My Mental Health Story (pt. 4)
posted 25th Feb
Once again I post the obligatory disclaimer to keep me from getting eaten alive... Here it is: This story is going to be a long one. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I beg of you the mercy and kindness I have seen you all show members who really needed it and/or bared their soul. I am not looking for advice. I'm not looking to be cut down and criticized for my past. I KNOW what I have done wrong. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY that I feel so badly about parts of my past that I will probably feel the guilt until the day I die. I continue to try to accept my past and the mistakes I have made-- I am writing this to show struggling people that things DO get better. People do change. Mental wellness is an attainable goal for everyone who strives for it. If even ONE person reads my story and finds enlightenment or hope, then it would be worth the 100 people that read it and think I'm an awful person. While there may not be anything in this part of my story that is "incriminating" so-to-speak, I feel there is something to learn in every part of my story from a large range of ages.
(*I will write this now because it explains something my dad says to me later in the story, and I don't want to break that part up to explain it there. Heidi was a girl that was a friend of the family. She was 21 years old when she shot and killed herself. When she committed suicide she left behind a 2 year old daughter. Her father's name was Keith. Being from a small community where this girl and her family were very popular people, this greatly impacted everyone. Needless to say, my entire family went to the funeral. Heidi's sister Erica is my sister's best friend.)
So after I confessed having oral sex with another man to CD things went from bad to worse. He insisted for some time that we should stay together and I thought that this was going to be a big wake up call for him that we BOTH needed to change what we were doing. Nothing changed, though. He continued to never spend time with me and I continued to lose weight and search for attention anywhere I could get it. One of the places I found attention was the internet.
I didn't have a computer or traditional internet at the time but I did have internet on my phone and there were many programs available for chatrooms on my phone. It didn't take me long to find one that had members across the country. The main purpose of the site was chatrooms but there was the option to post private pictures and to send private messages.
It also didn't take me long to give out my private phone number to any random dude that asked for it and to text them constantly. The majority of these men weren't even slightly attractive. CD was much more handsome in comparison. It was about them validating that I was worthy of them talking to me- and when CD wouldn't give me the time of day to even ask how I was, these random men would jump at any nugget of attention I'd give them. I would even send random strangers nude photos- they started out pretty tame but as I got used to baring myself to strangers they got more and more graphic. I would even send videos. The more pictures/videos the more attention. I'm fairly certain looking back that some of them even probably had my face in them.
What would make so little sense to an outsider is that I was a pretty attractive woman at that point- I didn't have to go looking for desperate old men on websites. But part of the thrill for me was knowing that it was dangerous. The more danger involved, the better. This started out, like everything else, pretty subtly. I met the first few men off of the internet in a public place and didn't leave with them. It was more about testing the waters and seeing how it made me feel than actually meeting the guys. Of course, it was nice to know that there were guys out there willing to travel 2 hours to buy me drinks and spend 15 minutes with me-- but the real intention was feeling naughty for meeting strange men off of the internet and that they could do me harm, if they so chose.
Ever since I had cheated on CD, the self loathing and hopeless side to my persona had become much more pronounced until, at the end, it was more about wanting to cause myself harm and making myself feel horrible than getting attention.
I don't know how many of you out there have experienced a profound depression-- but for me, anyhow, when I'm at my lowest of low, I don't WANT to feel better. I feel so awful about myself that I feel like I deserve to feel even more awful and do things to avoid feeling good and to avoid getting better. Those feelings, coupled with the unstoppable energies that manias bring are a very very deadly combination. I remember, not really all that consciously, preparing my family in the event that something bad should happen to me. (I gave my sister my bow and some important photographs. I talked about arrangements with my daughter in the event that anything bad should ever happen to me or CD. I left notes around my house about how to do things for CD that I had been in charge of.)
The first time I had a sexual encounter with a man that I met off of the internet was towards the end of January, 2010. I ended up meeting a man, about an hour away from home, without anyone knowing where I was, in an abandoned parking lot about 15 minutes outside of a small town. It wasn't a situation that I felt like I had completely charmed him. I didn't feel like he was "under my spell". Desperate to gain his affections, I gave him oral sex.
I didn't even KNOW this guy... but I gave him oral sex in a car in a parking lot like a whore. But I didn't even get paid for it. I just wanted his attention.
Immediately afterwards came the crash. I felt sick. I felt dead. I wanted to die. I thought about CD. I thought about the fact that I had just cheated on CD not once, but TWICE. The father of my perfect, beautiful girl at home. I was convinced beyond reasoning that my daughter was SO much better off if she never knew me. I knew, in my heart, that if my daughter got to know me, she would be ashamed to be my daughter, that she would be ashamed of half of herself. I knew in my soul that my family would be better off not knowing who I'd become. I wanted to die. I wanted to make that happen.
On an overpass above interstate 55, I stood with my car's hood up and flashers on, attempting to make it appear like I was having car problems and not like I was a girl that was talking herself into making those the last minutes of her life. I sat in my car for a few moments and calmly went through my mind things that I wanted to happen after I was gone. I was going to leave a note in my phone for whoever it was that found me to explain that I had jumped off the overpass into the path of a semi intentionally and that I wanted whoever was in charge to use money I had saved to pay for the cheapest funeral or cremation possible.
Then a strange chain of events happened.
