Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I’ve written about suicide plenty of times before; however, there is no such thing as writing too much about suicide, especially because it is a topic that constantly needs attention–along with mental illness.
Robin Williams’ death was absolutely tragic to me. Like me, he suffered with bipolar disorder, which has a 20% suicide rate. He also suffered with substance abuse and was more likely on the depressive spectrum of bipolar disorder. It was like the death of Ned Vizzini all over again. Why was it this way? Robin Williams was one of my favorite actors because of the humor and humanity he brought into all of his acting roles. He may have been an actor–a mere actor, some would say–but clearly his death has hurt thousands of people. For days after his death, my social media was flooded with people upset and shocked. I have never seen such mass sadness over the death of a celebrity before. I didn’t see it with Michael Jackson, and I have certainly never seen it with any other celebrity. I didn’t even see it with Ned Vizzini, even though I was mourning his death.
Suicide, I think, is the most tragic way to die. When people attempt or commit suicide, they’re experiencing intense feelings that they cannot help. If there is no one to intervene, to talk to the person about his/her suicidal feelings, more likely than not that person is going to attempt and/or commit suicide. And this is the thing about suicide people do not understand: Mental illness can be fatal. I’ve seen plenty of articles mention that it is not the suicide that kills you. It is the mental illness itself, and this is something I strongly believe in. Suicidal ideation is often a symptom of a mental illness. I’ve suffered with suicidal ideation. If it weren’t for the strong support group that I have, I most likely would have made an attempt. I’ve thought about attempting plenty of times, too, whenever I came across something so unbearable during a depressive episode that made me think things were never going to get better.
When you’re suicidal, you’re delusional. Imagine being on Ambien. A dangerous side effect from Ambien is that you can do stuff while asleep on this drug. For example, there have been stories of people who have driven while on this drug. I also had one man tell me he made some sandwiches while he was on this drug.
Suicide is like being on Ambien. You have no idea what you’re doing. You’re not thinking through things logically. It is IMPOSSIBLE to think logically while you are suicidal. Feeling suicidal is not a decision or a choice. Committing suicide is not a decision or a choice. You’re basically intoxicated on your own mental illness, and as we all know, people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol can’t exactly make reasonable choices. This is the same thing with suicide.
This is what suicide is not:
I want to touch upon the liberation part. There is a meme going around the internet as a tribute to Robin Williams. It is a picture of Genie from Aladdin. It says, ‘Genie, you’re free.’ While well-meaning, it is a dangerous message to send to people who struggle with mental illness and struggle with suicidal ideation as a symptom of that mental illness. Suicide is not freedom. Suicide is tragic. The idea that suicide is somehow liberation romanticizes suicide AND mental illness, neither of which need this. I am also tired of people saying that Robin Williams is in a better place. HERE ON EARTH needs to be that better place, and that starts with removing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness.
Too many people are afraid to talk about their suicidal feelings because many out there think it is stupid and selfish–and this is what they often tell people who are suicidal. This, in fact, makes the suicidal feelings worse because telling suicidal people this does not make them feel any better or get rid of their suicidal feelings. People also need to stop saying that if such and such person had just gotten help the suicide would not have happened.
PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT MEDICATION FOR A MENTAL ILLNESS IS HARD.
It took me an entire year to find a medication that would give me long-term stabilization for my bipolar disorder. I was also seeing a therapist. During that year, I cut, I temporarily retreated to alcohol as a way to get rid of my feelings until it soon began to make me feel worse (this is something I have NEVER told people), and I idealized suicide…a lot. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness with lifelong medication adjustments. Even when I found that stabilization, I’ve still had to have my medications adjusted. I had to go up a little bit on Seroquel to get me out of a hypomanic episode I was going through for two weeks. I had to start taking a second Klonopin to help with my irritability and anxiety, as my body became immune to the current dosage.
I am not naive enough to believe I will never suffer from some sort of bipolar episode ever again.
People always say it gets better. Well, when you have a lifelong mental illness, it does…then it doesn’t. Chronic mental illness doesn’t get better; it only gets treated. It’s like Hazel having to use Phalanxifor to keep her stage IV thyroid cancer from exploding out of control. Her cancer didn’t go away. It didn’t get better. It’s only being treated to prevent the tumors from growing. Granted Hazel probably has a higher probability of dying much sooner than someone with a mental illness–or maybe not–but the point is that you feel better, but your mental illness is not gone. It’s still with you, waiting to act up again if your current dosage stops working or your medication stops working period. This is when you are most vulnerable to suicidal thoughts is during that period where you have to have your dosage bumped or have to go through the merry-go-round of finding another medication that will give you long-term stability.
When I was hospitalized a second time, I met a woman who had been hospitalized eight times because her medications would stop working. During that time, she either had a severe episode (bipolar type I) that warranted hospitalization, or she attempted suicide. I met another who suffered with severe depression and had attempted suicide multiple times in spite of being on medication. Sometimes people get off their medications once they feel better, as they mistakenly believe their illnesses have been cured. And then sometimes medications make you feel worse before they make you feel better.
There are a myriad of factors surrounding suicide that don’t always involve this person not seeking help.
Mental illness is not something you can get over. Mental illness does not discriminate, no matter your lot in life. Mental illness is a cancer of the mind. Suicide does not discriminate, either. Last, suicide is no one’s fault.