The D Word

For a while yesterday, I wanted to die.

The depression, the poverty, the constant, never-ending struggle to simply exist was too much.  All I could see was want, loneliness, misunderstanding and pain that my fantasizing would never change.  Jumping around in the water, scribbling little stories, pasting pieces of paper together, starting book after book only to set them back down just marked time while my life tick-tocked by.  Death would be such a relief.

For someone who is bipolar, this thought is a marker.  It’s not the same as wanting to commit suicide.  And it’s still distant to developing a plan to commit suicide.  Nevertheless, thoughts of death signal a serious turn in the depression.

I stayed with those thoughts long enough to write them all out in my journal.  As soon as I actually wrote the “D” word, actually admitted to feeling that lost and desperate, I surrendered to my training.

This is what training is for.  It kicks in without conscious thought.  It’s habit, so deeply ingrained that it runs automatically.

I mopped up my tears, finished my coffee and went home.  I gathered together some old pictures and took them to Minute Man to get copied.  I bought refills for my ink pens and furniture polish.  I picked up my new glasses.  I stood outside and lifted my face to the warm sun, let myself feel the mild breeze.  I glued borders around Nancy’s collages.  I made two cards.  For the rest of the day, I distracted my brain from the hopelessness.

And in the evening I told my Bipolar Buddy that I had thought about dying.  My friend Cheryl is my Bipolar Buddy.  Three years ago, after I tried to kill myself, I promised Cheryl that I would always tell her if thoughts of death ever came back.  I’m accountable to her.  I’m honest about my thoughts, and she witnesses—that’s our agreement.

In the past, I would have called my mental health clinic.  My therapist would have called my psychiatrist, who would have sent me to a hospital where medications would have been adjusted or changed, thus starting a four to eight week period of confusion and fog-brain while my brain and body adapted to the new drugs.

It was never the drugs that made me better, it was the slap of being hospitalized, the challenge to my distorted thinking that pulled me from the edge.  So, I learned to challenge my own thinking.  Once I realized the medications actually made my symptoms worse and I was able to wean off them, I became even more able to see the distortions.  I’ve not had thoughts of death for a long time, but it’s part of the illness.  They had to come back around sooner or later.

I’m better this morning—not great, but better.  Thoughts about my life being pointless still crowd me from behind, but I’m not entertaining them.  What I will do today is trust my training.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ashley Erin Almon
    May 05, 2011 @ 06:09:55

    I wanted to reply with a picture but I’m going to post a blog to Sandy Sue….


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    May 05, 2011 @ 06:35:09

    Hang in there, my friend! I’ll be thinking about you today!


  3. Kitty
    May 05, 2011 @ 08:45:40

    Trust your training – I’ve been known to say, “Get it in your body and you’ve really got it.” I think that’s what you mean here when you say it kicks in automatically. Just knowing something in our minds is not the whole ticket… for so many reasons we don’t even need to list them here.

    When you said this, “It was never the drugs that made me better, it was the slap of being hospitalized…” then “…the four to eight week period of confusion and fog-brain while my brain and body adapted to the new drugs.” This feels big to me. So, are you saying that, drugs that didn’t work simply confused you so much and for so long that you were distracted from what was really going on inside of you? I can remember my therapist telling me (20-some years ago, at the end of 3 years of continuous therapy after my breakdown) that I made much faster progress simply because I refused to take the drugs, but that for some people that is not a viable option. And, I suppose, for some people the drugs really work and that is a beautiful thing. But when the drugs don’t help, we must forge on somehow… and that is when we need Bipolar Bad-Ass Training! 🙂

    If I had known 15 years ago that all you needed to keep you goin’ strong was a really big slap to confuse the hell out of you for a bit, I would have slapped you, Honey. This must be what they mean by, “Slap you silly!” Duh.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 05, 2011 @ 09:40:21

      Yes, and not only did the drugs not work for me, but they made me bounce from manic to depressed several times a day. That continuous confusion plus the drug stupor sorta got in my way.
      We both know it takes enormous work to monitor ourselves. It’s not easy on drugs. It’s not easy off drugs. I think the task is overwhelming for a lot of people.

      And, hey! You’ve got the best one-two punch around, girlfriend. I depend on it.


  4. Richard Olson
    May 05, 2011 @ 12:10:56

    Between the usual relationship issues and now the post Bin Laden thing, I am processing old 9-11 stuff, plane crash empathy and the gamut of bipolar disorder stuff. My emotional self is taxed out and the pain is enormous. I hope to evade the downward spiral of depression and what comes next.

    I reported to my others today and much of the pain has lifted. It is good to see others struggle and triumph in this. Are we and our condition intentional and not a genetic accident?


  5. SuicideRipple
    May 06, 2011 @ 08:26:50

    Thank you for your honesty. I am still struggling to understand the “why” of mental illness and suicide. I’ve read many books on the subject and still can’t wrap my brain around it. However, after reading some of your blog, I understand what it can feel like to live inside a bipolar brain. It is, in a way, a comfort to me to understand just a little bit of what my sweet friend who committed suicide was going through. It makes me a little less angry with her for taking herself out of my life, the lives of her family and friends who loved her so much.
    I have suffered from moderate depression on and off since my first child was born. It crept back in this past fall and I went back on medication. For me, medication is a Godsend. It provides instant relief from the symptoms of depression and doesn’t seem to alter my functioning in any way. I find it fascinating how medication effects each person so differently. Treating mental illness is, as my therapist friend calls it, “educated voodoo.” Each person reacts differently to the same treatment. A patient who knows herself well is the best gift a psychiatrist (a GOOD psychiatrist) and therapist could have.
    I can also relate to the thought that death may just be easier. After my first child was born, I had many daydreams about getting into a fatal car accident or being struck by lightening. I never would have ended my own life, but I welcomed the end if God were to decide to take me home.

    Blessings to you. Please keep fighting. Keep writing. Keep creating. You are creating understanding and change. It is my dream that everyone be as honest as you about their mental health struggles. The stigma would be greatly reduced if they were.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 06, 2011 @ 22:26:08

      I know how hard it is to comprehend suicide. Your friend would have done *anything* else if she could, but at that moment there were no other options. I’m sure she stayed a lot longer than she wanted to because she loved you all and never wanted to hurt you. Bless you for doing your work out here for all to see. And thanks so much for visiting.


      • Jeanne
        May 09, 2011 @ 00:20:25

        The only help I need is this, tall order as it may be: A community of like-=minded friends. Family members who permit mistakes instead of shunning me for having too much emotion. A home into which I can invite my community of friends, and in which I feel safe and myself.

      • Sandy Sue
        May 09, 2011 @ 06:57:45

        I think the “call for help” comes when we start talking about our plan to other people, or start saying the “D” word out loud to others. When I was serious about ending my life, I didn’t do that. But, when the depression bottoms out to that dark place, I do want help to get out before I move closer to suicide.

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