A year ago I wrote a piece on the Out of the Darkness community walks put on by the American Foundation to prevent suicide. Well, today we participated once again in our community walk. It’s been a year since we lost our last loved one to suicide (rather than a month) so attending the walk was much easier, no more tears only a touch of sadness — nothing more than we feel on any given day. We were able to enjoy everyone coming together in community to remember those we have loved and lost.
AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states and is “the leader in the fight against suicide. Fund[ing] research, creat[ing] educational programs, advocat[ing] for public policy, and support[ing] survivors of suicide loss.
“The Out of the Darkness Walks are proof that when people work together they can make big changes in the world. They are AFSP’s largest fundraiser – they produce millions for suicide prevention programs, unite those who have been affected by suicide, and create communities that are smart about mental health.”
You can read about my previous Out of the Darkness experience. Or you can read previous posts I have written about how suicide has impacted my life in these posts listed below:
You can also read two powerful posts about personal struggles that I hosted here on my site written by guest bloggers Chris, and Sarah. The post written by Chris does have a trigger warning attached to it so if you are thinking of suicide do not read it. Instead, please telephone or text the resources below. It is confidential and will help alleviate your pain.
Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans they understand your experiences are different. Press 1 for a line dedicated just to you. GLBTQ National Youth Talk (afternoons & evenings M-S only): 1-800-246-7743
Note: This post was handwritten (printed!) in a 4.75×3″ spiral notebook during the height of a full-blown manic episode. It is genius as you can see how crazy fast the brain was unravelling. My ending thoughts never made it onto the paper as I suddenly and instantly transitioned out of mania and into nothingness. The next day I couldn’t even find the notebook. The date was Dec. 15, 2016 and I have just now April 22, 2017, found the notebook and am about to read/type it for the first time since that night.
I hope you find it as fascinating to read as I was excited to be writing it! It is a long read. However if you get tired of reading it, just scrolling down you will see some of the magical brain unraveling over the course of writing it.
Being in the full-blown manic state is living 100% in the moment, every single second. And your brain is more than fully engaged, it is hyper-engaged! I experience perhaps 5000 FABULOUS ideas, plans, and schemes from one second to the next and find myself living in the whim of whatever idea, plan, or scheme lures my engagement in that exact moment the thought crosses the neurotransmitters of thought.
This full engagement is fantastic! Sometimes I think that what we call today “bipolar” or “autism” or “asperger’s” are really not mental illness or handicaps but an evolution of our species. These different-brained folks have gifts that reach beyond those of the “average norm” of thinking and behaving — hold that thought for a moment and I will try to return to it.
I just now discovered through my current multi-leveled thinking or presence in all that is around me that I am handwriting this post in a 5×3 notepad! CRAZY!
Now back to topic:
I just recognized also that although 100% of my blog posts are stream of consciousness thinking and writing as organic as that is I am still writing one word at a time with no idea where the journey will take me… I always discover it after it is finished and i re-read it for typos, misspellings, and obvious grammar errors. And that writing now in this organic yet manic state that my thoughts are not meandering as much as is typical when I post. Frequently my posts change direction midway to my surprise, but this post is turning out to be succinct and on topic despite the million things I have thought of while printing this in my tiny 5×3 inch notebook!
Before stopping I want to emphasize the benefits of mania.
2. Excessive energy, drive, and motivation
3. Accomplishments, lots of accomplishments in a short amount of time
4. Having the ability to multitask like a supercomputer A.I.
5. All things are possible and therefore success and pride abound!
And those are just a few of the gifts that being a bipolar individual can bring.
Unfortunately manic phases, at least for me, are short-lived and divided by long periods of depression at the same level of intensity. Oh, and three side affects of mania are:
1. No sleeping
2. Constant talking, fast and loud — and for the record, I am not a talker. I am a listener. So that’s pretty weird, right?
3. I become fast and loose with money. In the past 24 hours I have spent over $200 on Christmas gifts to myself. Why not? I’ve earned them! I have had a helluva year and suffered through 8 to 9 months of varying degrees of depression.
Here’s my scale…
The photo is graphic and disturbing. Proceed with caution!
Phase one is deep depression. Desires and longing for death; feelings of total and complete worthlessness; the absolute belief that I have nothing of worth to share with humanity (neighbors, jobs, communities) nor anything of value to share with my world (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances); the full and complete knowledge and acceptance in the fact that my life does not matter. Life for those in my world will march forward without me. My life has changed nothing. Not for them, not for the communities I am a member of, not for our country, our world, our galaxy, or the universe…
Which brings to mind this example of what life is like living in two different existences: String theory says there are multi-universes, meaning other dimensions of “us” with different choices and outcomes being made! Wow, incredible! I live in two dimensions! Can you say that about yourself and have the evidence to back it up? Because I do!
