Why Feeling Suicidal Isn’t Being Suicidal

I want to share an article I came across a short time ago:

When You’re in the Gray Area of Being Suicidal

The author (Taylor Jones) does an excellent job of putting into words what so many of us experience on a regular basis: feeling suicidal but not wanting to die.

You can’t fault someone for having suicidal feelings. But there is a key difference between feeling suicidal and being suicidal. When you are suicidal and want to die, you make a plan, and may even go so far as to put that plan into action.

When you are feeling suicidal, it remains a feeling. You don’t act on it. You may even forget that it’s there for a while before it creeps up again. You go about living your life because you really don’t want to die, but you can’t help what you’re feeling.

If I wanted to die, I would be dead. I would not be sitting at my computer right now, typing up this blog post. I could have overdosed on something. I could have jumped in front of a train or a bus. But I have not. Because I don’t want to die.

If I wanted to die, I would have just stayed in home prison. My mother would have killed me soon enough. Instead, I knew that there was life outside of those walls, a life that was probably worth living.

If I wanted to die, I wouldn’t be dragging my ass to work every day to earn a paycheck. I wouldn’t even be getting out of bed. What would be the point?

If I wanted to die, I wouldn’t be spending the majority of the money I earn paying for my therapy sessions each week. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother going to therapy. There would be no point. Instead, I have continued to go to therapy every few days for the last 10 months.

And if I was in danger, I know how to get help. I admitted myself to the hospital all of those times, and even though I probably didn’t need to be in the hospital, I knew in my heart it was better for me to be there (especially while I was still living with my abusers).

So yes, I often feel suicidal, but no, I’m not suicidal. It’s not the same thing.

The D Word

I hate the d word.


It came up recently because my primary doctor put Major Depression on my record. And I, of course, flipped my emotional shit.

Because that word has such painful connections for me.

And sure enough, for the last week, the memory of my father has been playing over and over in my head. I’ll give you a reason to be depressed. Pain. Pain was all I felt. And then I felt nothing at all.

I genuinely believe a piece of me died that night. In all these years I have never been able to get over it. I still can’t hear the word depressed without hearing him yell at me. I can still feel my head hitting the wall. I can still hear myself begging him to stop. Fifteen years ago and it still plays like it’s happening now.

And I’m afraid of that label. I responded in anger when my therapist asked me what was wrong. “I’m not depressed! I fucking hate her!”

My therapist made the connection rather quickly on why I was against that diagnosis.

“If I were to pick up the DSM right now and flip to, let’s say, Persistent Depressive Disorder, would you say you wouldn’t fit that diagnosis? You wouldn’t fit under Major Depressive Disorder?”

“No, because I function just fine and I’m not impaired so therefore I don’t qualify for those diagnoses. And while I’m at it, I don’t qualify for DID, either.”

“I’m not talking about functioning just yet. Aside from functioning.”

I hesitated. I grumbled to myself. “Fine,” I said, “I fit every criterion. Every. Single. Criterion.”

“And while you do get up in the morning and go to work, and go to school, you’re not functioning all the way like you think you are. You are good in some areas, and really severely impaired in others.”

“I’m not depressed.”

“We don’t have to call it that. We can come up with another word for it if you want. But you can’t deny that it doesn’t fit. And I know that you know that.”

Damnit. Sometimes I hate being smart. I do know that. But I want to live in denial. Let me live in sweet denial.

Denial. That’s a d word I can handle.

Giving crazy a name

I’m a very analytical person.  I like when things have names and definitions and concepts I can understand.  One of the reasons I went into psychology was so I could put a name on my mother’s type of crazy.  I wanted to know why.  I wanted to know what exactly was wrong with her.  There has to be something.  People don’t just act like that for no reason.  I needed an explanation.

I have since realized that my mother’s crazy is not diagnosable, or should I say, not limited to a single diagnosis.  My mother exhibits the signs of narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline personality disorders.  She’s also paranoid and likely has a mood disorder of some sort.  But you know what?  Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better.  Having a mental illness doesn’t excuse you from being an abuser.  Hell, it doesn’t even excuse you from being asshole (that’s you, Dad).  In my early 20s, I struggled a lot with placing blame.  I so badly wanted to hate my mother for what she did, but then part of me thought, “what if she’s mentally ill?”  I was just trying to find an excuse for all the shit she did and was still doing.  Eventually, after several years, I realized all of that didn’t matter.  My mother did what she did because of who she is as a person, not because of some illness.  She had a choice.

