Category Archives: Shame

In a Dark Place Again

I’m of two minds again. One part of my mind wants to go on the trip to Chicago next week. I’ve got plans to do some fun things and to catch up with friends. In theory there are other trips I want to go on, and I still wonder about going back to school for a ph.d. some day (next year? ha! like my brain could do that). I’m also thinking about moving back to Chicago again where I’d be happier, as I discussed in my previous post.

But.

I’m in a dark place again thinking about suicide and imagining how I’d do it. My plan is clear, as it always is. So that’s not new. In fact none of this is new. I have sorted all my blog posts into topics for the book I’m writing about living with bipolar. So very often I have written about suicidal thoughts and how they keep after me, nipping at my heels on a constant basis. I have written of wondering if I should go to the hospital and how badly I am suffering in the pit of suicidal depression.

I’m in the pit again. I work the coping skills All.The.Time. I contact people. Now I even have my therapist in the pit with me, saying he will stay until it’s not a pit anymore or until he or I finds a way out that hasn’t been tried before. And he said he would tell me when it’s time to go the hospital. Both of these tactics are different from other providers who always left it up to me and kept telling me to work the skills as though things would be different this time. They never were. I would end up in the hospital as a cry for help instead of following through.

I hate the hospitals here. Nothing to do. Substandard care. Bad food. I miss my hospital in Chicago-area. Being as bad as I am, I would be more likely to go to the hospital in Chicago. Here in TX, I’m desperate to stay out. So much that I might push myself to do it, although I’d just end up in the hospital if I lived.

So morbid.

I’m ashamed of being this bad again. I know in my heart that it’s not something I’ve done. It’s something I live with. The thoughts pound against my skull. When I’m thinking about the trip, I know the suicidal thoughts are lies. But the next minute I’m sinking into despair.

Resistance

I completely resisted therapy today. I almost walked out even. Who know that probing my thought would lead to such resistance! The song in my head – well, the half line from a song – grew more insistent. I wanted to get up and walk out. I had answers in my head that I couldn’t talk myself into saying aloud. I tried to sidle up to my thought and I still couldn’t do it. Good grief! It was just a thought!

I don’t even know exactly what the thought was now. I think it was that I felt resigned that I would go into depression from this slightly depressed place, and that I would be a slave to moods forever. (I want to be manic or at least psychotic, or both. I’m annoyed by this depression. I don’t see stability coming any time soon, if ever.) My therapist had me give a mood, age and gender to the thought. So I decided the thought that I was resigned to being depressed and would be slave to my moods forever was frustrated and pissed off and scared, and that she looked like a 23-year-old me. I couldn’t figure out what she wanted me to say to her. I did figure out – but couldn’t say aloud – that she wanted me to hug her. What’s that about? The song in my head – excuse me, half line of a song – grew more insistent.

My therapist invited me to let whatever thought – including walking out – be accepted and heard so that we weren’t denying her feelings. He asked if the song was a sort of defense mechanism, albeit unconscious. I said maybe, made sense. I still didn’t want to talk.

I wish I could go back and not be resistant. But it was what it was. I’m trying to figure out what so much resistance was about. Part of it was that I didn’t want him to write in his notes about walking out or that I was resistant. What should I care what he writes? Besides, I was trying to mind read, and that doesn’t lead anywhere.

So now I’m supposed to put a hash mark down every time I don’t feel depressed. Just to see that I’m not depressed ALL the time, I guess. I can see through the assignments…

Broke Lady of Leisure

I can’t find anywhere to volunteer that floats my boat, so to speak. One I’m still waiting for the background check. The rest? Who knows. I RSVP’d to another postcard-writing event for one of the political candidates I’m supporting. I have a blood drive to attend next weekend.

Not a whole lot to do except Wait, and Self-Improvement. So I’m basically a Lady of Leisure right now. I read. I watch HBO shows I’ve recorded or funny late night  shows the day after they aired. I watch streaming shows like Orange Is the New Black’s new season. I read a lot more. I exercise. I go to spiritual direction, NAMI, and my therapist. Oh, and I have no money to spend, so it’s not like I’m at Starbucks (my ONLY local coffee place in 15 miles, WTF Texas!) or going shopping or ordering up meals from GrubHub to try some new places.

I guess I’m taking care of bipolar by self-improvement? The days run together though. I try to get outside the house everyday, but a day like today is a fail. I watched shows and read all day, except for the hour I exercised and took a shower. Oh, boy! The highlight of my day tomorrow is the color and cut at my new salon – waaaay cheaper than my last salon. I suppose that would be the highlight for most women though. Getting a fresh ‘do is always good self-care.