When I opened my phone to write my note, I had noticed that I had about 20 missed calls. The first few were from my sister. The other 17 or so were from my dad. I had only been gone for about 2 hours-- so it didn't make sense that they would be freaking out about my whereabouts. Immediately, my mind jumped to my daughter (was she sick? hurt? in the hospital?) and I immediately called my dad to find out what was wrong and if my daughter was ok. Through all of my misery and hate, I couldn't leave this world with the thought that my baby wasn't well.
As it would turn out- my daughter was fine.
My dad, an hour earlier, however, got a phone call from my sister because she couldn't get ahold of me and when she called CD to find out where I was, he said that I "seemed weird" and took off after giving him our daughter. My sister, for whatever reason, felt strangely about this and called my dad. The two of them began talking, comparing notes, and noticed a strange pattern. I had asked one of them to care for Char if I would be unable to for some reason and I had given the other one important things and pictures. Something didn't seem quite right to my dad.
My dad told my sister that he was going to go and look for me but not to worry, that he was sure that I was fine. He drove around the country roads for about an hour and, at first, wasn't really that alarmed. He just knew that I was okay. But something bothered him enough to pull his truck over and think. And think hard. And the more he thought, the more scared he got. He didn't realize it, but he had pulled his truck over in the parking lot of our family church. He kept calling my phone- at the time, he said he didn't even know WHY, but he knew that he HAD to try to contact me. He felt panicked and he didn't know why. For my dad- that was very strange. He is a man of reason and isn't easily swayed by emotion. When I say that he isn't swayed by emotions, I mean it. In the 22 years of my life up to that point, I had only ever seen him cry ONE time, when his mother died. It had such an impact on me that I remembered it clearly even though I was only about 5 years old.
While he was sitting in that church parking lot, I called back. And I wanted to know what was wrong- why did he call me nearly 20 times in a 1 hour period? Was my daughter ok? He had NO idea that I was calling while standing on an overpass about an hour from home. That I was preparing myself to say my last goodbye and that I just wanted to make sure that I was leaving this world with a healthy, happy baby.
He began by trying to explain himself. But he had a difficult time doing so. He was sort of confused, himself, with why he tried so desperately to contact me.
And then he began to cry. At first it was a simple stumbling of words and then it turned into straight out sobbing and crying on the phone to me. What came out of his mouth next was as big of a surprise to him as it was to me. He said, in between giant sobs, "Jenni, I don't know where you are. I don't know what you're doing. I don't know why but I had to hear your voice. Every time I blinked and closed my eyes, while sitting here in this truck searching for you, I was not just standing in the line at Heidi's funeral- I was Keith. Standing behind his daughter's casket and every time I look down, into the casket, I see your face. Tell me I don't have to worry Jenni, I don't know what's wrong with me."
The blood ran cold in my veins and I felt my heart just stop. I would have done/said anything to stop my dad's crying, to make him feel better. Even more importantly, my dad forced me to see, in those fleeing moments of his crying, that my death would cripple him- it wouldn't make him 'better off'. When you're in the depth of suicidal thoughts, you can only think of the reasons you should die (how people would be 'better off' without you) and you neglect to think about how it is probably the cruelest thing you can do to those that love you. The suicidal thought process is a selfish one. You can only think about how you want your pain to end and you justify it with only reasons why it'd be 'good' for anyone else.
What my dad had said to me and what I had said back to him would stay with me in the darkest moments to come. I said to him, "Don't worry, dad, I will never do that to you. I would never kill myself- I'd never do that to you. I promise. I'm fine."
And then I started crying and told him that I just needed a little time to think and that I was having some marital problems (I needed something to deflect him from thinking I was suicidal) and that was why I took off without telling anyone where I was going.
He seemed to buy that for the moment and we had a talk about how he would still love me even if I had to get divorced, that mom and him had thought that CD and I weren't working out and that he was just worried because Ash had called him and didn't know where I was.
We later sat down and talked (and cried some more!) about the details of that night, and while I don't expect everyone to interpret events the same way as me, my father and I became closer and my dad developed a relationship with God from that point on. He said, "I always believed in God and everything but I didn't really believe in miracles and never had anything to hold onto as personal proof-- but I think only God could have caused the events that night that led to you and I talking."
After I hung up the phone, I knew I couldn't kill myself. Not after that phone call.
I got into my car and began to drive back home. I quietly made subtle arrangements over the next 2 days in preparation of checking myself into a hospital and getting help. I knew that I had a close call that night and that if I didn't get help soon, I would die. It wasn't a question of IF but more of HOW and HOW SOON. 2 days later I drove to my sister's house and wrote on her phone's text screen, "Will you take me to the hospital? I need help." I didn't want to say it out loud because her boyfriend was in the room and I didn't know how to put it into words aloud.
The minute we got into the car, I explained myself to her and she said, "I was hoping for this. I knew you needed help for a while now, I just knew that if I asked you, you'd push me away if you weren't ready."
And we went to the small hospital in her town, I told the triage nurse that I was going to kill myself (now that I'm an ER nurse I think "how cliche!") and that I needed help. It didn't take long for the team there to determine that I needed to stay as an inpatient and was transferred to a big city where I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder with Mixed Episodes and Rapid Cycling.
In my next post I will go into a little bit of detail about my 2 week stay in a locked ward and the great care I received there. Unfortunately, I did very poorly after I was released. But that's for another day. This post was very hard for me to write- I relived the moments from that phone call and am still crying. I will take a bit of a break, and I hope to finish my story in the next 2 posts or so.