Category Archives: Shame

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.

Stabilizing

Hey! Did you know Suddenly Bipolar has a Facebook Page? And I use my Twitter account to tweet out tidbits if you’d like to see them.

Find me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter: @revdlm

Now that my shameless plugging is done…

I am doing an all-morning outpatient program Monday through Friday. Group therapy,  skills, expressive therapy – all working to put me back together again. Following the program, I’ll be going to Texas for a couple months to be with family for reestablishing healthy ADLs (Activities of Daily Living – hygiene, cooking, exercise, cleaning, etc.) that I can then use and not neglect when I return to my little apartment. One of my friends will board my cat for me while I’m gone – very generous!

An important revelation occurred to me in the last couple days. I’ve felt shame, ashamed of myself, since I was a very young child. Guilt is something you feel when you make a mistake. You can make restitution, ask for forgiveness, and change. Shame says “I am a mistake,” leaving very little room for fixing anything. I think this shame I’ve felt for so long may be fueling my suicidal ideation. If I’m not worth anything, then might as well take me out. It’s a wonder I only came across suicidal ideation after the fall of a high mania when I landed in the hospital with suicidal depression. The visions of me killing myself have plagued me since – almost 7 years now. And yes, I still feel shame. Not sure that will ever go away.

Down the Same Road Again

Here I am again. Anxious and suicidal. I have been feeling this way for several days now. Twice now I’ve stayed overnight at a friend’s house because I didn’t feel safe alone. I’m scared I’ll end up in the hospital, but at least I feel safe there. There are no temptations to end it all.

I think this was brought on by a med change. I’m so frustrated by that because my doctor and I made them, and made them slowly so that I wouldn’t have that hangover feeling until mid-afternoon when I finally had energy to start the day. I often fall asleep in the morning a couple hours after I get up too. I hate feeling like a slug.

I think lowering one drug in particular brought on increased depression and anxiety, as well as increased suicidal thoughts with plans (which I always have, even when I’m not actively thinking about suicide, I have the thoughts WITH plans).

That drug has been increased for several days now, but I’m still feeling horrible. Anxiety is cycling with suicidal plans. Impulsivity is growing. I don’t have the means to carry out my primary plan at home so most of the time I feel “safe” – I’m less likely to do anything. Doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t there or the plans or the impulsivity. Sadly, my main plan is one I can carry out at my friend’s house where I stay when I feel unsafe. I’m not alone until after I fall asleep, I sleep pretty hard and I wake up groggily when people come downstairs. So I’m mostly safe.

I’m so tired of the lost time I get in the hospital all these days and weeks I’ve spent in my 30+ times. I grieve for the time even though there is nothing else I can do to stay alive. I grieve for the burden I become on friends to take care of my cat or bring me clothes. I’m ashamed of my self for not trusting myself to keep myself safe or using skills strongly enough. I’m very hard on myself. I feel a hospitalization coming. I’ve been on the increased medication for several days now and I’m still just as bad. I don’t know if I can wait a full week to give it a shot, or for another week after that when we increase the first medication, which is likely.

I don’t know what to do. I feel horrible.

Mood and Life Choices Intersecting

Mid January through early February I spent in the hospital. Yes. Again. My psychiatrist was adamant we need to find another way than bouncing in and out of the hospital. I agree! The changes we agreed upon were staying with friends if I didn’t feel safe. That would allow me to ride the wave of emotions longer without using the hospital before I need it. And it would provide a chance for me to trust myself to keep myself safe. These things seem basic and “Why didn’t you try them before?” We have, but not with the same rigorous energy to keep me out of the hospital. The bouncing this time was ridiculous.

In other news, I’m still in physical therapy after shoulder surgery in early December. It still hurts, and the exercises seem to make it hurt even more. This pain has kept me from getting back into the pool for water aerobics. I’m too concerned about damaging the progress we’ve made. I could go to the gym and focus on the lower body. I’d be moving and re-establishing the habit of going to the gym. The water aerobics classes that are best for me are in the evening. But going to the gym in the afternoon and evening uses up any available energy. I’m a better morning exerciser.

A real factor in the exercise department is that I’m depressed and low energy from the depression. Any extra energy anywhere is like pulling teeth. So even though there is concern about hurting my shoulder in the pool exercises, the going-to-the-gym option seems less of an option because I am depressed. I already feel bad about myself. Now I can have guilt for not exercising added to that. Another real factor is that my drugs keep me hungover for most of the day too. And yet another real factor is that I made the decision I’d rather be healthy than skinny. That doesn’t help motivation to get back to the gym. I do still want to work out, but I’m less concerned with weight loss. Might be a mistake, but my mood affects the decisions too. I’m still trying to manage the mood. How am I supposed to manage pain and weight loss too, when my energy is zapped and I feel horrible about myself anyway?

One foot in front of the other in a boring life right now.

Winter Mood Problems

snowflakeWow, it’s been a while since I blogged. Sorry, dear readers.

One reason is that I met someone special and we are beginning to share our lives together on a more permanent basis. The process is slow because he also lives with mental illness, and putting us together means my or his illness can interrupt plans to spend time together.

Another reason is that I had shoulder surgery in December. I’m now in physical therapy and function is getting better, but strength is still elusive. All in good time.

The major reason I haven’t written in a while is that I have struggled with my Christmas delusion (that I am bringing Jesus to the world and have a special mission to bring unity or hope or joy to the world). Fortunately it only showed up a week ahead of Christmas Eve. I was on haldol to keep me in this plane of existence, but I did experience psychosis from time to time when I was not in touch with reality.

I went off the haldol – as my doctor indicated – when the delusion passed. Unfortunately my mood tanked and I ended up in the hospital for a few days before the new year. Putting me on low dose haldol brought my mood back to mostly stable so I went home for the holiday.

Then last week my mood tanked again – no trigger. So frustrating. So shameful to me to have to go back to the hospital for no apparent reason. Especially after only 10 days. No med changes were made, much to my chagrin – fix something! I thought. Suicidal thoughts eased up as did my depression, and I was discharged on Friday. Another short stay! Hooray!

Now, it’s been a couple days. I can feel the suicidal thoughts again building up steam. I can feel my mood tanking. I don’t want to go to the hospital again, but I feel it coming up again. It seems the only time I stay out of the hospital are the times I mostly seem “up” which means hypomanic or manic, usually the summer. And I hate the summer. I’d rather be in the hospital then, than the rest of the year when I like the weather better and can find some solace in the times of the year.

I don’t know what to do now. I committed to teaching middle school at church next week. But I might be in the hospital again. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow and she may send me there. I try to make plans and my mood always wins. This is so freaking old. And I always feel ashamed when I walk onto the adult unit – again. Why can’t I take care of myself? And it’s hard to explain to a new person in my life. Though being in and out of the hospital shows part of the story.