Warning: This post contains talk about suicide, self-harm, depression and a boatload of other issues. Viewer discretion is advised.
Here comes some straight talk on some personal, hard topics. Bear with me, if you can. If not, I’ll see you next post.
This is a time of year I’m not so comfortable with. It was National Suicide Prevention Week last week and everyone is reaching out and talking about, well, suicide prevention. There are phone numbers offered and thoughts and prayers and online offers to listen to each other talk about issues. There are ears offered and hands outstretched. And I for the life of me can barely listen to the conversation. Why, you might ask? Because honestly, it’s a wee bit triggery to me. But today, inspired by many brave posts online that have gone before me, I’m going to give it a shot.
Hi, my name’s Shoshana. I’m bi-polar. Suicide thoughts and me have been pals since I was twelve.
If that sounds a little bit flip, it’s because that’s how I talk about these things. That’s how I keep them at arms length enough for me to talk about it without getting really, really maudlin. I’ve been suicidal since the age of twelve. It comes and goes. It comes in the hard days and goes most of the time. And ninety-nine percent of the time, the thoughts hardly get a second look. They skim through my surface thoughts like a fin through water, reminding me still here and then disappearing. That’s the nature of depression and managing the symptoms.
I’ve gone into doctor’s checkups at the university and they ask the ubiquitous question: “Have you had suicidal thoughts or made any plans?” I can always answer no to the second part. Plans would mean that they’re more than a blip on the mental radar. Plans would be bad, and that’s when Contingency Plan Mode goes into effect. Call up friend, make contact, reach out, talk to someone. I have steps to follow to make sure that that fin doesn’t become the whopper shark roaring up outta the water like Jaws. Steps are what keeps me healthy. But when the doc asks me that question, my only answer can be “I’m bipolar, suicidal thoughts are part of my normal.”
I won’t die because of suicide, but I live with it every day.
I know how awful that sounds to people. And I don’t think its going to be like that all the time, or forever. I’m in treatment and its changing every day. As a friend said lately, I’m getting healthier by the day. But can I say that the fight’s over? No way. That’s not a fight that’ll ever end for me, I believe. Being bipolar isn’t something you cure. You accept this as a part of life and come to terms. You learn that every day, you wake up, and you go on with things.
And you teach yourself that no matter what, no matter what, that voice doesn’t win.
That doesn’t mean the conversation about these things is easier. People talking about it, you know, makes me focus on those thoughts more and giving them more mental space is not always a good thing. However, I know that talking about the issue of suicide and suicide prevention is vital, not only to providing help for others but in removing the stigma that many still put on mental illness and treatment. I’m still coming to terms with talking about my own suicidal thoughts, but not for the reasons that you think. It usually hard because it makes OTHER people uncomfortable. Folks don’t like to think about this, or start to get all shocked and shaken and worried. They don’t get how it can work for a person to exist in this state on a regular basis. I just try to explain that its been with me for almost as long as I can remember, but that doesn’t make folks more comfortable. Ah, well. You can’t live for other people’s comfort.
Why am I sharing this? Just to say this: for those reading this that have had these experiences, you are not alone. There are people in this world who have that place in their heart that has gone to this place and come back again. There is no stigma or at least there shouldn’t be. You stand shoulder to shoulder with more people than you can imagine who have walked this dark road some nights and found the way back out to the morning. Some nights you can do that alone. But should you feel the need to seek out help, do so. Go and talk to the people who can help you. Make the plans you need for Contingencies should you find yourself having the thoughts that lead down a dark path. Seek out ANY and all help you need. Because just cuz a fin’s in the water doesn’t mean it gets to take a bite. You can head that off at the pass.
You’ve got it in you. C’mon. I’ll do what I need to do, if you do it too. We can do it together.
If you need help, here’s a place to reach out: