The Night of December 13, 2015

Bottle of pills[Image: A full bottle of pills.]

I recently overdosed on Klonopin in a bout of self-harm and, while completely out of it, posted on Facebook that I needed a ride to the hospital. I stated that the overdose was an accident which happened while I was trying to get to sleep. I later clarified that this overdose was no accident, it was a form of self-harm that I had engaged in. My second post seems to have confused some people about what is a suicide attempt and what is self-harm and more pointedly, which one I was engaging in.

Allow me now to clarify the definitions of some terms:

Overdose: an excessive or dangerous use of a drug. Overdoses can be accidental, although in my case, it was not. However, overdoses are not always suicide attempts.

Self-harm: intentionally harming one’s body often without the intention of suicide.

Suicide attempt: an intentionally attempt to end your own life.

Self-harm is an often misunderstood coping mechanism which is very difficult to explain to someone who isn’t mentally ill and doesn’t suffer from these recurrent thoughts. What happened the night of December 13 was that I was trying to punish myself. I started out taking the Klonopin to help me sleep. But then I stayed awake and kept thinking of my most recent setback, the crushing guilt I felt, the dread that saturated my mind, the feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and hopelessness that had been plaguing me for weeks.

I kept taking more pills. When I started to become impaired it only spurred me on. I have no idea of the timeline of that night, but I remember downing small handfuls at one point. The only recollection I have are some very disturbing poems I wrote while I was taking the overdose.

According to the poems, I Googled Klonopin in order to figure out how much would kill me. I couldn’t find the exact information and lamented there existed no overdose calculator which could tell you how much you needed to end your life. I cataloged my disappointment that, apparently, Klonopin is only dangerous if you get addicted to it and a fatal overdose is almost impossible without ingesting huge amounts of the drug; far more than I had on hand.

Although I never consciously wanted to end my life, during my altered state, I was well aware that this was a possibility. I finally went to bed at some point, after taking either one or two narcotic pain pills which I had leftover from my breast reduction surgery earlier this year. When I woke up I was vomiting and aware that I needed to do something. So, instead of simply asking either of my roommates for a ride to the hospital, I got on Facebook.

I didn’t want to die. I experienced a setback and that compounded with whatever kind of mixed episode I’m in right now and led to me experiencing the all-too-familiar feelings of guilt and shame which drove me to start and continue taking pills. After the overdose, what I thought was a solid romantic relationship disintegrated, and I continued having thoughts of hurting myself.

I felt as though I had ruined the relationship and needed to be punished for it. I told myself that if only I had been more normal and didn’t have these mental health problems, everything would be fine. In an effort to prevent me from once again acting on my feelings of self-harm, I got rid of all of the excess pills I had, including a fresh refill of the Klonopin that I had gotten a few weeks before the overdose. I also reached out to a few people to chat when the need to hurt myself was becoming too strong for me to handle.

At this point, I realize I’m experiencing a bipolar episode and I need to be cautious. I also realize that I’m a person with a mental illness and I need the space and understanding that will help me work through these issues, not compound them. My desire to hurt myself may never go away entirely and I might not be able to stop myself from acting on it in the future, just as I was recently unable to.

However, I now recognize these old feelings of shame and worthlessness are futile. I am only capable of what I’m capable of and no one in my life should make me feel as though that isn’t enough and trigger these recursive negative emotions. I hope I can remember this the next time I’m in a situation where the desire to hurt myself arises and I have to fight it. Because it is a very difficult battle and one that I’m not always strong enough to fight.

Prompt 11: Near-death Experience

Ambien-ab7ef519f1bef4d6a031583c4ad5294b8b3bb229-s6-c10Prompt 11. Most everyone has had a near-death experience, describe yours.

I almost died two days before Thanksgiving, 2009. I had been experiencing a plethora of problems after graduation from college, none of which I was adequately coping with. I had been diagnosed in December of 2007 with bipolar disorder and my medication was not sorted out yet. I had been in a major depression for months at that point. I had dropped out of grad school because I couldn’t handle it, I was in the off-again part of an on-again, off-again relationship with the man that infected me with herpes and mocked me when I told him that I was self-harming one night.

The night in question I had taken two Ambien to help combat my insomnia and sat down to read over some of the old entries in my secret personal blog. I looked back over the year that I had had after graduation and realized just how horrible it had been. I hadn’t been able to find a job, I was still living at home, I had been dumped by someone that I really liked without even the decency of an explanation, I couldn’t manage grad school, and a thousand other disappointments stacked up until, in an Ambien haze, I realized that this was it; my life was never going to get any better. It would just keep getting worse and I had to put a stop to this now.

I took the rest of the bottle of Ambien. I had just refilled it and had only taken two pills the night before. So I had 26 pills left, after taking two already that night. I took the rest of the bottle and wrote out a short will, leaving everything to my parents and assuring them that it was better this way. I then went to sleep.

I vaguely remember getting up and going to the bathroom. I vaguely remember talking to my mom. But my first clear memory is 5pm the next day when I woke up in the hospital. I saw my mom and asked where I was and she told me. At this point, I realized that I had, 1. Not managed to actually kill myself. 2. Fucked up. 3. Probably landed myself back at a psych ward for the second time in 6 weeks.

My mom told me later that the doctor had talked to her while I was unconscious and he told her that he wasn’t sure why I was alive. It was hardly a miracle though. I had been building up a tolerance to Ambien because I had been using it so regularly. I had been taking two instead of one, which was the dosage on the bottle, just to knock me out. I most likely survived because I had had so much in my system already. Keep in mind, the recommended dose is 10mg and I consumed 280mg. So, granted, that was a massive overdose, but still.

Although I don’t remember any of it, this was the closest to death that I’ve ever come and my first ambulance ride. In the end, I survived it and the inpatient stay afterward and things slowly did get better. I can’t say that things are perfect now, but things have improved and I’m much better equipped to deal with life and all of the strange things that come along with it. I have to say, it’s pretty strange to survive your brain trying to kill you. But honestly, I just have to hold on and hope that it doesn’t try that again.

Scars that talk about the past: head wound

IMG_3237I received my first scar on my head when I was about 2. A boy in the neighborhood pushed me off of a piece of playground equipment and I hit my head. It’s, I think, my oldest memory. I was wearing a pink dress that I just loved and I remember being horrified that my favorite dress was covered in blood. I don’t remember feeling pain.

At least not until I had to go to the doctor where they stitched me up. I remember my mom telling me that I had to be really still and I was silent the entire exam until he started putting a needle into my scalp. I screamed and cried, but apparently, no one was that serious about me being really still because I got ice cream afterward for being so good. I ended up with a small bald patch on my head and my hair covered easily enough.

The second scar and the one most visible now, came in 2009. One night, in the throes of depression and despair, I consumed 280 milligrams of Ambien (regular dose is 10 mg) and went to sleep, intending to never wake up. My plan failed, however. I regained consciousness at 5pm the following day and found myself in a hospital bed. During the time I was out, I apparently vomited all over myself, was up and walking around in the morning, used the bathroom and talked to my mom. I also hit my head.

I have no memory of any of this at all. A few hours after I woke up, I tried to run my fingers through my hair to straighten it and found that I had staples in my head and dried blood crusted around them. I tried to find what I hit my head on and wasn’t able to locate anything. I still don’t know exactly what happened.

The wound healed nicely and I got the staples out a few days after I was released from the inpatient ward I was forced to go to. The scar is still there though. My hair doesn’t lay completely flat on that side and the old wound still feels sore sometimes. But in the end, I survived a massive overdose with only a small scar on my scalp.

One time I was getting a haircut when the stylist asked me about my scar. I didn’t exactly want to tell a stranger what had happened to me. So I just told her that I had hit my head when I was unconscious. She assumed I had been drinking. I let her think that I had been.

Scars say a lot about us. They tell us what happened to us when we are at our worst and the odds are stacked against us. My head scar is a small reminder of a time when I thought it was over and I was ready to give up. Despite my best effort, I’m still here.