Reflections on a Very Personal Anniversary
Shortly, it will be the one-year anniversary of my suicide attempt.
Posted Feb 21, 2015
March 1, 2015 will be one year since I attempted suicide. I have been doing a great deal of reflecting back on this past year and even before, the events and the thinking that led up to the overdose and what ensued. I’ve been thinking about this past year in therapy, what I’ve learned about myself, the insights I’ve gained, the parts of my psyche that have come to light and all that has led up to my recovery from this seemingly devastating event.
My psychiatrist Dr. Adena (not her real name), who is also my therapist remarked in a recent session that this past year has perhaps been the most intense in our nine-and-a-half years of working together. In that time I put her on a pedestal, while denying angry feelings I was experiencing towards her (anger was an emotion that wasn’t allowed when I was growing up). With her help I was able to knock my mother off the pedestal I had put her on and see my mom as more human, although I still had Dr. Adena raised to new heights. It was only in this past year that the anger I felt towards her broke through the denial (despite my best efforts). I continued to harbor resentment towards her for not doing a good enough job, for not being available enough, for not being sympathetic enough. The list goes on and on. I actually fired her twice; once in December preceding the suicide attempt, and once in April following the attempt.
It is her belief that part of my convoluted thinking that led to the attempt was to fire her permanently because we had a contract when I had started therapy with her. If I ever attempted suicide, she would end the treatment and when I lay in the medical hospital speaking to the on-call psychiatrist I actually told him not to bother to call her, because I believed that our therapeutic relationship was over. I am extremely grateful to her for sticking with me.
The last time I had such a severe depressive episode which began with a hospitalization in 2005 while I was still working at my first job as a social worker, it took me three years to recover. There was no suicide attempt involved, but I was hospitalized six times and I needed to obtain Social Security Disability to pay my bills because I was unable to work. During the second hospitalization, I feared that history would repeat itself. It seemed logical to me. During my first hospitalization, I had a consultation with a world-renowned expert on BPD. He told me it would be beneficial for me to return to work. Dr. Adena had a stronger “recommendation.” She told me she would not continue to work with me in therapy, if I was not working.
I was shaky, my emotional and physical stamina were compromised, but I returned to work on a part-time basis. I now look back on those first few months and as tough as they were, I realized that the expert’s recommendation and Dr. Adena’s insistence were the best thing that I could have done. It would have been much more difficult to resign from my job, take a lengthy amount of time off from my career and then re-enter the workplace, having to explain a second gap in my resume. Those first few months were hell; I cried a lot, but in August of 2014 with Dr. Adena’s encouragement I asked for my full-time position to be reinstated and got it. I started back on what would have been my mother’s 79th birthday. I thought of it as a gift to her.
Then there was my father. Dr. Adena and now I believe his death in April of 2013 was the catalyst for all of this. First my severe migraines which caused me to seek treatment for three weeks at The Cleveland Clinic. Then the unrelenting depression. I harbored a great deal of resentment and hatred for him that I was unable to let go of, not even an inch. One day during what started as a seemingly innocuous discussion during a session (this is why Dr. Adena encourages free association), I blurted out that when my psychiatrist on the long-term unit twenty-five years ago had accused my father of sexually abusing me, he must have been irrevocably hurt and as a result must have retreated. Which I interpreted as not caring about me. I felt great shame and sorrow that I was first realizing this now, too late to apologize to him.
Through further discussion in sessions, my relationship with my father has become less black and white and has faded more to a calm shade of grey. The intensity of the feelings has diminished and I feel more at peace with him.
I’m proud that I have come this far in this relatively short space of time. I’ve worked hard in therapy and it shows. I still have work to do on such issues as my health anxiety and things that are coming to light such as fear of being in a relationship, yet fear of being alone. Which kind of leaves me in limbo. But I have faith that if I work as hard as I did on those issues in this past year as I did on my depression, I’ll make a fair amount of progress.
My life is going well, dare I say. I’m working, I’m writing again — and publishing, and working on my book. I’m seeing my friends and family. A year ago, these are parts of life that I thought were gone for good. Above all, I’m grateful.