Op-Ed Why Mental Illness Will Kill Me
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Everyone has said at one point in time “oh this is killing me,” but what happens when you are convinced it actually will? The literal sense of why mental illness will kill me, and the reason I have accepted it.
A shot to kill my pain. Every single day I would start my night of drinking with this thought. I would take shot after shot and drink myself until the world would disappear from around me. At the time, I didn’t think that this was a problem; it was just something I liked to do; a way for me to destress after a long day of work. Not only would I sit alone and drink, but at night I would take pills to put me into a deep sleep. Then something hit me, I’m not going out with friends and grabbing a couple beers and cracking jokes, I’m sitting alone in my house, getting hammered. So I had to ask myself why. Why was I doing this, what was I going to achieve by doing this. After thinking long and hard about it, I found my answer, I’m doing this to try and drown out my sorrows, the years of torment and demons that I kept locked up inside my head.
My childhood was far from “normal”; a word that I really hate, because what is normal? Growing up without a father and living with an alcoholic mother, I was exposed early on to seeing despair. I would put a smile on my face because that is what you’re supposed to do, and when you’re so young and innocent, you don’t know any better. I wasn’t alive for over 7 years by the time my innocence was completely stripped from me; which led me down a path of unexplainable feelings. The day that my innocence was taken, was the day that I was molested. As a 7 year old, I had no idea what was going on, or if it was right or wrong; all I knew was that something was happening, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go to my mother, who was drunk most of the time, I didn’t have a father around who could protect me from this evil, and I didn’t know how to put it into words and explain it to my brother, so from that moment on, I locked it in my brain and let it eat away at me for almost 15 more years.
Living with this event locked inside of me eventually took its toll on my personal life. Any relationship that I tried to be in or have would fail due to my lack of trust from who I was with and my detachment from them. So when I couldn’t hold a relationship, I decided just to sleep around, using dating apps as my playing field. It became a game to me, how quickly can I get this girls number, how fast can I get to her house. There was only one thing on my mind and my only intention was to sleep with as many women as I could. It was fun, I would use them for what I wanted and then leave them and they would never hear from me again. I stopped counting at 40 women. This was the time that I realized it was no longer fun to me, being a womanizer got boring. It became too easy.
I eventually decided to see a psychologist because these feelings that I had inside me for so long manifested into something terrible. I lost all interest in anything that I once enjoyed, I felt hopeless, I couldn’t concentrate on anything, and that was when I thought that I had lost my sense of purpose and would be better off dead. It turns out that I was then diagnosed with PTSD, persistent depressive disorder, social phobia, anxiety and insomnia. The psychologist recommended that I see a psychiatrist who could prescribe me medicine to help with me as I continued in therapy. I start taking these meds and I find that they make the depression way worse. I didn’t want to eat, get out of bed, or even see anyone. I was totally trapped. So I stopped taking them. The withdrawal symptoms are even worse, causing me to feel intense anger, snapping at almost anyone, the thought of suicide lingered in my brain daily. I would barely sleep at night, sometimes going 2-3 days with only a few hours of sleep. So it was time to try a new medicine. A medicine called Prozac.
I started taking Prozac for my depression and Ambien to help me sleep, and when these didn’t have much effect, I started to consume alcohol with these meds. Not only would I drink while on these medicines, but I would fight the drowsiness that the Ambien produced and get a feeling of euphoria. I became addicted to this. My depression started getting worse and worse, so I would start to drink more and more to try and kill this pain. Many days I would show up to work still drunk and then do patient care. To me this was totally normal. On a night in December, just 3 weeks before I was supposed to go home and visit family and friends, I decided to call my family for the last time. I scrolled through my phone book and called each family member, telling them that I loved them one last time, without telling them that it was time for me to go. That night, I snorted 5 Ambien, took 3 more and drank a fifth of liquor, hoping that the next day I wouldn’t wake up. To my surprise I woke up the next day, feeling high as a kite but horrible at the same time. This was when I decided I needed more help.
After this incident I talked to my doctors and when they asked me about my suicide attempt, I completely broke down crying. It hit me like a ton of bricks that there was a chance that I wouldn’t have woken up, and I thought of all the people that would have affected. I went to rehab a few months later, and that was the first time I had ever talked about the things that happened in my childhood. I thought that this would help, but all these emotions that I kept in for so long all of a sudden turned to rage.
For the past few years, I have lived every single day angry. I wake up angry and I go to bed angry. I am in love with being angry; it produces a high that I’ve never felt before. I feed on chaos; I need to be around it, even though it can make my anger turn in to an uncontrollable rage, I need it. I have lived so long like this that it has become a part of who I am and I am fearful for the change. Being angry keeps me safe, it isolates me from the world, which I am convinced is trying to hurt me. When I am angry, I don’t feel anything besides euphoria; this causes bad thoughts to swell my brain and leads me to try and see if I do in fact still feel pain. The scars on my wrists were not intended for me to kill myself, but rather to make sure I still have some feeling.
I think that all this anger, sadness, loneliness and fear that I feel every day is in reality just pain that I have dealt with for so long. I use these words to cover up the truth because I don’t want to think that I actually have been suffering my entire life. I live every day, trying to break the stigma behind mental illness, but it still consumes me, every single second of every single day. I don’t remember the last time I was truly happy. The last time I had a real smile. The last time that I felt a real connection to someone. I have come to accept that my mental illnesses will never go away, and it is part of who I am. Every day that I wake up is a struggle that I have to face. I have to battle day in and day out to survive, to try and not hurt myself. This is why I am convinced, that one day my mental illnesses will finally win, and I will die by my own hand.
Keegan was born in Marquette, MI and grew up in Wisconsin. He joined the navy right out of high school and has been stationed on the west coast the whole time. He has become an advocate for people suffering from mental illness and a voice for the voiceless.