This is something I’ve been trying to talk about for weeks, but it’s been difficult. And difficult for so many complex reasons.
In March, we were full speed ahead, excited for the Out of Darkness Walk, a walk that raises money and awareness to prevent suicide. I wrote a post about our experience and had some really moving conversations with all of you. Thank you for sharing such personal stories with me.
I know how complex mental illness is, and yet I was under this disillusion that everything was fine in our world. It wasn’t. It isn’t.
Early April, I wake up to a missed call and voicemail. I listen to the voicemail, concerned, since it came in at 2AM. It was Caitlyn. She said she was sorry and was is in the hospital. At this point, I’m trying not to jump to conclusions, as I’m googling the phone number. Meanwhile I get a text from Kelley asking if I saw our group chat. I hadn’t, so I look. Another “I love you, I’m sorry” message. Now I’m concerned. My mind is racing as I frantically call back the phone number that called me. My heart races as I’m transferred around, no one telling me anything. Finally they connect me directly with Caity.
Okay, she’s alive.
When faced with stress I react in 2 ways:
- I shut down completely, this is more typical of when the stress is only involving me.
- I go into planning mode. What is next, what do we do, what steps do we take. A take charge, hyper focused mode. More typical when the stress affects more that just me.
After I talk with Caity, I’m in that plan mode. I’m texting the family, I’m calling work, I’m rescheduling the day to find a way to go visit her because she sounds like she needs us.
Richard and I both go to the hospital to sit with her. I didn’t ask a lot of questions on the phone, because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, but in person I try to understand what happened. Caity described the night as a good night, that turned into a full blown mania, resulting in her trying to take her life. She explained that although she thinks about suicide less, compared to last year, she still thinks about it, and in this situation, acted on it.
We try to be positive, we try to act “normal”, but inside it hurts. It hurts to see her like this. It hurts to hear what she’s done. It hurts to leave her there, as we head back to our lives.
After her hold in the emergency psychiatric unit, she is placed in an inpatient program. We visit after she settles in, and she seems okay. As okay as one can be in this situation, I think. She appears hopeful, and optimistic, so that’s good, right?
On my drive home that day it comes crashing down. Plan mode Alicia is gone, and I’m shutting down. I envision what it would be like if I was planning her funeral. I imagine what I’d say to our family. I imagine a life where she succeeded in her plan. I’m overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of her doing this again. I’m devastated at the thought of her killing herself. I make it home, and I’m just drained. I’ve cried all I can cry. I’ve thought of all the worse case scenarios. I’ve done all I can actually do and I feel helpless and scared. I spend the weekend not doing anything. I couldn’t manage to visit again, I cancelled plans, and I spent that entire weekend shut down laying on the couch. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Every effort to do anything else brought me right back to that couch.
The week begins again, and I’m agitated. When you’re going through something like this, the petty things in life feel that much more insignificant. I didn’t want to argue with people over things that weren’t important. I didn’t want to do anything that I just didn’t feel like doing. I felt I was at my emotional limit and I had no room for any, well, bullshit. I had just enough in the tank to do the minimum that was required of me, nothing more.
Meanwhile, Caitlyn gets released from her inpatient program, and enters an outpatient program. She is not optimistic and hopeful like she was at inpatient. The program itself puts addiction and mental illness together, so she was faced with a majority of people going through something different than her. She felt triggered most days, and is struggling. Her struggle puts fear back in my head. But she makes it through. Shows up, makes the most of it, and finishes the program.
We’re really proud of her, she was honest, and she seems to be really focusing in on her mental health. She really seems to want to get better this time. But then comes more bad days. And it’s so hard. It’s hard for her. It’s hard for us.
I’ve been trying to understand. Understand how she feels, understand what she’s going through. But more often than not, I say the wrong things. I ask the wrong questions. My tone is not what it should be. I say something, which is unintentionally interpreted into something it isn’t. Never knowing what to say, or how to say it I find myself on eggshells. I spend my spare time reading about how to cope, and how to support a loved one in a more successful way than I am. But most days, I feel like I’m failing at it. And then my failure brings on guilt. Guilt that I’m not doing enough. Guilt when I can’t help. Guilt when I don’t want to help. Guilt when I have to create boundaries. Guilt when, for my own mental health I just can’t. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
I’m not alone, I know that, but it feels lonely. I feel like I’m in a mental battle with myself over all of it.
I just want things to . . . be, not normal, because they never were. But I want things to feel less lonely, I guess. I want Caitlyn to continue her path in recovery, I want her to be happy. I want her to know she isn’t a burden on any of us. We just want her here. We want her to be happy and healthy and we want to support her in the ways we can, which might not always be exactly the way she’s hoping for.
We’re all just doing the best we can I guess. . . one day at a time.
I think it’s important to remember that just because things seem fine, they might not be. Just because someone says they are fine, doesn’t mean they are. Check in on your loved ones. Check in on yourself.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.