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What a beautiful day. The temperature was perfect for laying on the beach, especially with that breeze coming off the ocean. The only shadows cast were those by the squawking seagulls.
I could hear my family, sort of through a dream-like haze, laughing and splashing in the distance. I sat up to better absorb this moment as it looked just like a postcard.
A lump filled my throat as I waved to them from my towel. ‘Thank God I am still here to experience this,’ I thought to myself.
I thought it was split personality. What else do you think it could be when one day you are happy as a clam and the next you are breaking down uncontrollably in the middle of a busy grocery store. I barely cry when there is a reason, and yet there I was sobbing in the isle next to a bunch of strangers.
What are you supposed to think when you suddenly go from excitedly planning your weekend to wishing for your death?
It turns out it was something entirely different, something I’d need Google to understand later.
After convincing my husband that I never wanted to bear children, we took permanent measures, and I went off the birth control pill.
That’s when it all started.
I remember worrying that going off the pill would cause me to gain a few pounds. Something I laugh at now as it seems so trivial in retrospect. Like, when you hope it doesn’t rain but you get a tornado instead.
It’s hard to remember exactly when I started having those monthly psychotic breaks. They happened, seemingly out of nowhere. These episodes, I thought, were random, but they weren’t random at all. These events, I now know, came preprogrammed by my hormones with masterful precision. Like clockwork, they hit me with hopelessness, sorrow, and indescribable despair. Hormones, as it turns out, are formidable opponents.
Thank God for my brilliant gynecologist. Within moments of hearing my story, he knew what to do.
‘We need to get you back on the pill. Immediately.’
‘The birth control pill,’ I questioned.
‘Yes. You have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.’
I filled the prescription that afternoon.
As a result, the next month was better, as was the month after that. Nowadays, I just have good old regular PMS. I’m melancholy and irritable, but the physical agony, sheer despair, suicidal thoughts, and meltdowns are long gone thankfully.
Yes, I’ll be on the birth control pill until menopause. So what? Who cares? Compared to the alternative I’ll gladly take birth control. The death that was heading my way would have been much quicker and far more destructive.
I vividly remember those months of suffering. I remember thinking how, if this was my new script, it wasn’t going to be a very long movie. The darkness I felt (every 2-3 weeks for 7-10 days) was intolerable but, in those times, I turned to this list. An inventory of genuine reasons that inspired me to stay alive.
Had I tried to kill myself I would have probably been unsuccessful. Many people attempt suicide and fail at it. It’s more common than you imagine. Likely, I would have remained alive but endured horrific consequences from the botched attempt. Brain damage, paralysis, a million things that could make even my then depressed state considerably worse.
And who gets the pleasure of taking care of what’s left of me? Who is now responsible for the new, ‘post-suicide attempt’ me? My loving and innocent family who only cared for me and didn’t ask for this burden at all.
Suicide is not something that God endorses. My desire to go to Heaven, and the fear of the unknown, keep me believing that suicide isn’t something we should do.
While some may chalk this reason up to theological fear, it kept me around long enough to get the help I needed, so I’ll take it.
Let’s say I’m successful at the whole suicide thing. Who gets the pleasure of finding my dead body? Yeah, that’s going to be a fun day at work for someone.
Whoever it is, they will be mentally damaged forever, and it will be my fault. You can’t unsee something like that. I don’t want to cause someone else’s breakdown. My dead body’s discovery would destroy whoever finds it. Period.
The ones I leave behind will miss me and never fully recover. Though I am gone, they will remain and suffer, probably endlessly.
They will think, ‘what if I was a better husband/mother/child/friend/neighbor.’ It has nothing to do with them. They are innocent. But I will spread that burden on everyone around me. I will leave them mourning my loss and second-guessing their actions, for as long as they live. They will feel shame, guilt, doubt and all the other companions that travel with sorrow.
Even when it gets better in their day-to-day, it will all come back with sledgehammer-like force throughout important moments. The Christmas mornings I should be there for, the graduations, weddings, those seaside summer vacations.
At that point, their sorrow would be entirely my fault.
Often people just say, ‘don’t do it, it’ll get better.’ The truth is, it might not always be great, but it can get better.
I know how incredibly hard it is when the despair is overwhelming. You just want the pain to stop at any cost. But please consider beyond the immediate moment. This season of your life is just one tiny fragment of a giant puzzle, with so many pieces still left to put into place. If it can get better, don’t you want to see what’s possible?
Now that I’m feeling much better, there are moments where I think to myself how utterly and purely happy I am to be here still and witness these good times.
From laying on the beach with my family playing in the distance to the breeze that blows through my home when I open my windows, these are all reminders of little moments of happiness that I would have missed had I taken that early exit.
Thankfully I don’t need this list anymore. I was fortunate. I found an excellent doctor with a simple plan. It’s not always so easy for others.
I hope my list of reasons inspires you to make one for yourself. Write down the personal reasons why you shouldn’t quit, why you should still be here. And, if you need a few, take some of mine. Return to your list often when the pain strikes you yet again. It will carry you and get you through the storm.
There will be storms, maybe many storms, but there will also be breaks in the clouds. And someday, like me, you will be grateful that you gave yourself permission to be here still, to feel the sun on your face once again.