It’s getting harder to write. The last three weeks have been difficult for me, with bouts of nightmares and extremely distressing dreams once again becoming common. Medicine hasn’t helped, prayer hasn’t yet, and talk therapy never has. This situation is not tolerable. After thirty years of off and on misery I am not prepared to continue with another thirty. When my breaking point comes I cannot say. I get better when these images lessen; two or three days of no dreams brings me back to a positive world.
I’ve called the suicide hotline twice now, just to see what they had to offer. I had no present plan to kill myself when I called but I wanted to talk to people who had experienced suicidal thoughts or possibly suicidal attempts. Unfortunately, the people manning the phones are not allowed to talk about their own personal experiences. This gets to something that has always bothered me about the medical profession.
A doctor or health care professional cannot be tasked with experiencing all the ills any patient may face. There is also a distance that must be maintained from the patient in order to make objective decisions. But a psychaitrist or psychologist who has not experienced thirty years of nightmares cannot possibly understand the patient who has. There is, therefore, an overwhelming and impossible gulf in understanding what the patient is going through. For the patient, repeating the same problem over and over simply becomes frustrating and depressing, as their experience cannot be conveyed to any degree.
A horror film might be described in print or talked about to another person but that description can’t compare to viewing it. My worst nightmares end with me startled awake, heart rate racing, adrenaline coursing through my body, gasping as I try to breathe normally. How do you relate that? For my part, I have taken up running every other day, four miles at a time. It makes me happy. I thought it would help my sleep but no physical regime has ever helped my mental health. Nor has giving up alcohol through the years. At this point, though, I am a non-drinker for life, for other health reasons. Again, no effect.
Over the decades, many people have suggested approaches that have worked for them. I have tried all of them. Often repeatedly. These same people sometimes get mad when I say their method doesn’t work for me. I am sure it has worked for them, just not for me. As I don’t doubt their experience, I hope they don’t doubt mine. It is a terrible thing to tell someone in crisis that they’ve left avenues unexplored, or that they’re not trying enough, or that they don’t want to succeed.
All of us have our own troubles, many of them life-long and chronic. I wish you relief in whatever you have. You have my thoughts and prayers. And, I sincerely hope, some understanding.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline