This has been a difficult post for me to start, as it involves confronting some of my own demons. That said, it’s time to talk about The Darkness.
After breaking up with the ex, I felt euphoric. The relief I felt washed over me and through me, like a soothing, relaxing wave. I was done with my stay in Hell. I’d survived. I’d made it. The future held nothing but pure potential. I could be or do anything.
Except I couldn’t.
Haunted by the Ghost
I was immobilized by fear. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t remember to eat, sleep or get dressed. I was on heightened alert, constantly waiting for her to show up at the apartment or my workplace, to call me, or to e-mail me, to continue the rages and to continue to try to destroy me. Every night when I walked home from work, I dreaded turning the corner to the street I lived on for fear that I would see her car parked out front. When I did sleep, I was plagued with nightmares. I was a mess.
One thing that helped was to start to Break the Routines, as I’ve written about before. Even with this (and therapy), however, I began to find the despair overwhelming. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. Each day was like walking in an ever increasingly blacker fog. Anhedonia and apathy set in.
Every morning, I woke up caring less and less. The shame, the guilt and the fear left over from the relationship coupled with trying to figure out if I was the person she’d led me to believe I was and my inability to sort out just whose mental/emotional/psychological garbage was whose, drove me to consider the unthinkable; suicide. Scratch that. I didn’t consider it. I simply almost did it.
One day, on my way to work, I found myself walking towards the edge of the train platform with no intention to stop. The train was approaching and I didn’t care. I needed it all to end. At the very last second, I realized what I was doing and grabbed a nearby bench and didn’t let go until the train had stopped. I spent the rest of the day shaking.
That night, I realized I needed help. I wasn’t going to let her win. I was already in therapy at this point and I had a discussion with my therapist about my near miss. Truthfully, I don’t recall what she said to me, but with her help, I decided to put in place a few mechanisms to help me not get this close to the abyss ever again.
As with everything I write about, this is what worked for me. This is no substitute for professional help—just some tips from someone who was able to walk away from a very large decision.
- I bookmarked this page: http://www.metanoia.org/suicide/. I read it over and over again. When I needed to be reminded, I’d read it again. While I don’t know how “clinically accurate” it is, the phrase “Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds the resources for coping with pain” resonated very strongly with me. I now understood how/why I was able to dissociate and only barely stop myself from stepping in front of a train.
- 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (for the U.S.) is now in my cellphone contact list, under “help.” If someone were to gain access to my phone, they wouldn’t need to see who “help” actually is. But I now knew that help was just a phone call away.
- I made up stupid excuses to live. Absurd ones, even. I think the biggest one was, “I need to see how Lost ends.” Okay, Lost is over now. Pick your favorite TV series or series of books. I’m now working on the “List of Every Movie I’ve Ever Wanted to See” and the “List of Every Book I’ve Ever Wanted to Read.” They’re big lists and I’m constantly adding to them. While I’m on the subject, what about that band you’ve always wanted to see live? When’s their next tour? What about that place you’ve always wanted to travel to?
- I deliberately put myself in one of her classic “double-bind” situations. I figured if I committed suicide, she’d win (not to mention use her feigned “grief” as a method for getting more attention and sympathy and/or smear me for abandoning her). If I attempted suicide, but failed, it would just re-confirm her view that I’m unable of accomplishing anything. In this case, it was best not to “try” at all.
Eventually, as I continued my therapy, the feelings diminished considerably. As I regained functionality and realized that it was a long road that stretched out ahead, I became content with the progress from baby steps. Well, more content, anyway. I’m still a little impatient.
There are reasons to live. Yes, the pain is overwhelming at times and it may feel like it has exceeded our capacity to cope with it. We have forgotten who we are and this is a source of deep, agonizing pain, which is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t lived through it.
What I’m trying to tell you is to hang on. You can’t let her win. You’re better than that. It’s going to take some work. You’re going to be rebuilding and rediscovering yourself. Take pleasure in the most primal and simple things. Each day, I count how many ducks there are in the pond outside of my office. I say good morning to them. I’m finding that there is simple joy in sharing ideas and getting to know people without any agendas or strings attached.
I still have moments where I think about ending it all. Once you’ve opened that door a crack, it’s hard to close it again. But with patience and perseverance comes perspective. I can’t let her win. And, honestly, I’ve got too many books on my reading list, too many movies in my Netflix queue, too many sunsets to watch. And there’s always the ducks.
Stick around. It might just be worth it.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.