I normally do like this time of year. Autumn sounds so much nicer than fall. Watching the leaves fall in my part of the country is the most beautiful gift that Mother Nature provides. All the magnificent hues of reds, yellows, and oranges. But the leaves soon fall off the trees, withering, dying, reminding us of our own mortality as we watch children playing in the leaf piles. I watch the squirrels scampering around in a last minute of food collecting before the winter arrives. It always makes me smile at their antics. And I must confess, I feel lucky to live in a town that has both black and gray squirrels.
But with the change of scenery brings sadness. This is not a depression, this is a sadness that is overwhelming. It permeates my entire body, through each pore, worming it's way into my soul. I take extra care to make sure I am doing well, watching it carefully so it does not transmogrify into something more overwhelming and sinister. It is hard. There are changes at work, and many of us feel our jobs are not as secure as they were prior to September 2001. Yet I manage to stay optimistic, I am fortunate enough that I have saved up enough money that I could live for a year frugally and write if I lost my job. Not that many people have that luxury. Or perhaps it is me; I have once been homeless, so I watch my money carefully with a sense of dread that it can happen again.
Despite the best measures, I found myself slipping towards depression around Thanksgiving. I do not know why, after all, my heart's desire has always been two things, one of them looks like it will happen next year. I have always wanted two things in life, one is to be a published writer. I have an agent. It may happen. I just need the discipline to make it happen. The other heart's desire will not happen. That is to be a "normal" person, with a family. And real manic depressives should not be with other people, since we drive them crazy, as our moods washing over us and changing as easily as turning on and off like a water faucet , as mutable as the tides. And perhaps that is where the depression came, from sadness. A writer, like all artists, tends to be a solitary introvert. I find when I write, and I get on a roll, I do not want to be bothered. I take the phone off the hook. I walk around in a t-shirt that covers down to my knees, and just write. As a person with bipolar disorder, I find the bests writing I do is when I am slightly depressed, just somewhat sad, as you would feel after seeing a movie like "Titanic". Or slightly manic, just ever so slightly just as a normal person would feel after 3 cups of coffee. In these moods I have the discipline to sit and write for hours with a glass of water or a Snapple by my side. But no, this is down and out depression. I see the warning signs. Two days without showering. Three days without washing my hair. Two days without brushing my teeth. I tend to hypersleep when I am depressed. I am now sleeping 12 or more hours a day. I cannot concentrate. I cry at the drop of a hat. I take such things like St. John's Wort. This does not work. I call my shrink. He suggests I come back in to go back on meds after being off them for about a year. With trepidation, I do. I don't like meds, I really don't. But I have decided if it is between meds or suicide, I will take the meds every time. Suicide is not an option. I had Lyme disease so my body chemistry now does not allow some of the more standard drugs anymore. He and I discuss what options there are. He feels I am not in danger to myself, or others, so hospitalization isn't an option. So it comes down to lithium or Depakote. I've been on and off lithium for years, I personally don't like Depakote because it makes me fat. So I leave his office with a script for that and start taking it.
My body does not adjust to it well. I go several days unable to sleep, unable to keep food down. I have nightmares. I am fortunate enough to have a good friend on the same coast who is a hypnotist, and he helps me through the drug induced nightmares. I find as the lithium enters my bloodstream to normal levels, I get suicidal. Very suicidal. I decide to do the unforgivable. I want to die. And being a Virgo, I have to organize it. I paid off all my bills, checked my 401K and my will, and made sure the cat was taken care of. This makes me feel good. It's a fail-safe in knowing that I can do this if I choose to.
Then one night it gets bad. Very bad. I wake up in a cold sweat. I try to get back to bed, and I cannot. I feel alone. I do not mind being alone, but this time I do. Maybe it's my hormones. I feel lonely. That is overwhelming. The sense of despair which has been my constant companion for the last few weeks is sitting besides me, it's arms wrapped tightly around me. I cannot breathe. I sense a panic attack coming on. And then it hits. The suicidal feeling washes all over me. I am not thinking clearly. All I know s I want to die now , right now and ease this pain. I feel like it's not going to get better And I want, no NEED to end it now, and fast.
For my own safety, I have no sharp knives in my apartment, or razors.( I do shave but it is with a safety razor). I have no toxic things in the house like Drano, for two reasons, my safety and the cat's. There is no place in the apartment to hang a noose, unless I feel like hanging a stuffed anial. And I am on the 2nd floor, so if I jump, all will happen is broken bones. I took care of myself when I found a dwelling place. But then an idea occurs to me. Perhaps it was because I was reminiscing on a quote from Tolstoy "Happy families are all alike". I live near the train station. Every hour a train goes from NYC to Washington DC. I can throw myself under the train. I get in my old green Ford, and drive to the train station. And just missed the last train, as luck would have it. I sit on the outside, on the cement ledge looking down on the train tracks, my feet swinging softly on the track, my feet making imaginary circles. I look at the train tracks and I know when I see the train coming, I just have to jump down, walk to the thrid rail and lie down. It shouldn't hurt too much, what ever pain there will be will be fleeting. I feel somewhat at peace, very calm, an emotion I haven't felt in a long long time. I am at peace, knowing in less than an hour, I will be one with universe and the stars. I will be anywhere but New Jersey.
It is an absolutely beautiful night, lots of stars in the sky, and a sliver of moon. the air is clear. I find tears streaming down my cheeks. I do not know why. I do not feel alone anymore. I feel some presence near me. It's 3 am and there are no other people around - cept for a cop. There is indeed a a person next to me, a police officer. He sits down next to me, his badge and belt buckle shining in the moonlight.
"Are you Ok?", he asks.
'What are you doing by yourself at 2 am here? Are you drunk?"
I assure him I am not drunk. he moves my blonde hair off my face, to get a better look at me. I am surprised that such a big man can do this so quickly I don't feel him do it.
We both look at each other with a hint of recognition in our eyes. We knew each other in college. He was in one of my Lit classes when I was a Teachers Assistant. He makes small talk with me, and realizes I am sitting on the curbside because I want to jump. And a miracle happens. He does not talk to me anymore, we both just hear each other breathing and stare at the beauty of the stars. I feel totally at peace. What seems to be an eternity later, I hear the train coming. I can see the light. I know the police officer's breathing is now coming harder, his adrenaline kicking in. He thinks, no he KNOWS I am going to jump. I look at him, his brown eyes staring deeply into my blue ones. I get up, he is breathing real hard, staring at me. And then I offer my hand to him.
"Can you walk me to my car, please?" I ask him as the train rolls by.
The smile he smiles would light the entire Vegas strip. "Sure", he says and it is over. I am safe, aI am alive, and in the end, that is all that matters.
The suicidal feeling still stays with me, it's still here, it's overwhelming. But I am not going to act on it. I won't jump. And that, strangely enough gives me comfort.