Surviving Bipolar is a series where I share how bipolar has steered my life.
Part 1 – Sharing My Story: The Journey Begins
Trigger Warning: suicide
Do you want to go on a journey? Today, you are invited to go on one that involves surviving Bipolar Disorder. It’s hard to say how long the journey will be because in many ways it’s not complete.
It’s important that you understand a harsh reality from the beginning. Some journeys are never complete. Some journeys go on long after the traveler is completely exhausted. Occasionally, a journey can feel like an endless loop.
Bipolar Disorder is one such journey, but it is one you can survive. I am living proof.
Note: I am not a mental health professional. Speaking Bipolar is a blog about my personal experiences with Bipolar Disorder. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental illness, please get the appropriate help you need today.
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Who am I?
My name is Scott, and I am the man behind the curtain at Speaking Bipolar. I’m in my late forties and work as a bookkeeper and tax preparer. I love to work in my garden, go hiking, and cook new and exciting dishes.
Mental illness is part of my daily life. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the spring of 1995, though, as I will share in the course of this series, Bipolar has colored nearly every day of my life. In addition, I have another chronic illness – Familial Mediterranean Fever.
There’s nothing special about me, and I don’t believe that I have all the answers. I don’t even always feel successful in my journey of surviving bipolar.
Instead, I do believe that I have been gifted with the ability to put thoughts into words. My hope is that those words might help someone.
Why Share My Story of Surviving Bipolar
For many years, I lived in the Bipolar closet. My family and close friends knew of my diagnosis, but outside of that circle, I rarely spoke of it and ordered those who knew not to say anything.
I can’t say if that was the right choice or the wrong choice, but it was the choice I felt was necessary at the time.
Life has a way of changing us, whether we live with mental illness or not. Watching my own changes and those of the people around me made me think that it was time I spoke up.
You see, a few years ago now, a friend of mine committed suicide. He was not the first person I knew, and sadly, not the last. In fact, there are about fifteen people now on that list. His death was different, though, and it haunts me day and night.
For a long time, I knew that my friend was fighting some sort of mental illness. A few times I tried to broach the subject, but I was quickly dissuaded when he didn’t want to talk about it. I knew he was struggling, but I never forced the issue nor insisted he seek help.
I was struggling at surviving bipolar, and I didn’t feel like I had the right to try to help anyone else.
During the course of his last months, circumstances kept us apart. We had not spoken for months, but I was hoping there was going to be a renewal of our friendship in the near future. I had no idea how bad things had gotten. Neither did his family.
One Call Changes Everything
It was just another day at the office when I got the call. My friend’s brother had found him earlier that morning. Within hours, our whole circle of friends had been informed, and many of us were grieving together.
My friend was gone, and there was nothing we could do to change that. The pain was terrible, especially as I thought about how I could have encouraged him to seek treatment.
I saw his mother a short time later. Not a young woman, the news destroyed her. Her health took a serious downturn, and within a couple of years we lost her as well. I believe she willed herself to death. She had suffered much loss in her life, but losing her favorite son that way, she never could recover.
My friend stayed with me night and day. I saw his face before me constantly and searched for answers. How could I not have known how low he’d gotten? Why wasn’t I the one who could have saved him?
Facing an Internal Truth
Then there was another terrible truth that tormented me. Thoughts of suicide were not uncommon for me. I’ll come back to this later in more detail, but I am one of those people who live with constant thoughts of killing myself. I always have a plan and know exactly what I would do.
Now before you call a medical professional to have me committed, please understand that right now I have no plans to act on hurting myself. In fact, I can’t ever imagine reaching a point where I would ever carry out my plan. However, there is some security and comfort in having the plan.
If you’ve never felt suicidal, that probably doesn’t make any sense.
I wrote this poem during one of my darkest times.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is a lot of us, many with bipolar and many with other mental illnesses, that always have a plan. Thoughts of suicide have always been part of us and don’t go away no matter how much fun we are having or how big our smile might be.
We don’t talk about this truth often. Many of us never talk about it at all. Those of us who do, only share those thoughts will a small group of people, usually only those who also understand the unhealthy need.
For us, it’s just part of surviving bipolar.
When my friend died, a twisted part of me was angry that he had died and not me. There’s nothing wrong in my life. In fact, things are going really well, and for the most part, I am happy. Still, a part of me was jealous that he was gone, and I had yet to keep fighting my battle.
Trying to Turn a Negative into a Positive
As the weeks and months went by, something new started to grow in my mind. I couldn’t go back and save my friend no matter how hard I tried. I don’t have command of time, so that moment is gone forever.
My friend wasn’t the only one suffering in pain. The number of suicides that I knew of personally made that perfectly clear. When you add in the thought that for every successful suicide there might be dozens or more failed attempts or moments when someone changed there mind at the last second, the number of people suffering is staggering.
I had to do something to help those people. If I could help just one, my life would mean something. If just one person could be saved, maybe I could let go of the pain of losing yet another friend to such an insidious enemy.
A Blog Is Born
My life is very busy. I work full-time and am somewhat active as a community volunteer. I look out for my parents and try to maintain my house and yard.
In addition, I live each day with chronic illness. Bipolar creates enough struggles, but I am also blessed to live with Familial Mediterranean Fever, a condition that causes constant pain and fatigue.
Getting out on the streets to help people isn’t an option. I can’t start a foundation or a help line. I have no funds to speak of and little energy after I’m done with the things that must be done.
As time ticked by, though, it dawned on me that maybe I could help others another way. Maybe, just maybe, by sharing my story of surviving bipolar, another man, woman, friend, or child would get help before it was too late.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, and the words usually come easy to me. The question was, would I be brave enough to share my story with the world? Could I live my Bipolar life for all the world to see?
Until next time, keep fighting.
Continue on and read How My Blog Came to Life – Part 2.