My sister swooped in and saved me. She took me in and gave me a place of quiet, dedicating her time to keeping me safe. She sat with me, talked to me, held me, even waited outside the toilet for me, concerned I might impulsively hurt myself. She recently told me she used to sit outside my bedroom door while I fell asleep.
I was in contact with the crisis team and they sent nurses to see me, but it was obvious I needed intensive treatment. A family member travelled to see me. We had spoken on the phone and he said usually he can cut through my thoughts and help me, but this time I sounded dead. I had no hope, no reason and no one was cracking the impenetrable shell I was holed up in.
I remember sitting on the sofa with my sister and feeling agitation. The normal process was agitation, fear, surges of energy and the inexplicable explosion to hurt myself. I grabbed a hair brush with fine metal spikes and self-harmed all down my arm. I am gutted that I look down at my forearm and it will forever be scarred. But I couldn’t stop. My brain and body was completely taken over.
Self-harm is a very difficult, emotive and misunderstood subject. Often people judge with thoughts such as, ‘Oh my God, how can anyone do that to themselves?’ But it must be remembered that it is often a chemical surge where there is no rationality. Pain blanks a fearful, overactive brain and the release is indisputable.
It’s important, however, to learn safe self-harm strategies, which include pinging elastic bands on the wrist or rubbing ice on the skin (being careful not to burn). Sometimes it is recommended to use red food dye in ice cubes if there is a need to see blood. For an excellent support guide on self-harm see this article. I’ve written about self-harm before, too.
We Do Recover
Crises are terrible things and those struggling often lose the ability to cope. We rely on friends, family and health professionals to intervene and help us. Every time someone receives acute treatment (often involving medication) we are given a chance to recover and live as the people we want to be.
I did recover from my crisis but it involved inpatient treatment for three weeks and a strong network of outpatient support afterwards. My symptoms were conducive with a mixed episode where you feel symptoms of depression whilst experiencing the agitation, impulsivity and irritability of mania. It’s a high-risk place to be because you have the energy to act out your disturbing thoughts.
It can feel impossible to find hope in situations such as these, which highlights the importance of those around you being able to recognize that we are in extreme distress and understanding that ultimately, we need help.
Recognizing a crisis and intervening with care and sensitivity saves lives.
1-800-334-HELP – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A.
1-800-273-TALK – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A.