Monday, October 10, 2011

Mental Health and Support Systems

[trigger warning: mental health issues, discussion of suicide]

The problem with having a chronic condition is that it takes a toll on my mental health. I've stopped being in so much pain since I started amitriptylene, but my mental health didn't improve at the same time.

Pain causes a very emotional response in me, because I fear it, hate it, and can't function well with it. It's a loss of stability. It's knowing that I can't rely on my body to do what I need or want it to do. It's grief for what I used to be able to do. It's crying for hours because the pain won't stop no matter what I do, and then being exhausted by the emotional outpouring.

When the pain is temporary, has a definite and easily identifiable cause, and lasts only a few days, I can handle it. I might not like it, but I won't fall too far behind in anything in that time span.

When it lasts three weeks, on the other hand, I fall into a danger zone without even realizing it. I neglected to call my school's counseling center at first because I thought I was okay enough to handle it, and that the severe pain was over. Then the pain lasted, and lasted, and lasted. I would be in relatively little pain one day, and then crippling pain the next. I missed classes, I didn't do (still haven't done) reading assignments. I stopped being able to do things I take pride in.

I finally called the counseling center last week, but the psychologist I see didn't have an appointment until tomorrow. I thought I would be okay.

And then the weekend came. With it came relief from pain, but increased emotional distress likely caused by having too much time on my hands to think about it.

Last night, I finally reached out to all of my friends via a private facebook group we use for communication and asked them to check on me constantly. I then emailed three of my most supportive friends and cc'd my class dean and my psychologist on the email. I told them why I needed people to be around me or asking me how I'm doing so often.

I told them I've been having suicidal thoughts, and that none of my coping strategies were working. The coping strategy that has worked was sending that email, and within 15 minutes getting two positive and supportive emails in return. I also had an off-campus friend IMing me while I was awake for the last two nights, which helped with the immediate problems.

I'm better today. Not completely okay, but better.

I had at least six people ask me how I'm doing over lunch. The friends I emailed separately last night are texting me and making plans so that I'm not left alone for too long.

And it turns out that the people I've talked to or ask for help in the last couple of weeks have communicated with each other. A professor called the Dean for Students with Disabilities. That Dean and my Class Dean called my psychologist. One of the doctors I see at the health center noticed the recent visit with someone else that resulted in a new prescription for pain, and called my psychologist and called me. She asked if I wanted to have appointments every other week to keep up with my medical issues. I said yes. All of these people have called or emailed me to see what they can do for me and make suggestions.

I don't know how this works when a student isn't reaching out the way I am, but it's good to see such a response. I suppose that's what ResLife staff members are for: we're supposed to notice the kinds of behavioral changes that indicate a problem like this. Either way, it's amazing that this system is in place here where faculty and staff talk to each other. My friends are equally amazing.

One last note: I had debated putting this out in such a public place, but I decided that it's important to do so. Not just because I needed to sort through the thoughts I've written out here, but also because I know I'm not the only one who has or has had this kind of problem. And it's nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what society might tell us.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or on the edge of being suicidal, ask for help and if you can manage it, keep asking until you get it. There are people out there who want to help you. has national and local numbers for suicide hotlines, many of which operate 24/7.

I now have two national numbers programmed into my phone, just in case.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you reached out for help and that you got such a wonderful supportive response. Wishing you all manner of cozy and comforting things.