One of the earwigs of my flavor of bipolar disorder is passive suicidal ideation. I’ve learned that thoughts of death, the desire to be dead, and fantasies about my funeral are all just symptoms of my illness, not some conclusion or solution I arrive at on my own. I’ve come to understand them as just one Tootsie Roll in the party favor basket of worsening depression. I can root around in my stash to see if the other treats are there—insomnia, social isolation, hypersensitivity, lack of interest in things I usually enjoy, persistent hopelessness and despair. This is not the Halloween candy I want, but it’s the loot I’ve been given.
One of the ways I counter these distorted hobgoblins is by remembering I have the ultra-rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder. I can count on the witch’s brew of my brain chemistry to shift in hours or days. All I have to do is distract myself until that happens. I’ve gotten pretty good at that.
The other thing I can count on is the complete unpredictability of my illness. My care providers and I have tried to track patterns and triggers. We’ve charted seasonal changes (sometimes), stress (sometimes), length and depth of mood shifts (no pattern there). This year has been like no other, but that’s like saying snowflakes are different. So what?
All I can really say is that last year around this time I got pneumonia. Since then, I’ve been depressed except for the tempering effect of my cross-country trip out West and back. I’ve had burps of hypomania, and a few good days, but each dip downward has been lower than the last. And the good days are rare.
That’s a long time to keep distracted. It’s a long time to push against the negativity and the whispers of a Final Relief.
Earlier this week I found myself shifting from passive to active suicidal ideation. That’s a clinical and un-scary way of saying I starting planning how to get the job done. If it weren’t for the promise I made to my cats, that I wouldn’t abandon them, I might have followed through. I like to think not, but it was deep and dark in my head.
Instead I called Lutheran Hospital’s out-patient psych department and got on their waiting list for an intake interview. Since my therapist had called them two weeks ago to get information, they bumped me up the list, and I’ll get that interview next week.
It sounds so easy when I write it out like that, but it took all the skill, energy, and courage I had in the moment to make that call. It meant stopping the forward momentum that had been pushing me for months and turning in a different direction.
Once I made the call, the relief was immediate. I’m still severely depressed, but the suicidal Junior Mints melted—which makes a nice treat for my cats since I’m out of catnip. They deserve a treat. Even if it’s only a mental construct, they saved me. My heroes.
And now, in the spirit of changeability, for something completely different.