Tim Pylypiuk recalls a time when climbing out of a pit of despair seemed like an insurmountable task.
Alice: But I don’t want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
-Alice in Wonderland
Just to be clear. I never attempted to commit suicide. But I did nearly end up in hospital due to suicidal thoughts.
Recollecting such a dour circumstance and the events that lead up to it is tremulous for my nerves. Because, as an autistic adult, when we reflect on past traumas in the antique store, we’re back in the moment as our sensations vibrate and minds associate. It’s also a blessing in accuracy, much better than “Dramatic Reinanctments” on information shows.
So, what led to such histrionics in the first place? If you read my “Bullied by Girls and Women: One Man’s Account”, you’ll get a small idea of the pit of despair I wandered in. I wasn’t being supported enough to get out of the harshness of ostracization.
School counselors were ambivalent at best, clueless at worst. They didn’t know how much the high school environment — the foul language, sex jokes day in and out, the taunting, teasing, and more — had me at its knees. One of them even said “Don’t worry, you’ll grow into it”.
Wow, that certainly would wash a student’s woes away (Sarcasm).
Since no one could help, even my own family, I began taking a desperate turn into feelings of worthlessness and eventually suicide. There was a specific trigger that bared its share of blame as well. But I can’t provide any further detail due to its sensitive nature.
It was that specific spark which lead me down the road, off the mental coil mortals take for granted. I began seeing a specialist who appeared to show concern for the state I was in. She ran a group in the high school for wayward outcasts such as me.
Outside the meetings, we’d get together in an office near the principal’s area where she shared terms of endearment towards my penchant for writing. I’d compose free-style then read the results aloud. It was a show of support I couldn’t find in other areas.
Finally, I revealed my innermost turmoil and the suicidal thoughts shortly after one group session. Concerned, she told me arrangements would be made to see someone at the local mental health society. At first, this sounded to me like real acknowledgement.
I was soon proven wrong. She had apparently, along with the school, labeled me mentally ill and in need of intervention due to the suicidal thoughts. None of them bothered to examine what set them off, though they liked to believe so with their little professional Public Relations persona in front of my mother and me.
After meeting with the recommended worker at this mental health society, she called the hospital and told us to go there. This was mainly based on the questionnaire of multiple choice absolutes I’d filled out as requirement for the talk. I didn’t know the answers would dictate my destiny.
When we arrived at the hospital, the sterile and seriousness in the air along with the doctors and nurses rushing in and out immediately overwhelmed me. A doctor eventually met with us and, was presented with the questionnaire sheet, read it and then announced it would be best if I was kept for a two week stay.
This was far from what I wanted or intended. So you could imagine how shaken and terrified I was at the prospect of being contained under lock and key by strangers.
My mother took action. She sat in front of me, eyes firmly on my own and said:
“Tim, don’t do this. What would your family think, your friends? We love you, Tim. Don’t you understand? It would devastate us if you ever killed yourself”
While the “friends” status was debatable, her point stood tall. It was as if a portion of her soul seeped in and provided that comfort and unconditional validation and acknowledgement I lacked turning twelve years old up to the precariousness of teenage hood.
When the doctor came back, mom and I informed him that our little heart to heart talk earlier did the job, equilibrium regained. He was skeptical but relented and we were free to go.
So there’s my brush with suicide for you. Imagine if things had gone the other way. I might not be here right now, honestly.
But even though I appreciated my mother’s intervention, it still would’ve been better if she had given that level of support from the beginning.
Nonetheless, she did her job in bringing me out, and to this day I thank her for saving my life.
While it may appear that this story is about mental illness, ultimately it’s about how the mental health system and people in general can get it so wrong. How everyone missed that I needed the validation when high school came about and reached a breaking point as a result. For that, I was deemed mad and sick in the head for failing to conform to the behaviours that teenagers and adults were pressuring me to exhibit instead of on my own terms.
Now I’m doing better. Sure, there are times when I slip into the pit of despair. But at least I have the equipment to climb out.
Thank you anyways, mom, for saving my life that day. I dedicate this article to you.
photo: pezz / flickr