And another side effect is frizzy hair! I am certain it is from lack of sleep. The brain is not meant to shut down certain specific functions so it can restore out entire bodily functions. It screws with our electrical output. This particular manic episode has been interesting in that I am extremely jumpy. I have “jumped” and heard my voice squeal in fright at least 20x today. I am jumping at movement that does not exist…
at least not in this dimension!
The funniest was when my dog, lying on the floor about 4 feet ahead of me lifted his tail in a half-wag. I jumped sky-high! That’s a mile, right? LOL, I crack myself up!
In fact, this happened today: I had to drive into town to pick up some medication at the pharmacy. It was snowing out but I needed it, I’d be out otherwise. And if you’re thinking that’s not a big deal than you do not live in the Pacific NW. Our snow here is not the same as back East or even up North. It is extremely treacherous because it is in a constant state of transition of snowing, melting, freezing, snowing, melting, freezing. It creates layer after layer of black ice. And, to top it off, the majority of people out here don’t know how to drive in snow but that doesn’t keep them from trying; driving too fast, making last minute decisions, breaking, attempting to summit hills and traverse down those same steep hills as though they were on a waterslide. Hey! I guess, they ARE on a waterslide of sorts! LOL. Predictably and ultimately they slide off course ending up either crashing into other vehicles or in a ditch. Surprisingly however, they rarely plowdown pedestrians who are not fool enough to risk life and limb to reach a goal. I guess they’re not bipolar.
See what I did there? I went off on a tangent not relevant yet related to the topic at hand. I just proved how adept I am at stream of consciousness writing. I mislead you down an unknown path, which you followed and ultimately you arrived at the same destination: Bipolar. From bipolar to driving in snow to bipolar again for those of you who may be feeling lost. But don’t worry, I’ve got this under control. This post is still tugging me stronger than the tens of millions of thoughts that have crossed my mind since we began. And I’ll prove it now.
When I arrived at the aforementioned pharmacy my hair became conductive! It was literally reaching and grabbing at my face like static cling. I couldn’t get it off my face! I would brush it away or push it to the back of my head but it would immediately return to my face, tickling my cheeks, my mouth, my nose. I know that when it snows the ion consistency of our atmosphere is significantly different than all other weather conditions which is why it has that unique smell which we all identify as “it’s going to snow.” Now, it’s true we’re not accustomed to snow here in the West like the rest of the country, however, that #fakescience #fakenews #conspiracytheory of #globalwarming is to blame for that. Twenty-five years ago when I moved here it never snowed. Now it is every year with a #bigsnow about every seven years which would be in 2019 as we did #shutdowneverything for the #snowpocolypse of 2012. Which, I should mention, would have the rest of the world laughing at us.
— Quick break. It’s getting very cold again so I’ve got to add another heater and pee… I’ve been holding it for a long time. I’m going to go multitask for a moment and, if we are lucky, some other whim will not take my fancy and I’ll be able to come straight back and finish my train of thought. I know I can do it. I can do anything! #ThisLifeRules #ManiaIsMyFriend.
And by the way, the hashtags, yeah, that’s a behavior shift most definitely. Be right back have a lot more to say.
I am very lucid right now and surprisingly do know exactly where I am going with this piece (and I don’t mean Letters to the Mind though I will most definitely share it with that community. This article will definitely #furtherunderstanding about #bipolar and #mentalillness and take us on another step to #endstigma. This is going to be powerful!
I cannot promise to return from my #peebreak but I can promise that if you keep reading you’ll gain greater understanding. Okay, #peetime #pottyfirst #heatersecond.
Okay, I’m back! #ToldYou.
#Lying. Stopped to put on a #Seahawk knit hat to cover my ears, slip on a cozy coat, slide on my fingerless gloves, and take 5 gulps of #AlpineRose chocolate milk. #MyFavorite.
#LetsGetReal. I have seriously used up half of this notebook thus far so I also grabbed — and I am beginning to hear another whim increasing in intensity. This #girlsgotgoals #livinginthemoment #truthbetold
Oh yeah, better write this down!
