Our stories have no beginning or end but here is my beginning
Today I was reminded of the first time. The first time I wanted to kill myself. It was on a slide- a metal one that was part of a homemade tree fort. I said it out loud to my two friends out of anger. “Fine I’ll just go kill myself.” I really felt it and was not just using it as an expression. This was when I was in 4th or 5th grade.
A few years later I said it again. This time to a friend while I was at a camp. We had been crying about everything there is to cry about, and I let it out.
The other times are a little blurry. Except for the first time I sort of acted on those dark thoughts. It should not have happened. Life was going fairly great. Living in Honduras was like a dream! Teaching others about Jesus filled my life with happiness. How was it possible to be happy and be filled with such utter despair. I wanted to do it but I knew better. I still had some reason left. I only took two extra pills. I knew it would only make me sleep long. Hopefully I would wake up and the thick darkness would be lifted. I woke up on the bathroom floor. Of course I covered up what was really going on when my friends found me lying there.
Covering it up can be the easy part. Making up a reason to it all. Putting on more than a happy face. Having a happy life. Its not that hard to do when life really is going well. Everyone has their struggles but I don’t feel like I’ve had anything happen to me that would cause such debilitating sadness. It’s easy for people to believe that all is well when the part of the iceberg they see looks so ordinary. Plus its not like the black is always present.
Sometimes I trick myself into believing that its gone. The darkness is at bay and never will return. I know its a lie. As soon as I allow myself to truly feel the warmth of joy the reality of what is soon to come enters into my mind. The darkness will return, it always does. Never knowing when it will come or what it will bring, I try to hold onto the joy as long it will allow.
Within the last few years some of the truth started to come out. There is only person that I can’t completely mask the dark abyss that I’m trying to walk through. My husband. The first time some of the dark leaked out was in the car. We were driving that night-a dark car driving through towns is the best time to be vulnerable anyone. The person driving can’t see your face enough to see all the truth in your eyes. He was devastated to hear it. Knowing that I caused him any pain stung. Those were the first tears I had seen him shed. Along with the sting of seeing his pain was relief. I didn’t have to hide as much. Of course I would still hide but having a little more truth out felt soothing. It was a beginning. A beginning to letting the darkness out. Today, now, writing this. It’s another beginning. People don’t know my darkness. I don’t want them to know, yet I do. Letting the darkness escape is….Well, I don’t know yet. Maybe it will help me. Maybe it will help someone else. I do believe that the challenges we are given have a divine purpose. I left wondering many times whats the purpose to mine?
Maybe you are reading this as a family member, a friend, a stranger. Maybe you have struggled with this darkness. Or perhaps someone you know has confided in you. There is most likely someone in your life that is afflicted with this ugly darkness known as depression. As I open up my closet of secrets and let you peer into the deepest parts of me, I hope you are able to gain some understanding for yourself or for someone else. Its terrifying to relinquish control of this part of my life to anyone who happens to read this. But- I feel like I need to and for some reason that it will be worth it.
You are not good enough. You failed. You are the worst mother ever. What a horrible wife. Why do you even try. No one even cares. No one understands. It’s never going to get better. The darkness will always consume me. I can’t do this. You need to do more. It’s your fault. Your not trying hard enough. You deserve this pain. You never do anything right. You are only a burden. You have nothing to offer anyone.
Lies. Lies. Lies. They are always circling around my head. It’s messy trying to sort out the lies. My mind is battling itself. A lot of the time I don’t know what I actually feel and think. The truth and lies are intertwined. Untangling is a rigorous task.
Late last year I made a promise to myself to be completely honest. That is what drove me to start writing this blog and sharing it. I want to first be honest with myself. And then be able to share this honesty with my loved ones and others.
Truth: being honest is scary
Truth: being honest has positive and negative consequences
Truth: being honest is beyond hard
Truth: being honest becomes a habit and grows into your character
Truth: being honest heals
My truth: My name is Lela Belus. I am a wife. I am a mother of two. I struggle with mental illness. I suffer from clinical depression.