Despite not caring about my mother’s diagnosis, I still so badly want to know what’s wrong with me.  Will it make a difference?  I don’t know.  I would like to think that it would.  A diagnosis provides a sense of direction, a method of treatment, an explanation of symptoms.  I have yet to have that.  It’s quite possible that my desire for a diagnosis, a name for my crazy, has been strengthened by my years of experience with different diagnoses.  I never really had a concrete answer.

My first diagnosis was bipolar II at the age of 15.  My first therapist worked with a psychiatrist who officially diagnosed me and started me on a mood stabilizer.  I didn’t really understand the diagnosis, even more so now that I am older.  My mood changes were nothing more than what is typically experienced by a teenager.  My issues were much deeper than that.  After more therapy, my diagnosis was changed to bipolar I with psychotic features.  My therapist believed there were times in which I was out of touch with reality; I did things I didn’t remember doing and acted like a different person, which she attributed to psychosis.  I now believe that those instances were actually times I had dissociated, not psychotic episodes.  Back then, I had no idea what dissociation was, and apparently neither did my therapist.

When I returned to therapy a few years later, my therapist diagnosed me with social anxiety.  I think he mistook my fear of talking with him (and others) as social anxiety when the real reason was because I was conditioned not to speak by my mother.  I don’t blame him for that bad diagnosis; you can’t diagnosis someone accurately if you don’t get the full picture.

Many years later, when I scheduled an appointment to see my primary care physician, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.  Generally, I don’t condone primary care physicians diagnosing psychological disorders because their training is just not adequate in most cases.  But I was desperate at the time and could not manage to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I did the only thing I could.  I wasn’t looking for a diagnosis; I was just looking for relief.

After my first hospitalization, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression with suicidal ideation.  The PTSD diagnosis made sense, as I had experienced some debilitating flashbacks as well as other common symptoms (irritability, trouble sleeping, and hypervigilence).  The depression diagnosis I had no strong feelings about; it just seemed like something they labelled on most people.  My diagnoses were relatively similar after  my second hospitalization (which I would hope so, seeing as though it was less than two weeks later).  The only difference was that they added “chronic” to my depression diagnosis.

When I started mandated therapy shortly after my second hospitalization, my therapist was required to make a diagnosis to report to the insurance company.  After two hours of intake and two subsequent one-hour sessions, she completely ignored the PTSD diagnosis and any related anxiety and diagnosed me with depression secondary to asthma.  This diagnosis was laughable.  I was not depressed because of my asthma.  Asthma was the least of my problems.  And it wasn’t like she was unaware of my history.  She was sent all of my information from the hospital.  She was clueless.  So clueless.  She even had the nerve to tell me she didn’t think I had anxiety at all.  Anxiety was probably the only thing I was sure I had in some form or another.  She was such an idiot.

Around the same time, my PCP diagnosed me with ADHD.  I was having trouble keeping attention, focusing on anything…hell, sitting still was difficult.  I always had problems, but they seemed to be magnified in those last few months.  It was never an issue before because I managed to function quite well academically as a child.  It could have very well been all of the medications I was on that made it worse, or even just my ever-increasing stress levels.  Who really knows.

When I was hospitalized for a third time in February, the ADHD diagnosis was dropped by the psychiatric nurse.  Instead, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, chronic depression, and borderline personality disorder.  The BPD diagnosis was shocking to me.  I had extensive knowledge about the disorder from my psychology studies, and didn’t fit most of the criteria for diagnosis.  I believe they made the diagnosis based on my self-injury. Many professionals automatically associate self-injury with BPD, even though it is also present in order disorders.  I didn’t want that label on me.  I also knew, through my studies, that many professionals did not want to work with someone with BPD.  When I told my therapist about the diagnosis, she seemed to agree with my disapproval of it.  It was comforting to at least know that someone was on my side and I wasn’t completely unaware of my own mental state.

As of right now, I don’t have a diagnosis.  I have chosen to disregard all of my previous diagnoses because I don’t feel confident in any of the people who diagnosed me.  I hope that eventually, in my current therapy work, I can be diagnosed with something…anything.  At least this time, my therapist is taking her time and learning as much as she can about me and my history.  I trust in her knowledge and experience more than anyone else.  I just want to know that I’m not completely crazy.  I need a name for what I’m experiencing.  I need an explanation.

My love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with medication

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but never quite got around to it.

Anyone who has experienced some type of psychological distress or mental illness has likely also experienced some type of medication to treat it.  Even with psychotherapy, most doctors and psychiatrists push medications to help ease the symptoms and improve functioning.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s always a gamble, more so than with physical conditions, because the brain isn’t always so straightforward.  Fourteen years of experience, lots of research, and an education in psychology has allowed me to increase my knowledge about psychotropic medications.  I almost wish I had the knowledge before taking some of these medications, but what’s done is done.

I started out, at the ripe young age of 15, on a twice daily prescription of Depakote.  Since I couldn’t swallow pills at that age, I had to take the liquid form – which came in a container that resembled a large bottle of peroxide.  The taste was not pleasant.  The side effects were annoying; I would get sunburn just from sitting in the car.  I also developed cystic ovaries that were most likely a direct side effect from the medication.  More importantly, Depakote didn’t do shit for me psychologically.  But why would it?  I didn’t have Bipolar Disorder.  It was a waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of my ovaries.

I went quite a few years sans medication.  That wasn’t by my choice, really.  I wasn’t allowed to go to the doctor.  I just dealt with everything on my own, as usual.  I managed to stay alive, so I guess I can’t complain.  Maybe I should have kept with that method, because starting back on a path of medications turned out to be a horrible experience.

In October 2014, I managed to sneak to the doctor’s office to ask about medication.  I had been communicating with a therapist online who suggested that it was worth looking into.  I was at a point where I was becoming increasingly unable to deal with shit on my own.  I was prescribed 50mg of Zoloft and 0.25 of Xanax.  After a week, I was having trouble sleeping, so they added on Ambien.  After two more weeks, I still wasn’t feeling any better, so they increased my Zoloft to 50 mg twice a day and Xanax three times a day.  Within a week or two, I was severely suicidal.  I felt worse than I did the month before when I came to the doctor’s with nothing.  I just wanted them to try a different medication.  I knew there were numerous options.  Instead, I ended up hospitalized.

During the first hospitalization, I was taken off Zoloft and put on Paxil.  No change.  After a few days, I was taken off Paxil and put on Prozac.  Prozac made me want to jump out of my own skin.  I was constantly on edge, irritated, and anxious.  I couldn’t stop shaking during one of the group sessions, so the therapist called the psychiatrist in to reassess.  The Prozac was immediately discontinued and I was started on 10mg of trifluoperazine.  Yea, I never heard of it, either.  Once I got out of the hospital, I was able to research it and found out is an old-school anti-psychotic prescribed for schizophrenia.  It was definitely not a common drug – I had to go to several pharmacies before I found one that even had the medication in stock.  While it didn’t make me worse like all of the antidepressants I had taken before, it didn’t really make me better.  There were some days where it left me feeling weird overall – like it hurt to be in my own body, physically and mentally.  I had to keep moving because I felt that if I had stopped, my body would become rigid and it made my pain worse.  After a week of taking it outside of the hospital, I stopped.  The weird sensations were just too much for me.

During my second hospitalization, my medications were changed again.  I was put on Celexa and Ativan.  The Ativan worked better than Xanax ever did, but the Celexa was the same as any other anti-depressant I had been on.  I was switched to Remeron, which I had never heard of before.  It’s a less popular anti-depressant, not an SSRI but a tetracyclic.  I started back on the trifluoperazine.  By this time, I was just tired of being in the hospital. I was also dealing with malnourishment and was put on a load of supplements, and was sort of in a “fuck it all” mindset.  I had been sleeping a lot, but I had attributed it to the malnourishment.  Weeks later, my sleeping had only gotten worse.  I would wake up to take a shower and would crawl right back into bed afterwards because I was so exhausted.  When I was working, I would come home and go right back to sleep.  On the weekends when I had off from work, I would sleep 14-15 hours straight; even when I was awake, I was still too tired to do much of anything.  I was miserable.  To make matters worse, I started losing my vision; it was a side effect from the trifluoperazine.  Once I started having involuntary facial twitches, which I recognized as the beginning of tardive dyskinesia, I knew I had to stop taking the trifluoperazine for good.

