Well… I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the depression tunnel.

Turns out, that wasn't the case.

I've been struggling with thoughts of suicide (aka suicidal ideation) for a few weeks and ended up checking myself into hospital where I stayed the last four nights. Knowing what I know now, if I could do it again, I would have gone in a few weeks ago (when I was in the darkest downward spiral).

I thought I was getting better (hence the post about thinking I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel), but the thoughts hung on. Even though they were less severe, it became easier to think them. (The repetition was effectively unintentional practice which in turn made me “better” at thinking them.) It finally got to the point that even with the diminished severity, the fact that they weren't going away got me make the jump.

The meds I'm on say to go to the hospital if suicidal thoughts occur (and you hear that in general as well). This may sound weird, but one of the reasons I didn't go when I had the first severe bout was a perception that no one else does. I'd never heard of anyone actually going to the hospital for suicidal thoughts until last Christmas when I was telling folks I went in for my manic episode. Since then, I've only heard of one person.

As we all have the cognitive bias of thinking everyone else thinks like we do, part of me figured everyone else had suicidal thoughts from time to time, but just powered through them. So, that's what I attempted to do.

It also took me a while to get my head around the idea of going in. That is, going to the hospital for suicidal ideation didn't fit my mental model of myself.

Another cognitive bias came into play as well. The one where we try to act the way we think other folks expect us to act. I'm sure no one I know thought I was suicidal. So, part of me wanted to act like someone who wasn't.

Finally, I didn't know what the process looked like. I'm the type of person who likes having a solid idea of how to do a thing before doing it. So, this was another mental barrier. Plus, doing anything the first time is extra scary. (And let's remember that I'd already gone in once for mania, but the suicidal ideation felt different enough that it felt like the first time.)

All of that added up to me waiting much longer to seek help than I should have.

Turns out, it really was as easy as going to the Emergency Room and telling them I was having suicidal thoughts. I gave them my insurance card and they took care of everything from there. They put me into an exam room and had a few different folks come by to take some blood, run an EKG, and talk to me. I was a bit freaked out, but everyone there was a pro and clearly knew what they were doing (and had done it before so I was in good hands). As soon as I realized that, I settled down a lot.

After checking me out, they recommended I voluntarily admit myself for a stay in the Mental Health Unit. It was easy to agree since I knew that once I was in there I wouldn't have the ability to off myself even if the thoughts overwhelmed me. (I'll post more about what it was actually like to be in the MHU another time)

Anyway, I'm out now and have started a Partial Hospitalization Program where I go in for group therapy. I'll post more about that later too.

Incidentally, a big reason I wrote this is to make sure other folks don't fall into the trap I did. Thinking just because they don't know someone who's been hospitalized or they don't know what's up with the process that they can power through it. You now know someone who has and I can confirm the process isn't that bad and well worth it.

(I can also tell you that the idea of going in is way, way scarier than the experience actually is. Don't let that fear get in the way.)