Considering recent news, I wanted to add my two cents into the dialogue. I feel I’m qualified to enlighten those of you who think that suicide is “sudden.”
The human instinct to survive is Herculean in its efforts to keep one alive. It is damn near impossible to want to end one’s own life. I’ve read stories of people amputating limbs to survive. Better to bleed to death trying to escape than lay down and die.
The only time, the only time, a human feels the need to take his own life is when the torture of existence is too great to bear. Even seppuku is an attempt to escape unbearable shame, one that would follow the person to the ends of the earth. Better to avoid the pain all together.
But suicide is not a mind-set in the West. It isn’t a cry for attention. It’s the last resort.
I’ve said before that I had planned my own suicide. I can hear the reactions now if I’d followed through: “She’s the last person I would have expected to commit suicide.” “She was always so bubbly and full of life.” “She was always willing to help and always wore a smile.”
Even my children would have been shocked, and they lived with me through the worst of my battle.
We only hear about the successful suicides.
The “sudden” suicides.
But this is the norm for people who suffer from bipolar. The untreated condition sucks the joy out of living and turns the sufferer into a non-functioning lump of self-loathing.
You cannot conflate healthy depression with bipolar II or any other “mental” illness. If you are one of the many lucky ones, you have no idea and I would never want you to understand from personal experience.
Emotional pain isn’t enough to cause suicide. If you are legitimately depressed because of a death in the family or a break up, that’s normal. You aren’t going to kill yourself. You’ll work through it and each day, the pain will recede just a little.
Maybe you won’t eat or will eat too much. Maybe you won’t sleep or will sleep too much. You might cry for a month, but it’s not the same kind of depression that someone with bipolar experiences. It’s not something you can escape. My body refuses to cooperate.
The hallmark of bipolar II is the mixed state. This state is a combination of depression and anxiety. The sicker I got, the worse it got. It took every drop of my energy to function at work. I had a constant buzz in my head, like a table saw, and often, it buzzed through the tender flesh in my head.
I not only feel emotionally ill, I am physically ill during a mixed state. The force of a migraine, that stabbing agony behind one eye, the nausea, the vertigo, attacks my entire head. My joints ache.
I went to the hospital during an episode and they could find nothing wrong with me. The prognosis was an “atypical” migraine, whatever the hell that means. I was in pain. My head hurt, like nails were scraping the inside of my skull.
But very few of us can articulate the pain. We’ve been suffering for so long that our pain receptors have short-circuited. In fact, we cause ourselves physical pain, through cutting, tattoos, piercings, and other methods (I like to rip out hang nails), to distract ourselves from the ever-present pain of being awake.
Into each life a little rain must fall. People with bipolar II understand this. We’re compassionate because we understand pain. We’re kind and empathetic to another’s distress.
But we don’t get April showers. We live with monsoons, hurricanes, and sometimes tsunamis of agony.
A fucking tsunami. The kind that devours everything in its path. Many of us suffer alone. Some, like myself, go to the hospital but doctors can’t find what is hurting us. They don’t have the tools to measure what hurts, or the knowledge.
There are moments of surcease. We’re upbeat, happy, and full of energy. It’s called a hypomania and it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm.
This is a state of joy that is transcendental. You are one with the universe. You can taste colors and sound, almost as if your body has flooded you with a googolplex of endorphins. It is an all-natural acid trip.
But is it worth the ensuing pain? No.
The pain is torture. You cry because you hurt, if you cry at all. You drag through your days and act as if nothing is wrong. No one sees what you endure. No one knows that you’re dying inside. You deliver an Oscar-worthy performance despite the illness.
But there is no such thing as “mental” illness. It’s physical. If it was a “mental” illness, medication would not work at all. But our society has stigmatized those who suffer, and we remain silent. Not for our own sake, but for the sake of our family and friends. We want to spare them the shame.
Until it becomes too much to bear. The pain, the suffering, the crushing loneliness all contribute to the eventual, and often unsuccessful, attempt to take one’s own life. We only hear about the successful suicides. The “sudden” suicides.
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