Where Did My Voice Go?

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I’ve been pondering the symptoms of depression today. I spent time reading some heart-achingly beautiful posts written by women battling the beast and it reminded me of a simple but huge thing that I lost during the worst of my own recent battle. In fact, I’m still fighting for it, because depression stole my voice and I’m wondering where it went.

When the depression first crept in I could feel my voice quieting. I felt a sort of kind of buzz that made it that much harder for me to hear it. I suppose it was like a heavy white noise. As the disease progressed I felt the trapping of my voice, as if my chest was covered in big heavy chains and I was unable to get enough air to clearly use it. Occasionally, I caught a breath and tried to let someone know that the air was getting thin but my voice did not have the strength to say it loud enough. No one heard me. Was it because I was too quiet or was it because my voice had already slipped away? I’ll never know.

Depression steals so many things from us, but not having a voice leaves you alone inside yourself, a scary place to be during that darkness. Losing your voice leaves you without your lifelines that you may have held on to each and every day to keep you just above water. I lost my voice. I lost my ability to communicate with God, with my husband, with my family and my friends. I lost my ability to feel heard and understood. I lost my voice and it was painful.

I wonder where it went? Was it hiding under the covers somewhere close to me when I slept and lay comatose in my bed? Maybe it was hiding under my pillow, on the cold side. Was my voice lost on that vacation I took with my husband not too long before my symptoms began to worsen? Maybe it had washed out to sea? Perhaps it flew up to catch the falling stars I witnessed while gazing at the moon from that perfect Florida beach. Where was it? Was it trapped in one of those bins we have in storage that contain the photos and memories of our children’s younger days? Perhaps it was when the leaves fell from the trees in the fall, maybe then my voice was blown away with them.

We practiced a meditation in the outpatient partial hospitalization program I participated in this past October, it was called “Leaves on a Stream“. The gist of it is: you watch your thoughts float down a stream on leaves, just acknowledging them and allowing them to float by. I don’t think I had any voice left at this point, but if I did… the remaining pieces definitely went down that stream. (Side note: I actually really liked this exercise. If you click the link above you may find it something you would like, too.)

But that stream must lead to some kind of loop because I think some of the pieces and parts of my voice are coming back. I’ve begun to blog and create art and journal. I attend therapy at least once a week, if not more. I have had moments of excitement and joy, no matter how brief, it is a relief to finally have them.

I talked my teenage daughter’s ear off on the ride home from her school today. After I realized I had been talking an awful lot, I halfheartedly apologized. I sort of chuckled and said, “Sorry, I haven’t talked much to anyone today.” And then it struck me suddenly, I hardly talk to anyone at all during the day. Some days I may not talk to a single soul (out loud – actually using my voice) until the kids or my husband arrive at home, whichever happens first. So I realize, I may not be exercising it much.

But I’m exercising it more and I’m fighting for it. Actually, it may be fighting for me. Perhaps that sneaky thing snuck itself back in to my soul and will get louder and stronger as the healing and recovery continues.

But I still wonder, where on earth was it?

 

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Anatomy of Suicidal Thinking

You may or may not know that in November I made an attempt to end my life. (It feels rather bold, unusual and uncomfortable to start a post that way.) Since that event, and before, it’s been a long and difficult road to trudge, to say the least.

In October my husband and I became keenly aware that the depression was becoming severe. I was becoming more frequently plagued with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. (Are you thinking self-harm is just for teenagers? Well, you’re wrong.) In an effort to stave off the beast, I was admitted to a partial hospitalization program where I spent the day with other struggling folks and a therapist for group sessions Monday through Friday for three weeks. I learned a lot, felt very safe there and enjoyed the structure, as much as a severely depressed person can enjoy these things. 

I guess I felt like I was supposed to be all better after that, but I wasn’t and that was frustrating. I began my search for a therapist and went on a couple visits but I felt just as bad as I had before I started the treatment. Efforts to diagnose me accurately and to find medication that would be therapeutic were rather conservative. It’s clear now that neither the treatment nor the medication protocol were as aggressive as they could have been or should have been. 

I was diagnosed with bipolar II, a diagnosis I am still a bit unsure of, as I think I might be of the rapid cycling nature, but bipolar none-the-less. All my life I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, along with a few other friends like anxiety and ptsd. 

On November 8 I ended up in the ICU after taking a very large amount of a medication I had on hand to treat anxiety that is also used to treat high blood pressure. I spent a couple days there recovering from the effects of the overdose and then I was transferred to the hospital’s psych unit for a couple more days. Since then I have finally found a therapist I think will really work for me, a good psychiatrist and I’ve been on a long journey of medication trial and error.

All of this to say, that after my experiences and with the knowledge I have obtained before, during and after treatment, I came up with what I believe to be a pretty accurate depiction of the anatomy of suicidal thinking. I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, therapist or anything close…although I did major in psychology in college, so please treat this info as just what it is, a sick person trying to better understand their illness. 

And so, here it is…

   
 
Like my very professional hand-written document? Me too. 

Some may think that my starting premise of a negative or triggering event is inaccurate, but for me this can include the transition of actually becoming depressed rather than a specific event or trigger, that in itself can be the trigger. But, I think that once one is already actually experiencing depression the negative event or experience can be something that stands alone to set suicidal thinking in motion. Additionally, this can happen multiple times or you can be stuck in one long dreadful period of suicidal thinking.

“Normal” or healthy individuals won’t get stuck in the stages of self-loathing/negative thoughts. They will move back to a normal thought pattern. Those of us struggling with mental health issues can get stuck here or at any one of these stages or move on down the road to suicidal thoughts.

What do you think? How accurate is my depiction to you or for you? If you don’t experience a mental health issue maybe this will help you understand part of the thinking and experience of a loved one who does. 

I look forward to hearing your feedback and thanks for reading! I’ll be here, muddling through the muck of all this messy stuff, waiting!