On suicide and death

I think that anyone who is bipolar or suffers from severe depression has considered suicide at some point.  Living with these illnesses can be just too much to bear at times.  Bipolar in particular has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Some studies have determined that it can be as high as 40% of people with bipolar attempt, and 25% are successful.  I don’t think even most types of cancer carry that much risk.

It’s a good indication of just how difficult this disease can be.

It’s no secret that I’ve not only considered it, but have attempted it on several occasions.  I’ve even come very close to succeeding.  Oddly enough, the closest I ever came wasn’t even intentional, at least on a conscious level. I will admit that deep down my subconscious was probably taking over, but it wasn’t something I was actively thinking of.  But the end result was the same.  I almost died.  But that wasn’t the only time.  Throughout my life there have been many times I’ve decided life wasn’t worth living, and done something about it.

Most would think that people kill themselves when they’re in the deepest depression.  Personally, I disagree.  That depth of despair drains all the energy out of you, and even though you might lose the desire to live, you don’t have the strength to do anything about it.  I think that the beginning of a depression is when you are most likely to try.  You’ve been there before; you know what’s coming; and you feel powerless to stop it.  When that has happened to me I’ve felt like I just couldn’t go through it again.  I’d do anything to keep from dealing with it again.

But also there have been times that I feel broken and damaged.  My illness sets me apart from everyone else, and I’m very aware of the fact that I have these problems.  Almost no one understands that it’s not my fault, or a weakness or personal failure, and I know that if people really knew what was going on in my head they would just think I was crazy.  And sometimes I do just feel crazy.  My own thoughts and actions are mad.  I have been appalled at myself and my behaviors. I have hurt so many others, and been so out of control.

I feel like I need to stop the madness, once and for all.

But the mania can cause another type of suicide.  It’s really not an active choice, but the outrageous risk taking could easily end up killing me.  It might be a quick death in a fiery auto accident, or a slow but irreversible end due to excessive abuse of alcohol or tobacco.  Even though it’s not an active plan, the subconscious mind and the mania that takes control pushes the limits and result in activities that could easily be fatal.

And frankly, at that point I don’t even care.  It’s not something to even be considered.

People have told me that they just don’t understand how anyone could ever want to kill themselves.  How bad could it really be? And don’t you realize that it’s not a permanent condition?  They especially don’t get it if they don’t see you in a deep depression.  If you’re not depressed, why would it even be considered?  And it’s viewed as a personal failure.  Suicide is the coward’s way out.  Be a man and face up to your feelings and your disease.  Only a selfish jerk would Intentionally inflict that kind of pain on loved ones.  How self centered can you be?  Suicide doesn’t solve any problems; it’s just a way to quit.  And no one likes a quitter.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Sometimes the pain is too great to bear.  It doesn’t have anything to do with quitting or giving up.  It’s just too much.  We’ve all heard stories of people who cut off their own arm to escape danger when they’re pinned down.  Or (God forbid) resorting to cannibalism when it’s the only option to stay alive.  (I don’t condone that by any means, the point is that extreme situations can result in extreme measures.)  We all have different breaking points.  It has nothing to do with cowardice.  The load is just too heavy.  And when you’re at that point, consideration of others never enters your mind.  It just becomes all consuming.  If you live through it you do realize what you almost caused and the devastating ramifications of your actions.  It’s horrifying.  But in the moment, that’s not even a consideration.

So how do you prevent a suicide?

The healthier you can live, the less likely you’ll be in a position where it becomes your only option.  While bipolar disorder and dysthymia can never be cured, there are ways to minimize the symptoms and control the impact.  Seeking active treatment and maintaining medical therapies can help keep you from sinking to that level.  Can you stop someone else from killing themselves?  In most cases; no, you can’t.  By the time that the illness has become so overwhelming and devastating that person doesn’t even hear you.  And in many cases it can even make it worse.  It just pisses you off that they don’t understand, and won’t leave you alone.  What you can do however is be supportive during the more stable times, and encourage them to seek and continue getting help.  Helping someone avoid getting to that point is much easier than talking someone out of it.

So is suicide ever warranted?  In my opinion; no, it’s not.  But sometimes it becomes inevitable.   This disease can just be too strong.  There’s a reason that there is such a high mortality rate for people who are bipolar.  It’s just that devastating an illness.  Sometimes, even with the best fight and all the help, getting to that point just can’t be avoided.  I’ve been there.  I can’t guarantee I won’t be there again.  I’ll have this condition for the rest of my life, and I don’t know if I can keep it managed well enough to never consider it for myself.  But I will do everything in my power to be aware of my situation and be completely honest with myself and others who offer their support.  I know how devastating suicide is on those left behind.  I also know that, no matter how bad it might feel at the time, it will get better.  For me, the trick is to hold on to that knowledge, and fight the battle before it gets too late.  Suicide really isn’t the answer.  But it’s not to be dismissed or blamed on a personal failure.

Suicide is almost as horrible as having the disease.  Almost.

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4 Responses to On suicide and death

  1. Thanks for your honesty. I find–for me personally, don’t know about others–what makes depression so unbearable is the absence of “time” as we know it…it feels like an eternity, like a different dimension of time. While I’m in a depression (or going into one), the thought “you’ll come out and be ok” doesn’t compute. There is a timelessness– a feeling of being STUCK there, while I am there, I can’t see any exits.

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  2. jomaidment says:

    I have been there and struggled and lived to tell the tale, but more out of some inane sanity to want to life when everything else wants to die.
    The think I love about your blog has always been its brutal honesty and it is a coping mechanism that I think we all have if we have or suffer from depression is an inane ability to be brutally honest not alone with ourselves but those people who are brave enough to join the ride. However it is also this that sets us apart and I am proud to stand apart and stand up and say I have bi-polar and my brutal honesty is my survival tool.

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  3. I’ve known people that have attempted suicide and I have known people that have succeeded. I have never been able to grasp the severity if the despair that sends someone there but I also can feel the deep deep pain I imagine is associated with losing a child. It doesn’t make either less real.

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  4. I just wanted to thank you for writing this blog and for your honesty. Like you, I was diagnosed not long ago. While it’s a relief to finally know what’s wrong and get on meds, it’s also a tough thing to live with…that it will NEVER change. I’ve been struggling with a lot and searching ways to get healthier, looking for others with similar issues, which is how I found your blog. Reading your words and realizing my racing and insane thoughts, harshness, ridiculous and harmful actions…you know, all the lovely parts of being completely manic…are kind of ‘normal’. And for the first time ever in my life, I feel a little bit less ABnormal about who I am. Which is a strange feeling, but not a bad one for a change.
    Your words are very helpful to me. And to my partner, who has to live with me and the things I do and put him through. So, thank you.

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