This is going to be hard.
Twenty-five to fifty percent of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once in their life. They are more successful the second time around.
A year ago, I swallowed many handfuls of pills with a bottle of alcohol. I didn’t end up where I thought I would. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I finally became aware of my surroundings, I had a tube down my throat, a ventilator breathing for me and my hands in restraints. No longer comatose.
Was I glad to be alive? I can’t really answer that. At that time, no. That wasn’t the intent. I was angry. They made appointments for me before discharging me. In the few days afterward, I met with my psychiatrist, my therapist and my PCP. My psychiatrist’s nurse had a big smile on her face saying that she was so glad to see me. I didn’t feel glad. My psychiatrist was majorly pissed off and my therapist met with her colleagues to see if she had done anything wrong. Only my PCP expressed more than a medical concern. Later, I realized they were all concerned and very glad that my suicide attempt was not successful. “Successful.” Kind of an oxy-moron.
Am I glad that I am now alive? I guess. I never had an epiphany that it was so stupid to act on those deep dark thoughts and that I am glad that I didn’t traumatize my kids and my family. I have not yet acknowledged that it was a permanent solution to a very bad but temporary episode or that it was all about my illness – all those things they tell you when you feel hopeless about life and talk about dying. I realize now that they really don’t know what it feels like to get to that place or how to get out of it. In that week, in that moment, none of that mattered. Now, that’s my job. I am trying to fix my life so I don’t get there again. It is working so far.
I was traumatized. It took months before I could say the “S” word. I still don’t remember almost anything that happened for a 2 month period. That pisses off a lot of people at work and at home. If they only knew why, they may be more supportive. They don’t want to know. There is such a taboo about mental illness and, you know, the “S” word that no one will ever talk about it. If a co-worker has a car crash, has major diabetes-related problems, a major drug side-effect or other “real medical problems” and ends up in the hospital on a ventilator, an agency-wide email is sent out to garner support and understanding. I ended up on a ventilator in the hospital, comatose and 4 co-workers know. I’m not sure that I would want more people to know, but I would have liked to have the support so that if I did want to talk to someone I could.
I’ve started to heal and I’m good. But, I never forget that I have a mental illness. Every day, 3 times a day, I take pills. They help. Still, I get so frustrated! I am reminded of my illness every time I take those pills, every time I lose track of what I am saying or what someone else is saying or when I just can’t find the word I want to say in EVERY conversation that I have. Yes, I do have coping skills to get around these problems and they work. Then there are the times when I actually have a breakthrough episode and have more significant symptoms. When my mind spins out of control, it is VERY hard to deal with the feeling that I am losing control of my mind and that I may never regain it. At times like these, the almost instantaneous help from my great doctors and extra drugs help and the symptoms pass and life goes on. Work support would be nice too.
I work. I am successful. I have friends. I have a lot of great days! I feel good about my life AND I struggle with a mental illness.