Author: Valéry Brosseau
It took me years to learn that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. I refused to be a burden on people or a drain on resources. I’ve now learned to fight this way of thinking and remember that I deserve support and I can reach for it when I need it.
This is what I did a few months ago. My chronic suicidal thoughts are most often manageable but sometimes, they get severe enough that I can’t fight them on my own. So a few months ago I drove myself to the emergency department. Years ago, I would have told myself that I shouldn’t. I would have invalidated my own needs. I would have told myself that if I had the control to take myself to the hospital I must have the control to simply not kill myself.
I know now that this way of thinking is unhelpful. I still struggle to avoid those thoughts but I try harder. At the ER I eventually saw an amazing crisis nurse. She was compassionate and non-judgmental and made me feel like I made the right choice. Later on, I saw the psychiatrist on call. We talked for some time and she chose to adjust my medication. We added an SSRI to the mix.
I must mention that it has taken about ten years to reach the medication combination I am on now. It has taken much trial and error to find what works for me. We confirmed my bipolar diagnosis in my early 20s when I was put on an SSRI for the first time. It made me manic.
Now that we were trying it again, I was a bit apprehensive but also thankful that we were trying to find something that could help me climb out of this depressive hole.
The first few days were alright. I knew there would be an adjustment period but I wasn’t sure what to expect. About a week in I felt great. I remember being at home one night with my husband. I was talking about a million things, bouncing around in a flutter of energy. He told me he was worried. He asked if this was hypomania or mania.
I told him I was fine, I told him I was feeling good.
Not thirty minutes later, I collapsed on the floor in a sobbing puddle. I couldn’t stop crying, I had trouble breathing and I barely understood what I was feeling. He sat behind me and held me while I cried. I apologized between heaving sobs and he kept reassuring me that I had nothing to apologize for. My thoughts went from a hundred miles per minute to a dead stop. I had been on top of the world and I was now trapped in a panic attack. My husband was rightfully worried. He was scared.
Over the course of the next few days, people close to me would check in when I called them excitedly with new projects and ideas. “Are you sure this isn’t mania?” “Are you ok?” I had to be really honest with myself and find the self-awareness to know what was real and what wasn’t. My mom asked if I should go off the SSRIs. I assured her I was adjusting and they were helping. A week later I seemed to have adjusted and I no longer felt manic. I had found some stability and the new medication seemed to be helping.
All this to say, medication is tough. It can be hard to find the right one(s), to go through trial and error until you find the appropriate mix. And medication is also not for everyone. But there is no shame in using medication.
If you’ve struggled with your medication, if you still are struggling and are losing hope, I want you to know you are not alone. I want you to know that you deserve whatever healthy support and tools are right for you, and that you deserve a say in what that means. You deserve to be allowed to advocate for yourself in this process.
It’s never an easy path and it is at times scary, frustrating and painful. Don’t give up.
Valéry Brosseau is a passionate speaker, writer and mental health advocate. She lives with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder and uses her lived experience to raise awareness.
She began volunteering and working in mental health in 2013 and has won awards for her volunteer work. She holds a diploma in Social Service Work and has attended Ryerson University and University of Toronto as a psychology student. She has also completed countless certificates, such as the Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.
Valéry now delivers talks and workshops on various mental health topics. She has written for organizations such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness and the International Bipolar Foundation and In 2019, she delivered a TEDx talk on the stigma surrounding suicide.