Surviving Suicide

A guest post by Ann Roselle

{Trigger warning: Please skip this post if you are in a sensitive place right now. The National Suicide Hotline number is: 1-800-273-8255}

The first time I ever attempted suicide, I had been admitted to a psychiatric facility mere hours earlier for the first time in my life. I was in the throes of severe postpartum depression and anti-depressants were failing me; I couldn’t be left alone at home.

I had a sitter outside my door to keep watch and a roommate who wouldn’t stop screaming, “why does she have someone watching her?” at me. When my roommate went to dinner that evening, I wrapped a bath towel around my neck and pulled until I felt the air leave my body. My mind refused to lose consciousness. The tighter I pulled, the more I struggled for air. The longer it took, the more my body refused to die. I realized I would be found and end up in the padded room or worse; 911 called and possibly a vegetable instead of dead. I stopped. I chose life and recovery in that moment. 

The second time I attempted suicide was in the midst of undiagnosed mania. I had been spending month acting erratically. Drinking. Losing weight. Picking fights. Not sleeping. Hypersexual. Spending like Imelda Marcos at a Louboutin sample sale. I was utterly unable to cope with reality when confronted by anyone. I hid in my bathroom and took every Xanax I had in the house and lost consciousness. I genuinely hoped I would never wake again.

I woke in a small community hospital intensive care unit, barely able to piece together what had happened. My wrists were stained purple and black from multiple blood gases to monitor my respiratory status. My husband sat, brow furrowed, worried at my bedside. An angry gray-haired psychiatric provider stood at the foot of my bed informing me I would be committed either the easy way (voluntary) or the hard way (involuntary). We heard the word bipolar disorder for the very first time. I chose life and recovery in that moment. 

About a month later, I found myself demonstrating suicidal gestures, by taking every X-Acto blade my graphic designer husband had in the house and hiding them. Placing them in a secret place only I knew about. I believed it would provide me with a rainy-day insurance policy for when the going got tough again. I was struggling with my bipolar diagnosis. I was struggling with accepting my actions while manic. I was struggling with how hurt my loved ones were. I was struggling with the aftermath, period. I did not want to deal with the repercussions. I mentioned this at my outpatient mood disorder treatment in an effort to be honest about my feelings and found myself in the back of ambulance to the nearest psychiatric emergency department pending admission. Once again, I chose life and recovery in speaking up that morning. 

The third time I attempted suicide, I had a horrible argument with my husband. I was off my medication and couldn’t own up to it. I could not say the simple words “I am off my medications and need help." Instead, I skipped support group, skipped therapy, spent money, behaved belligerently, picked fights and left the house. I came home, locked myself in the bathroom and took a full bottle of Risperdal, a full bottle of Topamax, a full bottle of Xanax, a full bottle of Seroquel and a full bottle of Trazodone. My husband found me, barely breathing, and called 911. I woke later to find myself on a ventilator getting restrained by a nurse for trying to wipe my drool off my chin. (She thought I was trying to remove the breathing tube.) I assumed several hours had passed. I was shocked to learn several days had actually passed instead. Once I was liberated from the ventilator, I went back to the psychiatric hospital. 

I kept thinking I was choosing life and recovery following each attempt or gesture, however was I? For each time I chose to move forward I seemed to end up in the same place only the path was darker each time, with this last time requiring artificial ventilation. And the next time, I might just actually succeed.

During my last hospitalization, following that third suicide attempt, the attending psychiatrist assigned to me sat me down one afternoon. She looked me in the eye and asked me what I was doing there. She asked me why, with my training and knowledge was I hanging out on her unit when in her mind my time could be better spent advocating for other patients in the unit. She reminded me that I had a husband who called my social worker every day. That I had a husband who showed up every day to visit and stayed from the beginning of visiting hours to very last second allowed. She reminded me that I had three young boys waiting for their mother at home. She reminded me that I was gainfully employed with a roof over my head. She reminded me that I had health insurance whereas others did not.

She forced me to see that I was, in her mind, that patient sitting on a winning lottery ticket with a chance to do some good. I made up my mind to get better. I promised to get better. I promised to take my medications even if my husband had to put the pills in my mouth himself. I chose life in that conversation with body and mind. 

 

It has been nearly twenty-seven months since that third attempt. I have thrown myself into recovery since then. I take my medications. I participate in my treatment plan with my team. I have a steady peer-run support group to attend weekly. I work hard to keep my toolbox full so that I have the emotional ability to handle challenges head-on. 

It is one thing to say that I chose life, however it is another to live my life out loud. And today I am living out loud, proudly, with poise as a woman with bipolar disorder and as a woman who overcame multiple suicide attempts in the darkest days of my disease.  I can say with confidence that with every step I take forward, I want a better legacy for my children. For my husband and my three sons are the foremost reasons for my holding on. They helped to pull me through in the worst times by being present and showing up. I do not want my sons to grow up as survivors of suicide. I want them to grow up with me, with laughter and love and forget the past. I want us to grow old as a family. 

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Ann Roselle is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at the Heart and Vascular Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT. She has been practicing nursing since 1998 and a nurse practitioner since 2006. She was diagnosed with postpartum onset bipolar disorder in 2013 and has been a vocal advocate for mental illness since, either blogging or volunteering for various organizations. She lives in Bethany, CT with her husband and three boys. In her spare time she can be found blogging at www.bipolarandme.virb.com or mastering the waffle iron. 

 

 

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