My Thoughts on Suicide…

I posted this to Facebook a while ago and I’d like to share it here too…

A couple of days ago I posted my thoughts about Robin William’s tragic death from suicide, and I shared a lot about my life dealing with bipolar disorder. I’m still thinking about it because Robin’s death really hit home hard with me. I have been that depressed and in that much pain myself several times, I am a survivor of several suicide attempts.

This is not going to be a pleasant post to read. It’s about suicide, and that is a subject that is terribly difficult to deal with, and most people would rather not think about it or talk about it. I’ll understand if you don’t care to read beyond this point. But like depression and mental illness, suicide MUST be talked about and brought out into the open so that people who are suffering emotional agony beyond the comprehension of most people can get the understanding and help that they need. There is nothing worse than losing someone to suicide and being left with incredible grief and the agony of wondering what you might could have said or done that could have saved a life. That’s what Robin William’s family and friends are going through right now.It’s the agony that so many people who are not so wealthy or famous go through when they lose someone to suicide. But you don’t hear about them so much…

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in February of 1998, at the age of 32. That year was a living hell beyond belief. I was miserable, deeply depressed, and in and out of the hospital several times. I was on a drug called Depakote for the bipolar disorder. It can work great if taken as prescribed, but at high doses it is very toxic to the liver and is usually fatal. I overdosed on it twice, and each time I came very close to death. If I had taken just a few more pills either time, I would not be here to talk about it.

In 2001, I tried to commit suicide again. I ran the car in the garage and somehow ended up at UTMB in Galveston, TX instead of being dead.

In May of 2011, I got hit with the worst episode of bipolar depression I had experienced in several years. I tried to commit suicide again with the car in the garage, but after about 15 minutes, I realized that I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the unbearable, agonizing emotional pain to STOP. I drove myself to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, and ended up spending a week there in the mental health unit. They helped me so much, and I will forever be so grateful to them! I was still depressed when I got out, but I was much better and no longer suicidal.

Right before I went into the hospital in 2011, I posted this thread to an internet forum I still frequently visit. I read back through that thread this morning and cried. I remember how deeply depressed I was. I remembered how much agony I was in. I remembered how badly I wanted help but at the same time how badly I wanted to die so the pain would STOP.

http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/45970-suicide/#.U-42HvldV8E

I’m still amazed at the outpouring of love and support I received from my friends there a little over three years ago. Some of those people haven’t been on that forum for quite a while. People come and go on forums all the time. But their love and their caring still mean a great deal to me. This is not a forum I would normally ask my Christian friends to visit. It’s not a religion-friendly site, at all. Some of the things said my religious friends will find offensive and I apologize for that, but please read it anyway. If you want to understand ME and you want to understand the agony of suicidal depression, read it. It’s six pages long and will take a few minutes, but you will learn so much and be so amazed too at the love and support that I received. Those people helped me pull through an awful time in my life, and I am still happy to call many of them my friends.

I wish Robin Williams could have found the love and support that he needed when he was hurting so deeply and so badly. We lost a very talented and funny man to a terrible disease.

I’m sorry if this post makes my friends uncomfortable, but it’s got to be talked about. Not just on Facebook, but everywhere, among average people and among the mental health professionals who can save the lives of those who so desperately need them and their help.

I am happy and I am healthy now. I love my life and I love living it. But I know just how incredibly fortunate I am to still be here…

My Thoughts on Robin William’s Death

I posted this to Facebook, but would like to share it here as well. I hope it helps someone in need. If you are suffering from depression, there is help available! The national suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please seek help if you need it. There is no shame in depression, and it can be treated and recovery is possible!

