The Real Faces of Mental Illness is a monthly interview series from real people sharing their personal stories and experiences. I want to show people what it’s really like to have a mental illness and not hide behind medical terms and symptoms. I want to share what it’s like to live with these diseases, on a day to day basis and how it really looks and feels and what recovery really involves. I want to share the real face of mental illnesses.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (name, age, job, hobbies etc)
My name is Leila and I am 31 years old. I currently am a blogger and work 2 days a week for a polygraph examiner.
I have been with my husband for 11 years, married for 9 years. I am the mother to 3 beautiful children – a girl who will be 9 soon; a boy age 6; and a girl age 1.
Share your suicide attempt story with us. What led you to attempt suicide? How did you survive?
I haven’t ever really attempted suicide to the point of having to be hospitalized or having emergency services called.
I have self harmed by ways of inflicting pain on myself in any means possible and have had suicidal thoughts.
I am diagnosed with anxiety and depression and there are times when I am just so low, I don’t know any other way out. I feel like things would be better without me here mucking everything up and the pain I inflict on myself takes away the emotional pain I may be feeling and makes if physical.
I have to be honest (because that is who I am). I have done therapy and while I believer therapy works for some – I don’t feel it was helpful to my situation.
I attempted to deal with it by myself but it was apparent that I was unsuccessful.
I ended up seeing a psychiatrist and have been medicated. I continue to see my psychiatrist every 3 months and remain medicated. It has been a long journey for me because I don’t want to be medicated forever, but I have learned over the course of the years that for me to be me and be a good wife and a good mother to my children, I need the medication to keep me balanced.
While on my medication (and after several different medication combinations) I can say that I have been more stable and have not self harmed or thought of suicide since April 2014.
When were you first suicidal thoughts? How did you react to them?
If I am going to be honest, I had thoughts when I was a teenager – 7th/8th grade. It wasn’t anything that I would take seriously though. It was teenage angst.
The first time I had suicidal thoughts would have been after my own grandfather completed suicide in May 2009.
It was the first experience I ever had with someone commit suicide and it put me in a mental downward spiral.
The experience is scary. They aren’t feelings that you experience all the time. It’s frightening to think that you could kill yourself and it would all be over. In your mind at that time, you are wrapped up into the unhappiness and you think everyone would be better without and that hurts.
Having suicidal thoughts puts you in this dark hole that is hard to get out of on your own.
What do you wish people knew about those who attempt suicide??
People who attempt suicide are not selfish. Attempting suicide is the least selfish thing someone in that position is feeling or thinking.
People who attempt suicide are doing it because they are thinking of those around them who love them. We think that our loved ones would be better without us. We believe that we are a burden to our loved ones.
We aren’t in a ‘sane’ frame of mind. Our reality is distorted at that point in time and our thoughts at that time are anything but selfish.
Have you sought treatment? Are you currently in therapy or on medication? How does that help your illness and day to day life? If you are currently on medication or have been in the past, what were they and what side effects did you encounter?
I am currently on medication and have been (this time) for close to a year. I find that it helps me keep my head straight.
With anxiety and depression – there is a chemical imbalance in my brain and these medications help keep it balanced and help me keep my focus.
Medication is not for everyone and it took me a long time to be okay with it.
Each person handles treatment differently and each person needs to do what they feel is right for them in terms of treatment whether it be therapy or medication or both.
How has being a suicide survivor affected your life? What routine event do you find you have the most trouble with? (example: day to day daily habits). How has it affected your relationships (with your family, your friends, your significant others)?
I find that I am more “touchy” when it comes to gun play, shows, and/or books that regard suicide or something similar. Additionally, the news is something I steer clear from because it doesn’t help the situation.
I find myself a lot of times reading a book that can be a trigger and it can definitely throw me off my game.
The same goes for television or movies. I feel like sometimes, things like this need to have some sort of trigger warning to warn those who have cause for concern can make their own educated guess as to how they would react.
I don’t find it affects much of my relationships because there are very few people who know me in real life who know the truth. Others either do not know or choose not to acknowledge it.
I am very open with it because for me, if my story can help someone else, then I have served a purpose that day.
What coping mechanisms have you tried and what has worked the best for you personally?
Writing about it definitely helps. I share on my blog and it helps.
Additionally, having an online forum that understands helps me as well.
For me, not being alone and keeping my brain and body active is a big help for me.
How do you define the word ‘wellness’? How do you focus on your personal wellness?
Wellness to me is being healthy and happy in mind, body, and heart.
It means taking care of oneself by eating right, exercising, and doing things that make you feel happy and whole.
What does your support structure look like? Do you have people in your life who are accepting and loving but don’t have a mental illness themselves and if so, how have they come to understand your illness?
I mentioned it earlier, but hubby and I have just a little code word/phrase that we both understand means that I am in a dark place without having to explain anything.
He keeps a silent eye on me, he makes our environment safe – all while not making me feel worse about how I already feel. It gives me a safe space without having to get into it until I am ready to share.
How has being a suicide survivor changed your perspective about life, creativity, love, etc?
I am a suicide survivor in 2 ways.
1. I have survived a loved one completing suicide.
2. I have survived my own harmful behavior and suicidal ideations.
Both of them are painful emotionally, but for me, I got the word ‘survivor’ tattooed on my left wrist – the wrist that I would use for harmful behavior.
It is a reminder that I have survived my grandfather completing suicide.
It is a reminder that I am a survivor. I have survived so much in my life already that I can keep pushing forward and keep surviving.
What advice would you give to someone in a suicide crisis?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to some one or a couple some ones who can be your support. You don’t have to be alone. Whether it be a therapist, a friend, a support group.
For us, my husband is my support person and we have kind of code that will allow me to tell him that I am in a bad place without actually having to say anything or explain. It is his cue to make our environment safer for me.
Do not be afraid to share with someone. Anyone.
I can give you some positive advice and support words, but we all know that when you are in suicide crisis, you aren’t hearing or believing anything said to you.
In a non-suicide crisis, please hear the words that you are loved. You are cared for. Life would not be better without you.
What are the biggest misconceptions you’ve encountered when talking to people about ?
The biggest misconception I have found is that people think that suicide is selfish when it really isn’t. It is the farthest thing from selfish. It really is.
About Leila :
I blog at Life as Leels that I share as “my life in written form” and share just about everything including my mental health. I am always open to share and talk and can be found at my website.