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In the year 2000, approximately one million people worldwide died by suicide: a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds.

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Story 163

I am a physician and former national team athlete. One would think that I should have the tools to deal with this...My suicide attempt, if one can call it that, happened in August several years ago. I was in my third depression in as many years. The previous two had lasted about 3 months each time. This time, it started in April, gradually, with an inability to sleep or eat, and bone aching despair. This time was truly the worst, compounded by an unraveling marriage through the summer. I cried constantly, often also at work. Amazingly, no one said anything.

Early on, while feeling completely overwhelmed, I approached my family physician. I was told that I was not a depressive personality, and simply needed to get my life in order. He did finally relent and gave me a sample of an antidepressant. I was unprepared for the side effects, and after a few days my family physician advised me to stop taking the pills. I carried on, with a despair unlike any I had known before. Everything was black, I couldn't stand to hear or see the news...couldn't understand why everyone on earth didn't kill themselves as all was hopeless and bad.

Through the summer, those sorts of thoughts formalized themselves into a fascination with the many highway overpass pilings that I passed every day travelling to and from work. I worked out those with the best trajectories to carry me to my death in my car. Should I disable my airbags? If so, how was that done? Which of our cars offered the least protection? I became obsessed with planning out this suicide. At first, I was frightened by these thoughts. But then they became a comfort, knowing that soon it would all be over.

I contacted my family physician again (but not telling him about the sucidal ideation - I'm not sure that he even asked). This time, he reluctantly referred me to a psychiatrist. I felt some hope, that I would finally get some help with this pain. I saw him twice, pouring out my story to him. As he bade me goodbye the second time, I asked if he felt that my depression should be treated. He replied that I wasn't depressed, simply had marital problems. In that instant, all hope was lost, and with tears streaming, I drove down the highway, accelerating until I came to my favourite overpass. I began to steer toward the piling, but in the last minute stopped and pulled to the side of the road. I sat crying and shaking for 30 minutes. You see, I realized that I couldn't kill myself because I had children. All the relief I had felt planning my suicide was gone now.

Next, I was sent to a psychologist, who did help, and suggested that I incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. In late October my husband left. The pain of my depression was with me every moment of every day and night. That winter, two of my colleagues confronted me, saying that they felt that I had untreated depression, and were afraid for my life - either by active suicide, or starvation. By then my weight was 100 lbs. One of my colleagues had a classmate who was a psychiatrist, so off I went to see yet another psychiatrist. This time I was treated with antidepressants, became manic and then had a mood stabilizer added. I had seen the signs of bipolar illness for many years, but was afraid to tell anyone!

It has not been a smooth road, these past 6 years, but I believe that my children and my medications saved my life. I try to incorporate mindfulness into my life. In spite of that, the thought of suicide is often there, becoming just another part of my life.

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