Why won’t they help me?
How the health care and insurance policies failed me.
I am in tears.
After seeing this video and listening to the panel, I felt inspired to share my story — as the message was to keep talking about it to end the stigma.
If I can reach one person to let them know they are not alone — they have someone here who can relate and be a shoulder to lean on — I will know that being vulnerable made a difference in one person’s life.
Trigger warning: suicide, addiction
This past September, during Suicide Awareness Month, I was invited to share my story about my experience with suicide on the company’s intranet. A true honor. I was ready and excited to have the opportunity to share my story enterprise-wide; visibility is critical when it comes to ending the stigma around mental health.
Then — at the worst time — the thoughts started swirling around in my mind, quickly forming a funnel cloud of emotions. It was a powerful storm that took me out for two weeks. For two weeks, I endured endless suicidal thoughts. My mind was lying to me and making me believe everyone would be better off without me. Nothing could convince me otherwise. While I was in this state, I tried to write up my story, but it was nearly impossible. Therefore, I missed my opportunity. I was very disappointed and angry at myself. But life goes on . . .
Among the many wonderful events the Mental Health committee at my company put on this year — was an opportunity to attend an event brought to us by The Quell Foundation. They showed a compelling Documentary — Lift the Mask: Portraits of Life with Mental Illness. I can’t do it justice by explaining its impact on me; it is a short film that you need to view to feel its importance and beauty. After crying for the last half of the documentary, I felt inspired to do something. Speak up. Tell my story.
WHY WON’T THEY HELP ME??
I was fourteen years old and in the closet. Figuratively and literally. I sat in the dark closet crying, convinced no one would care if I was gone. Gripping a bottle of whatever pills I found in my parents’ medicine closet, white-knuckling them terrified, not knowing what to do. Feeling sure I would never feel anything other than the utterly deep-rooted sadness I felt every single day. I was alone. Trapped in my mind and embarrassed to tell anyone what was going on. In a home filled with people who love me, I felt utterly alone.
I eventually crawled my way out of that closet and kept moving forward. One sad day after another, I longed for the days I would “snap out of it” like everyone around me kept telling me to do. To the world, I appeared as nothing other than an angsty teen, hormonal and isolating in her room. I kept moving forward.
Fast-forward 15 years. I was slowly crawling my way out of the figurative closet. Another terrifying moment as I knew it would disappoint my family. I was self-medicating instead, having been in the closet for so long and untreated for a mental illness. I drank to numb the pain. To forget. To escape the prison of my mind momentarily. As you may have heard, this doesn’t work very well. The alcoholism was rearing its head before I had my very first drink. It didn’t take long for it to take over my life, and time only caused me to keep digging until I couldn’t dig anymore.
It was 2017 when I was finally able to see how badly I needed help. The way I was living was never going to make anything better, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to change it on my own. So I sought help and found a fabulous LGBTQ treatment center in Minnesota, one of the only ones in the country. That place saved my life. My work allowed me to take a short-term leave of absence, and I was able to check myself in and take 30 days to focus on ME, find myself, learn where this pain was coming from. Surround myself with people who understood me, really understood me, professionals to teach me, and peers to love me. It was the best 30 days I have ever invested in myself, and I will forever be thankful. But getting there… that is an entirely different story.
It was March of 2017 — I was in a very dark place. My alcoholism was destroying my life, my untreated and unknown mental illness (bipolar disorder) was interfering with my life to the point I couldn’t manage anything anymore. I knew I was speeding down a destructive and deadly road, yet I couldn’t stop myself. The car was accelerating quickly with faulty breaks. I was going to crash.
Knowing this, I took it upon myself to seek help. I needed something, someone to help me. “Fix me.” I found the treatment center and called them immediately. I spoke to a wonderful man on the phone and answered his questions. It didn’t take long before he started getting my insurance information and finding the time for me to start. I planned to keep working and attend an outpatient program, which should have been fine. It was not fine.
A few days after setting up a time to do my intake, I got a phone call from the facility. They ran my insurance, and in order for me to start, to even have the intake interview, I needed to hit my deductible before I could attend. To get the help, I was desperately asking for, I had to come up with $2,000. There was nothing the man could do, he said. So, I gave up and just kept moving forward. I was so frustrated and trapped in a very toxic and abusive relationship that I was drinking more and more. I started digging that hole again. April 15, 2017, was the worst night of my life. I won’t get into the details of what led up to this incident; just know it is a terrible, dangerous, and scary story. It was not an intentional event.
April 15, around 7:00 in the morning, still in a black-out state, for an unknown reason at the time — I decided to get into my vehicle and drive to Target. Luckily, I somehow made it there safely without hurting myself. More importantly, I didn’t hurt anyone else. I was found in the parking lot a couple of hours later, sleeping in my car. Riding in the back of a cop car after being woken up and learning about something I did but had zero memory of felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I believed my life was over. Convinced I was going to lose my job — the one good thing I had going in my life at the time — I thought I was going to lose my family. I did not want to deal with what was coming next.
The very next weekend, I was on a weekend bender, per usual, and with everything that had happened, my mind couldn’t take it. I broke down. Believing there was one option and one option only; I felt paralyzed. Impulsively grabbing a prescription from my drawer, I opened it and swallowed the entire bottle without thinking. I had filled that prescription the day before. My girlfriend at the time came into the room I was in and instantly knew what I had done. She immediately called 911, and they took me to the hospital quickly.
When I woke up, I was confused and angry that it didn’t work. Then my thought went directly to work. I HAD to make it to work the next day (or so I thought). I felt that I needed to leave the hospital. However, they were not going to allow me to leave until they confirmed with the treatment center that I had, in fact, been talking to them and trying to get into the treatment program. BEFORE any of these things happened, they saw that I was trying to get help but was hitting ridiculous barriers that prevented it from happening.
The following week, I was checking into the in-patient treatment facility. Where did I get the $2,000? I didn’t. It just happened that since I was in the hospital a week prior, I had now hit my deductible. Think about that for a moment; I literally had to try to kill myself for me to get the help I was begging for, for weeks. Why is the system set up this way? People are in dire need of services that they cannot receive due to insurance company policies and politicians’ refusal to fix the system. But I digress…
So now, here I am. Five years later and I am thriving. It hasn’t been an easy five years, and a lot more terrible events have occurred since the night I ended up in a hospital bed. Only, this time. I was able to push through it all. I survived.
Today, I am happy. I am sober. I love my job. Best of all, I love my family and want to stay alive.
No one should ever make you feel less than for a mental illness. No one is allowed to call you “crazy” because of it. You are not crazy. When I believed that I was able to start healing. I work daily to maintain my bipolar disorder, and it’s taken a few years since being diagnosed shortly after graduating treatment that I have been able to find what works. Medication + Therapy + AA. That is the perfect trio to keep me staying strong and healthy. Everyone needs to find what works for them, and it can be a difficult journey before you find the right thing. All you have to do is … Don’t Give Up.