Two Years Ago.
Two years ago, I was a senior in college with a pretty good semester ahead of me. I was the Assistant Music Director of the fall musical, I had loving friends and roommates. I was taking classes I liked. I was known as the shamble queen of college parties, and it was a crown I wore proudly. I was planning on auditioning for major conferences and getting my name out there. I had a plan.
Two years ago, I experienced the most massive breakdown of my life.
Something had been wrong for quite some time. Since middle school, things didn’t seem to click mentally. I was tired all the time, crying even more, and things never seemed to stay on the happy end of the spectrum. Not to mention I was getting worked up over the littlest things, becoming aggressive at the turn of a hat, and finding myself obsessed over thoughts that I couldn’t get rid of. My freshman year of high school, I was in and out of the hospital for nineteen days due to ‘heart attack-like symptoms.’ We would later find out that I was having massive panic attacks.
I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and mild depression. I went to a therapist I did not like, and ultimately was turned off from recovery for several years because of it. But that’s what I thought recovery was for the longest time: sitting in a room with someone who seemed to judge my every thought and made it feel like I couldn’t be truthful with them. So what did I do? I lied. I lied to her, I lied to my family, and I lied to myself. Thus, everything seemed to settle.
I would deal with these thoughts on my own somewhat successfully until the end of my junior year of college. Suddenly, the panic attacks were back, but they were mixed with this terrible, aching sadness. Hopelessness that felt suffocating and convinced me that there was no more to life. And I was a happy person. I had wonderful best friends, classmates that were supportive, and successes that could keep me going. But I wasn’t really happy. Not with this terrible creature inside that slowly whispered doubts into my ear.
I would have a minor breakdown with my best friend in his house April of that year. I remember because I had panic attacks so bad that I physically collapsed. I sought help the next month when I went home for a bit of summer break. I was placed on Lexapro for depression and Xanax for my anxiety, and I thought I was at the end of my troubles. And things got better, they really did. The overwhelming heaviness had lightened and I was able to really breathe and see the world for what it was.
I remember having a conversation with my mother about how things didn’t feel right. The heaviness was back, but this time it was coupled with a depression whose voice was much louder than before. It didn’t so much as murmur as yell in my ears during those lonely hours. It was overwhelming and disorienting. Senior year was supposed to be my year, but it was becoming the year of my depression very quickly. Something else was steering my life, and I was resigned to take a back seat.
I began to have dangerous intrusive thoughts. Suddenly, everything in reach was a way I could end the pain. Belts became nooses. Kitchen knives became surgical tools. Pills designed to help were now designed to harm. I slept as much as I could, and it never was enough. I drank, lonely and upset, in my own bed. Cigarettes became another form of Xanax. I was twenty one, and my life was coming to screeching halt.
I woke up on the twentieth of September after downing half a bottle of Xanax. The emptiness, the utter calm I felt still haunts me to this day. It was a Saturday, and I remember staying in bed until five pm. I only got up to take care of my dog, and then it was right back to bed for me. But I had a show to see that night, and an assignment to write.
I don’t know exactly when I decided that I was going to kill myself. But the day felt like autopilot. I dressed in my favorite dress and heels. I spent an hour on my make-up and another on my hair. I walked into the liquor store and bought a handle of Jack and tucked it into my purse. I carried it like a reminder into the theatre. Remember what you have to do tonight.
I don’t remember the show. I couldn’t tell you what I saw on that stage or what the dialogue was about. All I can remember is how heavy that bottle was in my purse that I kept tucked by my side, and how much I was preparing myself for my own grand finale. After the show, I took a seat on one of the benches, looking at the crowd of people waiting for the actors after the show. I was never going to see these people again, and I didn’t really care.
I was saved that night by the whim of my best friend sitting next to me on that bench. Something was wrong, and he had noticed. I don’t know what compelled me to tell him my plan for the night. I like to think it was the universe trying to save me one last time. Trying to tell me that no, this was not the way my story is supposed to end, stop trying to re-write the ending!
The rest of the night is a blur. I drove to his house. I cried and screamed, and probably freaked out his roommates. I downed almost the entire bottle of whiskey in my purse. I threatened myself with a knife, and he called the police. I rode in the back of a cop car that night to the campus mental health center, where I was too drunk to be admitted (BAC of .3, practically on my way to death.) I then was transferred by ambulance to the hospital on the other side of town to be forced into sobriety and be evaluated there.
And thus began the most terrifying two nights of my life. I was admitted into a bed in the emergency room, where I was pumped with fluids until the alcohol was flushed from my system. My phone was dying, and I had one shot to make a phone call. I managed to get ahold of my mother, tell her where I was, and to call the hospital to reach me. It was the most clarity I would experience for the rest of the night. Another moment of the universe guiding me.
Eventually, I was transferred to what I can only assume is where they keep the mental patients of the emergency cases. I was allowed to keep my (dead) cell phone. I would spend the rest of my morning listening to the screams and shrieks of the various other patients in their glass rooms. No doors allowed on these glass cubicles. You were always able to be seen in your bed.
My father drove all night to see me and stay with me. I cried and laughed with him. I was finally able to charge my phone. I went through a mental health evaluation. And then another. I was forced to stay another night, but was released around lunch time on Monday. The immediate threat was gone, but my road to recovery was just beginning.
And I’m still on that road. Recovery is, as I’m learning, a never ending battle. It is something you choose, and must keep choosing every day. Some days you will do better than others. But I’m learning that you must still keep making that choice. Two years ago, I fell to the lowest point of my life. But it allowed me to finally begin the healing process I needed to become the best version of myself.
I was (and still am) terrified to share my story. But I hope that telling my story that others can find the strength to choose recovery too. Everyone’s story is different, but the choice remains the same. Choose to recover. It is the hardest choice you will ever make, but it will be the most rewarding.