I had a mental breakdown and didn’t miss a day of work.
I left an hour early one day this summer. I didn’t tell anyone why. But it was because I was finished.
My gradual breakdown was crushing my marriage and throwing the kids out of whack. The only person I’d talked to about it was my doctor, who said, “For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been anxious, so …”
In my 20s, I had been misdiagnosed as having a bipolar disorder. When pills for BPD didn’t work, or made me feel worse, I stopped taking them, so everyone assumed I was non-compliant.
“I need a reset button,” I told the doctor this summer. “I can’t sleep, I can’t stop my head. I can’t stop spiraling.”
He gave me a prescription for sleeping pills, which I didn’t fill.
At work, I was in a dangerous, confusing cycle, working till my eyes ached one day, staring unfocused at my computer screen and forgetting the simplest grammar rules the next day. I was grouchy and prone to outbursts and made stupid mistakes. The workload was contributing to my breakdown, but I didn’t tell anyone for fear they’d take it away from me.
I went to the office every weekday. Served on my union exec at two levels, volunteered, drove my kids around. Started a novel, wrote news stories, vacationed, had visitors and parties, hosted family for weeks at a time. I’m sure people knew I was off, but no one knew how bad it was.
The day I left work early, I drove home but parked my car at the corner of my street and didn’t get out. The car was the only place I felt safe. The only place I was still in control.
I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I was going to do it in my car. A bridge. An escarpment.
My heart had been racing for days. It woke me up at night, it vibrated against my ribs, pounded inside my ears, tightened my throat muscles till it felt like I’d been screaming. I was always short of breath because it always felt as though as I was running.
I was mad, but at myself. For my failures. My shortcomings. I couldn’t forgive me. I didn’t want anyone else to forgive me.
I wanted to stop.
It was so hot in the car. I didn’t want to run the air conditioning and waste gas. I didn’t want to roll down my window and risk a neighbour hearing me cry.
But knew if I started driving again, I would make it all stop.
On my phone’s browser, in the address bar, I typed: Help me.
At that literal and figurative intersection, my search result returned a suicide hotline and I got help.
I stayed in the car while the crisis counselor talked me down. Weeks later, I’d sit in the car while talking to a social worker. Because the car will always be the place where I feel the most safe and the most in control.
How to get help
I talked to strangers because I couldn’t face my friends or family. Every stranger I leaned on through that terrible process held me up, gave me direction, and offered me tools to carry on. I have a ways to go, but with that support and with medication that targets anxiety, I got my hope back.
If you are broken, or you think you’re finished, you can anonymously reach out. Santé Montreal offers amazing crisis centres with a ton of resources. You can access them by tapping here. If your needs are urgent and you feel you are in danger, in the Montreal area, you can access the suicide hotline at 514-723-4000. Elsewhere in Quebec, call 1-866-277-3553. You can easily find the hotline for your area — I truly did find the number by dramatically googling “help me.”
If all else fails, call 911. This is a life and death situation.