Personal Stories

Fortifying the Castle

My name is Meredith and I live just outside of Chicago with my husband, daughter who is a child with autism, and a senior dog. I have struggled with anxiety and/or depression since I was about 16 years old. It is also around that time that I was sexually assaulted. The past few years were especially hard. I was in a really dark place for a long while but hiding it well. On the morning of Thursday, January 5th, 2017, I was going to end my life. I couldn’t take the depression and anxiety anymore. I sat on the couch, going over the plan in my head when I heard a loud “SNAP!” My startle response got me off the couch when I realized it was a mousetrap catching an uninvited guest in our pantry (we live near a cornfield so we get mice during late fall and through the winter). Looking at the tiny creature’s twisted expression, bugged-out eyes, and now-mangled neck made me stop dead in my tracks. Something told me I should go upstairs and wait in the bedroom for my husband to get out of the shower. So, I did. 

I dragged myself up there (I hadn’t slept in days) and when he came into the room, he could see I was a mess. I broke down and told him what my plans were for that day; my daughter was on holiday break so I was going to pretend to be sick, have my mother-in-law pick my daughter up, and keep her for the day. Then, I was going to head to a nearby hotel and carry out my plan (I had decided that I didn’t want any family members to find me and preferred thinking that hotel staff or emergency personnel would be the ones to make the discovery). My husband and I cried together and then he said, “We have to go to the ER.”

I didn’t want to, but choice was taken out of the equation at that point. I sat in the ER for about 6 ½ hours, being prompted to tell and re-tell my story to various hospital staff/clinicians. A man of about 85 sat near the exit of the room I was in; he was charged with making sure I didn’t escape or try to hurt myself. The ER doctor eventually found an open bed at the crisis stabilization unit in Winfield, IL. I arrived there around 9pm- everything was so lonely and surreal. In the coming days, I found out I’ve been dealing with untreated Bipolar Disorder, Type II—for likely my entire adult life—so my meds were completely revamped. I was inpatient for 6 days, then straight into a partial hospitalization program for a week and then intensive outpatient program for 2 more weeks. I’m so glad I got help—it was the best but scariest thing I’ve ever done. 

I am feeling a whole lot better (“normal”—whatever that means) and taking care of myself and my family once again. My husband has been, to say the least, my ROCK. He really held everything together while I was in the hospital. We’ve grown so much stronger and love each other more than ever. My daughter doesn’t know any details, of course. She kept asking things like “did your tummy hurt? How ‘bout your legs?” I told her “Mommy’s brain was broken so the doctors fixed it.” She was satisfied with that response and showed it by saying “OK” giving me a kiss on the crown of my head.

Today, I am in recovery. There are a lot of things that help me get to know myself again: to name a few- going to weekly therapy sessions, journaling, consistently taking my medications as well as regular meetings with my psychiatrist to ensure they are the right medications/dosages, a healthy sleep pattern. All of these things are what I refer to as “fortifying the castle.” The “dragon” (my mental illness) is ever-present and could be planning an attack at any time. If my castle is strong and I have enough warriors on my side, I may just come out of this thing unscathed. 

Of course, it is my hope that anyone who needs help will seek that help and receive it. More importantly though, I wish for the stigma surrounding mental illness to subside. I want people to talk about it in the open and for others not to feel uncomfortable with those “confessions.” I want people to ask for help way before their castle begins to crumble. I want for the friends and family of a person struggling with mental illness to know that it’s not their fault and that, sometimes, the signs are just not noticeable enough. I want those same people to know that they are indispensable in the recovery process of their loved one and that they can help so much by being present and by allowing their loved one the (uncomfortable at first) space to be completely vulnerable. Thank you for taking the time to read this story and please, if you feel something, say something.

 


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