keeps me alive, even when she's just a whisper. She is what stops me from planning, who puts off doing the worst until the last possible minute. Sometimes she goes silent, and that is when things get most scary.

So I'm used to wanting to die during a meltdown, and used to wanting to hurt myself. That is very different from wanting to kill myself. Which is what changed in April.

My pain had been building for five years. I'd lost many of my previous sources of stability, ability to control my surroundings, and other coping mechanisms. Years of conflict baggage with Roland and a number of destabilizing life events and the diagnosis all culminated in the Grand Answer: It's all my fault. Or so it sometimes seemed. Most days I met with a hopeful outlook. I had information now. I had something I could work with. Roland was beginning to understand me and I was building new coping mechanisms.

But not in my darkest hours. In those moments, when my skin had been drenched in acid and set on fire, I was a broken, useless person. I was a horrible person, forever emotionally damaged, with no hope of improving. I had hurt the people around me, and I would always hurt the people around me, especially those I loved. I couldn't bear that thought. Worse, I felt rejected. No one wants to be around me when I am in pain. I chase everyone away. I am too much for them. Having Asperger's meant I would always be too much for them.

For the first time in nearly two decades, I wanted to kill myself. Unlike then, this time I was serious. No more did I have religious strictures against it. Beyond this life is likely only endless night, a soft peaceful sleep I craved.

My most recent, and worst episode was about a month ago. My healthy voice recognized I needed help, and I managed to mutter a "someone should watch me" warning before rushing to my room to hide under my desk. No one came to watch me right away. My partners had their own pain to figure out. They had to put on their own oxygen mask before helping me.

For first time in my life, I made a plan there, under that desk. I finally let myself figure out how I could do it painlessly. I began walking myself through the steps: Pull the car into the garage, close the door, and leave the engine running. [Spoiler: See below why this is actually a very bad plan.]

My healthy voice got quieter and quieter, yet more and more desperate, as I rehearsed each of the steps like a mantra. Finally, the healthy voice managed a solution that had gotten me through a previous night: Don't fight the self-destructive energies. Reroute them to something safer. I reached for a bottle of alcohol I'd bought in Iceland, which for reasons I'd been storing under there next to the recycling box, and I chugged. I had one goal: to make my body not function. If I couldn't move, then I couldn't park the car in the garage. 

Eventually, Joci came to watch me, and she took care of me, and in my self-loathing drunken state, I could only tell her how sorry I was, over and over. I was ashamed and mortified by my behavior yet again, but at least I lived through the night.

Those who speak of suicide always plead, "Reach out to someone. Please. Just talk to someone." I'm one of those people now. Because I understand how much it hurts and I know exactly how hard it is to talk to anyone. You are so vulnerable in that moment, so tender. You are looking for any excuse to do it, and any excuse not to do it. You feel weak and helpless and whiny. You wonder if you're just trying to get attention. You remember all the weak, helpless, whiny people you've ever judged and realize you are now that person. You desperately need help, you want validation, you want comfort and love, but you know that if you ask someone for help, and they say no, you will suffer the deepest kind of rejection at the worst possible time, as if they are saying, "Go ahead and do it. See if I care." 

Or so it seems. Because everything in that zone is distorted, like an emotional landscape by Salvador Dalí using your worst nightmares as paint. Anything painful is amplified, shouted over a megaphone, and anything soothing is ephemeral at best, ethereal at worst.

The Great Masturbator, Dalí, 1929
Outside the zone, it's easier to see how people care about you. Of course they care. If someone you knew felt suicidal, you'd rush to help them. In this safe space, I try to memorize what it's like to be the one who wants to help. Most everyone I know would be willing to help me. My inner-angel knows that. My inner-devil doesn't believe a word of it. My inner devil believes everyone hates me, that I'm a bother, and I am crazy or needy or childish, and I should deal with problems on my own.

In April, I contacted a crisis line. And in spite of my shame and fear that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do, I reached out to a relatively new friend. (See previous notes about impulsivity and lack of social filters.) "Gene" at the 839863 text number kept me alive one dark night, and Remy Nakamura kept me afloat through at least another. I don't think I've ever had anyone save my life before. These two did. And they would do it again. As would most anyone else in my close or even far circles.

