Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The day I almost lost my battle to my Demon

 It Bell’s Mental Health #LetsTalk Day. If you don’t know me already by name is Cassandra and I have struggle and still struggle with my mental health. I have a diagnosis of Anxiety, Depression and complex PTSD. 

I want to talk about when I also lost my battle to my “demon.” I have been off work since June 2019 working on my recovery. Initially when I went off work I thought it would be a couple of weeks, months at most but here we are almost 5 years later. I am happy to say that where I am now is leagues and miles better than where I was but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of ups and downs. My team has struggled with finding the correct medication to help me – so when I say I have tried a lot of them I think the list at more than 20. In the spring of 2021 we had found a combination that had been working really well. I was making massive strides thinking I could maybe look at returning to work soon. I started work on my massive garden project things were going really well until the start of July. I started to notice that the day time was ok but as the evenings started to move on the dark scary place in my head started to get larger and louder and my thoughts became worse. Every day I would wake up and think ok they aren’t so loud but as the day would go on the thoughts go louder. I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to have these thoughts and I didn’t want to have the pain anymore. I struggled a lot – I was still in trauma therapy at the time and was working with my counselor. Part of me thinks like a scientist and I knew that sometimes on medications for depression they can have the opposite impact and make thoughts worse and I thought maybe it was my medications. I had an appointment shortly with “my” psychiatrist (and I use that term loosely because he was a consulting psychiatrist for my family doctor) and I knew the medication I was on had to be tapered off and free from the systems before other drugs could be started. So with that in mind and with talking with my counsellor I stopped my medications. I spoke with the psychiatrist on a Friday and he prescribed two new medications; advised my husband to lock up all of the medications we had in the house and he also had the Crisis Response Centre follow up with me over the weekend to see how I was doing. I tried the new medications but I did not react well to them. I described it as feeling like a monkey hopped up on drugs but stuck in a cage. On second day I had a follow up I said the medications are not making me feel well – but I thought it could be because one of them was one I was on before and I knew that it made me feel weighed down so I checked with the Crisis Response team about switching that back to another medication I had been on that didn’t have that side effect and they said it was ok. So I tried two days of this new combination and it still made me feel absolutely awful. So again I stopped those medications but because the weekend was over Crisis Response told me to see the psychiatrist and that they were done with their follow up as it was just for the weekend. I tried to explain that I had no way of getting a hold of him – I only got once a year appointments as follows up if my doctor asked for them. They said then to call my doctor (who is amazing) but she was out of town – I still called and left messages and tried to get a hold of someone but couldn’t. That was the night that things got really bad and I sat for an hour with an electrical cord around my neck having an internal fight. I felt such shame and hurt and I could let my husband walk in and find me like that. So I took the cord off and I tried to sleep. The next morning just by coincidence my counsellor called me to reschedule something and left me a message. When I say this many will not understand but I knew in that moment, on that morning when my demon was sleeping in its cave getting ready to come back out and attack me that evening – I knew that I had a trust with Matt enough to call and say I was not ok. I knew that he wouldn’t ask why or ask me to explain I could just say It’s not good, I’m not ok. I called him back and by a stroke of luck he answered and I said I’m no ok. He asked a couple of questions and then spoke with my husband. I was in a place where I knew that I needed to be taken to the hospital, and it needed to be done by the police or I would find a way to talk my way out of it and that our current plans and the friends that we had checking and helping me weren’t going to keep me safe. 


I know it sounds odd to say that I knew I needed help but I also knew that I would find a way to try and get out of the help if it was a friend or family member taking me. I say this because I can be persuasive and stubborn. But I also say this because there was such an amount of shame and guilt for feeling like I was in such a low and awful place. There is such a stigma around dying by suicide and the selfish nature of the act and the harm it could do. I didn’t want to hurt my family or friends more by having them think or worry about me, I didn’t want to be a burden. It is such a strange place to be when you are in a place where you are struggling between the desire to just be a peace and have things end but also wanting to live but just not live in the place where you currently are. 


