I wanted to write about something people in my life commend me on because I think it’s something I wish others could do; ask for help. Through the ups and downs in my life I’ve learned to be able to acknowledge when things are getting bad. I can tell the difference between an “off” day and something more serious being “off”, like my medications not working properly. Loved ones have praised me for being able to identify this switch between normal and not-so-normal because it’s when I know it’s time to take action. Action can be calling my psychiatrist, reaching out to my manager, or taking a day off from work to hide in my apartment. It all depends on how I perceive my feelings.
In order to know things are bad, you need to know what bad feels like. I wish there was another way, but the only way to know what bottom feels like is to hit it. If you’ve never hit your bottom, you’ll know when you get there; it’s when you feel the most hopeless, alone, and miserable you’ve ever felt. It’s a horrible feeling, but the good news is it can only get better from there. Once you’ve identified the feeling, you need do something difficult and painful – remember it. Remember what it feels like when you had nothing left, when you reached the lowest of lows. Feel that feeling and then make a vow to yourself to never reach that place ever again.
Hopefully, you’re not living that feeling now and if you are – hold on, I promise it won’t last forever. Hopefully you’re feeling your equivalent of “normal”, i.e., whatever normal feels like for you. But normal doesn’t last forever. Life is continually swaying between the highs and lows that surround your normal. But how do you know when your low is getting too low and closer to that place you vowed to never go again? I really concentrate on how I feel and see how it compares to that low place.
I’ll share a very personal example to clarify what I mean. A few years ago, I wasn’t taking medication and I was doing pretty well. I had lows but they always felt like something I could pull myself out of or something I knew would eventually go away. However, over time the lows started to replace the highs. I found it really difficult to handle my emotions and it started to feel almost impossible to pull myself out of the slightest low. But I still kept going on as if I was fine. It wasn’t until one day while I was at work and feeling very low that my mind started to wander. I started to think about what would happen if I wasn’t here anymore. I continued to think about it, but it wasn’t until the thought “what if I just stepped in front of the train?” that something in me said “STOP!”. I hadn’t had a dark thought like that it several years, since I hit my bottom, and I knew it was time for help. I knew I could no longer pretend I was fine and that everything was ok, and I knew I had to reach out. I called my mom who gave me a referral for a psychiatrist. I told him what was going on and he saw me that afternoon. He put me back on medication and I haven’t had a thought like that since.
You don’t need to get to that level to need help. Once you start to feel that sadness, that hurt, and that despair that you know is serious, it’s time to reach out. Call a loved one, a doctor (if you have one), or a hotline (National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255) and get the help you deserve. People won’t always reach out to you with the answers which is why it’s so crucial that you listen to yourself, take action, and advocate for yourself. You have the strength, I promise.