Double damn! #IHadIt
Whew! Got it back. Took a few, I was #gettingworried. But I’ve written my reminder so let’s #finishthisup. This post is about the Four Faces of #Memee @Memeesmusings on #Twitter. And I previously warned you about the image and have explained stage one or #Face1 which represents the words that the image tells and that’s the graphic part. #HardPartsOver #YouMadeIt
So, stage 2 #Face2. This is the stage I pretty much live in. #TheBlahs
Hey! I just realized I’ve also already covered stage 4 #Face4
Back to stage 2: The Blahs #FormerlyKnownAs #theduldrums
#archaic! also known as #WhotheFuckCares
Gotta love the modern English lexicon.
I am pretty sure you have a good idea about what this stage is all about because #everyonesuffers #fromtime2time Here is what that looks like for me…
Oh, I remember something that I thought was important to include about the negative side effects of #mania. #SoImportant!
There are two different kinds of #BipolarDisorder #formerlyknownas #ManicDepressive #Archaic
I suffer from Bipolar 2 (depressive bipolar with hypomanic episodes that last up to but do not exceed 5 days) with #rapidcycling.
#RapidCycling doesn’t mean I ride a bike super fast all over the place. However, that’s a pretty apt way to think of mania as one symptom is — I #gaveyouahint earlier
I know, I know, you’re feeling a little stupid right now. That’s okay. #IForgiveYou #I_Love_You #My_Minion
I bet you thought because we had #alreadycovered faces two and four that this post would become #shorterthanotherwise #Sorry2Disappoint #I’mMemee. I’m a Blabberer Not a Summarizer.
#Managing to #useitup #anyway #HavingFunDoingIt
#LongReads are my #specialty #it’llbeworthit #IntheEnd #Ipromise
#StreamofConsciousness stops when there’s no more to say… Ugh-oh! #I’mManic I talk incessantly. I work nonstop. #WhatIDon’tDo is #SlowDown #FullStop
We may be in for the ride of our lives! I’ll try to #SpitItOut #Just4U
Oh grudge! We’re still on Stage 2, The Blahs. Sorry about that! Stage 3 will be short, I promise. #Damn #LotsofPromises in this post! #ForgiveMe please.
So what rapid cycling means is that I have —
#IAmSuperSmart #Spontaneous #BrilliantWay to #KeepPromise to #SpitItOut. Here’s a #Snippet instead:
And that my friends is where I finally fell asleep 4 days after entering my mania and did not complete the post or deliver on my promises. When I woke back up the mania was gone. But if you read all of that, I’m sure you’re grateful to be done!
I do find it a fascinating read, seeing the mind in mania in action and evolving.
Here is the note I had written down to complete this article:
“Well, this did not turn out to be as succinct as I thought it would be. But it is clear and cohesive. #Memeeforthewin! You should have known that though because I am usually long-winded in my writing — well, except for my #FlashFiction.
It’s been a long, long while. I have been suffering with bipolar depression in a very extended way lately. Some people who don’t understand bipolar have the misperception that we suffer both the depressive side and the manic side equally. We don’t. Also, we’re all different in our levels of functionality at the various phases of the disorder. So I’ve been down and out of the game. I am on a new medication, Latuda, and I think it may finally be kicking in. I certainly hope so! It is supposed to relieve the symptoms of Bipolar Depression which is a very big deal for me as I have never had relief from this phase and it is the phase I suffer from the most frequently as well as it being the most catastrophically impactful for me.
Anyway, the picture above was put together back in December at the beginning of a manic phase which I will be sharing with you very soon. During mania I have many brilliant ideas and am extremely active. Unfortunately the mania does not last long and when it burns off suddenly my activities cease and my plots, plans, schemes come to an abrupt halt. For instance, this article had the headline written and the picture uploaded, and even a link to some statistical data but no body. Fortunately, I know my main intent was to go over my 4 “personalities” (for lack of a better description) that I am constantly trying to adjust to and live with.
Left to Right:
Deep Depression. This is where I have been for the last several months. My days in this state consist of sleeping (escaping my problems, but also I am exhausted physically and mentally), crying uncontrollably for no specific reason, staring at the ceiling or blank wall sometimes with no thoughts registering in my head and other times inundated with only negative recriminations for being this person (something I cannot control) that suffers this chemical imbalance of the brain. I’ll get up to pee and return immediately to bed. I mostly drink my calories during this time as I have no energy or desire to even pour cereal into a bowl to eat. I will bathe once a week but don’t remember to brush my teeth and do not bother brushing my hair or changing my clothes. I am completely shut down. Inhuman. Some days I am afraid to be alone because I fantasize about killing myself. I know that is not the answer and it is really not an option. Besides, in this state I am frozen in grief and depression so I do not act upon thoughts. I “just” terrorize myself with them over and over again. Visualizing myself killing myself. It’s not fun, believe me. It scares me and heightens my depressive state.