I’m so mad. Angry. Ticked off. No. It’s more. Bigger. Deeper. Rage. My body and mind are filled with rage.
I feel the control slipping out of my hands. I can’t hold on any longer. My body is tense. Stiff. My hands. They are no longer mine. A piercing scream escapes me. My insides are going to explode and it’s all going to come out.
It starts small. There is trash on the floor. The trash can is full. One kid is clinging to my leg. The toys are scattered. My stomach is growling. Pants! Where are my pants! There are no clean clothes! I can’t even find a dirty pair. Now I hear more crying and whining. And then it happens…I can’t take it anymore. Everything around me heats up my blood. Fire. My body and mind are on fire. I just want to make it stop. I want to feel peace. I don’t t want to yell. I don’t t want to cause harm. So I search for a release. Anything to make it better. To take it away.
In the past I have found harmful ways to get that release. Now I’m focusing on healthier options. 5 deep breaths in a dark quiet room. The sound of rushing water. Cold water over my face. A quick step outside. A silent prayer. It doesn’t always pull me out of the rage but it does quiet it for a short time. I’m working to live my life with less and less rage. I’m trying to not suppress it but to face it. Rage is just one of the many parts to the ugly beast of depression. Running from it and burying it down deep only add fuel to the fire- causing the eruption to be even bigger when it starts to leak out. Anger is not a bad emotion. Feeling it does make me a bad person. Learning to face anger in healthy ways is empowering. It allows me to have some control. Dealing with my anger in healthy ways can bring more peace and calm into my life. So here’s to rage and facing it head on.
Picture a warm summer day. Close your eyes. Feel the warmth of the sun. See the light poking through your eyelids. Pure bliss. These are perfect moments. Even in winter months it’s possible to have glimpses of these pockets of sunshine. As part of my journey through the darkness I want to always search for the pockets of sunshine through all seasons of my life.
Picture a bleak winter day. A sky covered in clouds. After the storm breaks the sun shows its face again. The glitter in the snow shines ever so brightly. Against the gloomy gray days the sun feels even more glorious. Throughout my experiences with darkness I have been able to find pockets of sunshine. The dark gloomy days at times have given way to glorious light. Experiencing the darkness has given me a bigger love for any light that is trying to creep into my life. Like a flower growing in a plant maze, I am always stretching and reaching towards the light. Allowing myself to embrace its warmth has been a huge blessing. It truly is something you have to allow yourself to do. Allow yourself those moments of sunshine to peak in. Love them for all that they are.
Right now I am learning not to hate my darkness. I want to accept it. Say hello knowing that it will lift. After the dreary storm comes marvelous rays of sunshine. I’m learning to appreciate the darkness because it allows me to feel a deeper and greater light.
She was only a few weeks old. It was a snowy winter. My body was past exhaustion. Sleep was always on my mind. I knew having a second child would be hard. I had experienced the “baby blues” in the few weeks after birth before. But what happened one winter day was so terribly horrifying that I knew it was not categorized as baby blues.
It took all my energy to bundle up the kids that day and get out the door. I thought some fresh air might ease my feelings. Maybe a walk would be enough to give me a little lift is what I thought. We walked down the block- my son trodding along in his boots. I had my daughter wrapped in a blanket pulled close to my chest.
We walked a block from our house to the river. The sound of the water has always been so soothing. I stood on the bridge and gazed at the water below. Then it happened. The most terrifying thought came into my mind. “Drop her”. My mind then played out the entire scene in my mind. I can still see the images that flashed across my mind. After this brief moment I took my kids back to the house shaking in remorse. I was horrified that my mind had those thoughts. I felt betrayed by myself and so guilty. How could I ever think that? What kind of mother was I? Didn’t I love my baby so much? How could something so dark be inside me?
It was a few days after this happened that I got up the courage to ask my husband to call the doctor for me. It was about 6 weeks after giving birth. I went into the doctor and it was confirmed that I had postpartum depression. I was prescribed medication and sent on my way.
I kept my bridge experience to myself- I tried to burry it deep inside myself. A few times it almost surfaced but I couldn’t let it out.
