The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Bruised to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
It sounds melodramatic, but here’s the truth: Death was at my door hour by hour. I was in the throws of an uncontrollable depression, unable to get out of bed, dreaming about suicide as a welcome relief. Each hour of my life, if you can even call it that, was a painful reminder that another hour of excruciating existence would come, and then another, and then another. I had been suffering for a long time with an undiagnosed disease of the brain. It had sapped my intellect, energy, and spirit. I didn’t know what was going on. My brain had stopped working. I couldn’t add simple numbers, do the dishes, dress my kids or make them lunch. I was unable to respond to emails, return phone calls, or write a coherent sentence. My characteristic humor was gone. Smiling was painful to the muscles on my face. My libido was gone. I stopped washing my hair because it took too much energy to remember how to do it. My fingers were bloody from an addiction to ripping the cuticles.
The cruel voice inside my head chanted at me relentlessly: “My family would be better off if I were dead.” I could only think of impending catastrophe—we’d get in a car accident driving down our icy hill, the heat would stop working and we’d freeze to death in this tundra, Joe would lose his job, I’d never make love, play sports, or enjoy friends again, the world was being poisoned by toxic chemicals. And global warming would kill us all anyway.
My kids, who were four years old at that time. They had no idea about my uncontrollable depression and what was going on with Mom, except that she was no fun anymore, wouldn’t play any games with them, didn’t even have the energy to take them outside, and mostly wanted to sleep. My choices seemed to be a psych ward, electroconvulsive therapy, or suicide. My husband and family were trying to decide if they should check me into a locked psych ward at the hospital in Holyoke or try shock therapy. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew I couldn’t leave my four-year-olds with the legacy of a mother who had died by suicide. Although I was barely alive, and wanted to stop the pain forever, I would not choose death over my children.