Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder and self-harm. If these conversations are triggering for you, please do not read any further. Suicide is never the answer. Scroll to the bottom of this post for suicide prevention resources.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. This post is a collection of my personal experiences of living with bipolar disorder. You should take nothing from this post as medical advice. If you or someone you love is coping with mental illness, please seek the professional help you need.
“Tomorrow is my last day…”
It horrified me to read those words in a social media post a few days ago. While the poster didn’t state specifically she was going to kill herself, the message was obvious.
Hundreds of us reached out to the blogger in panic to express our concern. Thankfully, she posted later that day that she decided to live. I’m sure it relieved many hearts besides mine to know that she was going to be with us as a champion of mental illness awareness.
The event has me thinking, though. Many people are unlikely to tell someone when they have thoughts of suicide. I know I rarely have told anyone. When the pain inside becomes too much or the voices in your head too loud, the thought of ending it all seems like the only way out.
If you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, you know that suicidal ideation is a part of life. In fact, I can’t think of a day in my life since I was in my preteens where I haven’t thought about suicide at least once during the day.
To put that into context, my life now is good. I’m a mostly happy person. My meds are keeping me stable, and I’m able to hold down a good job and care for my family.
Yet, suicidal ideation is a part of me. Every negative emotion and disappointment takes me to that dark place. This reality is why I’m focusing this post on suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder. We’ll look at the realities of this struggle and how you can combat it.
To start, let me tell you a little about how I experience these suicidal feelings.
It’s important to preface the rest of this conversation with two truths.
One, suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder is not reasonable. The destructive thoughts can attack your mind day or night, no matter how well your day is going.
Two, most of the time, thinking about suicide is not a choice. I never decide, “Hey, I want to think about how to kill myself today.” No, instead, it’s like someone ties you to a theater seat and forces you to watch clips of how you could off yourself.
My history with suicidal ideation started around the fifth grade, long before they diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I thought the feelings were a natural part of adolescence. My family didn’t discuss mental health, so there was no one I could turn to for validation or understanding.
The thoughts came without a trigger. One night, while lying awake staring at my ceiling, I started to think about self-harm. The next day at school, I mentioned the feeling to a friend, and she had a total freak out.
Also Read: 12 Signals That Point to Bipolar Disorder
I know now that her reaction was the right one, but to my untrained mind, all I could think was that I could tell no one else. And I didn’t for many years.
These pervasive thoughts have plagued me every day since. While there has only been a few times where they almost drove me to the point of no return, the feelings themselves never fully go away.
If you don’t have bipolar disorder, it’s important you to understand these feelings seem just as natural as being hungry or having sexual desire. They become a comfortable part of your persona. You will probably never understand that if you haven’t experienced it.
That said, I also must add that thoughts of harming yourself are always a dangerous signal that should receive a proper response. While the feelings themselves may never fully go away, you can learn to live a full and productive life with them.
With these truths out of the way, let’s focus on how you can cope with suicidal thoughts.
Every night ends
It’s perhaps easiest to describe a bad mental health episode as a sort of darkness. Night becomes the perfect illustration for the foreboding feelings you feel inside. The darkness is heavy and prevents all light from entering.
However, that you can compare night to these feelings also brings with it some optimism. For every night, no matter how long, eventually ends. The sun always comes up again. The same is true of the worst mental health days. They will end.
If you’re in a dark place right now, please hold on. The darkness enveloping you will not last. The sun will rise again.
Pain, for me, is a trigger for suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder. It doesn’t matter if the pain is physical or emotional, my brain immediately runs to thoughts of ending things.
Happily, with most things, pain eventually subsides. If you break a leg or have surgery, the worst of your pain usually only lasts a few days. Healing may take much longer, but the most intense pain fades away.
The same is true of emotional pain. If you’ve lost someone because of a breakup or a death, that emotional pain is crushing. I lost the person I loved the most, and it made me want to feel nothing. The pain in my heart made everything gray and extinguished all of my desire for life.
It’s been many years now since I lost her, and while I will never be completely free of the pain, it isn’t the searing jab into my chest it used to be.
Whatever pain you’re feeling will fade in time. Some of it may stay with you forever, but it will become easier to handle.
Sometimes our minds go down the suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder path because someone doesn’t love us the way we love them. This could be a romantic relationship or a friendship that turns out to have less depth than we expected.
There are times when, despite your best efforts, you fall head over heels for a friend, but when your feelings are finally revealed, they tell you you’re the last person in the world they would want. That sort of rejection can demolish your desire to continue living.
Those crushing feelings don’t last. In time, you learn to open your heart again. You see there’s other people who are worth your time and affection.
As you allow your heart to open to love again, those feelings that were so devastating eventually fade away to a distant memory.
I’ve had too many romantic relationships and friendships go up in flames. I wanted life to end after each one.
As time went on, those losses helped me see clearer the people in my life that truly mattered. Those revelations have helped me create lifelong friendships that add immense joy to my life.
If you’re coping with the pain of an ended relationship, hold on. Let yourself feel the pain. Eat ice cream, cry, and watch sad movies. Just don’t give up. The pain will end.
Many of us who follow the social media account I started with reached out to the blogger to see if we could help. Most of us don’t know her outside of social media. I don’t even know what her name is, only her social media handle. Still, I reached out and sent her a message saying I hoped she would choose life.
I’m happy to say that her recent updates state she reconsidered things. Last I heard, she was checking herself into a psychiatric hospital to get the help she needed.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The key word is temporary. The problems won’t last, and there are better solutions, as mentioned above.
If you are coping with suicidal ideation with bipolar disorder, please keep fighting. Please tell someone how you feel and seek the appropriate professional help. Again, there is a list of suicide prevention resources below.
Reaching out to a mental health professional may not be an option for you, but please reach out to someone. Talk to a friend or a co-worker and tell them how awful you’re feeling. Then be willing to accept the help they offer.
It gets better
I won’t lie to you and tell you that going to a psychiatric hospital is all rainbows and butterflies. Not even close. In fact, there are many parts of seeking in-facility treatment that just plain suck.
Even so, in my case, being committed saved my life. The temporary pain and discomfort was well worth it because I’m still here today telling you about my experiences.
If I ever reach that low point again, I won’t fight being put back into the hospital. Sometimes it’s the only way to start the healing process.
Life really does get better. That’s not just a cliche. It’s hard to believe with the events of the last year, but things can and will improve. All we need to do is keep fighting.
Resources for Suicide Prevention
Chat option available
Telephone: 1.833.456.4566 – Available 24/7
Text: 45645 – Available Daily 4pm-12am ET
Chat option available
Text: HOME to 686868 in Canada to text with a trained Crisis Responder.
Samaritans – 24/7, toll-free crisis line, as well as local branches.
Telephone: 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably – It has a limited-hour phone and webchat options every day from 5 PM to midnight.
Telephone: 0800 58 58 58
Please forgive me if I have not listed your country. Your life is valuable. Do an internet search for “suicide hotline” in your country to find a local number or chat option.