A World Mental Health Day Confession: Sometimes You Have to Save Yourself

I’ve talked about my mental health struggles for years, but this is one of those stories that I haven’t told in great detail and now, it’s time. A few years ago after the birth of my youngest daughter, postpartum anxiety had its way with me. Intrusive thoughts were rampant in my mind and my body was in a constant state of fight or flight. I was sweating all of the time and I couldn’t find a sense of calm.

I continued to work and raise my children because one, I had to and two, I wasn’t fully ready to admit that I was unhealthy, that I was sick, that I was loosing control.  I was all of these things.

One day I woke up and I realized that I couldn’t survive like that. I couldn’t carry on feeling that way and honestly I thought that not existing was a better option. I am a mother, I am a caretaker and even the love of my children couldn’t sustain me. I wanted out.

That thought danced in my head. No matter what I was doing it was there- ” you don’t have to feel this way, what are you waiting for?”

I was scared of letting people down. I was scared of people being mad at me. I was scared of people not understanding that I wasn’t trying to be selfish, I just wanted to stop hurting. I didn’t think they would understand. What would my children do when they realized what I did? How would they feel?

I was scared to die, but I also wasn’t living and life was too much. It overwhelmed me. My marriage was falling a part, I was in a toxic work environment, I was learning how deeply my empathy ran for others and how much I took on pain that really didn’t belong to me.

One morning I woke up and I decided that I would try to get help. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to live like that. Was there an alternative? Could I find away to fix my mind? Was there a way to find solid ground.

I called place after place trying to get admitted. Every place had a wait list. I was asked repeatedly if I wanted to die in that moment and the truth was in that moment I didn’t. In that moment I was hanging on to my last fight. I wanted to live, but that was only in that moment and I knew I didn’t have months or weeks, I barely had days to wait. If I waited, I would die.

After each call I hung up feeling more and more defeated. I cried, “I’m going to die,” I whispered to myself. I sat in silence and then I heard this voice. “No, you’re going to save yourself.” It was my own voice, I didn’t even recognize it because it sounded stronger than I had felt in months.  I picked the phone back up and I called my therapist Beth. I told her the truth. I told her I didn’t have weeks, I had days and I needed help. She told me to get on a plane, that if I came home to Minnesota she would see me for as long as I needed.

The very next day I did exactly that. I was on a mission to save myself, and I did. There wasn’t a program to get into so I created my own. 7 days of intense one on one sessions with Beth, musical and animal therapy and tons of self care. When you find your will to live again you also realize just how close to death you were. It was a harsh and terrifying realization.

Today I am not just surviving. I am living. I have learned my triggers, but I have also learned some amazing coping skills. My survival skills kick in every so often and I know when to seek help, and I do.  I often think about my resiliency and how not everyone has that. What if I didn’t decide to save myself? What if I couldn’t? What if that voice didn’t tell me to survive but instead continued to coerce me to die? I think about the people who didn’t survive and it breaks my heart. I was almost one of them.

Today, on World Mental Health Day I remember that woman who somehow found the will to fight to save her own life when the system failed her miserably and I pray for the people that the system continues to fail. I also thank the universe for my resiliency. It truly is my greatest tool, a real life superpower, and without it I would not be here today… I am really glad that I am.

Love and Light, Danni

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