Friday, April 30, 2010

Turn It Around

A lot of people attempt suicide. In fact, someone commits suicide every 17 minutes in the US. A male is 4 times more likely to succeed than a female. What a thing to be better at! Poisoning is the 2nd most successful method overall, but is by far the method of choice for women.

Many people who use poison, get their stomachs pumped and go back to trying to cope and putting their lives back together with little lasting evidence. Because too much time had elapsed from when I took the pills from the time I got to the hospital, my stomach was not pumped. Over 90 pills - mostly brain drugs: sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antidepressants (ironic, huh?), some Tylenol, extra strength mind you, and other assorted chemicals went all the way through my system.

At the hospital, at some point, they quit even monitoring me so I am told. My fever went over 107, and my mother had to literally pitch a fit to get me a cooling blanket. (Eternally grateful, Mom) I was on a respirator. My heart stopped three times, and I had seizures for hours. I know that if I had not been in such good physical shape, I would not have survived. My Mother actually witnessed staff going back and filling in my medical charts.

I was seething mad about this for a long time. Yes, I had tried to kill myself. I was messed up but, once I got to the hospital, they had a responsibility to do everything to help me and, at the very least, do their jobs. There was a time when I wanted vengeance and to sue the crap outta that hospital.

In the past couple of years instead of pursuing a lawsuit I have chosen to put my energy into getting better and healing. Even if I did sue and win, would it really change anything? I'd have more money, but I'd still talk funny. I would have expended my resources towards something negative instead of bettering myself and my situation.

I have come to have compassion for the nurses and doctors on duty that night. It was a full moon and a busy ER. Gurneys lined the hallways. I choose to believe that the hospital personnel had finite resources and thought I was going to die. Therefore, they made the logical and understandable decision to put their efforts into people who had better odds. I can only imagine the "holy shit!" look on their faces when they realized I was going to pull through.

I have found that you can take any situation and put some distance between yourself and it emotionally and look at it objectively. I didn't say this was easy. It takes some effort and practice, but it can be done.

Over time, with repetition, because of neuroplasticity, this actually becomes the default in your brain. However, you do have to consciously make a disciplined effort at first. Reinforcing these pathways and activating this loop in your brain permanently rewires your brain.

Byron Katie has a process she calls The Work that teaches you exactly how to do this. You can take any situation and stop your struggling and anguish. According to Katie and many philosophies, all suffering is caused by our own thoughts and judgments about what happens, not by what actually happens. The goal is to change your thoughts. The Work consists of four questions and a turn around. The questions are:

- Is it true?

- Can you absolutely know that it's true?

- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

- Who would you be without the thought?

After you've analyzed your situation with the four questions, you turn it around. Each turn around is an opportunity to experience the opposite of your original statement and see what you and the person you've judged have in common. She says the turnarounds are the prescriptions for happiness. For example:

"The hospital workers should have done more to help me" turns around to:
- The hospital workers should not have done more to help me. They had to make a judgment call here.
- I should have done more to help myself before ever getting to the hospital.

This exercise can help to alleviate your anger and suffering about any situation and give you a new perspective. You can find a full explanation of The Work and even worksheets at Give it a try about some situation in your life and turn it around.


  1. Debbie - As much courage as it takes to fight through the ongoing process of brain injury recovery, I'm sure it took you so much more to be honest about your situation and to take responsibility for it. I "had it easy" in that respect - having MS, crashing while flying down a hill - these things are almost normal and, in a sense, I was blameless.

    I applaud your strength and honesty. I feel it will allow for even greater recovery and discovery of a new and improved life.

  2. Mark, thank you so much for your kind words. Being honest and open has, indeed, been integrally intertwined with my healing both emotionally and physically. I hope that through sharing blatantly, I can help others by them relating and maybe learning from my experience. It is great to be here and to be able to look back. Looking back and learning, but onward with enthusiasm!