To understand healing, I first have to understand the tragedy of being mentally ill, of an abusive childhood and of the suicidal actions I took. To me, healing was understanding those tragedy's and coming to peace with the decisions that I did make and then letting go. Most of all, healing was understanding why I wanted to take my life and how I ended up alive.
Suicide is a tragedy no matter how you look at it. There are many books written that talk about the family or loved ones left behind. This passage is no different, except it comes from someone who tried to cause that tragedy and now is trying to understand it. The tragedy happens on many levels and continues for many years. An action that took under an hour to complete will haunt me and the people that love me for years. How do I overcome a death wish that I took all the way to the point of death? How do I walk through the kitchen and not immediately flash to that time where I collapsed and then was saved? How will my Dad leave home and trust with 100% certainty that I will remain alive until he comes home? How will my six friends see an email from me and not wonder if itís my good bye email? These are all situations that I go to bed each night with. All questions with no easy answer. Questions like these lie at the heart of a suicidal persons tragedy. Suicide never affects just one person, but can be quite far-reaching despite a suicidal personís view that they are alone. Perhaps that is one of the greatest tragedies: Choosing your own death and believing you are alone. If only a suicidal person could see and feel the loss before creating it. And not just having the loss pointed out to them, but truly feeling and seeing it. I felt the loss, only after I swallowed hundreds of pills. I write about that loss, in hopes that I never forget how un-alone I was.
I realize now that my loss would matter, especially with my younger brothers. There would be no sister to teach the finer points of playing sports, no sister to come home and watch movies, have pizza or popcorn. No sister to teach them about xbox games and how to win and lose graciously. No sister to talk to in confidence when things are rough and no sister to protect them from pain or suffering. No sister to smile or laugh with. No more sister who loves unconditionally. No more sister.
For my dad, there would be
no more daughter to have buddy nights. No daughter to talk and fix computers
with or to sit and veg on the couch. No more daughter to be proud of or help out
in dark times. No more daughter to love unconditionally. No more daughter to
watch succeed. No more daughter to pass the gene line on or watch her become a
wife and mother. There would be no more daughter to hug or love.
My friends will miss a friend. No more friend that they know loves them unconditionally. No more friend a phone call away. No more friend to fight along side in mental health advocacy. No more friend to provide comfort online or on the phone. No more friend to live with for a summer or during holidays. No more friend to provide smart-ass comments and no more friend to laugh at in her ADD-ness. No more friend to provide knowledge on almost any topic. No more friend to share a love for all things folk music, or music period. No more friend to help provide good times, always. No more friend to hug and love.
Tragedy would also cause loss to Julia, the child with autism that Iíve been treating for four years. No more therapist to teach academics. No more therapist to teach skills in new ways that strengthen understanding. No more therapist to teach emotions- what they are, how to feel and how to see them in others. No more therapist to teach social interaction, so she doesnít fall behind. No more therapist to spend long hours teaching her to ride a bike or play basketball. No therapist to one day teach driving or to help get a job. No therapist to teach her what she needs to know. No therapist to watch her go down the aisle or have her first child. No more therapist for her to love and no more therapist to love back.
Clearly, when the loss seems so paramount, how does someone then choose suicide as a course of action? As Iíve said before, many suicidal people say they are dying to not be a burden to family and friends or to help them in some way and even choose suicide regardless of whether losses are pointed out to them. How, then, can one person be so blind, how can they not care about the tragedy they will cause? Sadly, I have been there and I do know. The tragedy seen by everyone is vastly different from the tragedy the suicidal person sees.
A loved one sees the suicidal person as part of their life, a part of their world and included in life activities. They do not see the suicidal person as outside of their life or feel as if the person stands apart from life. They are present and seen. A suicidal person does see themselves as no longer a part of their life and the life of loved ones, as well as apart from the world in general and have been removed from life activities. They are not present and elusive. Another difference that causes a suicidal person even more pain is the concept of self worth. A prevalent theme in many suicides is the belief that they have no self worth and they question how people can say they love them. The fact that people care for the suicidal person is at odds with their belief that they are worthless and so a suicidal person solves this by believing that family and friends couldnít possibly love someone so worthless and thus, in a way, sees them as lying, which just adds fuel to the fire. Furthermore, a suicidal person doesnít see suicide as a tragedy for anyone except them. A suicidal person sees death as releasing loved ones from financially helping them or providing any other kind of help. In their eyes, thereíd be no more taking them to doctors or therapist appointments, no more taking them to mental hospitals or having to go to court to commit them to a state hospital. There would be no more late night breakdowns or breakdowns period and no more faking being okay to everyone. There would be no more sibling to worry about and there is always someone else to love them, help them or hug them. There are other therapists trained to help kids and teach them. There is always another friend to give help or knowledge. There is another child to pass on the genes, to see get married and have children. There is no more worrying about someone chronically ill. No more loving someone who is sick. No more fighting for wellness other people want- death can accomplish the same effect.