2. “The Blahs” This is where I live the majority of my life. I still have difficulty with hygiene most days. I am messy and tired. I have zero focus, zero attention span, zero interests, zero motivation , and zero drive. I do nothing but zone out on the computer or Netflix day after day. My mind is chaotic and so is the environment around me. It’s better than the deep depression but it is no life. A waste.
3. Happy/Balanced. This is my goal persona. It is who I long to be. I enjoy friendships and can hold onto a job. I feel like I am pursuing goals and making real change in my life toward becoming this person authentically. I bathe bi-daily, I pick up after myself, I eat and sleep in a normal pattern. I have a life and recognized the blessing it is. I may even be able to have a romantic relationship again!
4. Mania! I am awesome! You are awesome! Life is awesome! I have big plans and they are, no matter how far-fetched, attainable! I just got to follow my plans step by step and I’ll do it! I will succeed at anything I try and I will try anything that interests me! The world is my oyster, my cake, my playground!
I have been in therapy a good portion of my life and I don’t have a definitive diagnosis as such. They keep changing it to suit the therapy group I’m participating with at the time. I don’t know if they don’t know how to categorize people like me or if it’s ME, because part of my own complaint is the ability to morph into what I think the ‘person in charge’ wants to hear.
In the latest therapy effort, I’ve tried hard not to do that and to be as honest as I can about my problems. I still feel pretty mixed up about it all though. I do a group therapy session about once a week (it’s a long drive and our weather has been bad, plus I’ve been sick a lot this winter so far) so I don’t always make the group session. In that group we deal with addictions of various kinds, of which I didn’t ever really think I had any, save food, and so I have been resistant to the process. Others deal with drugs, alcohol, sexual addictions and the usual type of stuff. I’ve felt like an outsider. I’m also a good deal older than most of the women who attend that group, and I’m further along (in my own estimation) in the healing/dealing process.
It’s been odd therefore to realize that in that group I’ve discovered some depths to my own mental illness that I hadn’t considered before. The group is a trauma group, all of us in there have suffered some sort of traumatic event, whether it is childhood or spousal abuse, abandonment, physical abuse or whatever fits under the umbrella of “abuse.”
And again I’m worried that I over-identify with the ailments of the other patients. One has pretty severe OCD and through her sharing I’ve identified some traits of that in myself. I always knew I had elements of OCD, but I thought they were pretty minor (I continue to think that), so I never thought I ‘had’ OCD.
I overthink things. And this ‘letter of introduction’ if you want to call it such is getting too long.
My own problems include:
Dysthymia (or major depression)
Possible bipolar II (depressive bipolar disorder)
Possible BPD (borderline personality disorder)
Very mild (to me) OCD
Agoraphobia (very mild)
It sounds really stark and overwhelming listed out that way. I don’t think if you met me IRL, you’d even suspect any of these. I have learned over decades to hide them well. Privately I know I have some issues and I’m not comfortable around people. Someone recently told me I have a true introverted nature, which in psycho-speak means I draw energy from myself best, and I expend it when I have to be around other people. Being in crowds exhausts me and I don’t do well if I’m forced to wait for things or if someone is holding up the progression. I find that I’m becoming more vocal about it, and this leads me to want to stay home. I’m embarrassed by being that way, but I’m finding it happens more and more. People stare at you if you are grumbling to yourself about what an asshole the guy in front is being. Or if you openly ask this asshole if they are EVER going to conclude their business and get the %$@# out of your way. I have anger issues.
Well that’s enough about it for today. Thanks for inviting me here and for listening.
Author’s note: I was invited to Letters of the Mind by B.L. Memee of Memee’s Musings, and I thank her for offering this chance to address mental illness in a safe venue.
About the author:
I’m Melanie. I have been diagnosed with major chronic depression. I also deal with social phobia and anxiety.
I’m a 56 year old woman who was born and raised, and remains in Utah in the United States of America. I have degenerative bone disease (type undiagnosed), diabetes and the mental health issues [I’ve discussed], and therefore I am under disability and retired now. I am widowed (going on five years in February). I live alone and have one pet, and I prefer it this way. I am considered reserved. I am Mormon in faith, but I am not judgemental nor do I consider myself holier than thou or anything. I try to be open-minded and accepting of everyone. I TRY. 🙂
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi
The wonderful photograph was taken by Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!
