It’s a LONG one!
I’m almost 50…A year and three months out from an attempt to take my life and a year and nine months out from a 14.5 year relationship that ended because of my stupidity. However, the medical/psychiatric world would say my self-destructive behavior is caused by my depression, bipolar disorder along with borderline personality disorder (BPD.) I don’t fully agree with that but what do I know?
As typical with these stories I grew up poor, had an abusive, alcoholic father. My oldest brother, we’ll just call him “B” enjoyed beating me up whenever he could and my mother’s mother would “punish” me for the slightest infraction by beating me about my head and pulling my hair, that was as long as no one else was around. There was this one time “B” saw my grandmother beating me, he told her to stop, her response was “Why? You hate him as much as I do!” So yeah, a wonderful childhood.
I do have a middle brother “D” who after my parents divorce was raised by our father but mostly in the foster care system. At the time, early to mid 70’s, he was labeled as being retarded. Our father did have visiting rights to see “B” and myself on weekends and that was when I got to see “D” if he wasn’t with a foster parent. Looking back and knowing “D” as I know him today he was not “retarded” but I would say he is a high functioning autistic person at best. Anyway, back to visitation. After a year or two of visiting our father and him not paying any attention to us we decided we would stop visiting him. Because of this I did not see “D” for 25-30 years and had no contact with him during that period even though he lived 30 minutes away.
My mother. She and I had a special bond, we were both the black sheep of the family. She was my best friend. She passed in 2010 exactly one month after my stepfather passed away. While she may not have been the greatest mother in the world, she did the best she could with what we had and I love her for all she did. Without her guidance, moral compass to teach me right from wrong I wouldn’t be the man I am today, even with all my faults and I have PLENTY!
Me. All my life I was the shy, introverted, outcast with very few if any friends, at least as a child. As a child I moved four times but only changed school districts once so I am lucky in that regard. I started making real friends in junior high school. I am still semi-close to one and have just recently reconnected with another who was my best friend throughout Jr. High and High School. As is with most people I had dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up. First, I wanted to be a rock star playing guitar, I still remember playing air guitar before it was really a thing. In elementary school I started playing soccer and had ambitions to be the next Pele. Then I got into cycling and dreamed of riding in the Tour de France. As I got older I had more practical dreams like being a teacher or psychologist or psychiatrist. Problem with both of those dreams is I really hated school so I never strove to become either which left me back to having the dream of being a rock star.
Music has always been a big passion. I remember growing up listening to my mother’s LP’s, groups like Frankie Valli and The 4 Tops, Herb Alpert, The Fifth Dimension, The Drifters, Beach Boys and such. However one that will always be a favorite is the soundtrack to “American Graffiti.” I still remember going to see that movie when it first came out, I was 5-6 years old. So where was I? Oh yeah music. I never learned how to play guitar even though I am now looking at one across the room with the hopes to learn it one day. The only instrument I ever played was the bugle and that was for the Washington, DC St. Patrick’s Day parade. That was one VERY, VERY cold day with wind chills below zero. I do sing and have been told I sing pretty well but I disagree. I sing in the shower, in the car and that’s about it. After my mother passed I did start taking voice lessons just to have something to do and get my mind off of things. Due to my shyness and not believing in myself I knew I was never going to make it as a rock star. However, last August my former voice coach reached out to me regarding an opera her theater group was putting together and asked if I would like to be a part of it. At first I was hesitant but finally gave in and decided to perform. Luckily it was just in the ensemble and not a leading role. That opera was “Amahl and the Night Travelers.” This past June I performed in the opera “Aida” in Italian which was fun to learn and luckily once again just in the ensemble.
For 20 years I did “work” in the music industry. I co-managed a very popular DC area cover band, worked as a stage tech for a live sound company and got to work with many famous bands that traveled along the east coast. I was also the preferred photographer for another local cover band that I am friends with. In a professional role I worked for almost 20 years in the Human Resources arena, spent five years as a volunteer with a cancer support organization and am currently a volunteer with a suicide prevention organization. The cancer support volunteering started when I first began fundraising for the organization and moved up to being a registered volunteer going to events and talking about the free services the organization offers to all those affected by cancer and not just the person diagnosed. I began working with the organization due to losing 10 family and friends to cancer since 2001. The suicide prevention, well that’s for me.
Possible triggers to follow.
Suicide. In October 2016 the 14 year relationship I was in came to an abrupt end, once again to my own stupidity. Since I don’t have any family that I talk to (“B” and I stopped talking in 2011 after our mother passed and “D” is now serving 10-20 years in prison) or that are willing to offer any support, my now ex let me stay in the house we own together. That will be ending this August. Anyway, in April 2017 after having a talk with the ex it finally hit me that I had lost everything that I hold dear in my life; her, our pets, the life we shared together along with the house and I had nowhere to go. The next morning I had a nervous breakdown, pulled out my shotgun and loaded it, but as you can tell I was not able to pull the trigger. I did however have a back up plan. Due to my stepfather dying after a six year battle with prostate cancer and me inheriting everything, it meant I was in possession of his pain relievers plus what I had for myself. I pulled out a full bottle of his OxyContin and my full bottle of oxycodone. As I was preparing to take them the ex came into the room and asked what was going on and at that point I just broke down. I handed her the pills. I think it took her a few seconds to realize what that meant. I then grabbed the box of shotgun shells and handed those to her, needless to say she grew even more concerned. Lastly, I handed her a handmade knife that has a blade as sharp as a razor. The rest of the day and night was spent curled up in a ball crying my eyes out and admitting myself into the hospital the next day.