I have always been very open and honest about my struggles with mental illness. I have never hidden the fact that I have bipolar disorder. My feeling is that the more mental illness is talked about and brought out into the open, the less stigma there will be because of it. I started having symptoms of mental illness after I had a serious seizure when I was ten years old. That was in 1976. The best anti-seizure medicine they had at the time was phenobarbital, and I was on it for six years. My mother’s opinion is that they took me off of it too quickly because I went straight for the alcohol, and so began many years of serious substance abuse. I was seriously bipolar by the time I was in high school, and most nights I was so manic I would have to drink myself to sleep. I would either hit the liquor cabinet, trying to be careful not to wake my mother up, or I would sneak out of the house late at night to go buy beer at a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell it to me, underage though I was. Back in those days there were not such strict laws for selling alcohol to minors like there are today. It was easy to get if you knew where to go… Anyway, school was not easy for me. I had few friends and I endured a lot of hell for being different. I know now that I was different because I was mentally ill. We all know how cruel kids can be if you don’t fit in… high school was a living hell except for band, a few true friends who accepted me as I was, and cool teachers who liked and cared about me. I have never had the opportunity to go to a high school reunion and I’m not sure I want to. It’s been thirty years, and most of those people back when we were in school wanted nothing to do with me. I participated in band and had great fun doing it, but I was left out of all the stuff the cool kids got to do. I never went to a beach party or hung out with friends at Dunbar Park (they were drinking or doing drugs anyway, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t there… I did plenty of that on my own or with the friends I did have…) or anything else the “normal” kids got to do. I didn’t even know most of this stuff went on until years later…

Anyway… while most of my peers were going to school and building their adult lives and careers, I was absolutely miserable with then undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I dealt with it either with extreme religious belief or with severe substance abuse. I spent many years trying to get through school and failing because I was so mentally ill and usually too drunk or too stoned to learn anything. I spent many years working many dead-end, low-wage jobs, barely managing to scrape by. I never had any extra money and at Christmas, my mother would loan me about $20 so I could go buy some cheap books and cassette tapes to give as gifts. There were many times that I would have been homeless on the streets of Houston, TX if my mother had not helped me out financially. She didn’t like doing it, but she loves me unconditionally and was always there for me.

I’m sharing all of this because of Robin William’s tragic death from suicide. He had money and fame and the adoration of millions, but none of that protects you from the ravages of mental illness. I know what it’s like to suffer from DEEP depression and to have no quality of life whatsoever. I can remember back around 2001, I was so miserable and so depressed that I slept almost all the time. Being awake HURT! My idea of getting out of the house was to go visit the apartment office and visit with the leasing agents. They knew that I was deeply troubled and they cared enough about me to try to help. But most of the time I was in my apartment asleep or wishing that I was asleep or wishing that I was dead so I didn’t have to hurt so bad. Sleep was the only escape I had from the unbearable pain of severe bipolar depression.

I have a great life now in Alaska and my mental health is so good now that I can’t tell most of the time that I even have bipolar disorder. I have finally completed school and I am looking forward to a rewarding career as a health coach. I get the incredible privilege of helping others live healthier and more fulfilling lives! I am looking forward to helping others who suffer from mental illness recover so that they too can truly enjoy living. I know what it is like for life to be a living hell of depression and failure after failure and having no money and feeling no hope that life can ever feel like it is worth living. I KNOW that I can help people who are suffering from mental illness feel better. I also know that many of them will not be able to pay me. But it’s not about the money. It’s about compassion and understanding and empathy and helping because now I can do it and I WANT to do it. If I can recover from years of severe mental illness, I know that I can help others to do the same. Just the other day at the NAMI meeting a woman shared how miserable and frequently suicidal she was. She has had struggles similar to my own. I reached out to her and offered to help and so far I have not heard from her, but at least I tried.

I understand why Robin Williams committed suicide. I understand the unbearable pain that deep depression must have been causing him. Money and fame and the adoration of millions cease to matter when life is nothing but unbearable pain. I wish he had not chosen such a tragic way to end his suffering and I wish he could have been helped. But I understand, and I’ll always remember him fondly as the hilarious Mork from Ork on the old “Mork & Mindy” TV show…

My life has been very different from that of most of my peers. It has not been “normal” by any means. But I’m not ashamed of it at all. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The mentally ill should not have to endure the additional suffering that stigma causes on top of what they already suffer from their illness. The mentally ill deserve compassion, empathy, understanding, and all the help that they can get from those who care about them…