After my 5 day stay at the access center I went home to stay with my parents for a few weeks. While there I reached out to a friend that was a therapist. I truly believe that he was inspired to say specific words to me. As we talked he asked me what kind of things surfaced for me during my dark times. I believe he was prompted to ask if I had ever had thought of harming my children. The way he phased it allowed me the courage to let it out. What came next was so healing.
He let me know that people have these thoughts. And just because they enter my mind does not mean it is something I desire. It is not who I am. It does not make me a bad person or a bad mother. Those words brought me so much peace. Being a good mother for my children is one of the things I care most about. Failing at that would crush me.
That day, that small moment in time does not define me. It is not who I am. It is not what I desire. And now I can let it go. Say goodbye. Accept that the images came and went. I can free myself from them.
Recently I took a metaphorical New Years plunge into icy water. Despite the fear of jumping, it was refreshing and healing. Since starting my blog I haven’t shared it with anyone I know. Well as part of my newly made commitment to be completely honest, I shared my blog with some friends that I felt safe with. I wasn’t really expecting any responses from anyone- well maybe a hey you can always call or something like that. Getting a response was not my goal. I wanted to be honest and in doing so maybe helping someone e else who is struggling. My friends opened up and shared some amazing experiences!! Because they are so amazing I wanted to share them with all of you! Thank you again to everyone who has reached out and opened up.
“I also was suicidal at 10. I stood in front of my mirror with the different pocket knives I had to my neck. Wishing I knew how to end it all. This was ongoing for probably 8 to 10 years. You know when I met you I was new in sobriety. My biggest fear is still suicide. I know drinking doesn’t work and suicide was always my back up plan. I am grateful I haven’t been severely low in a very long time. But I am well aware of where I come from. These different things we go through seem to never be totally cured. The best we can do is just live for today and be the best we can be today. Because life is heavy and beautiful. This is my experience at least.” – Ashton
“One- I had no idea- which tells you how well people can look and act while having these demons inside. And two- so sorry you have to deal with this. I know a lot of family that deal with anxiety and depression and I wish the stigma wasn’t still there, but I totally understand your metaphor of wishing this was black spots you could cure instead of something happening inside the brain. All the love and know I’m here whenever you need someone else to talk to. ❤️❤️”- Emilie
“My sweet friend. I am deeply touched that you have shared this. I read it with tears streaming down my face…relating to so much of it. So much! I knew I always had a bit of the same darkness. But one managed to show it’s full face/form after having my last baby. It amplified everything. It showed itself to my children and husband. I tried everything. Exercise. Cleaner eating. Supplements. More sleep. More meditation. Minimalizing. More spiritual reading. Nothing worked. Only temporarily masked it. You call it darkness. I call it spiraling. Hulking out. An episode. Drowning. But darkness is the closest description. I had a camping trip with very close friends 2 summers ago with our families. And a major episode happened. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I could see myself deteriorating. Being volatile. Harmful. Wanting to stop but could not. Everyone else saw too. As mortifying as it was….it also pushed me to get the help I needed. To admit what I was living with and that it may never go away. One of the grandpas there was visiting in town and happened to be a very respected obgyn in Utah and after spending thr weekend with us, recognized what I was living with. He saw it. He believed me. He understood. He encouraged me to see someone . He educated myself and my husband. I made the decision that next week to get professional help. I also made the decision to start taking lexapro (anti anxiety and antidepressant). It is not for everyone and I fully understand and respect it. It has its pros and cons. I’ve gained 35 lbs . But I myself decided to be chunky and a bit more sane than skinny and crazy. Lol. I’ve been on it for a year and 5 months. It didnt fix everytbing . I still have episodes. But they are fewer between and not near as deep or dark . I am still working tirelessly to mend the relationships with my husband and children. They still expect me to react like I had. Time is truly healing things slowly. It will never go away. I have found that I am not alone. I can talk with my friends and family about it. I can share my story and let others know they are not alone too. They are not a failure. They are seen. They are real. Each story is different. Each remedy to how to live with it is different for each person. What helps me may not help you or the next person. But know you are not alone. I see you. Again, I am so thankful for you sharing and being vulnerable and strong. Xoxoxo” -Andrea
“So thank you for sharing this. See, a lot of the issues that caused my divorce were rooted in mental health challenges. I stopped my ex wife 4 or so times from harming herself, taking the pills out of her mouth and sharp objects out of her hands. I’m so thankful that you were / are getting the help that you need. Unfortunately, in my case, after repeated counsel from our bishop for her to go to an inpatient unit, I continued to feel like I could do it on my own. I didnt involve a lot of people, and it ended up in an extreme situation. I ended up being seen in the ER for suicidal ideation, and the next day, I ended up getting arrested, and spent two days in jail. Fortunately, the misdemeanor charges were eventually dropped, but it was a wake up call to me. The results for getting help (in your case),and not getting help (in my case and my ex wife’s) can be quite stark sometimes. It’s okay to ask for help, and, like I said, I’m really grateful that you’re opening up this part of your life to help erase the stigma of depression / suicidal ideation. I’ve been through a lot the past two years, and one thing I’ve learned in all of the crap of mental health struggles, divorce, and suicidality that I’ve waded through is that there is hope, and that there are people out there that care for you and love you and see you Heavenly Father sees you—His precious child.”
