Suicide survivor Madison Rae shares her story, and thanks her husband, who stayed through her mental illness “in sickness and in health.”
He stayed. There were many times he could have left, he could have easily saved himself from the vitriol that I would spew in the midst of a manic rage. He could have walked out on the tears that fell in seemingly endless bouts of depression. Yet, he didn’t. That is why my story is much different than it could have been or than it was before he came into my life.
I have struggled with depression and mania for twenty-one years. My first suicide attempt came at fifreen after I was brutally sexually assaulted and developed an eating disorder. I went from a straight-A student and vivacious teenager to an angry, withdrwan, struggling young woman. I would have black out periods and the sexual assault brought repressed memories of earlier sexual abuse to the forefront.
As a teenager, I could not see positive change. I simply believed it would never get better, that my nightmares meant no escape from the demons. My mind believed death beckoned. I overdosed on hundreds of pills. I suffered cardiac arrest and was declared clinically dead for almost two minutes. My parents were warned my chance of survival was slim, and if I did survive, my brain function may never return to normal.
This began my twenty year maze through the minefield of the mental health system. By age twenty, I was in and out of thirteen psychiatric units. I was constantly diagnosed and undiagnosed. Medications were given to me like Skittles candies; I lived in a state of never ending fog.
Eventually, I refused treatment and lived without therapy or medication. I went to college, and accepted and held lucrative positions in the sports field. After a slew of extremely toxic relationships, including one that was very abusive, I met the man who would eventually become my husband.
I held myself together during the first few years of our marriage. Then, as is the case for most people with serious mental illness, the facade I portrayed began to crumble. I could no longer hide behind the mask I wore to survive. I watched as multiple facets of my life slowly fell apart. An infertility battle and miscarriages left me unhinged and, due to the fact I couldn’t let anyone else see the real me, my husband suffered the brunt of my madness.
He pushed me to take medication but the side effects left me so incoherent and non-functional that I would lie and say I was taking them, but wouldn’t. As my life spiraled downward, suicide once again became an option.
I really didn’t want to die, not as I had when I was fifiteen, but I had to escape this pain, and I knew no other way. People often say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but unless you have suffered you can’t understand. This illness is full of lies and leaves you unable to see the truths. It makes you believe illogical thoughts. My illness was anything but temporary. I wanted to stop hurting my husband, and I wanted to stop my own pain.
Eventually, I found myself in the one place I had sworn I would never go again, as an in patient on a psychiatric unit. This time started the same as all my other stays. I was so drugged up I was unaware of my surroundings and constantly vomiting from the medication’s side effects. My husband stepped up and voiced his frustrations with how my care was being handled. I was put on different medications and diagnosed with PTSD on top of my bipolar and depression. I entered into an intensive two year program for PTSD and each time I wanted to quit, every day that failure seemed an option, he pushed me to get well. When I graduated after two years, he cried and celebrated right along side me. It wasn’t just my win, but ours.
This illness still has a firm grasp on me, but I am succeeding. My life has become one worth living. I often wonder why he stayed when he so easily could have left. He could have washed his hands of me. I may never know the specific reasons, but I will always know I survived because he saw past my illness and loved me in spite of my flaws. He grasped the full meaning of in sickness and health in our marriage vows. He pushed me to take charge of myself and my illness, to own it instead of to allow it to own me. I will not pretend it is always easy. It is not; actually far from it. However, with his support, I am doing it. I am surviving.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is hope. Please reach out for help, I will not tell you that it will be easy, but I will fervently tell you that it is worth it.
National Suicide Prevention week is September 6 – 12, 2015. We hope you’ll join the #stopsuicide efforts online and in person.
Photo Credit: Flickr: PedroSimoes
Madison Rae can be found writing at The Whimsy One. She is a frequent traveler and loves to create cocktails, usually with bourbon. She writes for numerous publications about infertility, sexual assault/abuse and mental illness. You can also catch her speaking at events around the country for NAMI. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.