I would have thought spending my time in meaningful pursuits was a better way to use my time as a disabled person than simply doing things for myself. My mood is stable again, thank goodness! It would be a good time to make the world a better place, I thought. Instead I’m stymied in that department. So I’m stuck with leisure, and I’m making the best of it by exercising my brain with challenging subjects to read – nonfiction and controversial-contemporary fiction. And appointments that give insight to my current struggles.

I’m trying not to be bored – another reason to volunteer. But good grief! Without money to spend, I’m not liking the lady of leisure lifestyle very much. And even with money, how could I be so selfish as to spend so much on me? I’m a little ashamed that I have so much free time and not a lot worthwhile to say I did with the time. I know I can’t hold a job. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to hold volunteer jobs and failed miserably too. It’s hard when my moods have been so variable and hospitalizations have been so frequent. I hate calling in to say I can’t be there just because of a mental health reason that crops up more than a cold or flu might.

How I spend my time troubles me. That so much depends on my mood troubles me more.

 

Reflections #12

Almost there! Just today and tomorrow in the quest to see what I’m thinking in this either very full, racing brain, or a very-empty-until-I-put-in-a-prompt brain.

My mood is still stable, thank goodness. I’m loving my new cocktail! I’m actually happy most of the time. I’m pretty sure that one of my meds is overkill though. I hope the next psychiatrist nixes it.

I drove on a lot of unfamiliar roads today to get my parents’ cat to an imaging center for a radioactive thyroid scan. The scan is a precursor to next week’s radioactive treatment to cure hyperthyroidism. He doesn’t take the medicine well, chasing him all over just to rub his ear for 10 seconds, twice a day, even with a reward of fresh baked chicken each time. So my family is paying a lot to get the treatment. He’s old at 14, but in ok health. Might have an inflamed bowel that is causing his vomiting instead of the thyroid. Treatment for that??? You guessed it! Daily medicine. Sigh. I hate being recruited to help grab him, since my family can’t give my cat another hoot. And that cat doesn’t like me anyway.

I finally called again at the refugee agency where I want to volunteer. I had to leave another message. I hope this time I get a call back.

I did some art therapy today. This time it was a picture of my inner and outer life. My inner life is full of desire and want – a busy life, meaningful activities, a relationship. My outer life is like calm waters – a calm demeanor, the appearance of nothing going on – compared to the large, rough waves of my inner life. I think it’s an accurate depiction. How do you draw desire though? I tried.

I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World And Me. Very excellent book. So much about how black people’s bodies are so vulnerable because of people who like to think of themselves as white’s culture that is built on the bodies of black Americans – ghettos, redlined housing districts, police brutality, just to name a few. I knew about this, and Coates explained in a clear way. This racist’s eyes are more open again. How can I help change the culture?

The Handmaid’s Tale is also finished, with a good cliffhanger at the end. I won’t spoil the ending in case you are watching it. The last episode dropped today, and now there won’t be any until when? Anybody know? Is it a summer series?

Of Semicolons and Hotlines

In the wake of celebrity suicides, people on social media show sorrow, shock and often outrage. Almost always there is a tagline at the end of articles shared and comments made. That tagline is that if you are in need of help or thinking about suicide, please call this national hotline.

800-243-TALK is the national suicide prevention hotline for anyone who is contemplating suicide – or for those who know someone who is contemplating suicide. You are immediately connected to a person who will provide counseling and local mental health resources.

I have called the hotline before. It was helpful for me to talk with someone – anyone – who would understand and help me sort out options.

I have called a local hotline that ended with the police showing up at my home for a wellness check. They wouldn’t leave until family showed up to take me to my hospital of choice rather than take the ambulance to the nearest hospital. The person on the other side of the line said I should be ashamed of threatening suicide because of the pain it caused my family. I have never threatened suicide that didn’t seem imminent based on the pain I’m in.

That local hotline was not a helpful call, and that shame has never left me, even though their statement was patently false. I am ashamed that I couldn’t reach out to family and instead called both hotlines. In both cases I had expressed to family that I was depressed. But I couldn’t tell them I was suicidal. Being suicidal felt shameful and I was already in emotional anguish.

That is why giving me a hotline to call at the end of your post about someone’s suicide is Not Helpful. I am already lost in pain. I already feel ashamed of the way I’m feeling. I already find it difficult to talk to close friends or family who, according to you, cares about me very much. What makes you think I can reach out to a stranger?