(Those closest to you may not be capable of certain kinds of support. They are dealing with their own needs and you're entangled with them in ways that may lead to further pain as they try to protect themselves. This isn't because they don't love youit's because they love you. Others may not be able or willing to help for their own reasons. Those are their own reasons that have no actual bearing on your worth.)

Updated to add that many other people helped me through this time, not just the people I've mentioned. I specifically called out people I contacted when I was in the most pain and when it was most difficult to reach out. I didn't want to forget everyone else who also supported me and made their willingness clear.

When fear and pain kick in, the neocortex actually stops working. So I have to spend this time, right now, while I'm feeling okay, to give my healthy voice tools to use when I'm on those dark paths. This is the time to remind myself that people want to help. Because later, it will take everything I have to convince myself.

My unhealthy voice wants tools, too. I sympathize with her (because she is me), and I know that someday I might be hiding under the desk again, and that plan with the car in the garage may come in handy. So I didn't reveal my plan to anyone in my family. But I did tell my psychiatrist, because ultimately, I don't really want a useful plan on standby. That is not conducive to my survival. Without blinking an eye, my psychiatrist informed me that the car-in-the-garage method almost always leaves the victim alive, with brain damage. Not so painless after all. Alive with brain damage is a fate worse than death. So I thankfully have no plan again. (I have such a smart psychiatrist. She knew exactly how to get to me.)

We are programmed by evolutionary forces to stay alive. Our bodies are remarkably resilient and will fight overwhelming odds to keep breathing. So what could cause an override of these instincts?

These three factors together ensure the risk of a completed suicide:

  1. Thwarted Belongingness (feeling alone)
  2. Perceived Burdensomeness (yes, that seems to be a real word)
  3. Capability for Suicide (not afraid to die)


Image from Understanding Suicide In Helping Active Military,
Veterans & Their Families Build Resilience in Facing Risk and Adversity
With only one or two of these items, ideation may occur. A victim may wish to die, or may fantasize about suicide, or attempt without really intending it to work. These are the "cries for help" we hear about, which are also, sadly, stigmatized. These are referred to as "just" cries for help, but think about that. Chances are, that person has been crying for help for so long, and no one has been listening. Their friends and family (and maybe even helping professionals) don't trust that the pain is real. Or perhaps well-meaning people simply don't know how to help. Either way, in this state of perpetual helplessness, the cry for help moves from words to actions, and it's important to listen rather than dismiss it as "just" anything.

Another important thing we learn from this diagram is that suicide is not selfish. "Perceived burdensomeness" comes from a places of self-hatred and a distorted idea that the world would be better off without me. I cause pain, therefore, if I really love my partners, I will remove myself from their lives completely. There's a sense of self-punishment, that I've committed too many crimes against humanity, and that I must take justice into my own hands. As ridiculous as this sounds, it seems as true as toast when it happens.

I feel passionately about reducing stigma around mental health and suicide. The victim is already taking on more than she can handle. At DEFCON 21, I attended a thought-provoking panel on suicide risk assessment given by Amber Baldet. As she rightly pointed out, society views suicide as a moral issue, and the language we use is important for framing that. Yes, had I "killed myself", I would have technically been complicit in my own murder. But it was, in most respects, as outside of my control as cancer or heart disease or a car accident. No one could have done anything more than I did to get healthy. I was seeing a therapist twice a month, and had been for years. I got a diagnosis for my condition. I spent many hours a week reading about how to cope with Asperger's. I was on a healthy diet. I was seeking, and finally taking, medication. I was meditating. I was self-soothing. I was taking deep breaths. I was reading aloud affirmations. I was seeking support from my family and friends while relying on myself as much as possible. 

Even with all that, I still hurt badly enough to override my survival instinct. If that's not an illness, I don't know what is.

In her exit story from the LDS Church, "Losing My Mind, Bit By Bit", Pam Kazmaier said, "The reality of mental illness is discrimination and blame. It’s the only illness we blame people for having. It doesn’t happen with a heart attack, just a brain attack." And what I experienced is a brain attack. My brain seized up and ceased to function for so long and in such painful ways that I could only see one way out.

