An Essay for World Suicide Prevention Day*

*abbreviated as WSPD from here on

 So today is WSPD and the internet is teeming with positive messages to promote hope. So many people battle mental health issues and almost everyone at one point and time thinks they’re all alone.

And of course it’s not true but it’s also true that no two cases are the same.  That’s why things like WSPD are great.  Awareness is never a bad thing.  Telling people on the internet they’re not alone or writing an essay to describe your experiences helps a lot of people. 

We have to remember that for some these things don’t help.  Sometimes telling someone they’re not alone, remotely from your keyboard has the opposite effect.  Saying you’re not alone is not a pat on the back or a reassuring hug.  They’re words and for some words are enough and for some they’re not.

Also describing experiences is a great way for people to help one another.  But we also need to remember other people’s experiences are different and in retelling our stories we can’t minimalize theirs.

 Someone who is depressed can very well hear a valiant tale of survival and think to themselves: “Well, my problem’s not that big of deal compared to that” and that’s it.  Some may say the same thing but think: “well, why can’t I do that?” “Why is my tiny problem so insurmountable to me when that guy survived all that?” We must remember that depression and the issues causing it have no number value.  Someone’s sadness over a lost job is not better or worse than someone’s sadness over a failed marriage.  Two totally different examples but we don’t have the right to say: “well he’ll get another job, that’s not nearly as bad as a life-altering divorce”.  To some it is.  You can’t just pair up any two problems no matter how meager or how epic they may seem and put a value on how they make people feel.  There is no scale from 1 to 10.

There are people out there like myself that get depressed every day for seemingly no reason at all.  The reason is chemical or biological in nature but it doesn’t make it a lesser kind of sadness because it has no tangible reason.  People who can pinpoint why they’re depressed are a little bit ahead because they have a chance to fix the problem.  But just because they can fix a problem doesn’t lessen the amount of sadness they feel.  Sometimes the depression alone makes seemingly fixable issues unfixable.

I wanted to get all of this out of the way before I speak on my own experiences.  My experiences are not a road map or blueprint for anyone else’s.  So if you read this know that the things making you sad and the ways you deal with them are no better or worse than mine.

It took a long time for doctors to figure out a large chunk of my issues were due to bipolar disorder.  I have a multitude of other diagnoses but that one is a big one. But it’s all a real mixed bag. My mind simply doesn’t, for better or worse, work like others.  Then again there are some who will know exactly what I’m talking about.

My brain never stops; it zigzags from one thought to the next. If you don’t believe me ask my best friend what it’s like when I tell him a story.  I rarely can finish one without starting another.  And it might be a day later that I’ll remember, Oh I didn’t finish that story did I?

Needless to say I lose focus quickly which causes me to be impatient and restless.  I write things and it’s hard to explain how my brain effects that.  I have a lot of ideas, they fly through my head fast and if I don’t write them down they’re gone.  Sometimes they come back sometimes they don’t.  I think some would look at me at think well he seems reasonably intelligent there can’t be anything wrong with his head. I will say it takes an epic amount of energy to stay on task.

This is a main reason I’m not social.  It takes an immense effort to be semi-normal and those that know me know that I still don’t pull that off most of the time.  I realized a long time ago that stress and pressure caused by social gatherings are not worth it.  Some people assume I’m afraid of people and that’s not true.  It just takes more mental effort for me to be around them then it does for others.  What I’m afraid of is what happens when that effort fails. That’s why again anyone who knows me knows I won’t attend a party unless I have a specific task to do like playing music.

So one of the major points of contention for me is I feel like I should be able to do more like other people.  Or that some might think of me as lazy or useless.  I myself think these things.  It’s only recently have I tried giving myself a little credit.  Here’s why:

A day in my head consists of racing, lightning-fast thoughts that can be obsessive and sometime irrational.  Those racing thoughts run the gamut of worries.  Things that keep my worry train on track: my weight, my health, the work I want to accomplish, the work I can’t accomplish, the medications I take, my diet, I can go on and on.  These things may seem common and they are but for me they’re cycling through rapid fire and making return trips.  It becomes overwhelming.  Sleep doesn’t help because it takes too long to actually get to sleep and when I wake it’s only a few hours later.

All these effect my physical health driving my glucose and blood pressure up. At my age I already have had kidney issues, bleeding and swelling in my eyes, nerve damage, spinal issues, heart issues including an irregularly fast heartbeat, problems with my teeth because of meds, memory problems, sensitivity to light, an irregularly high white-blood count that they watch just in case it turns into cancer, sleep apnea, hiatal hernia that makes me feel like I’m choking almost all the time, deteriorating jaw bone, and a headache that started in 1996 (that’s not an exaggeration).  I’ve had more than one doctor tell me I’m way too young for all these problems.  Thanks Doctor Obvious.

And through all that I’ve managed.  I have a small army of doctors and I work at it every day.  My point is even if I didn’t have bipolar disorder I’d have a few reasons to be cranky.

But bipolar isn’t always downhill.  There are upswings.  That may sound positive but it’s not especially when your thoughts are already racing in the downswings.  I get agitated, nervous energy and when it starts to shift in the other direction it can cause actual physical pain. 

This comes to the point of today and WSPD.  Suicide is a very polarizing topic.  Some say it’s a selfish act.  Some find it to be the only solution.  Some people survive the thoughts and realize it’s not worth it.  Some attempt it, fail and realize it’s not worth. Some people attempt and fail and attempt it again. And of course, some succeed. WSPD promotes hope and the motto, things will get better.  For some people it doesn’t feel like that and it never will.

That’s why we have to do more than share stories and tidings of hope.  We have to actually show people it gets better on an individual basis.  You have to look at those around you and recognize the way they feel.  Don’t tell them you know how they feel, that is the last thing to tell them.  As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t tell them anything; you should listen.  Listen, pay attention to what they’re saying and help them come up with solutions to fix the fixable and survive the unfixable.  Don’t expect them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.  Most people don’t even know what bootstraps are anymore.  Some people can’t get through it on sheer willpower.  They need actual human help.  Not words on the internet, not stories of shared darkness.

Many times I’ve looked around and like Jack Nicholson asked in the movie with a similar name- “What if this is as good as it gets?”  “what if doesn’t get better?” The important thing to remember is the answers to both of those questions are fickle and fluid.  They change from moment to moment, day to day.  You just have to try to make your “good as it gets” the best it can be.  Things can get better but never in huge monsoons of change. Sometimes all you need is a little rain to make a rainbow.



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