The ex always knew that I had suicide ideation. Before meeting her I had never consciously tried and I know now looking back at the lead up to my attempted attempt, “my incident” as I like to call it these days, I had subconsciously been attempting by trying to kill myself by alcohol poisoning. I was drinking 2/3 of a bottle of whisky or vodka almost nightly to the point of just blacking out. This is something the ex does not know as I am typing and if she chooses to read this I am sure I will get an earful. Speaking of, let’s get back to her and my suicidal thoughts. Like I said she always knew of my thoughts. I had always promised her that if I were to do it I wouldn’t in or near the house so the fact I did attempt at home had her rightly pissed off as well as very concerned for me. She and my best friend who is a neighbor have been my greatest support and I thank the ex often even if it’s not directly to her for putting up for me a year and a half longer than I deserve. And while I have been quite difficult throughout the past year both the ex and bff continue to offer support even if I don’t ask or am too stubborn to talk about things anymore. I realize I am internalizing more and more these days and am further withdrawing from everyone as the days go by.
Hospital. The day I checked into the hospital I sat in the waiting area for what seemed to be 5-6 hours before being taken back to a bed in the ER. There was no room in the psych ward or in the BHU. I was in the ER for at least a day and a half before being taken back to an 8×10 unlocked “cell” in the BHU where all the lights were off except in the cells. I broke down again. The cell was just soul crushing and the mattress was laid out on the floor, no bed frame at all. At this point I still had not seen a psychiatrist. The only doctors I saw were when I was in the ER and they just did their rounds to see how everyone was. I was locked up in the BHU for two days before being moved to the psych ward. Once there I was assigned a room with a roommate. My bed was a gurney while my roommate had a proper bed. It took another day before seeing the psychiatrist but first I had to meet with her psych student who asked me all the questions, shook his head numerous times as I recounted my life and what I had been through. Once he and I were done he went to report to the psychiatrist while I waited. After about 20 minutes I finally got to see her. She was nice, friendly, warm but also to the point. She was surprised with all that I had been through and that I had survived this long without attempting before or turned to hard drugs (I thank my mother for that!) She was surprised by my coping skills that I had developed throughout the years only because I had no choice. Unfortunately those same coping skills are not working for me anymore. After that initial meeting I only saw her for about 10 minutes everyday just for a quick check up. The rest of my time was mostly watching TV, walking the “circle” around the locked up floor and the occupational therapy for an hour each day, which was voluntary. The OT was really just a joke. People showed up but did not participate. I seemed to be the only one trying while the rest of the people in the ward apparently were regular customers. After eight days I was released with an appointment to go to Way Station the next day – a division of Sheppard Pratt, a mental health and addiction facility.
Way Station. I arrived at Way Station the next day and met with the therapist. It was your usual meet and greet where you relay your life story and why got you referred to their services. After our conversation she informed me that she’s going away on vacation for two weeks and that she was going to transfer me to another therapist so as to not have a break in therapy, I said OK. The next week I go to meet the new therapist, have the usual meet and greet, etc… I leave the appointment and schedule for the next week. The next week gets cancelled due to a family emergency, I get that things happen so I reschedule. The next week comes around and it gets cancelled again due to family emergency. At that point I had had enough. I was in desperate need of therapy and was on the verge of another breakdown so I emailed the Director and President of Way Station stating everything that had been going on and that I was not getting any help that was needed. I get a call from the Director asking me to come in and meet with her. I agree. I go in, do the meet and greet, etc… I leave, schedule for the next week and guess what happens? Yep it was cancelled, she was sick. It was three weeks to a month before she reached out to me to see if I would consider coming back in to give them another chance. I politely declined.
Chase Brexton. After leaving Way Station I, my ex and my bff spent months calling around to therapists and psychiatrists to find someone that not only took my insurance but also had an immediate opening but to no avail. Either my ex or bff found Chase Brexton, another mental health facility like Sheppard Pratt. An appointment was scheduled and they got me in immediately. I met with the therapist who was just wonderful. She was very helpful, knew I needed treatment as quickly as possible but I needed to see the psychiatrist first. Problem is there’s only one psychiatrist on staff and she was seeing an estimated 35 people or more a week so her schedule was full. This did not deter my therapist and she was finally able to wiggle some free time to fit me in. Once I got my diagnosis treatment she was allowed to begin. In the first treatment session I told the therapist the best way I work is if you ask the questions and I answer since I am not good at talking about myself (hard to believe with this post, right?) As wonderful as the therapist was at the beginning she did not want to work with me the way I felt I needed to be worked with, at least at the start and I was never given any coping skills. I got labeled as “difficult to work with” not only by the therapist but also the psychiatrist. My last session with her was in September or October of 2017.
The search started all over again but this time it was just my bff and my ex looking, I had given up on the mental health system. During this search time just like the one above I was off meds because I didn’t have anyone to prescribe for me. Seven months later a psych nurse and therapist were found operating out of different practices. I am back on meds even though they don’t seem to be working. The psych nurse suggested I take this new test called GeneSight. It’s where they test your DNA against almost all the meds out there to see which you should respond to best. I took the test and now we’re working on the dosage as well as the right “cocktail” to find something to work. The therapist has been wonderful as well! If for some reason we are not able to meet for a session she will email/text or call me to check up and see how I am doing. She is active in trying to help me find a job and a place to live. We are working on coming up with coping skills to help me through the tough days and everything she’s been doing, the things the others weren’t, means a lot!!!
Like I said earlier I have become a volunteer with a suicide prevention organization. The organization is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am here to help them in any way they see fit but I am really hoping I will be more useful in the advocacy realm. To be able to tell my (shortened version) story, to discuss how broken the mental health system is and find ways to fix it or at least make it better and more useful is where my passion lies. I would love to hear about your experiences within the mental health system, good or bad and ways you think things could be improved.
Thank you for taking a good portion of your day to read this! I know there are others out there like me and those who have had it worse than me and if you feel like saying hello please do!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton