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Suicide Survivor Chronicles Part 1 by Hope Xchange’s Bipolar Mentoring Team: "I Got A Second Chance At Life"
Post by Tosha Maaks, Volunteer Program Coordinator for Hope for Bipolar and Hope for Bipolar Loved Ones, Hope Xchange. This is the first in a series of posts by Hope Xchange’s bipolar peer mentors who have attempted to take their own lives. It is our hope that by sharing our stories we can give others the courage to ask for help.
If you are in need of help now, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Line open 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK. Please do it now. Other hotline options can be found here.
TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains information about suicide which may be triggering to some individuals.
I Never Felt Like I Fit In.
I always craved the nightlife. However, being a bigger girl the majority of my life I was never very good at being a part of it. As I now know, the bipolar was bad at allowing this aspect of my life to happen. The bipolar delusions were strong and I was struggling very hard internally with the paranoid thoughts that flooded my mind day in and day out.
The thought of being talked about behind my back, and people not liking me, was never far from my mind. I never felt like I fit in wherever I was. I never stayed at a job for much longer than six months because I would get overwhelmed with the feelings that my coworkers were out to get me. The struggle had me in full force by 2008 when I had lost all the weight after my gastric bypass surgery.
I had hoped that the thoughts would go away because I was finally pretty. After all the years of being 355 lbs, I was finally a size small, and 142 lbs. A feat I thought I would never achieve. I was sadly mistaken. By this time I realized that the nightlife, no matter how much I enjoyed the flirting, was not where I needed to be. It could really make me feel pretty downright lousy about myself and the person I was trying to be.
I always wanted to do something that I thought only the pretty girls could do. When you are bipolar you can be hypersexual. I married young, but I loved to flirt, the type of innocent flirting that didn’t mean anything other than the fact that a guy found me attractive. I wasn’t going to let it go anywhere and my husband wasn’t the jealous type.
I knew I couldn’t be a stripper; one, I have no rhythm, so dancing was out. Two, since I did have gastric bypass and couldn’t afford the skin removal surgery, I had a ton of extra skin. However with a sweater, corset, skirt and panty hose, I could hide that skin, so I waited tables. The money was awesome, and for a while I was having the time of my life.
I was working crazy hours though, 13 to 14 hours a day. My boys were playing football every night. If I wasn’t working, I was sleeping at practice in the car, which I am sure didn’t look good to the other parents. I slept all day. I missed most of their life for about 6 to 8 months while I was doing this job. I worked most nights from 3 pm till 6 am. The drive was 40 minutes from my house. I was having fun though. I saw my doctor. I was taking Ambien to sleep. I was on ADHD meds during the day. As well as anxiety meds.
I thought I was doing okay. Then slowly the thoughts started to creep in.
I Wanted It To Be Over.
One night I came home and I had had enough. I decided I didn’t want to deal with the self-hatred I felt any longer. That the pain I felt, the overwhelming feeling of just wanting all the pain and all the distress I was causing my family - to be over. I decided then, when I got home as I was lying in bed - and as my husband got up to start his day, that I was going to end my life.
I couldn’t just not say goodbye to my boys though. I climbed the stairs where my boys were awake, and getting ready for school. I went to my oldest and I said to him, “Colton, remember you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. You’re smarter than people believe, and always know you can do whatever you put your mind to.”
I went into see my twins and I told them I loved them, and to never forget mommy (at the time they were only about 6 years old). Then I grabbed my son Justin who I am known for having a very close relationship with. He and I have always had a very special bond. I said “come lay down and say goodbye to mommy”.
I Got Lucky.
Little did I know that those were the words that would save my life. Justin and I went down the stairs and laid in my bed. My husband came in from his shower, when he saw me laying next to my son. He could tell something was off. He asked me what we were doing? I said “we’re saying good-bye” and I must have already been distant because Chris didn’t hesitate a second, he knew I was serious.
He grabbed the phone and dialed 911. He told them what I had done. Moments later I sat down on the gurney. I remember going out the door but not being put in the ambulance. I remember none of the drive. How would I? I died on the way to the hospital.
They brought me back. I woke up at the hospital a day later on a vent. I asked “why didn’t you just let me go”. Chris, my husband, said, “No way!” After 4 days of court ordered admission to the hospital. I was released, and I went back home to my family.
I Am Thankful Every Day.
I am thankful every day my husband didn’t just let me go. I have gotten to see my boys grow up. I’ve seen Colton graduate High School. I’ve seen Justin get into U-High. I have seen Cory give the speech at his 8th grade graduation, and I have seen Cale grow into a kid with one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met. They are all so great! I would never trade any of it for anything in the world. Teenagers are a pain, but I am loving every minute of it. Mostly because, I almost wasn’t here for it.
It’s hard to swallow for me that I put my family through such a traumatic experience. They know that life can throw you curves and that you’re not always going to feel 100%, but tomorrow will come, and you are probably going to feel better eventually. That there are people that can help, and medications to help as well. They know what I have been through, and I hope they don’t ever feel helpless, but if they do - they know they can always ask for help. I am so glad I got a second chance at life.
With bipolar every day can be a challenge and most days are a challenge, but I know that if I get helpless again, I have the strength to overcome it. My husband, and my boys give me the strength I need to get through each and every day. They give me the courage to continue life even in the darkest of times. I am confident that I will be okay eventually. I just have to keep going one more day.
When dealing with suicidal thoughts I know how quickly I can feel alone and it was as if the pain will never end but now that I have gone through what has been the darkest days of my life so far, I can see that ultimately the clouds will lift and I will smile again.
Sometimes the courage comes with knowing your limits.
Recently I again had a manic episode which also produced psychosis. I do believe I was close to a psychotic break which again would have resulted in a trip to the hospital. Since I practice mindfulness and constantly do self-checks on myself to make sure I stay healthy, I knew I was manic and I had to take some drastic steps to get back on my management plan.
I am fortunate enough to have a loving family who supported me and helped me quickly get to the doctor and seek treatment. I was able to stay out of the hospital and regain my recovery.
I Got A Second Chance At Life.
I got a second chance at life and I am going to make sure that I take care of that life. I hope that my strength can encourage others to be aware of the changes within themselves and when to ask for help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
Life can be a battle. And, when you have mental illness, everything is more intense. The day-to-day events are usually tackled normally by other people but can have a profound effect on a person suffering from bipolar, which is why at the end of each day we are so tired. A battle of the mind can be so much more exhausting than any other physical challenge there could be.
At times even the most beautiful day can make you feel gloomy. Never let these thoughts creep in inside your head. It takes strength and courage to face each day. Do it bravely knowing that your life is definitely worth the effort and that your breath is worth just as much as others.
Just start your new phase with a single step, vowing to yourself that you are beautiful inside. I urge you to face each day with “Amazing Strength,” a reminder to myself I proudly display on my wrist.
ABOUT TOSHA MAAKS
Tosha Maaks is a wife and mother, who is living well with bipolar for the last five years although she has had the disorder the majority of her life. As well as having mental illness herself, she knows that her father had it as well as being able to see it in at least two of her sons.
Tosha specializes in symptom recognition and, in addition to running our mentoring programs, is currently the President of her local affiliate of NAMI and holds a place on the Council. Appointed to this position by her County Board for the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, the Council helps decide what actions are to be taken in her county for their mental health action plan.
Tosha works closely with county officials regularly within the jail and court systems and is often seen during training sessions for central IL officers. She also presents to local teenagers during the NAMI's Ending the Silence program, which helps middle and high schoolers understand mental illness, and loves to speak openly about her own mental health journey.