When We’re a Danger to Ourselves… and Others

Sometimes we need others to make the call for us

The police officer was professionally detached. Not unkind. There was only so much he could accept from the individual in a mental health crisis he’d been called about.

Me. There was only so much he could accept from me, only so much he would allow me to do.

Me alone in a bathroom was unacceptable. His visit to my home was ending one of two ways. Either I would willingly go with my husband to the emergency room of our choice (the hospital where my psychiatrist worked); or, willingly or less-than, I would experience my first ride in the back of a police car, to wherever he saw fit.

How in the world did I get here?!?

I was upset my husband had called 911. I was frustrated that he’d misinterpreted my (admittedly out-of-character and, well… bizarre) behavior of the morning of my birthday, as getting worse. I was coming up out of the darkness. I was no longer actively suicidal.

But I couldn’t make myself talk. Unrolling toilet paper tubes my kids never seem to want to throw away, writing notes on them with a crayon I found on the bathroom floor, and pushing them out under the door… not normal.

He’d called a friend of mine. Out of the bathroom I felt cornered, frantic like an animal in a trap.

I bolted.

My husband got my keys away from me. So I ran.

They made the best decision they could. Really, the only good decision, but it was difficult for me to see it that way when I came back to the house, muddy and briar-scratched, went straight to the shower, and was interrupted by the police officer I hadn’t noticed.

The risk

My behavior was erratic. I thought I was rational, but I wasn’t.

Even if my intent was benign (I needed space to BREATHE, so I defaulted to my need to be near the water… it was an overcast April mid-morning, spitting snow; the beach would be EMPTY), it wasn’t safe for me to drive in that state. Not for myself, or for others on the road between me and my beach.

But keeping me from getting behind the wheel didn’t end the danger. My husband and friend knew I could be a hazard to people on the road, even on foot.

We live near a highway… where suicide-by-traffic has occurred.

I was offended that my husband could even think I would consider such a thing. My biggest dilemma when making plans to end my life was how to do it with as little mess, and as little collateral trauma as possible.

“I would never DO that to someone!” I argued when he told me.

He knew I wouldn’t, he responded, but, he reminded me, I wasn’t myself.

The call I made

I still wasn’t used to the fact that I had a psychiatrist (and still do; I’ll probably need one the rest of my life).

The darkness convinces me that the best choice, among a handful of choices that aren’t good, is to end my life. My brain convinces me my life is worse than worthless. It wasn’t the desire to save my life that convinced me to get help.

It was recognizing a logical conclusion of the belief that the world is a horrible, painful, dark place that kills all that is good – a logical conclusion of a parent’s belief that the world is a horrible, painful, dark place that kills all that is good.

At times, I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was no hope in the world. I resented God for creating human life. Condemned to live small, futile lives, and then, for the majority, an eternity of torment because they never accepted His grace.

I believed I removed myself from the reach of grace by my refusal to trust God, by my inability to walk in His Light and be obedient to His commands I know are for our good.

There was no hope for me beyond this life, so why not just end the intolerable suffering of this life and enter the inevitable suffering of the next?

My kids would be better off without me.

This from a woman whose husband’s father committed suicide. A woman who has seen the lifelong effects of the loss of a parent to suicide, and how it casts a shadow over the next generation.

But I believed I was so toxic, it would be better for my three children to survive one large psychological and emotional trauma than live with a devastating lifetime of smaller ones. They could move past it instead of always wondering when Mom would lose it again.

How could I give them hope if I had none?

How could they have worthwhile lives in a completely broken world?

I regretted having them. The guilt of condemning three innocent children to the futility of existence weighed heavy.

Can you see how it slips? From I can save them from life with a mother too broken… to I don’t want them to ever feel this despair that is the reality of life

It was a gut-wrenching realization. I understood how a mother could consider taking the life of her child.

I knew I needed help when I realized I could become a danger to my children.

Do you know how scary it is to put something like that on the internet for the world to see?

I wasn’t worth saving, but they are.

Facing Truth

I’m glad that I have people in my life who are willing to make hard calls when necessary. I hope it is never again necessary.

If I take proper care of myself, and am consistent in healthy habits, I limit the possibility of another mental health crisis and the necessity to protect me from myself, or others from me.

Some people need medication to be as healthy as possible, and that’s just the way it is. I didn’t think that would ever be me, but it is.

While I may at times think it’s pointless, that I’m worthless and my life is hopeless and pointless so why bother, it’s not just me I put in danger.

The thought that I could harm someone inadvertently is hard, but the thought that I could ever become unstable enough to consider purposely harming someone because I think it’s for their own protection is worse.  I don’t ever want to end up in that place!

We are all responsible for our choices. If our thoughts and actions are unsafe, we should be grateful when loved ones step in to protect us from ourselves. When healthy choices to protect ourselves seems pointless, we must make them for others’ sakes. We know they’re worth it. Truth is, we are, too.



Melinda VanRy writes about mental illness and faith on her Fruit of Brokenness blog. She wants everyone to know they have inestimable worth, though she often fails to believe it for herself. Bouts of severe depression have nearly destroyed her but instead make her stronger and give her a desire to help others who struggle with mental illness and faith as she does. Melinda lives in New York with her husband, their three kids, and more cats than she ever wanted. If you’re thinking big city, don’t. The VanRy family makes their home in rural Central New York. Way closer to Canada than New York City. And not far from Lake Ontario, which she loves.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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