***all names have been changed

We met in the basement of a church. Passed a can around for donations, checked in, and then broke into smaller groups. Very AA.

I was nervous, having recognized one of my former clients from the mental health center, irrationally afraid that someone would shout, “She’s an imposter! She’s not like us!” and some of them would be right. Despite all of our money issues, Charlie Brown and I are not low-income as several in the room were. I felt like if they knew me and my personal situation, they would ask me to leave because in their minds I could afford better. But the truth is, I can’t.

I mostly just observed, feeling just flat.

My emotions had been all over the place today. The Boss was back to herself, mostly, we’d talked and joked about the fact that we’d both chosen rugged brown leather sandals and had bright toe polishes on. (Not an uncommon occurrence – we often dress similarly by complete chance, causing others to joke about my job duties including coordination of apparel) I worried about her yesterday, because there are several flags going up for me about her own mental health – she reported no sleep at all the night before, she’s stressed about minutia, i.e. spilling coffee, and she self-reported she “wasn’t herself.” But as we laughed, my brain started to play tricks on me. See, you’re ok. You’re making too big a deal out of this whole depression thing.

Back to the group.

We broke out, and my group had two female facillitators, one older and one quite a bit younger. The older facilitator was soft-spoken and very well versed in mood disorders – later she revealed that she is a private practice MH therapist. The younger facillitator was a sweet girl who’s very outspoken and forthcoming, but has had a rough go at life it would seem. We had to identify with a color at the introductions and she had chosen “one of those multi-color nailpolishes – sparkly at the surface, but pretty dark underneath.”

Three “oldtimers” and two newbies comprised the rest of us, including myself. The other newbie was a relatively young (I can’t guess ages very well) new mother who’d recently attempted suicide, thinking her baby would have a better life with her sister than as the child of a single parent. One of the oldtimers, I’ll call her Bobbi, was rougher around the edges, and as her story unraveled, I gathered she is a motorcycle mechanic, married, and has grown children who are making poor choices in life right now. Bobbi talked alot, and she had plenty of reason – a lot on her plate, made me feel a bit less than worthy to be there, in comparison. Then there was Sally, a rather sedate, prim looking middle aged woman. If I had to guess, I’d say she were a housewife, but she didn’t say. She’d attempted suicide in November, via overdose, and talked about struggling with getting the appropriate dosage of meds. She has bipolar disorder and is so much chemically higher than most people, that large doses of sedating mood stabilizers are just keeping her at baseline, when others would be conked out by them. And there was Ralph, who asked me about where I worked at the mental health center when I revealed that. Other than that, he didn’t contribute much but some advice on pain management.

So much hurt was in this room, and I’m relating to it all. Then it’s my turn.
I told them my diagnosis came from my PCP and not a MH worker..mostly because I used to be a MH worker and I knew what my diagnosis was. Told them I’ve been on meds for over 3 mos, and the first 6-8 weeks had been fine, a dramatic improvement from the fog I had been in. But as the current events have unfolded – and I told them all of that – I’ve been slipping back into that mode. So, since I knew about this group b/c my office funds it, I came tonight.

Bobbi got to asking Sally about whether she thought of her attempt much. She did, and Bobbi began talking about her scars on her arms from a previous attempt. Bobbi has a cover story for people who she doesn’t really want to know the truth when they ask.

I kind of glazed over, getting absorbed in the pain of my thoughts recently. I don’t know if it showed, or it was just common courtesy, but Bobbi asked me, “What about you, do you feel safe?”

And it all just came spilling out.

I don’t know if I’m safe or not. I mean I’d like to think I would never do anything, but stuff has been on my mind lately far more than it should be. And here’s the kicker, my husband thinks suicide is so selfish, but in my reality, it has nothing about me getting away from the pain, and everything to do with the idea that people would be better off without me. I feel like I keep dragging those who are close to me down, and I could free them from that burden which is me. I know in my head that’s probably not true, but the feelings of this just overwhelm at times. I don’t want to turn into my past – I’ve tried so hard to escape it, but now here I am with the legacy of mood disorder weighing in on me. Will it completely destroy me to a person incapacitated by fear? It’s just so hard to see past the moment…

And then…validation. I’m not alone in feeling this way, they’ve all thought about the other people in their lives too.

I think I’ll be back next week. I hope that Charlie Brown will be with me the next time they have a family night – he didn’t want to go last night.