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Suicide Zen Forgiveness


I want to share this #GiftFromAndrea and my #gratitudeAttitude

Trigger Warning:

Suicide Zen Forgiveness podcast is for education only. Some of the subject matter could be triggering for those newly grieving, or in a poor state of mental health. Please call you local suicide hotline, or mental health office if you need immediate help.

 

Jul 6, 2021

My name is Al Levin and I’m an assistant principal in a public elementary school.  I’ve been in education for over twenty years.  I’m married and have four children.

I’ve  completed all of the coursework in working towards a Co-Active coaching certificate through the Coaches Training Institute.  The coaching work has allowed me to support the staff I work with in the public schools, as well as others who are seeking support in reaching their goals or working past challenging times in their lives.

I am also a person who has recovered from a major depressive disorder, an illness that was quite debilitating for nearly six months of my life.  Through this experience, I have become very passionate about learning more about mental health and supporting others with a mental illness, particularly men with depression. In addition to this blog, I speak publicly for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and I tweet @allevin18. My latest project is a new podcast called The Depression Files.

Summary of my story in Al's words

Everything seemed to be going well, yet everything seemed to come crashing down. I had a decent job, a happy family, and a new house. It started in October and I knew my body was feeling different. I had been through one bout of depression three years prior (almost to the date), yet not nearly to the degree of what I was on the verge of.

I made the decision to begin medication and started seeing a therapist. None of this was helping and I continued to slip. As my family doctor believed my situation was more complicated than he had originally thought, he scheduled me to meet with a psychiatric physician’s assistant (the quickest appointment I could get). This psychiatric PA switched my medication and had planned to monitor my situation. As I gradually moved into a deeper depression, I began to have crying bouts, I was struggling to interact with people, I could rarely eat anything at all, and I was struggling to fall asleep. I also started to have thoughts of suicide. My wife and I discussed the situation and, with consultation of the psychiatric PA, decided that I should take some time off from work. My medication was increased and the hope was that they would have a chance to kick in before returning to work. In hindsight, I do not believe that taking two weeks of unstructured time away from work was the best decision. I did not want to go out because I feared bumping into somebody I knew who would question my absence from work. My wife and I created lists of things we thought I could accomplish around the house the next day. Impossible. I couldn’t even begin any of the tasks that we had discussed. Although I struggled sleeping, I would lay in my bed, hours at a time, rolling around unable to sleep. Lying in my bed behind closed doors was one of the only places I felt safe.

I decided I would attempt to go back to work for the one week before winter break, as a sort of trial period. Work was challenging and I found myself often isolating myself in my office, rather than being in classrooms. I would get home, manage around my four children until it was their bedtime, and then meltdown, uncontrollably sobbing to my wife at night. Not only did I continue to struggle sleeping and eating, but my suicidal thoughts became more frequent. At one point, I found myself searching suicide methods online. Another evening, I looked in a mirror, holding my hand to my head in the shape of a gun, analyzing the best angle for which to hold it. The crying bouts continued. I eventually created a plan to take my own life, thought about it often throughout the day and even dreamt about it one evening. This scared me very much.

I knew that I needed more help and at this point felt that I had been screaming for help and nobody was listening. I asked my wife and sister to join me at my next psychiatric PA appointment for support. The three of us essentially convinced the PA that I needed to take time off from work to enter a program for recovery. I took three weeks off of work in order to enter a partial hospitalization program. I spent my days in the program and my evenings at home. While this was a huge jump-start to recovery, there was still a long road ahead.

Now, approximately two years after having gone through this major depressive episode, I continue to maintain a lifestyle that will support staying mentally fit.