It’s a beautiful October morning as the sun finally catches up to my alertness. We take off. The plane advances so fast, but my perception from above is a slow, forward climb to freedom. There’re a couple bumps, and we manage them with grace.
Two years ago today, things got dark.
I had been egregiously late to my dream job for a while, unable to get into a routine that matched the rest of the world’s early starts. My truancy was a small reflection of my insides, outside of work: I was living a facade, and I was just waking up to it. I wasn’t happy. I was depressed.
I began to see that my entire identity was entangled in my primary relationship—founded soon after a traumatic experience years ago—and that I had no idea what it meant to be Haley outside of the one who was wooed and “rescued” at a critical time. I now accept that my ex was exactly what and who I needed to survive then, and it was therefore incredibly right to be with him for a season. But the season was changing and he had since stopped serving me, as I was lost in him and old stories.
I had become almost fatally codependent. And drugged.
A few days earlier on a Wednesday, I had started a new prescribed psych med—gabapentin—to hopefully help with my anxiety and depression, and maybe in some roundabout way, my skin picking (dermatillomania/excoriation disorder). Within 24 hours, I had fleeting thoughts of suicide. Within 48 hours, I didn’t see any real reason to continue living and began researching a way to die. Within 72 hours, I had done all my research to create a detailed suicide plan. By Saturday night, I had finished packing my bag to carry out my plan the following day: I was going to skip Sunday therapy, go for a hike, and jump off a cliff.
I did this all in secret. The last day I worked my dream job was on Friday October 5, 2018. I had packed up a box of my things and took them home, not planning to return. I didn’t resonate with feeling alone when I got shown suicide hotline numbers in my Google searches, because that’s not how it felt. I was a numb robot driven by a drug, and I was without normal cognitive functions.
I got a single flash of clarity from my suicidal thoughts.
As I finished packing my bag, I realized what I was doing was nuts, and I was in trouble. I knew my backpack had one of two purposes: to come with me on a hike, or in a hospital.
I went downstairs, sat next to my husband on the couch, and wrote this note on my phone:
“I think you need to take me to the hospital in the morning
I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to just do it or take a vacation from the world and risk it still sucking
I still don’t know what’s better or worse
The only reason I don’t want you to take me now is because I know I won’t get a bed so I’d rather sleep here at the very least”
I couldn’t say anything out loud, but my lizard brain had kicked into some semblance of survival mode.
It was the moment I chose to reach out for help from severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
My husband cradled me on the couch for a long time. Out of everything we’ve been through, even after splitting, I am most grateful for him in this singular moment.
He hid my keys and slept on the couch in case I tried to sneak out. I wrote up how I was feeling and my exact suicide plan, so I could just show my therapist instead of trying to talk out loud.
It was a long night.
The next day, he drove me to my therapy appointment. I slumped into the chair. My therapist asked what’s up, and I said two words: “Not good.”
I handed my therapist my phone to read my suicide note. I was all but catatonic.
And that’s the key word: “but.” There was a but. I couldn’t make eye contact or speak much out loud, but I found a way to get help.
I found a way.
At the ER one of the doctors commented, “We don’t normally get you guys in here at this stage.” He meant I was so far gone that most people at this stage of suicidal depression go through with it. They don’t reach out for help.
But I did. Two years ago today, I didn’t skip therapy. I didn’t drive to a mountain and jump off a cliff. I was not overcome by a drug-induced walking coma.
Instead, I became twice a patient at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts (thank you). I attended two partial hospitalization programs and a two-week residential program for dialectical behavior therapy. I lost my dream job while hospitalized the first time. I went broke with my ex after my short-term disability money ran out and I still couldn’t work. I gave up my marriage and moved in with my parents at age 28. I moved on from my digital marketing career and worked for minimum wage as a dog trainer at a pet store. I started BFRB Dogs, a tangible reflection of my growth.
It took arguably the full two years to be in a position of confidence and find an ever-evolving definition of Haley, especially in the face of a recent depression where I had to pull out all my tools and coping strategies I’ve learned. The difference is now I’m building something to be proud of: a Haley that can navigate the gray of life a little bit better.
I’m still working on myself every day.
And it is ALL cause for celebration and gratitude, especially the shitty things. Because those are why I can know moments of contentment and joy.
This could easily have been a story of turmoil and complaint and woe is me. Instead, I am here—so glad I’m here—and I’m grateful to be grateful to be here.
Thank you, diverse brain. No matter how badly you want to escape sometimes, I know you have my back. I know you keep me alive during those moments, too. I celebrate my humanity and the fact that I appreciate life now more than I ever have before.
Thank you to everyone that helped me along my journey these last couple of years and beyond. You’ve helped empower me to find me again. You’ve acknowledged me, accepted me, and pushed me where I’ve needed it. You’ve helped me strive for wholeness emotionally, spiritually, physically, and nutritionally. You know who you are.
Thank you to my clients who continue to entrust me to help with their own healing through their dogs. BFRB Dogs is going strong, and accepting new clients left and right, from all walks of life and locales.
Thank you to the dogs. You’ve been pawsomely supportive in the most unconditional way. I literally couldn’t have done it without you. Special shout out to Bellie, Luke, Daisy and Daisy, Dinero, Luna, Kai, Chance, and their two-leggeds, respectively.
Woof! There it is: progress with brain diversity.
On this day now in 2020, I’m on a plane flying to meet new friends I never would have known had I made a different choice two years ago. I’m meeting a supportive community of humans in a new wellness business I joined along my journey, in addition to BFRB Dogs. There will be a conference celebrating health and progress, two things I am behind.
Instead of jumping down, I’m flying up high with so much respect for life and everyone like me who has faced any kind of adversity due to brain diversity. It is both the end of #BFRBweek and the beginning of Depression Awareness Month. I am proud of my unique, ever-growing brain, with all of these, as it makes me more resilient every day.
Just wait to see what I have in store this October and beyond, both personally and for BFRB Dogs. I’m grateful most of all that my path has led me to you, because I’m in a place where I have the capacity, willingness, and tools to serve. 💕
P.S. Would you like to work with me? Contact me about BFRB Dogs.