One dark night, Roland held me. Instead of continuing to vent his own frustration and pain, he simply held me and said, "This is all just a terrible nightmare. You're having a nightmare." He acknowledged my horror, naming it. He rocked me and told me that tomorrow when I awoke it would all be better. For the first time, he seemed to understand how much I hurt. And with that support, I was able to acknowledge to myself how nightmarish it was, like a heart attack, like a car accident, like being tortured.

No one "commits" suicide the way people commit a sin or a crime. Because no one commits a heart attack. This is a health issue, not a moral issue. Instead, people die or nearly die of suicide. It is a terrible health epidemic, and if it is at all a moral issue, we should look at society, not the victim. And no one "fails" a suicide attempt, as if there is success to be found in an otherwise preventable death.

I support Amber Baldet's suggestion that we change the language around this topic, and the morality of it, and the stigma. If I have pain in my chest, I call 911 without hesitation. If I have pain in my heart, I want to hide it. And there's something wrong with that.

No two people are alike, and when we hear that, we think of people's appearance, personality, and talents. But it also means that emotionally, we're also different. It's easy to judge. I think, "If I can do it, so can you. It's easy for me, so it should be easy for you, and if it's not, then there's something wrong with your motivation or drive or morals. I choose to be awesome, and so should you." That is society's predominant view. It stems from the well-intentioned Golden Rule, which states that we should treat others like we want to be treated. But it assumes we play on the same game board and were given the same starting position and none of the dice are loaded. It assumes we all have the same needs and wants and desires. It's a huge mistake because it leads to all kinds of distorted values.

It's easy to assume my experience is the same everyone else's. I compare myself to others. Look how far they got, when I'm still way back here. What we forget is that the playing field isn't the same for everyone. How easy it becomes to judge others. Along the way, we judge ourselves just as, or sometimes more, harshly.

In April, I discovered that I was bad at some things, not because I was lazy, or not trying, or not choosing hard enough. It turns out that some tasks which are simple for most people are extremely difficult for me. Likewise, some things that are super easy for me are really hard for most people.

Your experience of the world is nothing like anyone else's. If it seems easy for everyone else, but not for you, maybe that's because it really is harder for you. Maybe that means you need a little extra help in some areas, and you need people to be more patient and understanding with you. That's okay, because you have other strengths, more than enough to make up for them. That's why we live in a civilization, a society, where people specialize, so they don't have to become good at everything.

One thing I struggle with is that I feel emotions more powerfully than other people. And a number of other problems that lead to meltdowns and long, dark nights that are a struggle to survive. I have strengths to compensate.

I will tell you what I tell myself: There are people willing to help. If you don't feel safe enough trusting your friends or family (which is perfectly understandable if you feel vulnerable), then call a crisis line. If phones scare the hell out of you (like they do me), then did you know there are chat and SMS crisis lines? (Chat lines are often closed late at night. Text "ANSWER" to 839863, which is 24/7).

I know it's hard, scary, painful, but reach out. And if you try once and get turned down, or the number doesn't work, or something happens, don't take it as proof that no one loves you or wants to save you. (Believe me, I understand the allure of that temptation.) Give your angel-voice all the fuel you can and keep reaching out. Try one last time. And then try again.


And seek professional help. If you're already seeing a therapist, call her. (I never manage to call mine, even though she's told me to. It's hard to want to "bother" her in the moment, but she assures me it's okay.) Consider talking to a psychiatrist about taking medication or changing your existing meds. If you're worried about money, I heard Obamacare expands mental health coverage for most people, so look into that. (Thanks, Obama.)

Amber Baldet recommends everyone develop a crisis plan while we're happy and healthy and the neocortex is working properly. Yes, everyone. Because even though it seems like life is perfect and blissful and I'm so healthy and awesome (clearly more heathy and rational than everyone else), we all are at risk of having a dark night. Shit happens, and it comes out of nowhere, and there could be some problem out there that finally gets to you.

A crisis plan is simply a list of things to do and people to talk to at various stages of emotional upset, up to and including feeling suicidal. You obtain agreements from people ahead of time — Person A can offer me X hours of time when things are bad, and person B can offer another Y hours when things are worse. And then you file it away with a giant note written in red marker, "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY!" Here's a link to the form. Fill it out. It's better than filling out a will, and the life you save could be your own.

I had lots of practical fears about reaching out. If you've never done it, it's an uncomfortable mystery. Will they laugh and tell you it isn't so bad? Will they pester you with tons of questions? Will the Secret Red Cross fly in rescue helicopters to rush you to a hospital you can't afford and lock you away without consent?

Well it's your lucky day because I can tell you what happens when you call a crisis line: They listen. You don't have to tell them anything. They aren't pushy. You can just dump on them, and say whatever you want, even your most shameful secrets. They don't send you to the hospital or anything. They just listen. And on dark nights, that means everything.

When you tell a therapist or psychiatrist, unless you're ready to do it right then, they just listen, too. And then they help you to get healthy using their powerful skills and expertise that comes from schooling and experience. They give you tools to self-sooth and otherwise avoid pain and give you strategies for avoiding suicide itself. You may end up with a therapist or doctor that sucks, in which case, by all means, find someone who fits better. You can fire a therapist at any time.

What happens when you tell friends or family? Most of your friends (if they're worth being your friend) care about you and want to help and will do everything within their skills and power to do so. Keep in mind that everyone has their own fears and weaknesses and everyone makes mistakes. Not every friend will handle it well. There are a lot of myths about suicide, and chances are they believe some or all of them, and might react poorly. Don't take this as a sign that you suck, and don't take it as a reason to not reach out. Give it a try, and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

You are not alone. I don't just mean that in the cliched sense, or in the sense that people are in the room with you right now. I also mean that the person in the room with you may be just as sad as you, just as anxious, just as fearful or dying a little bit, day by day. The people you admire most may have struggled with suicide in their past, or may even be struggling right now. You will probably never know, because they probably will never tell you. They're just as ashamed of it as you are.

It's hard for me to say I survived, past tense, because the threat remains, lurking there in the shadows. I feel fine today; in fact, I feel great. But in many ways, it feels like I am still surviving, like at any moment, great will turn to terrible, and the despair will have me again. Until then, I do all I can to feed the positive voice that wants me to stay alive. And encourage that positive voice in others.

Yeah, the world is filled with an incomprehensible number of unique snowflakes. Yet I cannot be replaced. And neither can you. 

22 comments:

  1. Thank you for putting words to what so many of us had felt at one time or another.

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  2. Luna, this is one of the most powerful articles I've ever read on a first hand account of depression and suicide. Thank you SO MUCH for being willing to write it, post it, and help so many others suffering with this similar condition.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. :) That makes it worth writing.

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  3. <3

    Suicide takes a lot of courage to write about. Thanks for doing so.

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  4. This is all excellent and true.

    There's a problem, though, and I know it firsthand. The problem is that psychic pain, currently, is not what either psychiatry or psychology is set up to mitigate or alleviate. If you're in the US, and you're feeling absolutely savaged by pain, and you tell a doctor, the decision tree will ask you whether you are immediately suicidal. If the answer is yes, you can be involuntarily committed and drugged, and whatever modalities they happen to have on hand -- CBT, group crafts, what have you -- will be applied, all without regard to what kind of a shambles this might be making of the life you've just been plucked out of.

    If you say no, you're not immediately suicidal, you will be offered a menu of therapies that, in general, have little or nothing to do with either the alleviation of psychic pain or external realities that induce it. But they're the things therapists are trained in, and they're very good for some other problems, like remedying mild anxiety, self-doubts, things like this. If you don't want that, you can have some drugs. If you don't want either, you'll be asked what you think the doctor can do for you, and if you then reply that if you knew that you'd have taken care of it yourself, but that you'd hoped the doc would be smart and apply some humanity and imagination, you're extremely likely to find yourself shit out of luck.

    The best writer, best psychologist, I've seen on this subject is Ed Shneiderman, who died some years ago and was a noted and plainspoken suicidologist. But his work is very oldfashioned now and that's not the sort of thing that supports a medical or quasi-medical industry; one needs innovation.

    I'm sorry to be so acrid about it. All you say here is true; i just don't know what to do about it, and I have watched suicide happen, too, without knowing what to do about it. The usual advice is wellmeant but lacks understanding of suicidality.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It's true that helping professionals don't always know what to do. Just as in medicine, there are some diseases with no cure, and some diseases where the cure only works some of the time, so goes mental health. In some ways, mental health is behind the curve, partly because the mind is extremely complex, but also because of the stigma attached to the field and those who suffer.