In addition to the difference in the feeling of loss, suicidal people also view daily living very differently. Their thoughts go something like this: everyday is full of pain; itís a tough decision just to get out of bed each morning. Nothing I do is right and everything takes so much effort. I have to paint a smile on my face just to face others. Loved ones donít love the real me, only my mask, so why do I have to live. Death frees me of living in a pretend world. Iím so tired of the relapse, of the process of doing well, getting sick and getting well again. I never want to be depressed or manic again, but thatís not possible. Iíd rather be dead. I canít even help myself, so how am I going to help others. Everyone says thinking about death is selfish, but I am never selfish, so why canít I do this one thing that is selfish. Iím tired of doing for everyone else, and just once I want to do something for me. Just about everything in my life has gone wrong or been bad. Who would want to keep up that track record? I just want to escape all of this, to just close my eyes and never wake up again. My meds never stay right for very long, I donít want to keep going through this. I did everything right and I still want to die.
To a suicidal person, just the mere process of living is filled with torture. They split their life into the pretend self and the real self. The outside world gets the pretend self where the person puts on a smile and continually says that they are okay. The real fear is hidden, but can come out occasionally. These are the times the suicidal person lets their deepest wish known through the action of giving prized possessions away, talking about death, accumulating pills or engaging in self destructive behavior. In many cases, the death wish is an escape route, something other than a tortured living. It becomes an end when they can see no end. They donít ask for help because they feel that they are unworthy of being helped or feel like people will think they are weak for not being able to help themselves. Suicide can be a cry for help as well. They donít know what to do anymore so they know that a suicide attempt will either get them dead or get them somewhere where they can get help. Suicide is most seductive because most importantly, they are very sure that no matter what, suicide will change their life.
premise is that a suicidal person has the answer for everything, which makes any
suicidal ideation dangerous. Who knows where the line is between suicidal
ideation and actual drive to make an attempt? Itís not like loved ones instantly
have a list of risk factors and signs in front of them, or even a study listing
the differences between an attempter and someone just thinking about it to get
through the night. There does need to be more education so loved ones and the
suicidal person themselves know that any suicidal ideation is dangerous. Even
hospitals need a much greater understanding of just general suicidal ideation
and what it can lead to. Some hospitals do not accept patients unless they have
actually done something. What has happened to preventative psychology? Why would
someone have to try to kill or harm themselves or others to get help? I know
this all too well. Prior to my second suicide attempt, I told my father I was
having suicidal ideation. He, in turn, took me to the local hospital. I told
them upfront that if they were to not take me somewhere safe, I would try to
take my life. I even told them how I would do it, including the store I would go
to and what I would buy. But apparently I smiled one too many times (I laugh and
smile when Iím nervous) and they said no, and then wanted me to wait over a week
for an appointment at a new doctors office. When I left the hospital, I did
exactly what I told them I would, including faking being okay to my father so he
wouldnít suspect that I would be dead by the next morning. I always say to this
that I was open and I did try to get help and when that failed, I thought my
last resort failed. At the time I did what I thought was my only choice.
New ways to intervene must be developed and maybe prevent someone elseís suicide. There must be more knowledge all the way around from loved ones to doctors to hospitals and to the suicidal person. I hope by writing about suicide in a third dimension, that of the suicide attempter, we can all gain greater insight (first one is from the research and doctors view; second is from a loved ones view).
There is hope when it comes to a suicide attempt. Despite research drawing a direct link from past suicide attempts to future suicide attempts (SITE), not everyone who attempts suicide dies. The ratio of attempts to completed suicides is 10 to 1. That begs the question, what keeps those who have had an attempt or multiple attempts alive and never completing their suicide? There have been studies abound about why someone successfully commits suicide. But perhaps the bigger and more helpful question should be what keeps a suicidal person alive? What seeps into their mind before, during and after the act that keeps them alive for good? Could whatever those thoughts are, save the life of others thinking about suicide? At what point did healthy thinking become un-natural and at what point did the act of suicide eventually become natural? Where is that line? How do you save a life?
