Editor’s Note: If you struggle with self harm or have experienced sexual assault or suicidal thoughts, the following story may potentially be triggering. You can contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741 from anywhere in the U.S. or call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to reach RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline.
It was a Friday afternoon in late October when I decided to end my life. The weather was unusual for the time of year in Washington; the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping. Not the typical ominous gray and persistent drizzle that I am used to. I thought to myself, “What a gorgeous day,” amid my mental despair.
I silently struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. There were many days I forced myself to simply get out of bed, eat something, take a shower, or even brush my teeth. Depression isn’t the only demon I hold hands with; anxiety and PTSD have made homes within me as well.
I have always been scared to ask for help concerning my mental illnesses. If it was confirmed something was wrong with me, people would think differently. I thought pushing it all aside would make it disappear. I thought to deal with it all myself would somehow make me stronger. I thought I could conquer my demons. It was only after turning to self-harm and the worries of my husband, that I decided to seek professional help.
I can recall everything about the doctor’s appointment; the dread of letting someone into the darkest corners of my mind, the sweaty surface of my palms, my panicky heartbeat. Before I was even in the exam room, there was a river flowing from my eyes. All my fears were confirmed; there was something wrong with me.
I left the doctor’s office with my diagnosis, a prescription, a safety plan, and a recommendation for a therapist. A small sense of relief soon began to build within me. I believed that once I started to take my Cymbalta pills and talk to my therapist, I would be cured. I would somehow magically be okay again. Little did I know, things would get worse.
With the first few doses of Cymbalta, I felt fine — I noticed few to no side effects. Therapy, on the other hand, scared me. Therapy meant all the feelings I kept trapped inside would eventually seep out. All the memories of violent rape and abuse I tried to suppress would resurface. With the memories, came vivid nightmares. I would wake up in a panic; covered in sweat, breathless and terrified. These nightmares continued for weeks.
Nightmares soon turned into constant intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that were so bad that I held a loaded gun to my head, begging for everything to stop. I cried myself to sleep many nights, desperate for relief. I was desperate to no longer feel. I was desperate to no longer think. I thought to re-live everything through therapy opened the floodgates, but I know now it was an adverse reaction to the Cymbalta. I was too caught up within my own head to notice that suicidal ideation was a serious side effect. Suicidal thoughts soon took over; if I was dead, I couldn’t hurt anymore.
Friday, October 26th, 2018:
I woke up dreading the day. The date of October 26th is forever seared into my mind. The date of October 26th has forever been my trigger. It will always be the day I was hurt the most, it will always be the day a part of me was stolen. Friday, October 26th, 2018 was the 4-year anniversary of the night that men drugged me, took me into a black SUV, and raped me.
I was a dangerous cocktail of emotions; anger, hurt, anxiety and worthlessness. I experienced panic attack after panic attack. I couldn’t calm down. I was a ticking time bomb. I had to kill myself. I swallowed my entire bottle of Cymbalta, a handful of Tylenol, and a handful of Melatonin tablets. Blood dripped to the bathroom floor as I carved into my thighs and wrists.
I stayed in the hospital for three days. Small, cold, too-bright rooms made entirely of glass walls. Nurses watching my every movement. People whispering and speaking to me in too-soft voices. Too many unfamiliar faces. Wires attached to half of my body. I felt smaller than I ever had before. I was ashamed.
Since then, I have found hope in sharing and knowing my story may inspire others. I have found strength in my support system through encouragement. I have found resiliency within myself by facing my fears and thoughts head-on. I still battle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, but I have learned healthy ways to cope. I have made friends with these demons — I hold their hands, I know what awakens them, and what calms them.
Written by Tina-Marie Carrillo