      Nevertheless, many therapies often work, and many drugs work often as well. When they can't cure a person, just as in medicine, they can at least alleviate some of the symptoms until maybe, someday a "cure" is found. (This analogy doesn't fit entirely, because some non-neurotypicals like me believe Aspergers in particular is a gift, so really all I'm looking for is soothing of the "symptoms".)

      At least it's something, and many, many people find relief in CBT, talk therapy, EMDR, meds, and other methods. (I've found relief in all of these.) They don't work for everyone, and in no case do they work overnight and never without lots of effort and even bravery on the part of the patient. Some find no relief in spite of all their efforts, and this is truly sad, as sad as the cancer patient for whom chemo and surgery don't work. That is no reason to throw out all of medical science.

      Is it likely societal pressures of various kinds are at play here? Possibly. But that seems like more of an impossible problem to solve. There's a chicken and egg situation. Society is made of people. If society is sick, do you fix the individuals or the culture? I think the answer is both. One wonderful thing you can say about our society, though, is that we have enough wealth that we have time to worry about our states of mind and emotional well being. It is a luxury we take for granted and not one enjoyed by everyone on the planet.

      I think what we'll find is that we all have very different brains, and rather than try to cure us all, science will come up with coping mechanisms (be it meds, habits, therapies, occupational skills training, or what have you) to suit all the different minds. Children will be raised in ways that support their unique talents rather than literally being driven crazy from trying to squeeze them into a mold they won't fit.

      I think we can get there, but it means we have to be patient (and grateful) for the science we have right now. They're learning new things in leaps and bounds. I am very optimistic.

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  5. Luna, this broke my heart but I'm so glad you shared it. I have my own diagnosis, not Asberger's, but many of symptoms are the same and I also act impulsively and drive people away when I feel wronged or cornered and so I feel constantly alone. I love and hate so very strongly and can't seem to hold onto the reins.

    I had a suicide attempt in April. I handn't even told my psychiatrist that I really made an attempt until this past week because I used pills and I was afraid she'd take my lorazepam away if she knew. I hinted to Cory to try to get him to understand how bad things were for me but he didn't really get it. He had actually taken care of me when I was blacked out (but active) after I took the pills but he didn't realize what was really going on. He just thought I had too much to drink or something. I've since told him that I really was trying to kill myself at the time. I needed him to know, as scary as it was to admit it.

    I'm still struggling. I haven't had any luck finding a good med balance and I'm feeling pretty defeated. I hate my crazy. I hate that it will never go away. I feel your pain and I'm so grateful to you for being open and letting me know that I'm not alone.

    I'm posting this anonymously because I'm not as brave as you are but there are clues here.

    Hugs,
    C :)

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    1. Hey C, thanks for sharing. There are studies showing that sharing helps alleviate shame, (when done in a validating and supportive environment). I don't know you well but I'm glad you're still with us.

      My psych told me how lucky I was that my med worked so quickly and that the outlook for it continuing to work is good. (BTW, I have to take an extremely low dose (about 1/8th of normal) or it messes me up. Something to consider?) It's really hard when the solutions aren't working, and as I mentioned in a previous comment, it isn't easy even when they do work.

      Hugs and hearts.

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  6. I tried to reply last night but I was on my phone and had some trouble with the captcha so it looks like it got lost.

    You're are so fortunate to have found the right med so quickly! I've had 6 med changes in the last 2 years. Sometimes, it seems as though we've found the one only for it to later just stop working and sometimes the side effects are so terrifying from the start that I have to stop taking them for my own safety and what's left of my sanity. I've just started a new one about a week ago and am trying to hold out hope that this time will be better. The doc started me at a super low dose and is increasing very gradually in the hopes that we can find the minimal dose to provide benefits with minimal risk of side effects. So far, there's been no positive change in my moods but it's still super early and there's a lot to overcome. I've been a pretty big wreck lately. I gained 30 pounds in 2 months on my last med so I basically don't even want to be seen (or see myself) at all and the isolation makes my crazy worse (feeling like I'm not missed/wanted or that everyone is happier without me anyway, feeling guilt for making Cory put up with me in this condition, etc.). I have little pep talks with myself to hang in there and keep my chin up and just keep trying but I am so freaking tired. Fingers crossed that the meds start making life feel easier soon.

