Guest Post: Back From the Darkness, A Therapist’s Journey of Depression and Suicidality
In light of Robin Williams recent suicide, I wanted to share a colleague’s anonymous story of her own battle with depression and suicidality.
There are two things I’d like you to know about me. The first is that I’m a therapist, a clinical social worker with well over a decade of experience. I run a successful private practice and am very happily married with three children. The second is that for many years in my early twenties, I suffered from severe, treatment-resistant depression.
For close to four years, I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, and therapy offices. I was voluntarily committed, involuntarily committed, and at one point I escaped from an ER when my police escort thought it safe enough to leave me.
I remember the horrible feeling of my stomach being filled with a thick charcoal and then being emptied out, the stitches that were sewn on my skin. I recall waking up and dreading that I was still alive rather than dead.
No matter what medications they tried or which therapists I was sent to, I remained determined and desperate to end my life. At my lowest point, I called my parents from the psychiatric hospital and told them I was sorry, but I was going to kill myself again once they let me out. As a mother, I cannot fathom getting a phone call like this from my child.
In my mind, there was no future. I had been kicked out of two graduate schools for attempting suicide. I could not imagine how life would ever be tolerable. All I wanted was for the pain to stop.
I rarely think about this time in my life. None of my colleagues and very few of my friends know about it. I haven’t told my children yet, although I know that this time will come.
As I recall those days, I am truly thankful for those who interceded. But this was not always the case: For a long time I was so angry at the roommate who came home early and called 911. I was furious at the paramedics, the police and the therapists, because they didn’t understand that there was nothing left for me on this earth.
I thought it was my right as an adult human to choose if I wanted to die. I knew in my heart that I was not insane or stupid or incompetent. The problem was that I could not think clearly because depression held a vice grip on my entire being. I did not know at the time that I would find a treatment that worked, and that the demons I struggled with would eventually leave.
During my darkest days, I needed people in the world to fight for my life, because I could not.
I do not talk about my own past or current struggles in the therapy room. But when someone comes in who is hurting deeply and considering suicide, this is my message: “I know you cannot see a future for yourself. I know you don’t have the strength right now to hope for something other than what you’re feeling in this moment. So I will be strong for you. I will hope for you, until you are able to hope for yourself. “
For those who have run out of hope, we must hope. For those who have run out of strength, we must be strong. And this is why I am a therapist.
If you are battling suicidal thoughts please reach out for help! Call or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.