Some years back a psychiatrist made what I consider some unwise comments on my life. They have stayed with me since. Words that were hard to shake off. To him, I was apparently flawed. In my mind, I’ve been actively fighting that ‘flawed’ label, in order to hang onto hope of life regardless of flaw.
Who knows why psychiatrists say some of the things they do? It’s not a job I would want, but I am aware of how much power they can hold. Sometimes for the good, but sometimes not at all helpful.
Before I go into that, meet my friend, Bubble. Bubble (I have warned you before of how I personalise inanimate objects) is the rubber duck that lives on the side of my bath tub (every bath tub needs one!). Sometimes Bubble takes a swim… but she struggles. It’s not easy for her to swim like other rubber ducks, but she manages.
Bubble looks perfectly formed but actually is fundamentally flawed in her ability to swim successfully. In order to be able to squeak, like a rubber duck, she has a small hole in her underside. That hole unfortunately lets water in, which tips her balance. More often than not, she ends up swimming on her side. She still floats perfectly, but her swimming is a little unusual for a duck.
If she can do it, then why can’t I?
Actually it’s exactly what I do. It’s just perhaps slightly different from the mainstream, thanks to my psychiatrist’s ‘horoscope’ prediction on my life.
I battled for many years with what is referred to as ‘chronic suicidal ideation’. In other words, I wanted to kill myself and was largely focussed on attempting to achieve this, or at least being overwhelmed by the constant desire to end my life. Some people say that those who struggle with this don’t actually want to die. Maybe that’s true for some, maybe some just want to ‘end the pain’. But for me I was fiercely determined in my wish to end my life. I won’t get into that argument here though.
After many years of being completely overwhelmed by the thoughts, plans, deeds and recovery from those deeds, I eventually got to the stage where I came out of that chronic need to die. I put that down to a lot of hard work, some good medication and a very good psychotherapist. It wasn’t luck. It wasn’t passing out of a phase. It was very hard work.
But sometime after I got to, what I hoped would be the end of that part of the journey, my psychiatrist, told me that because I had struggled with chronic suicidal ideation for so long, that I always would be flawed by this.
He went on to explain that whenever something negative happened in my life, I would always look to suicide as a means of solving it. It would be like an automatic reflex. Perhaps a different reflex than most people have, but one he was convinced would always be there. I wasn’t strong enough at the time to be able to debate it, but his words had a lasting impact.
Since then every time something negative in my life has happened, I have feared that I would fall back into that frame of mind I knew so well of ‘I want to die‘ and ‘I need to die‘. I was terrified, because I have known how easily one thing leads to the other, and how easily the suicidal mind convinces us of what it wants to.
And actually I admit that sometimes in the strangest of situations I have found my brain seemingly automatically jumps to that very conclusion. For example, I get a puncture in my car. My immediate reaction is “I should kill myself“. I have to fight back, and fight very hard.
What I don’t know is whether that reflex is because of the seed the psychiatrist planted in my mind. Perhaps I need to do more reading on the subject. Perhaps too, I should just refuse to let it be.
In spite of getting through some very difficult events in my life over the past few years, it hasn’t been without this fear in my head. “Gee, thanks Mr (or should I say Dr) Psychiatrist. You put that there.” Perhaps the biggest battle to fight this fear came when my Dad died in 2011. He had been my reason for living. Now he was gone I knew I had two choices. Fall into the trap forecast by the Psychiatrist, or fight back and prove him wrong. I did exactly that, thankfully. Yes, the automatic reaction to destroy myself popped its head up (it almost always does), but I could fight it. I did fight it, but perhaps no one knows how much of a battle of wills (the suicidal will and the healthy will) that was for me.
A few weeks ago, I wrote in No Tears about becoming depressed again, but this time without the tears. What was really happening was that I was fighting like hell to stop myself from crying. I was too scared. I felt that if I started to cry, there would be no stopping. But perhaps worst of all, I was scared of where my thoughts my head. If the Psychiatrist was right, then my tears would leap to suicidal thoughts. I simply couldn’t take that risk. It was better to fight back the tears, and I have got good at it. I simply couldn’t take the risk. I didn’t want to have to face what seemed to have become an automatic reflex.
The last couple of weeks has been difficult, and this week, the tears have flowed in spite of my determination not to let them.
I hate crying. It’s messy and uncomfortable. I’m not talking about a few tears on a perfectly made up face on the movies, but bawling. Not only are there tears, but a snotty and blocked nose… so it’s not actually easy to breathe… oh, and if you cry long enough you end up with a headache and painfully blocked sinuses. And all this is supposed to be healing and helpful?
Well I did it anyway. By this stage there was almost no option on the tears. Again that automatic reflex kicked in… but I turned it around. You could say that before my mind had a chance, I chose life.
I am actually okay, and will be okay. Sadness and grief doesn’t have to automatically lead to suicide, even in a flawed mind. I actually have a choice.
This morning I read by chance an excellent post about fighting suicidal thoughts and the guilt that can paralyse you. It was Do You Blame Yourself for Thinking of Suicide? | Speaking of Suicide
I felt guilty that I seemingly fall back automatically into the suicidal thoughts trap. I felt guilty for ever wanting to talk about it (partly because I was told by doctors that I couldn’t expect to be able to talk about it). Suicide is a difficult subject, but I believe that if we don’t talk about it, then it becomes a much greater and dangerous monster than it needs to be.
My Psychiatrist (he’s not my Psychiatrist anymore) told me this is something that would plague my life always. I can’t tell you on what basis he predicted this, but it does seem that in some ways he was right.
I am determined though, that I don’t have to go with the automatic. I can intercept, and choose life. This reflex doesn’t have to plague my life if I actively choose to be the one in control. Even when sad, or bad things happen I know that I can choose to respond differently than the doctor predicted. I guess maybe he thought I would be dead by now. He didn’t actually say that, but it was where I thought he was heading at the time.
Maybe I am flawed. But like Bubble, I can still swim, even if differently than most. Swimming sideways, is still swimming in my mind. As long as I am floating and moving, I am swimming.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
- No Tears (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Do You Blame Yourself for Thinking of Suicide? | Speaking of Suicide (speakingofsuicide.com)