Today is world suicide prevention day and it’s a tough day for many people in my life.
Last year a close friend of mine lost a brother. Two of my favourite kids lost an uncle. It was unexpected and heartbreaking.
A few years ago one of my friends almost lost her husband. Their third child is here today because his attempt failed by mechanism, not by choice.
And this day hits home for me pretty hard because after having my first child I lived through a lot of darkness.
It was lonely and scary and I feel lucky to have found my way to the other side. I am a pretty private person. I don't share a lot of my life publicly by choice but the act of writing has always been therapeutic for me.
During my darkest times I would write posts in the form of a blog, never to be published. Maybe one day I will have the courage.
I have more support than the average person. Both my husband and I have family living locally and a great circle of supportive friends. But unless you are able to really say how you are feeling, you cannot receive help.
I lied on the PPD screening questionnaires each time I took my child in for immunizations. I told my doctor we were fine. I couldn't say the truth out loud.
When I finally did admit to some of my feelings around the one-year shots I received a quick follow-up phone call to discuss some coping mechanisms.
Sleep and exercise (among other things) were being recommended by the nurse.
If anyone had glimpsed into my life for more than a quick second at that time they would see what an uphill battle that was. My first child was still a terrible sleeper. Sleeping through the night was a distant dream. I would fall into bed exhausted just to jolt awake moments later with horrible thoughts and anxiety.
I struggled to get myself out of bed in the morning. I tore myself down for every missed opportunity to connect with my child. I compared myself to others. I wasn't good enough.
It was more than eight months after that phone call that I finally began to feel myself again…slowly, just glimpses of who I used to be. I remember being 18-months postpartum and wondering what was wrong with me. How could I still feel this way?
In those eight months I thought many times about ending my life. I spend countless nights crying in bed trying to figure out how I could do it quickly, painlessly and without hurting the ones that I love. How could I get rid of my body while still giving them closure? Those were some of my darkest days.
I remember being at my first midwife appointment, pregnant with the second and checking off the box for PPD. My wonderful midwife asked me about it and then she hugged me as we cried together in her office. She felt guilty she wasn't there to support me. Of course, I was well outside her care at that time. There was no way for her to know. But she wasn't going to let me go without support this time.
She strongly encouraged me to speak to my physician about it. It took me months to gain the courage to go to my GP and I almost backed out of it when I found myself sitting in his chair. This man had been with me since birth. How could I show him I was a failure?
I can't remember his exact words, but I will never forget the sentiment in the words he reacted with. He was kind and he cared. He talked about hormones and their effects on the brain, he talked about the stigma. He talked about how I wouldn't be flushed with embarrassment asking for help if I broke my arm.
We set up a plan moving forward. He would see me six weeks postpartum to talk about how I was feeling. And he would see me regularly after that. I was to be honest with him about my mental state so that he could help me through it. He called me with resources to expand my support system with professionals and had referrals ready if we needed them. We talked about medications and safely breastfeeding. He didn't just care, he acted. He planned.
And I was lucky, I didn't need them. The birth of my second child was very different than my first. It wasn't traumatic, it was healing. My feeding journey started off easy and as a result sleep was much better. And although we had some complications they didn't become overwhelming. We were prepared and we were coping.
Not that it’s all sunshine and roses this time around. There are good days and bad days. But when I see the shadows creeping in, I am able to recognize what’s coming and I act to minimize it. I call a friend to visit. I reach to family for a break, even if it’s just 15 minutes. I get outside.
I guess I am writing this for a couple reasons. Because seeing that it is world suicide day brings up all the feels from a couple of years ago. And because I want people to know it can be different.
I want people to know that it's their body working against them and not something they did. And because I want people to reach out for help before they get to where I did, or worse. There is help out there for you, in many different ways. Please reach out and if it isn't enough, keep reaching. You are worth it.