At the Crisis Response Centre you would think I got help but I didn’t. It was awful – it was worse because it started to be later into the day by time I got into the centre and by time they were able to speak with me. The Nurse I saw immediately labeled me as “non-med compliant” because I had stopped taking ALL of my medications. Again, I had stopped taking my anti-depression medication because I was going to talk with “my” psychiatrist and then stopped taking the new ones because they made me feel worse. I had tried to get help, I had tried to reach out but couldn’t but she didn’t see it that way because I had stopped taking my non-mental health ones also. I tried to explain that yes I did because I usually took them in the evening and by time night rolled around I didn’t care about managing my symptoms of PCOS like facial hair so couldn’t see the point of taking those drugs because I was more concerned about not being here anymore. She said that I just needed to “help myself” and have a plan in place, even though I had a plan, and had been getting help from friends and we were not sure we could keep me safe. Despite the fact that I was sitting in a room doing nothing but imaging ways that one could find a way to end it all and defending myself I felt nothing but judged. They said that because I had a diagnosis, medications I could take, and a psychiatrist they wouldn’t keep me. That at best they could send me home and see when a spot may open up in the Crisis Stabilization Unit but that could be weeks. I tried again to explain that the medications were not working, they were making me feel both physically and mentally worse, and that I didn’t have a psychiatrist I had one that worked with my doctor I couldn’t even get a hold of and I explained that as the day went by and later into the evening things got worse. 

They decided to discharge me at 10:30 pm and have my husband pick me up. I gave up at that moment. When I walked out the doors I felt like I knew that the end was coming and there was nothing I could do. As we were walking to the car they called my husband back to grab something I had forgotten and I just walked off into downtown and found a spot and sat and cried and made a plan. It took 2 hours for the police and my husband to find me sitting under a tree in a park downtown. The police were very sympathetic when they had heard what had happened. They said my choices were to go back to the CRC, to emergency or home. I said that the Emergency would send me to CRC and they already said they couldn’t help me. So I went home – and the only way I can describe that is it’s like walking into a real life horror movie that you can’t turn off. 


The next day my I tried calling everyone and anyone again – to say listen I’m not right I need help. I took advantage of those daytime hours when I knew that the demon was asleep. Then the Crisis Response Centre called back to follow up from the night before while I waited for a spot in the Stabilization unit. I was pissed because again she asked if I started taking my meds yet and I said no – they do not help they make me feel physically and emotionally worse. She then asked if I had any specific plans to end things. I screamed at her I did, I did the day before, I did the night before and the days before that. I said that I told them that just hours ago in the room when they said it was safe enough for me to go home. She said oh well you need to come back and I refused because they were just going to do the same thing as the day before. The nurse told me they would have to send the police for me and I said do whatever your team deserted me the night before. My husband and I went about our things and went to do some errands to keep me busy until I get a frantic phone call from a neighbor asking if I was ok because the police were at our house contemplating breaking down the door but were concerned about the dog that sounded vicious on the other side. (Love you Halley) I said I was struggling and she passed the phone to the police. They made arrangements to meet us close to where we were. I will acknowledge now that I have a huge amount of privilege that when the police came to meet me that they were kind, and very empathetic and didn’t have guns drawn. Instead one of the officers sat on the grass with me while the other spoke to my husband. I had explained everything that had been happening for the last couple of weeks and especially the night before. The officer shared with me that they had had horrible experiences with the CRC and mine was not an uncommon story. The officer also shared with me some of his struggles with his mental health. They agreed to not take me in to the Crisis Response Centre. I was fortunate that not long after that one of the nurses at my doctor’s office found a way to get a hold of the Psychiatrist. He was livid to say the least. He suggested trying a new medication and he also called the Crisis Response to set them straight on the fact that I was in fact med compliant. Thankfully I had an amazing team and amazing group of friends that would reach out and check on me. It took a couple of weeks on the new meds but things got better. 


I will say this now - My counsellor Matt saved my life that day with making that phone call. I also credit my friends and family with checking in, coming to watch me so I wasn’t physically alone. 




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