Category Archives: Support System

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.

Depressed – Again

I barely have strength or ideas to write this. But I am forcing myself to do things these days. Hence, a blog post.

I cycled from hypomanic to slightly depressed last week. Just woke up that way. Slightly depressed was my baseline mood state for 7 years. Last year I think I found mid-point and circled around it in a healthy way. All that to say that Slightly Depressed feels familiar, though uncomfortable. And that is what I dealt with last week.

Then over the weekend I got more depressed, including increased suicidal thoughts and feelings. I felt so alone. Even though I live with family, I find it hard to share my mood states and feelings with them, much as it was hard to share them with my ex-husband when we were married.

So I felt alone. I did reach out to a friend from the last place I lived. She was helpful. But posting on Facebook and getting responses, and texting with someone far away, is not the same as in-your-face presence. I really do need to say something to my mom when my mood shifts or I feel suicidal or that I’m hypomanic and irritable. And I have to tell her everyday, since I can cycle to something new overnight, apparently.

One reason I struggle is that I don’t feel comfortable with an audience, which some people in the family feel like to me since they offer nothing in the way of support or acknowledgment. It’s hard to bear your soul to someone when you don’t feel comfortable that your thoughts and feelings will be safe and cared for. I guess that’s why texting has always felt more comfortable to me. When I text I know body language won’t give more away than I want as well. Just for the record, I do share everything with my therapist. I guess I don’t want to get hurt or betrayed, and that is why I find it hard to share with friends and family in person.

I guess that’s all I have energy for today. Time for depressed me to crawl back into a hole.

NAMIwalks

I’m walking for the first time this year!

I’ll be walking for Stigma Busters in the NAMI Dallas walk.

Come support mental illness research, support and education! I am walking with Stigma Busters! The local chapter of NAMI in my new location. Donate as little as a $1 or much more! Every dollar helps!

My current goal is $150, and already have over $100!

Come see my fundraising page:

https://www.namiwalks.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=152791

Anxiety Blows

I am struggling with an extraordinary amount of anxiety – 8-9 on a scale of 10. It has been high since October before I tried living on my own again. But with the move to Texas, the anxiety has been my constant companion and consistently high. And so I am in a day program to deal with mood lability, anxiety, and depression.

Today in program I had a nice meltdown about my anxiety. I figured a few things out. It’s related to losing my independence because I feel that I’m a failure at taking care of myself. The bipolar and anxiety and depression have won and I’m failing. I’m buying into the stigma that mental illness is a moral failure or weakness of character.

It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that their illness is biological and a disease they had no say in contracting. It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that asking for help and getting more support is a strength not a weakness. It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that living with mental illness is brave and courageous.

Because deep down inside I don’t believe it. I‘m a failure at living independently and taking care of Continue reading

Moving

New, and exciting? Depressing? Things afoot.

I need the support of my family to feel better and be more stable. So I’m moving from Chicago-land to Dallas area (where they currently live) to live with my brother and parents (who also live with him).

It’s rather sudden. I’ll be in IL for two weeks to see doctors and friends and to pack. My mom is coming with me, and my cat is returning with us. Now that will be an adventure!

Then two weeks later my brother will fly up and drive the moving truck and car trailer down to Texas. Before April I’ll be settled and a resident of Texas. ((((Ew, not a fan))))

A lot of friends will be involved in the moving. Thank you!!

And I will miss dearly all my friends and my mental health care team. It hurts.

It hurts too that I’m giving up my independence for my health, which, while probably the best decision, puts two strong values opposing one another.

I will probably move into my own apartment within six months about a mile away. I hope that physical closeness will provide support and independence.

So much is happening so quickly. My psychiatrist gave me haldol instead of Ativan to help with anxiety. It’s working. I’m in so much grief over losing relationships that just are not going to survive the physical distance. Don’t let it happen again.

Back with Family

My depression was spiraling out of control, and even though it was not an ideal flight, the price was right at $88. So I waited those few days, suicidal, until I could be with the support of my family continuously.

I’m here now and quite suicidal. My mom is supportive but doesn’t know what to do except remind me I’ve been through this and I’ll get through it again. But when I’m suicidal, it feels all-consuming and I’m not sure I’ll make it out alive. Even though I have before.

My therapist reminded me that I’m not overwhelmed – the sea didn’t crash over me – but state what is actually going on. I am having OCD visions of a suicidal nature that loop around my head. They eventually stop. I have to wait them out.

This is also not what I want to hear. I’m hearing truth. But I need someone down in the hole with me who is willing to be quiet, or share stories, or say “I hear you and I love you.” Being suicidal is a detachment from life. And anhedonia (not feeling anything pleasurable) usually goes along with it.

I’m miserable waiting for this to pass. I don’t want to go to a new hospital, but might have to.

Welp. Win Some, Lose Others

Good news! I haven’t been so suicidal that I haven’t had to go to the hospital! I’ve been increasingly suicidal the last week. But I’ve promised myself I won’t follow through, even when tempted to follow through.

My mom came back with me on Halloween for a few weeks, then extended to a month to help me adjust and get settled and give me moral support for the routines I need. I sadly got bronchitis so I haven’t been able to exercise, which would have helped my mood and my routines. I did adopt a cat! Charmer.

After a lovely Thanksgiving with my mom, she left and I was able to adjust for a time. Then my finances fell out from under me and my bank was not helpful. I was totally destabilized emotionally and mentally. I got help from my family and from my church and a friend’s church. One of the problems was an increase in intensity in one of my medical diagnosis and needed medical supplies and drugs.  And I would run out of food at the end of the month.

So, my family is taking me back to their house again, for a few weeks to stabilize emotionally and mentally. The rest of my life seems ok. Getting over bronchitis so I can exercise, making meals, finances stabilized. But I’m not.

I feel broken, inside and out. My mood was destabilized and it’s not righting itself. As my psychiatrist pointed out, this is a difficult time of year for me and getting family’s support would be helpful. She also wants me to practice self-forgiveness for all the financial mishaps. And self-compassion that I need help. She increased my anti-anxiety med too, since I feel more anxious too.

I feel like a failure for needing help. I feel like a failure that I let my finances blow it for me. Just when I was getting on my feet after my mom left. And now I’m going back. GRRRRR.