As someone who suffers with chronic pain, I know what it feels like to be surrounded by darkness, and I don’t just mean that the lights are turned out! I am talking about the kind of darkness that is present when the lights are on, a darkness in your heart, that hangs over you, sometimes haunting you. Another word that is often used for this darkness is depression, and it should not be taken “lightlty”. I think anyone who has dealt with Chronic Pain has probably also battled depression and knows too well what I am talking about. The horrible thing about depression is that it can lead to thoughts and behaviors that can have fatal results.
I know about the reality of these kinds of results all too well.
I have lived with the challenge of depression since I was a teenager or quite possibly earlier. It slowly took its grip on me during those tender years when you develop your self-image and ideas about your self-worth. It’s hard to say what causes which with me. I grew up in an environment that lacked health. My family was wrecked by divorce, alcoholism, violence, different forms of abuse, etc. Generations before me have suffered from mental illness and depression. My life was filled with challenges and a variety of obstacles, undoubtedly put there to make me stronger. It formed a hole in my heart that allowed for depression to move in, whether it be created by environment or genetics or a combination of both, it has been with me for a long time. It is not what I would call my friend, but certainly familiar.
As often happens with people experiencing depression of the severe forms, thoughts of suicide or self-harm develop. My first recollection of any kind of self-harm activity was when I was about 16 and on Spring Break with some friends. We had been playing games and drinking alcohol and my mood quickly turned dark and filled with sadness. I locked myself in a bathroom and started “playing” dangerously with a razor. I spoke about my life being pointless and that I was hopeless and worthless. Now, it blows my mind that I could feel that way at 16, but I also know what kinds of damaging things had happened in the 16 years prior, so it should not really be too much of a surprise.
My next serious battle was in my freshman year of college. I was supposed to be having such a great time. I was in my new dorm, I was a pledge at a very well respected sorority, on a big beautiful campus, had a boyfriend who treated me kindly, so what was missing? All I know is that I was missing. The hole was filled with that depression and I felt empty like never before. I felt like I could never compete with all of the people I saw every where I looked. I felt I had nothing special to offer the world. I was not standing out in the crowd. It was hard to get the A’s that I had received easily in highschool, now at the college level. I was not near as pretty as all of the other college girls I saw. Every which way I looked was a boy who was not interested in me. I craved attention and love so desperately, I had been for years. Christ was no where in the picture, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas day back home, you know while the manger is set out but no one really talks about Him.
I was so alone, with so many around me.
It was late fall and I had developed an illness, mono maybe or bronchitis, and I just sat in my dorm room one night filled with so much anxiety and depression that I almost screamed, but instead I muffled my gasps and moans, I cried into my pillow and I took a strange mixture of pills. Before I had taken too many, I started throwing up and I was even more miserable. In desperation I called my mom and very early in the morning she came to pick me up at school and drove me back home to a hospital where I was admitted to a psychiatric unit. (I seriously need to blog about that experience some day) I spent a month there. And I came out feeling numb.
I kept some sort of lid on things, with some dips here and there that were serious at times but not exposed, for the next several years. I married, my marriage failed, and I married again. It was after the birth of my second precious child that I developed the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. My life had already been plagued with anxiety attacks, depression, post-partum depression after baby number 1 (my daughter), and now . . .good grief, your going to give me more? I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in the summer of 2006. I was spent. . .I had reached some kind of limit mentally. I reached out for the Lord, but in my confused mental state all I heard back was, “come home to me”. I truly thought that the Lord wanted me to leave this earth on my terms. So I attempted to take my life by swallowing over a dozen 1 mg tablets of clonazepam as I prayed Psalms 23. God was watching over me and I was interrupted by my sweet little girl. She sensed something was wrong and my husband came in and read the letter I had left. Long story short, another hospitalization and another month. A big fat medical bill and here I am! Almost 3 years later, not an easy road, but so much is different in my life! Hallelujah!
The story about my relationship with the Lord is not the theme here, so we will save that for another time. The story I am sharing is my testimony to how depression and chronic pain can lead to suicide, suicide attempts or self-harm. I share these uncomfortable facts with you, because you, too, may know what it is like to lie in bed with intense pain and a feeling of worthlessness that makes you believe the wrong things! Depression and Chronic Pain can lead to malfunctioning thoughts and also to some seriously difficult, desperate situations. . .and this can lead to irrational, horrible, irrevocable actions, that effect not just ourselves, but our families, our friends, our legacy, etc.
Chronic pain needs friends. Chronic pain needs advocates. And suicide prevention does, too.
This word, suicide, almost stings when you say it.
My grandfather actually committed suicide in March of 1997.
My own husband has battled thoughts of suicide this past year.
Suicide prevention is important to me, and now, you can see why. But, I also think it should be important to all of us who advocate for chronic pain sufferers. There are so many important causes to support in the world, but I have decided that this is one of mine!
I will be walking in this summer’s “Out of the Darkness Overnight” walk. The walk is approximately 18 miles (oh my, what kind of pain am I in for?) and will span the duration of a summer night at the end of June in Chicago, from sundown to sunrise, we’ll be walking to raise awareness about Suicide Prevention and to memorialize loved ones lost.
If this cause is something you would like to learn more about please check out The Out of the Darkness Overnight web-site.
I thank God that I can share this with you and not feel shame, but know that it is a story God gave me to share, so that I can help others.
Please, if you are in a dark place, remember that there is a way to walk Out of the Darkness! If you are in crisis you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).