About the author:
I am a survivor of incest, teen pregnancy, emotional abuse and multiple family estrangements. It sent me to the edge of suicide but I stepped back and have been finding my way ever since. I have begun the healing process and now try to share with others in hopes of making sure no one feels alone in their pain. In “Scars” I address emotional scars, self-doubt and internal struggles.
What to make of scars,
so pitiful and weak.
Oh, physical scars,
how I envy you,
those of skin and bone.
You can be seen.
You scab over, heal,
pain ultimately subsides.
But oh, the scars of the heart,
they’re jagged, deep –
I’m amazed my heart still beats.
You’re hidden, unseen,
with pain that never quite
oh how you lie,
pretending to be healed
while cruelly laughing,
waiting to rip open,
to make me doubt the progress
I have made.
You shout, “Look at me!
Yes, I remember you well.
You remind me where I’ve been.
You helped make me who I am.
But you don’t own me anymore –
your time is past.
You are only a scar, not
my innermost being.
Though I’ve had anxiety for most of my life it’s not until the past 7-8 years that I’ve really begun to really suffer from it.
Four years ago was when it all really started for me, it was within this time that I became ever more isolated with anxiety taking its full control, from things like job interviews to daily walks into town I began to figure this is me this is how I am.
Along with this stress crept in too, again I figured this was just me being me.
From being overly stressed anxious/nervous in public places or even at home, this is the way life went for me for what seemed a lifetime.
Then at the beginning of this year I couldn’t handle the pressure being put on me anymore I quit job hunting, and for those months of doing gloriously nothing, it re-surged in probably its worst way, I gave in and started taking medication to handle it and am now on my third course of CBT this time intensive CBT and I can feel it starting to help and I started to realize there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
In terms of perhaps not completely not getting rid of it but instead I picture myself facing the goblin with a shotgun and seriously wounding it (I look forward to this day and what a picture it will be!).
This is Lewis Bull saying I will not let this control the rest of my life!
I’m 23 years old, as child I had a moderate learning difficulty and went to a school for those who suffer from moderate to severe learning disabilities.
As my anxiety worsened I stopped attending family occasions (though I thought it was perfectly natural but instead later realised it was my anxiety), never have I indulged in typical teenage behaviour e.g. drinking or even just hanging out with friends instead I remained in anxiety imposed solitude.
After I finished 3 years of college, the first immediate thought was to find work, there in started my long battle with stress and anxiety, though I’ve always suffered from stress and anxiety it was in my later teenage years that it really became relevant, It was in the middle of this year that things started to change from seeing family who understand and sympathise with my issues and finding new friends who themselves suffer from anxiety and stress.
Ending the stigma against mental illness is a big part of my blogging. It is why I share my own diagnosis and feature other people’s stories of mental illness; it is why I co-host a separate blog, Letters to the Mind, where other people can post their stories of living with mental illness.
If you’ve been following my blog for over a year you know that we suffered a great loss to suicide in August of 2015, which lead to a poem about that loss, three articles, and the #ASKFORHELP poetry challenge. One of my firm beliefs, as someone with a mental illness, and as someone who has frequently felt there was no way out other than death, I believe that Isolation Kills! And the only way I know to end the isolation is to talk, share, and educate those around us so that the fear for mental illness and those with it alleviates and we can become embraced by the rest of the world.
I am sad to report that last month we lost another young person close to us to suicide, 14-year-old Nina. It breaks my heart and indeed makes me angry that we live in a world where children are not carefree, where they have enormous stresses and not enough support systems (or fear sharing their struggles) that the only way they can end their pain is through suicide.
Suicide changes the lives of 1 in 5 people. That stat alone means this is common. There is no reason whatsoever to justify families believing that struggles with suicidal thoughts, actions, successes or failures should be taboo and kept as “dirty little secrets.”
Yesterday I participated in our community’s Out of the Darkness walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I didn’t like being a part of the community, but it is a truth and my need to raise awareness to the prevalence of the problem is so much more important than my own personal comfort. I cried. I wasn’t alone though. Everyone there had lost someone or made attempts themselves. We formed a team in honor of Baily and Nina and raised several hundred dollars toward raising awareness, education, and the pursuit to end the stigma.
We all wore beads representing our loss. I wore four bead strands. Three for losses of friends/relatives and one for having attempted suicide myself. Once we began walking the tears subsided and the mission began. I will definitely do the walk again.
The first Out of the Darkness walk had 4000. Now a quarter of a million people walk! If you have lost someone or struggle with mental illness, or simply want to help raise awareness, WALK. And support those who walk. Thank you!