Some time between my December hospitalization and my last hospitalization in February, my primary care doctor prescribed me Adderall for ADHD.  I always had problems with keeping focus and attention, but I managed all those years just fine.  It did get to a point where it was becoming overwhelming.  I was barely able to get my school work done and I was having problems at work.  I started out with 10mg and it worked.  I was able to get shit done.  My mind was clear.  I could focus for once.  My doctor gradually increased the dose to 30mg twice a day.  I felt so much better overall, not just attention-wise, but anxiety-wise as well.

Going back to that horrible drug Remeron, I couldn’t get a refill because county-run facilities are shit and the psychiatrist cancelled my appointments more than four times.  I couldn’t even wean myself off and I became increasingly suicidal again.  It’s no surprise I ended up in the hospital in February.  In the hospital, they took me off of all my medications, including the Adderall, which was probably the only redeeming medication I was taking.  The nurse practitioner did not think the Adderall was helping me; I found it somewhat amusing that this was the same facility that placed me on so many medications previously that did shit as far as making me better.

This time, I was prescribed 150mg of Zoloft and Seroquel.  Within an hour of taking the Zoloft, I lost consciousness.  I woke up on a hospital bed with no idea of what had happened.  I was monitored for the next 12 hours and got to stay in bed.  It was marked in my record that I was reactive to Zoloft and should not be prescribed it ever again.  They waited a day and then started me on Lexapro.  A few days later they changed the Seroquel to Risperdal because I guess I hadn’t had much benefit from it.  I was also put on Klonopin for anxiety.  I had a paper due soon, so I told the hospital staff the medication was working so I could get the hell home.  I wasn’t any worse, maybe slightly better, but still not stable.

I didn’t like the way Klonopin made me feel, so I switched back to taking Ativan as needed.  After a month or so, the psychiatrist doubled my Lexapro dose because I was (like clockwork) getting worse, added trazadone and increased my Ativan.  I was taking so many medications that I carried around a purse just so I would remember to take them all.

I tried to keep up with taking my medications…I really did.  I know that people go off of their medications all the time and end up in a worse position.  In my heart, I believed it was too much.  I got tired of taking multiple medications every hour of my life and not really seeing a result.  I made the decision in May to wean myself off of all of my medications, including my beloved Adderall (which was re-prescribed by my PCP).  I didn’t tell anyone because I knew I would get backlash from it.  I would not have done it if I wasn’t educated and knew what I was dealing with.  I also had enough sense to know if something was going wrong.  I never suffered any withdrawals.  While I didn’t get any better, more importantly, I didn’t get any worse. 

It’s been more than two months now and I’m still functioning.  I do occasionally take an Ativan when I feel my anxiety getting bad (who would blame me, especially these last several weeks).  I did notice that my focus and attention went to shit, but I was coping.  Then it got bad.  I was so behind in my thesis work and got to a point of desperation.  Luckily, I saved all of the medication I stopped taking.  I took an Adderall on Tuesday night and finished 13 pages of research by Wednesday morning. My mind was clear, my anxiety was gone.  I even decided to do something I never do and went to the beach by myself.  It was a good feeling.  I missed the Adderall.  I probably shouldn’t have taken a full dose, though, as I ended up staying awake for over 40 hours straight.  It was nice feeling somewhat normal for those 40 hours.

I’m not even sure if I’ve mentioned all of the medications I’ve been on.  All I can tell you is it’s been too many.  I probably function better now that I’m not on a bunch of medications.  My therapist was actually supportive of my decision when I told her what I had done.  Now, I am working on finding a new doctor that my therapist can work with to make sure I’m not sent down that slippery slope of over-medication again.