All of us suffer. In that suffering there are those that become so consumed with trauma, they feel they can no longer fight the fight. Many will judge, as they so often do, they will say we are weak, and selfish. They will not understand the mental torture and the total disconnect that comes with a decision to take ones life.
I have been to that dark place. A place most people fear, where your mind becomes a prison and your body seems to acquiesce to the demands of irrational fears, paranoia, and a total lack of control.
I was standing on the balcony of my apartment on the 27th floor. My depression had reached an all time high and I was having panic attacks so frequently I couldn’t leave my apartment. The pain was so unbearable I felt like I was drowning.
I felt trapped in my own body, unable to control my amygdala which was constantly firing, triggering my body to fight, flee or freeze. I couldn’t drive, take the subway, cross bridges, go thru tunnels, even walk on the street without the fear of this uncontrollable sensation coming over me.
So there I was, twenty-seven stories over Broadway, a place where I’d dreamed to be, only perhaps not in this way. I looked down, then out to the street lights. I stepped up onto the small glass coffee table in a trance. I put one foot up on the ledge when my phone rang.
I looked back on the chair. “Just do it. Forget the phone.” Said a darkness within me.
for whatever reason, I stepped down and picked up the phone.
“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t.” I had been friends with Sandra for years. Other than Stephanie, she was truly one of my best friends and an unbelievable psychic. She’d had a dream that I was flying over New York City and and urge to call me.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m out on the balcony. The lights are shining so brightly Sandra. I wish you could see them. They’re so beautiful.” I stepped back up onto the table.
I was oddly calm. I could hear a small voice screaming at me to stop but that voice was buried so far beneath the voice of despair it might as well have not even existed.
“Listen honey. I know it’s not gonna make a hill of beans to you right now, but it does get better. I can see it. If you could see what I see, you’d never want to do this.” Sandra’s voice was cracking.
“It’s not true. I see nothing. There is nothing.” I said.
“It’s just anxiety. All the trauma from your life that you haven’t dealt with is coming to the surface.”
“I can’t control it.” I cried. “No one believes me. They say I’m over dramatic and over emotional. They don’t take me seriously, they never have, and they never will.”
“I take you seriously. I KNOW you are hurt. I know you are in pain. I see it. I am your witness.”
I was quiet. I stood there with the phone to my ear not sure why I was hesitating.
“With everything you’ve gone through in your life thus far, I can understand why you think this is the only way, but please, please trust me, it’s not.”
“I feel like I can’t stop myself.”
“Yes you can. Listen to me. This is all in your mind. It’s not real. You are so much stronger than you think, you just need help. There is help. There are so many people who can help you. They will help you. Go inside, grab that medication they gave you and take that pill.”
My doctor had prescribed Effexor. I was resisting taking it because I didn’t like pills. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs and I rarely take pills unless I have a migraine. I hate the feeling of being out of control of my body. I felt weak, like if I had to go on medication my life would be over in a different way.
“Take the pill. It’s not forever. It’s to get you over the hump. You need to help yourself.”
“I don’t want to be medicated for the rest of my life.”
“You won’t be. We will find you someone who can help you wean off when you are ready. Honey, so many people feel this way. There are people everywhere, right this minute who feel this way. You are not alone.”
Those words stuck with me.
You are not alone.
And while I felt alone, I suddenly, inexplicably knew I wasn’t.
“The angels are with you, your ancestors, your spirit guides, my god they are all here. You are so loved. Do you hear me? I love you. ” Sandra was crying hysterically. The desperation in her voice had peaked. She had broken.
I could feel a tear roll down my cheek. Everything in my world went silent. I looked out over Broadway through new eyes. The eyes of fear. Fear of losing my life.
I gasped and crunched down on the stool dropping the phone. Sandra was screaming through the speaker. It was silent so long that when she’d heard me gasp she thought I’d jumped. She was screaming so loud her voice was hoarse.
I grabbed the phone “I’m here. I didn’t do anything. I’m here.”
The two of us cried on the phone for a long time. I understood in that moment all sides of it. The pain I had inside was devastating, but the pain I had caused my friend was devastating too. I had traumatized her in a way I could never take back. In that moment I realized the ripple effect my action would have taken on those who loved me. It was an important lesson and one I would never forget.
I made my way into my room and found the bottle of Effexor. Without a moment’s hesitation, I took it.
Through this experience, I set off on a journey that would take years to heal. I look back on that night as a gift, something I never knew I needed. I didn’t stay on the medication for more than a month but I battled the anxiety for ten years. Many people came in and out of my life offering helpful solutions, providing therapy, healing, and spiritual practice.
I have deep compassion for people who go to that dark place, the point of no return. For some truly believe that they are alone…that there is no one. They are crying for help and they fear no one will ever come. With that thought, the darkness takes them. They are not selfish or weak, they are broken, and in pain as all humans are. And when the pain becomes too much, they seek death to relive themselves from it. They aren’t aware of how their actions will affect others, or what the karmic consequences of it all will be, they only understand the pain.
Love everyone you can, for we all battle demons you can’t see. Love is free. It costs nothing for you to give, but it is priceless to those who receive it.
*For Margot Kidder, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams and the countless others swallowed by the demon of despair. May your souls find peace knowing how much you are loved.