November 2019. One of the worst days. A turning point.
Some of the details are muddled but others have yet to be erased in my mind. Crying in the hospital parking lot pleading to go home. Crying “I won’t do it. I’m not going in there.” Being driven back home only to curl up and cry on the bathroom floor. The desperation in my being as I told my husband to take the kids away, that this was an emergency. The hole in the bedroom door is a reminder of the intensity of those moments.
After dropping off the kids my husband drove me into the big town and took me to the emergency room. They asked me why I was there and I had to say it- right in the open. Suicidal thoughts. It still stings. From there I was told to go over to a different building for mental health. I had to undress in front of two nurses. They gave me a hospital gown and the same panties they give you in the hospital after having your babies. No bra. Next I was being taken to my room. Only I didn’t know that my room would have a roommate and that I would be in a sort of dorms with other people- men and women. I could not have felt more naked. With nothing to do I sat at a table in the common area. After forever someone talked to me. The other patients were so kind and it felt so good to be completely understood.
The next five days were restorative. Sleep. Uninterrupted showers-except for the safety checks. Puzzles. Therapy sessions. So many people asking and genuinely wanting to know how I was doing. Food. Coloring. Conversations.
I am forever grateful for that experience. The people I met. The progress I made. It was a huge leap forward. The blunt honesty. Without accepting the reality of my illness- severe depression- there is little room for healing. I’m starting by writing it here and hopefully one day I will be able to say it out loud. I have to believe that I can Survive all this and be able to live a fulfilling life with this illness. I have to believe that there is a purpose for this suffering. Maybe one purpose to it all will be helping someone else. So if your reading this now and your that someone…Know that you are not alone. The darkness does not have to win. You can prevail.
Some days are really dark and I feel trapped in my own mind with no one to hear my cries. Today I want to share a few of those thoughts in the form of a letter to the one who loves me.
I know your frustrated and so am I. I hate that I hate myself and that I hate my life. I’m trying so hard to get better. It feels like it’s not working and I’m just defeated. I don’t know what else to do or try. It’s isolating. Every time I ask for your help or take you away from school I feel guilty. It’s my fault if the school doesn’t work out and my fault if you don’t pass because I couldn’t give you more. I’m barely surviving each day. I often want to sleep and not wake up. But that wouldn’t even make things stop. I would still be trapped with my mind. Only completely erasing my existence would make it stop. But that’s not possible. So I’m trapped. I’ve been trying so hard to get out and sometimes I’m slightly successful. But now I’m so defeated I just want it to take me. But it won’t and it can’t. I wish this was something you could more easily see- like if it showed up as black spots covering my body instead of inside my mind. Maybe then you would believe me and just be able to help me bandage the black wounds and help them heal. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I’m sorry that I’m plaguing you with my blackness. I wish I could take it away and keep it from you. I’m sorry for the damage I cause. If I could take it away I would.