Please be advised that this post discusses suicidal thoughts.
Along with the professional care and atmosphere of the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), I also benefited from the conversations I had with other clients and my visitors. With other clients, I was able to share my struggle openly with others who were also going through some sort of crisis. With my visitors, this was the first time I started opening up to multiple people in my support system.
While I was at the CSU, some clients stayed in their room most of their stay. Others, like me, found it helpful to sit in the common areas with each other or talk over meals. There was one particular lunch at the beginning of my stay that I found so helpful. A young man asked if I would mind sharing what brought me to the CSU. I wanted to talk about it but still felt a little uneasy about the topic, so I looked at my plate and said something like, “Ya, well, um, I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts lately.” He shared without hesitation that he stole money from his parents, got drunk, and gambled all the money away. He asked the person next to him and they also shared matter-of-factly, “Suicidal.” That conversation was valuable to me. It helped me see that all of us were there for some sort of crisis, that we weren’t alone, and that there were clients there who were non-judgemental and willing to talk. Having this place where we could be open and direct, without needing to worry about how we were wording things, was freeing.
There were also some pretty lively conversations on the couches by the TV. Some of them were about our challenges, and some were about other things. I remember thinking that if you didn’t know what this place was, there were lots of times when you wouldn’t be able to guess. To witness this inconspicuousness of crisis in others was another comfort to me. I was worried that I might appear too happy and well and that the CSU staff would send me home before I was ready. I was still smiling a lot, partly as a nervous reaction. (My body was anxious in a way it hadn’t been before; my hands were also shaking quite a bit of the time I was there. My jaw also started clicking frequently because I was holding a lot of tension in my jaw, and a year later, my jaw still gets sore sometimes.) My smiling was also partly because it had become habit to smile even when I was struggling. I hoped and thought the staff might be aware of this sort of thing, but it was being able to observe others who also looked well that helped me be a little less worried. Some clients smiled and chatted at times, which was fine and normal, and some were quiet or stayed in their rooms, which was also fine and normal.
I also noticed that there were plenty of non-millennials at the CSU. I had internalized some negative millennial messages, wondering if I was just a delicate millennial snowflake who didn’t have any problems that actually needed external help and if all I needed was to suck it up and face the normal trials of adult life. At the CSU, seeing clients of all ages reminded me of the more accurate message that mental health problems aren’t new to the millennial generation.
Still, these helpful observations didn’t make all my worries go away just like that. I expressed these concerns to my priest when she came to visit me. I was telling her about a psychiatrist appointment I had in about week and that I was worried the psychiatrist would just be annoyed with me and tell me I was fine and I had to go back to work. My priest said something along the lines of, “Well, Kristen, I don’t want to be discouraging, but I really don’t think you’re fine. I don’t think the psychiatrist will tell you you’re fine.” That wasn’t discouraging. With the millennial snowflake messages and all the good things in my life, I struggled with validating my pain or real need for help. It was a relief to hear that someone thought I needed help.
My parents and several friends came to visit me as well. I told my friends about how I’d been struggling for so many years with depressive cycles and symptoms and how I came to the CSU because I was suicidal. In doing this, I was opening up, being honest, and reaching out a lot more than I ever had before.
The conversations I had at the CSU were significantly helpful to me. Sharing my story candidly helped me to start accepting myself and my story. It felt relieving to reveal what I had hidden for so long. I was starting to talk and didn’t want to stop. Finally talking about my experience was a big help.
Suicide is terrible and tragic. It can be hard to talk about. It can be frightening to hear about. I am not encouraging suicidal ideation as a solution or trying to shock and harm with my words. I am sharing a part of my story, showing what depression can be like. This is one very real and serious part of my story that should not be left out. Talking about suicide can be difficult, but talking about these thoughts instead of hiding them can save lives. I am not the only person struggling with a mental illness who has been in this place. Thankfully, I also have other parts of my story that include difficult and ongoing healing. These parts of my story will come later.
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7): 1-877-435-7170
Klinic Crisis Line (24/7): 1-888-322-3019
You do not have to be in immediate crisis to call these lines.