What I need is someone to reach into my life, through the pain, and sit with me. Physically or virtually. A hotline can’t reach into my life. It can ask me the same questions you should ask: are you thinking about dying? Do you have a plan? Tell me what you’re thinking about. But a hotline can’t sit with me and be a person I know who says I am not alone.

Being depressed is enough of a sign to ask someone these questions – and to reach in and be present in their lives. Know the behaviors of depression and of mania, and telltale talk that shows someone is depressed or manic. Both mind states and mood states can lead to suicidal thinking and actions, though depression is more common. Some signs of these moods and thinking are indicated in the link above “Ways You Can Help Me.”

The same reasons hold for why I dislike intensely the semicolon as a symbol used in mental health circles. Originally the semicolon indicated that a person had stopped self-injuring and decided that there was life before while hurting themselves and life after they stopped. There was a semicolon put after the first part instead of a period.

The semicolon was then co-opted to indicate putting a semicolon instead of a period after a suicide attempt. A decision to keep living despite the pain.

Then the semicolon was co-opted to mean putting a semicolon instead of a period for any suicidal thinking, for depression in general, and finally for any mental health issues.

It has lost its original significance.

And for someone who lives with chronic suicidal thoughts – and there are Many of us – there is no semicolon. The thoughts come around constantly for me, and serious contemplations are always just around the corner.

If I feel as though I can actually reach out to you virtually or in person, please don’t semicolon me. It belittles the seriousness of my thoughts. And it misuses the original intent of the semicolon as a symbol for the end of self-injury or after a suicide attempt. I need you to reach into my life and sit with me. Ask me the questions. Remind me that I am not alone because you are with me.

And while I am criticizing symbols and gestures, watch how you spread news of deaths by suicide. Just hearing about other deaths by suicide makes my own plans more plausible. There is such a thing as suicide contagion. Deaths by suicide rise after a celebrity dies that way. And never ever tell how another person killed themselves. There is such a thing as copycat deaths.

I would suggest expressing your sorrow about someone’s death, and leave out entirely how the person died. The news does enough of a job saying it was a death by suicide. And then check in on your friends who struggle with suicidal thoughts or with depression or mania. They need you in your lives, not hotlines and symbols.

Hospitals and Failure

From my last post you know I was in the hospital – yet again. I think I am up to 35 hospitalizations in almost 8 years. I lost count once the number slipped over 30.

While in the hospital with severe depression this time, I noticed I was beating up on myself for (1) being depressed – again, and (2) being in the hospital – again. I believed each of these things meant I had failed, and therefore I was a bad person.

I brought this thinking pattern up to my therapist. I knew the conclusion was false, but I felt it to be true. I have been very judgmental about myself.

One of the questions my therapist asked me was whether I was taking care of myself before this hospitalization. I said I was. He pointed out that I was taking my meds, and I was keeping appointments with him and my psychiatrist. I agreed I was doing everything I could to feel better. Then I didn’t fail, he said. I had a reaction to a medication prescribed to me, and I still kept my appointment with him and went to the ER when told to do so. Apparently in Texas, there is no law about being detained by a professional if you are a danger to yourself or others. So I could have left at any time.

But I got help. I was taking care of myself and showing myself compassion, instead of judgment. I’m not very good at that usually. As I left my therapist said he doesn’t know any failures. I’ve been holding on to that.

Bipolar Is Only One Part of Me

I have to keep telling myself that. Over and over. I even have a post-it on the bathroom mirror to remind me.

So much of the time I feel overwhelmed by the bipolar. The moods. The mood changes. Taking meds now only three times a day. Managing schedules and routines to anchor my life to manage the bipolar.

It’s easy to be defined by mental illness. It takes everything you have to fight the lies it tries to tell you, such as death is preferable. It takes all your energy to _manage_ the illness.

All of this combined makes me think I am my bipolar. It has taken over my life, even to moving to another state to live with family for more support. My thoughts are always clouded by bipolar. It’s a brain disease. I feel like Matchbox 20’s hits “Unwell” and “Bent.”

In NAMI circles, and other mental health advocacy circles, we say I Have bipolar, not I am bipolar. There are arguments about this because of how much of your life is affected by a brain disease.

But if I listen to advocates, I have to remember that I have values and character and personality traits, even though bipolar colors how I can use them and how I live in the world.

So bipolar is just one part of me. I have bipolar. I have to tell myself this over and over each day.