Hold on/Hold on to
yourself/for this is gonna hurt like hell
It hurts so much to know that I almost caused tragedy in many peopleís lives. Itís a lot like if I had run away. Except then they would know that I could for sure come back. But what I wanted and tried to do, was to put me somewhere I could never be come back from. It was like taking a loaded gun and waving it at everyone I love and telling them I was going to die. Then I take the gun and cock the trigger. Only instead of it killing me, it misfires and I am left wounded, but not dead. How do you recover from that? How do you say, ďOh Iím sorry that I tried to end my life and cause you misery,Ē? I see my flawed thinking and I also see what I could still believe, ďDamn, I didnít mean to do that, let me try again.Ē The anguish I caused the people that love me is immeasurable. There is very little I can offer them in words. Most people know itís fact that previous suicide attempts are a risk factor for future attempts, especially multiple previous attempts. The best I can try to do is to take that gun and give it up. To have suicide not be an option- ever. All I can do is live one day at a time, over and over again.
After my attempt I was hit with the notion that my life lay in ruins. Then, instead of revitalizing what was still standing, I gave in and let it all collapse while I just sat their and watched. Then, once everything fell, I gave up and let death find me again. I sat in a dreary hospital room and knew that I was the one that let myself go. Then I wondered if that meant I was the one to pick myself back up again. I sat there with choices to make. Do I sink lower in this hole, or do I hold on to the sides tightly and crawl my way back to the top? Then I wondered if this was me or just me when I give up. I wondered how I would find my way back and enter a world I gave up on. I now live with the fact that I almost threw all of my well world away to be crazy. And that is where I stopped myself.
I realized the heart break that I caused. I realized that suicide is a tragedy and it is a tragedy I hope to never cause again. I wanted to be stronger than the statistics. Most of all, I would not be the one to increase my younger brothers likelihood of killing themselves. I may not care about my own life, but every second of every day, I care about my brothers. It was then I realized I had something greater to myself to care about. I had my wellness and their wellness to fight for. And I would fight for them every day, over and over again.
Bipolar has ripped apart my life. I now fear so much. I wonder if there will be future episodes and if so, how frequently and how intense. No one can give me answers, except take my meds, know the warning signs, live a well life. But I wonder about my ability to have a job I love, raise a family and enjoy life. Will I be tempted to induce mania again? These days I pray that the worst wonít happen to me, though I seem to always be preparing for the worst. Maybe I hope that preparation will prevent the worst from coming.
Shame, I have learned, is the aftermath of an episode or attempt. Sometimes I feel disgusted with myself and I see what is sometimes in the ruin of a manic, mixed or depressive episode. Then even more so with a suicide attempt, as I strike fear in the very people I love. Then I have to reconcile the different views of myself, from a vivacious intelligent, energetic young girl with great hopes for herself and the world, to a pained, tired, seemingly older woman who tried to kill herself twice. Then I try to reconcile myself after manic or psychotic episodes from an enraged, insane, self harming woman to a kind, intelligent, caring woman. These are the thoughts that strike me at the heart. I know too, that this madness kills more than myself through mistrust, pessimism, restlessness, unpredictable behavior and brutal moods.
These days I am aware of both the chains and possibilities that come with my disorders. The temptation of staying manic has died down finally, just by the sheer knowledge of what has happened and the remembrance of these last few months. I now have become frightened of what could happen with this madness. I donít question the need for my medication and I donít doubt the destructive nature of my disease.
So now here I am, embarking on being normal. I know so many people think that I might welcome normalcy with open arms. Iíll have normal sleep and energy. But itís harder for me: getting used to sleeping through the night and not working and seeing myself as unproductive. People often think that I should compare myself to them or what is the ďnorm.Ē But they donít see that I donít compare myself to them but only to myself and the best I have been, which is hypomanic. These days I am far removed from my most productive, most social, and most intelligent that I have been. Some days that does make me sad.
As a result of all of this,
I am searching for that line between manic and normal or depressed and normal. I
believe what Dr. Jamison says about this, ďwhen I was manic, lifeís tempo seemed
slow, normal, frenetic seemed okay and depressed the temp is impossible.Ē I need
to find the definite normal. I have noticed too, since Iíve been stable, that I
know very little about the normal or stable world and I donít know what it will
be like to live in such a place. I have become a stranger to the normal world.
Itís like Iíve been removed from the world for 10 years and now Iíve been
dropped back in it and I have to figure out how to live in it again. I guess I
have been disconnected and been so far away fighting my internal war.
But I'm finally willing to give precious time to become less of a stranger to this world. I can live in the world again, even after I have given up. I thought living in the mental illness world was quite the challenge, but now I see it is living in the world stable that is the challenge and the one I'm finally willing to fight for.
Healing means having faith and committing to getting better. Healing means not giving up- having so much hope.