    At any rate, I'm glad you're still here too. Kudos to you for finding support from others and finding ways to support yourself. Hang on to that. Keep asking for help when you need it, even if you feel like you shouldn't (I know those feeling well).

    C :)

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    1. It's funny because your first comment came through to my email where I have all comments going, but it didn't show up here. I'd say the problem is on Blogger's side. :)

      At any rate, that sounds like quite the struggle. It sounds like stepping up slowly is the best way to go. I warned my psych that I'm med-sensitive (I'm a lightweight with alcohol and caffeine, etc, and Aspy people tend to be high metabolizers), so we started much lower than is normal, and even that was too much so I cut that starting dose in half. As I climbed towards the target dose, I hit a point that was too high. The side effects lasted a full week, so I cut back to the last stable dose, and that's where I've been at since. Sometimes I wonder if meds end up not working because the doctor tries too high a dose to start for that person's biochemistry.

      Eventually, I think we'll have tests so they can tell right away what is more likely to work and what will definitely not work. The work NIH is doing to make psychiatry more scientific than it's been is really encouraging, and they're starting to develop better diagnostic methods. I'm very optimistic. :)

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  7. Oh my goodness, a test to determine the appropriate meds would be a freaking dream come true. Hopefully, in our lifetime.

    I am a slow metabolizer. Same problem on the reverse. It's hard to figure out how much of what is or isn't working when my body is on government time.

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    1. Ah, lame. :( Well, the SSRI I'm on generally takes several months to know for sure how it will turn out, and I'm still in the middle of that process, but so far so good. :)

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  8. i got here from Amy's post. thank you for posting this, Luna. i'm a psych NP and so i spend a lot of time talking with people, in detail, about their suicidal thoughts and past history of suicidality. it's been clear to me from the get-go that suicide is seen as a way to end psychological pain for the person in pain.

    i'm so very glad you reached out for help, that your healthy self was able to assert herself at times, that you got super drunk that one night to keep from harming yourself, that you are still here and able to talk about this in a way that others can see. one drawback to my work is that it's done in private, and i can't really discuss it much due to (totally legit) privacy laws. blogs where people talk about what's really in their minds when they think about self-harm are so helpful to reduce stigma and shame.

    peace be with you. may the meds keep working. may the dark nights be none.

    Anna

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  9. I survived my own suicide. Everyone tells me that I am lucky to be alive, yet the nights have become darker and longer. I constantly feel afraid. I've recently been involuntarily and suddenly reliving the experience in a state of what feels like unconsciousness. It is so frightening. I can hear the doctors talking. I hear my mother crying and I feel the restraints. "They won't let me wake up. I keep trying but they won't let me wake up." As of four days ago, everyday, I sit and shake and repeat that for hours. Your article gave me the courage to share a fragment of my own death. I made the attempt in May and I know I have a long way to go on the road to recovery, stability, and safety. Thank you for your encouragement to reach out. Right now I am going to call my psychiatrist and tell her exactly what is happening to me. I am also going to fill out my personal safety plan. I feel so alone and like I have no one who understands, and I never want to worry anyone who cares about me. You understand so much of what I experience--thank you for surviving suicide and living strong. Thank you for the wealth of safety information you have provided to me. Thank you for being you. I'll try my best to thank me for being me.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that and I'm so glad this post helps you. Hang in there. There are so many people as amazing as you who have felt or feel the way you do now - they just keep it private. Tons of hugs to you!

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  10. It's not true what they say... it never get's any better.

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  11. Yes it does! You have to work at it really hard and it isn't easy, but it does most definitely get better. I've never known anyone who was suicidal at some point in their lives, who are still alive today, for whom it didn't get better. In other words, for those who survive, the evidence is, it gets better.

    All feelings are temporary. And all situations CAN be temporary, if you make them that way.

    Hugs and please hang in there.

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  12. Thank you for this. I am glad beyond words that you are still among we, the living.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. I'm glad I'm here, too.

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