Trigger warning: This blog post discusses mental health and suicide prevention. Please be mindful to your own triggers, and if it raises something in you - know you aren't alone. Find somebody to talk with, or we are always here to reach out to.
I have been feeling a pull lately to begin telling our story. Mental Health Awareness is blowing up all over Facebook and I have a lot pulling at my heartstrings. As I write I'm not sure if this will be a single piece, or multiple pieces. I don't know exactly what I want to tell, or what your reactions will be, but I know that this is one of our stories I want to share.
I believe that we go through things in our lives for reason. It is our DUTY to share it, when the time is right, so that we may help others. By not telling our story then we went through a lot of pain, a lot of anguish and a lot of heartache for nothing. I NEED good to come out of this one. So here it goes....
Let me catch you up to speed with a quick timeline so you can keep things in perspective:
May 2016: We closed on our forever home in the Village of Hamburg. We had an apartment in my grandmother's house and we decided to make a few "quick" renovations before we moved in.
June 2016: The plumbing in the apartment went. The house was not livable with a toddler and and my pregnant self, so we moved in with my parents (for what we thought was going to be 2 weeks or so).
July 2016: We had a big issue with the painter and the "fixing" of the walls and we decided to plunge and rip out the bedrooms.
August of 2016: Cal was born. We were still living with my parents.
April 2017: We signed the lease on the space that would become Vitality Buffalo. We were still living with my parents.
August 1 2017: We opened the doors to Vitality Buffalo. We were still living with my parents.
..... and this is where this part of the story begins.
Friday August 25th 2017: Tensions were high, emotions were strong and it seemed like someone was always angry. Over the past year things between my husband and I had been disintegrating. We were fighting a lot. We didn't overly want to be around each other, it seemed like all we did was yell at each other. We had been living with my parents, our two kids, our cat and our dog for over a year. I went from being pregnant to getting ready to celebrate the baby's first birthday and we were still living in my old childhood bedroom.
My husband had called and told me that he was going to stop at the gym on his way home. We had so much to do; the kids birthday party was on Saturday and the list was long. I met him over there, I'm sure that in my mind I was going to yell at him about something or another because it seemed like at that time in my life that's all I was ever doing. I walked in and I looked at him and insticivtely I knew something was wrong.
He had been battling anxiety for awhile. The doctors had changed up his meds about 6 weeks before and I just remember walking up to him and asking if I needed to be worried. I remember his exact words to me "I won't tell you not to be worried". We agreed to call the doctor Monday morning and that I was going to go with him.
Up until this point - I knew he struggled with anxiety but I had NO IDEA the depth of it. I had no idea the demons he was up against. A lot of my anger came from him telling me how hard things were for him, and me truly not understanding. My exact thoughts were "we aren't in any different position than any other 30 something couple with toddlers (who are living with their in-laws and completely remodeling their entire house)". So yeah, I mean the part about living with my parents may not have been ideal, but they were there to help with the kids, we weren't paying rent and a mortgage, we weren't living in the dust and my dad was helping us with the majority of the most expensive work. Really - we were pretty lucky. So every time he started in on the pressures & stress card I started to lose my mind a bit. In retrospect, I really wish that I would have listened and pried just a little bit more.
We came home from the gym and we had a plan.
Only we never made it to Monday to morning my world stopped turning just five short hours before the doctors phone line would open.
Monday August 28 2017 3am: The baby is crying. I wake up and notice Patrick isn't in bed, but that isn't anything new because there are three of us sleeping in a double sized bed and one of us is usually pushed downstairs to the couch. I head down to make a bottle, only he isn't on the couch. I get the bottle thinking my mind is playing tricks on me - and he must be in bed. Only he isn't. The panic is starting to set in. Something is wrong. 450 calls later and he still isn't answering his phone. His car is gone. By the time I find him, I realize that his pill bottle is empty and his water bottle had been filled with beer. The rest is a little blurry. There was an ambulance, days at ECMC, pleading with the doctors to help him. A lot of fear, a lot of tears and so much more.
When he was finally alert in the hospital and able to communicate he looked at me and said "I'm so sorry, i just needed the pain to stop". I remember saying, "but we were going to call the doctor in just a few hours...." and all he said was "I couldn't wait that long".
The only reason he is still here, is because I found him in time. If we are being brutally, ugly, honest - he was angry with me for finding him. I was so blindsided. Three days earlier I hadn't even known he was depressed or the depths of his anxiety. I knew we were going to call the doctor, but even at that point I had ZERO idea that this road was even on our map.
Attempted Suicide. That wouldn't happen to my family. We are a working class family. We both have college educations, we own a house (granted we aren't living there yet - but we are turning it into our forever home), we have nice things, we have two beautiful children, the dog, the cat, two cars that have been completely paid off. He has a good job, I just opened my own studio and am getting a chance at living out my dream.
Attempted Suicide. It has taken me months to even be able to actually say those words.
Attempted Suicide. The next few months were a blur. Therapy for him. Therapy for me. Therapy for us. A LOT to work through. A LOT to figure out. A LOT to decide on. Out of work & back to work & out of work again. We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a couple. We learned who are our truest of friends are. We learned who would judge and who wouldn't. We learned that family is more than blood. People asked what I needed and I didn't even have an answer. Prayers. We needed lots and lots of prayers. I needed him to get to a place where he WANTS to be here.
The thing about going through suicide or an attempted suicide is that it isn't socially acceptable. There are the few people you let in on your secret and that's it. There are no Go Fund me pages, there is no public support, there are very few people who even know the depth of your despair and struggles. To make it worse, when the provider of a one family income takes an abrupt leave of absence survival mode really comes to light. We made it through the holidays because of friends who knew our situation and we vowed to return the favor next year.
See the thing is, you are in a bad place, and then it actually still gets just a little bit darker before the light breaks in again.
Why am I writing this..... for a lot of reasons. Like I said in the beginning - if we go through these things and we don't share them then it was all for nothing.
Depression and mental health don't look a certain way. Depression and mental health aren't unemployed. They aren't homeless. They aren't ugly. They are every day, hard working people. They are tricky little bastards that make you feel better on the meds so you go off. They trick you into thinking something is "wrong" with you and that you aren't worthy. They tell you that no one would miss you and in fact that everyone would be better off without you.
I am here to tell you that that couldn't be farther from the truth.
I thank God daily that he's still here. That I didn't have to ruin my daughters birthday by telling her that Daddy was never coming home again. I thank God daily we are finally approaching a state of recovery and can begin to talk about this. I thank God every minute for the people that I have in my life who literally picked me up and carried me when I couldn't walk. For the friends who called and just said, "I'm coming with a pizza" or "leave your kids for as long as you need". For the shoulders who dried my tears and the arms that hugged me as I grasped to understand what was happening. Mostly I thank God that he is still here with me.
It isn't just the person who attempts the suicide who "goes through it" it is the entire family unit.
You might be surprised to learn who is dealing with issues like this. These issues are often hidden away for so many reasons - but we need to talk about them to be there for each other. If suicide is something that you find crossing your mind - please reach out. To a friend, to your Doctor, to me. You are wanted and you should be here.
If you need somebody to reach out to immediately, here is the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
"We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
TABITHA SWEENEY is the founder and owner of Vitality Buffalo. Vitality Buffalo is a fitness studio specializing in family friendly fitness.
Vitality Buffalo will once again walk alongside the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in the fight against suicide on September 7, 2019 at Canalside Buffalo. You can learn more about the walk, how to join our team or contribute to our fundraising efforts by clicking here!