Content warning. * By Shareen Mansfield*
I spent five days looking up ways to kill myself.
I had the drugs on hand, prescribed to me for the pain related to my chronic, life threatening illness which was ironically not the reason I wanted to die. I was careful, I researched my death at length. I performed nursing calculations. I looked on websites for autopsy reports of prescribed medication overdoses. I scoured the internet, library and bookstores looking for a way to sleep and never wake up.
I did a test. I took the maximum amount I could swallow about a half hour after taking a medication that prevents vomiting. It stayed down. I made myself vomit by chugging vodka — the only alcoholic beverage that makes my gag reflex work. I threw up for over an hour that day. I never got high or drunk. I didn’t give the drugs the chance.
Once I was certain of my success, I made arrangements. First, I made sure the kids had food and clothes ready for the entire week. I made sets: socks, shoes, shirts, undergarments, anything I thought they might need to get ready for the days ahead. I organized the fridge. Prepped snack bags ready-to-cook for dinners. All of the things I knew they loved, I put in bags marked with their names and the time of day they could have them.
I found my oldest child’s favorite stuffed animal. The tiny plush was one of many, but this one was special. This one was “softer and louder,” easier for my child to identify it amongst the rest. I had placed this particular stuffed animal in my room, away from any chance of destruction as a way to save it for the future. I returned it to my eldest’s shelf to watch over him. This was something I knew would bring him comfort. I kissed it memorizing his face in a flashback.
For my other son, I replaced as much standard change into Silver Dollars or gold coins. These seemed especially important to have ready for him. Coin collecting brings him such joy. He saves his money counting it like a banker. Seeing his money jar shimmer with extra money would make his smile shine.
I had everything I needed. It was time for one last time run.
I ran a steady thirteen miles thinking the whole time how I could brag about the pace. I peered down at my phone, took it off of airplane mode. My phone was flooded with text messages, Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram alerts. I was co-hosting #LinkYourLife but had stayed offline to run. Then I saw it.
There was a message from my son sent to me while he was on the bus. A picture of himself and his brother with the text “ We love you mom! What’s for dinner?”
At that moment, I knew I wasn’t myself.
If I wanted to die, why would I care about my pace? To whom would I brag? My thoughts weren’t adding up. This clarified into an epiphany of sorts that something was different inside me. Something new and life changing.
The timer on my phone went off reminding me to get home. Wham! It startled me, the realization of what I had almost done literally tripped me. I heard the blaring horns, people yelling “are you ok?” I had fallen. Scraped my knees, elbows bleeding with the obvious stupidity of it all. Blood trickling down my elbows soaking into my white hoodie. Down my leg from my knees soaking my socks. The warmth of it made me shiver.
Before I tripped, I picked up a strange egg-shaped stone. It was large. It looked like an egg with a very tough exterior. No nest, no feathers, just abandoned on the trail. Like me. A thing of beauty left abandoned. The stone looked like Something my youngest son would have collected. Which is why I picked it up When I tripped, I dropped it only to discover it was a large goose egg.
I had taken a life.
The thought of that was so debilitating I couldn’t move. I looked down. My world was now a Strange World. Seeing the scramble of the eggs, the weight of it all, the guilt. It was so simple. Someone had just posted on Facebook that their mood was courtesy of Pfizer. I had not put things together before that someecard was posted.
I started taking antidepressants over a month ago. My doctor felt that the stress of my chronic illness (coupled with the other mitigating factors in my life) required another prescription.
I was not depressed. I was scared, anxious and sad. All things one should feel and work through–at least in my case. That text, amongst several others which were sent by my cousin and husband ( a source of the other stresses), made me realize I needed to run home find my family and hug them.
I went to see my doctor the very next day. I explained in excruciating detail what I had thought and planned. I was taken off the medication with a new suggestions: Rest, stay active, be social with only the important people in your life and focus on your family. Talk to them, live. Feel everything and when you panic, talk through it. Write through it and, if need be, take your medication for the anxiety attacks.
I’ve heard a lot about suicide, but I never called a suicide prevention line. I thought that feeling pain and fear needed to be medicated. In a lot of cases they are. My case was different. I did not need to be on an antidepressant. It caused me to behave and think in ways I would never imagine. I’ve fought to live and survived before. On some level, I do it every day. I’m not a person who gives up.
I made a promise to myself after that: I am a fighter; I will go the distance.
Many people need antidepressants as an intervention. I am thankful they save many. But this isn’t about medications. This is about my promise to myself to feel everything and live through it.
I won’t list the medications I used. Listing them could do more harm than good. An example is the antidepressant I was taking. If one were to Google the medication then somehow come across this blog, they may think the medication will have a similar effect on them. The medication may be perfect for them, but after reading this, they may fear it’s use. For example, I took another antidepressant after being diagnosed with postpartum depression and had no issues as far as suicidal thoughts.
And what if? What if someone else is trying to commit suicide with access to similar medications? I don’t want to provide the instructions.
The only reason I’m sharing something so personal is because I know others may feel the same way. They may not recognize it’s the medication. A loved one may not notice. I am safe now, but I request that readers take this seriously. Your life or someone you love could be at risk. I share this now knowing that someone out there will take this as a means of saying I am unstable. The risk is worth it. That connection, the unity it brings even in a joke like a someecard, was enough to trigger my instinct to fight.
The connection–something as simple as knowing with absolute certainty that you are not alone–that can be a lifesaver.
By Shareen Mansfield
Featured image credit: “We Daily Make Our Path Forward” by Aaminah Shakur