Darkness Descends

As I prepared to return to Tony in Florida, I tried to acclimate back to a “normal” and healthy feeling in my body and mind.

My nerves were gone. I felt like a collection of fireworks filled with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and dread were exploding inside my body on a constant basis.

I vividly remember anxiously sitting in the passenger seat while my mom drove me to the store to pick up a few basics. At the traffic light waiting to make a left across two lanes of oncoming traffic into the parking lot, I started to unbuckle my seat belt. As I explained I would get out and walk from here, my mom grabbed my arm and said, “don’t you dare get out of this car.”

She told me to relax and breathe. 

She reminded me how close we were. 

The light turned green. 

We made our turn into the parking lot. 

That was the first time deep breathing and patience helped me survive overwhelming anxious feelings.

That was also my initial encounter with such overwhelming panic. There was an incredible and overpowering sensation accompanied by the urgency to move, to make immediate progress. 

It felt like movement would help me escape the anxiety building under my skin.

I would need to learn to control these feelings. My parents with their ability to slow down, be still, and take time to contemplate the next move really helped me. 

They also taught me it is okay not to feel okay. 

Sit with it. 

The feeling will pass. 

Peace will come.

The next memory I have of my radically altered existence was visiting my cousins and aunt. Seeing and spending lots of time with these close family members had always been a source of joy for me. We grew up close. My mom’s sister was like a second mom, her home a second home, and my cousins felt more like two extra siblings. 

During my first visit to their home after my diagnosis, I was distraught. Things were okay at first, but shortly after eating lunch I became overwhelmingly anxious and agitated.

I stepped into a bedroom to lie down. To calm down. 

After twenty minutes or so the feelings would not pass. I asked my mom to drive me home. 

That was the first time my anxiety was bad enough to change my behavior. 

To ruin not only my day, but also everyone else we were spending time with that afternoon.

Shortly after that visit, I flew back to Florida. I was on two prescriptions to manage my disease. I returned to my role helping with the business. I worked to rebuild the lost trust and uncertainty that now made up my relationship with Tony.

It felt like life was getting back on track – almost.

I found a doctor and wanted to change my medications. 

I would feel and see shakes and tremors in my body constantly. I was afraid of the dark. Afraid to be alone. There was constant anxiety. I was uncomfortable in my own skin almost continually.

This doctor did not want to make any changes. She recommended I stay on the drugs another six weeks, then come back.

I couldn’t take another minute. I stopped taking my meds.

The descent into darkness was slow.

I grew increasingly anxious. My despair took over.

I was sad to have a chronic condition. Sad that I had lost the trust of my family and friends. Now 100% of my conversations covered how I was sleeping. How I was feeling. 

I would sleep most of the day to avoid these feelings. I hid from my problems.

I fantasized about ending my life. 

One night, I took a knife into the hot bath. I held it against my wrist. It didn’t cut my skin. I couldn’t bring myself to push any harder.

I wept. 

I cried for the broken girl I had become. I shed violent, grief filled tears for the life I lost and the difficult road ahead. I could barely contemplate a path forward. 

I didn’t tell a soul. 

No one knew how little light I had left in my life. The agony continued.

Mother’s Day weekend 2007 I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills chased with four to six ounces of vodka. Before I passed out, I prayed for forgiveness. I told God if He woke me up, I would figure this out. If He woke me up, I knew He had a plan for my life.

It went black. I had successfully escaped. 

My brother-in-law who stayed with us called Tony and told him I was vomiting in my sleep and he couldn’t wake me. Tony rushed home from work to find our white bedding covered in blue sickness. He woke me enough to get me into the car and took me to the emergency room. He kept me awake and didn’t allow me to pass out again.

In the ER no one seemed particularly concerned or compassionate. I waited a long time before being taken back. The doctor examined me only briefly and decided since I had gotten sick there was no need to pump my stomach. I stayed on a gurney in the emergency room  hallway all night.

The next morning, I was placed in a psychiatric facility and kept for another 24-hours. 

I completed one session with a therapist. 

No prescriptions were given to me. 

No outpatient counseling was scheduled. 

I was discharged.

I was on my own to figure this out.

Telling the people I loved was the hardest part. They already treated me differently because of the bipolar diagnosis. Now with my suicide attempt they were more careful what topics to discuss with me. 

After my suicide attempt and survival, I was not much better. 

I believed I had a promise from God that He had a plan. 

I showered, I fixed my hair, I got dressed.

I waited for His plan to be revealed.

Tony was very sad and angry. Not because I tried to end my life, but because I didn’t openly articulate how bad I felt. He cried when he asked me, “why didn’t you ask me to go with you?”

It was very Romeo and Juliet. Nice to hear he loved me that much. That he didn’t want to be in a world without me. Yet, alarming to learn we were both this low in life. 

Running our own business was exceptionally challenging. Bills mounted. Savings ran out. 401K accounts were cashed out. Credit cards maxed out with high payments we could barely afford. We relied on the generosity of friends for some meals. Charity from churches for low cost food to fill our pantry. One dollar frozen meals for lunch and dinner. It was depressing, hopeless, and we could see bankruptcy as the only solution on our path forward.

Our hopes and dreams were crumbling. Together we had failed each other, failed in life. Our mental health was just one more victim of this tsunami’s devastation.

We had a lot of hard work ahead.

I knew I needed to find some joy despite the hard times we were facing. I remembered dancing always helped when I was young. I found group ballroom dance lessons for less than $5 a week on Tuesday nights at a community center and started going regularly.

I joined a small group at church that did social outings. We went to the beach, watched movies, and shared meals together. I openly talked about my struggles with some of these strangers who quickly became new friends. 

This was in 2007. Thanks to social media I still stay in contact with these good people, even though we moved back to the Washington metro area in late 2008. Their presence reminds me of a difficult time I endured and the meaning of true love and acceptance.

Things got better. 

I focused on building a life that brought me joy. I saw more light in my life. But, by the fall of 2008, the ride back up the spectrum to mania and then paranoia would repeat itself.

Read the next post, Suicide Note.

Published by DaylightandDarkness.com

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006. Dayna thrives with mental health challenges. Shine bright. Do not let the darkness win.

3 thoughts on “Darkness Descends

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