Bipolar Disorder is a biological brain disease that often has environmental triggers. I ended up in the hospital for suicidal plans and intent again this week, though only for a few days (yay! a short one!). My psychiatrist thinks the anxiety I was holding about my mom’s breast cancer surgery a few weeks ago had a chance to come out as well as the fear, and that destabilized my mood. Sounds about right to me.
Even though I was doing pretty well, pretty stable, two weeks ago I started feeling suicidal again due to the environmental trigger. I am grateful for a short time in the hospital, yet worry that I will end up in again as has often happened after short hospitalizations.
I have to say that having an environmental trigger took the stigma and shame away from a hospitalization for me. Usually I feel embarrassed to be back in the hospital, even though the staff is generous and welcoming. But this felt like a tune-up instead of a personal failure. But I guess that’s a whole other post, that shame of being in the hospital for the twenty-somethingth time.
I’ve recently re-entered the dating world after a divorce last summer and then an unstable mood fall. So I gave myself until after Valentine’s Day to be stable and then start online dating. I could have started earlier, but I didn’t want to be perceived as THAT girl looking for a V-Day date.
The question arises, since I still live with symptoms, when to tell a date that I’m bipolar. It’s kind of a big part of my life since I don’t work because of it. It’s hard to answer the “What do you do?” question that comes up in online chatting, and even in your profile. I say I’m a professional volunteer and mental health advocate.
When I was volunteering at a few places I could still say brain disorder and I could call off if I wasn’t feeling well. I could tell them I’m on disability.
Now, I don’t necessarily want to tell dates that I’m on disability or have bipolar, even though they structure my days. It’s a lot to process and a lot to take on as a potential partner. I like to think I’m a lot more than bipolar and being on disability and should have more to talk about. So the question remains, when do I tell people? It is still a big part of who I am, and the main reason I’m a mental health blogger and advocate. All the good literature and blogs say you tell when you feel comfortable telling. That’s not the most helpful advice.
It’s been well over two months since hospitalization, but I had such a difficult time around Christmas that I feel like stability started with the first of the year. I feel mostly stable – mood pretty solid and thoughts of suicide everyday (my baseline) with varying intensity. I’ve had a cold which kept me down a few weeks, still recovering from that. At its height I had fewer suicidal thoughts, which my doctor expected. “Your brain isn’t thinking well and shuts down.” Hallelujah for sick brain! Got a few days off from thinking I need to die.
I haven’t been volunteering (or exercising – sick), so my schedule revolves around television and being social. I’m starting to get an itch again to volunteer – the first I’ve felt in several months. I want it to be in mental health though, which has been my dream for a few years. Sharing my story or teaching a class. Office work. I have to be out of the hospital for at least 6 months for one main place that is the obvious place to volunteer as a speaker. I’ve found a few places in the local area worth a phone call. Maybe there is something I haven’t thought of in the depths of google.
Thirty-nine days ago I got out of the hospital after ins and outs all fall. So, by one measure I’m doing well. I’m making it and not feeling suicidal enough where my safety is at stake to have to go back into the hospital. I appear to be surviving and maybe even thriving.
On the other hand, every moment, every minute, I feel a heavy burden to push through that moment to stay alive and try to be engaged in that activity or conversation. I’m plagued by suicidal thoughts, or at least thoughts of sweet death, every day multiple times, and every evening like clockwork at 7pm and worse 90 minutes after taking my dinner medication.
I’m so tired of all of this. I don’t know how I’ve made it 39 days, and I certainly don’t know how I can go another 39 like this. I don’t know how I can go another day like this. I wake up and don’t look forward to anything except sitting on the couch, even if there are things to do that day. I’m not engaging in the day. And every evening I’m disappointed that the day is over because I have to go through another day and another work out or getting to an activity or going to a social gathering. It literally hurts. I hurt. The pain sears my soul.
This is depression. Suicide is starting to look good again as a solution to depression, but I can’t think of a successful plan that I have access to. I feel at the beginning of a spiral into a dark, suicidal depression. It starts with every moment feeling like a heavy burden and not being able to take care of myself properly (which I’m not). Help.
I’ve been out of the hospital for 19 days. I was lucky. I didn’t get manic over Christmas. I did get scared that I was going to have manic symptoms, but I kept busy and with people, and I think that helped me keep my mind off religious stuff and the possible mania. I did get hypomanic for a week starting before Christmas – stayed up late, spent too much money. Then day after Christmas…CRASH. Depression. As is usual for bipolar. For every up there is an equal and opposite down. Wish it worked the opposite way – for each down there is up, or at least a normal. But alas, no.
I don’t have a lot of optimism for the new year. I have plans with friends for New Year’s Eve at least. As I think toward the new year, all I see is the ever-revolving moods from severely depressed with suicidality to slightly depressed with manageable suicidal thoughts. And throw in a couple hypomanias throughout the year to make it interesting. I don’t trust that I can keep myself safe, or want to. I’m sure I’m pessimistic about the future because I’m depressed and feeling somewhat suicidal.
But it’s only been 19 days of some stability where I was fearful for much of it. Hard to say that I was stable when I was worried about becoming too manic. I was thinking that once the new year started, it would be time to return to volunteering and schedules between working out, volunteering, seeing friends, online dating. I’m scared I’m not ready. I’ve got a stack of books I haven’t been reading because I was knitting for Christmas. I can barely get myself to the gym. I can barely get myself something to eat, let alone good and healthy to eat.
Then I remind myself it’s only been 19 days. And I can ease up on myself. Maybe I won’t be ready next week to start volunteering, or to increase work outs to 5 days a week. Maybe I need more stability before I can return to volunteering. I wasn’t going to return to online dating until I’ve been stable for at least a month. And like I said, I’ve been out for only 19 days and worried about moods and been through 2 moods in that time. Maybe stability starts on January 1.
I ended up in the hospital for about a week after that last post, and I’ve had a week to do non-treatment oriented activities for a week now. I started getting better in the hospital when I stopped going to groups and stopped doing the workbooks that I had brought with me. So, my care team agreed that I should not do the home residential program anymore and focus instead on fun things and keeping busy with friends and knitting and reading and baking (if I feel like it) and other things. So far this plan is working. I’ve had a couple hard days where the suicidal thoughts I have every day were more insistent. But I’m still managing them.
I did just find out that a friend died by suicide. While I grieve for her and her family and friends who were closer to her than I was, I find I’m still ok. I do wish it was me. That’s the nature of my illness and daily suicidal thoughts.
What I’m more imminently worried about, however, is the euphoria and delusion that I’ve gotten at Christmas for the last, oh, 30 years. The delusion is only 17-18 years old, but the 2 together have been strong for quite a few years together. They usually peak on Christmas Eve and resolve in the days after Christmas so that I’m usually ok by New Year’s Eve. The euphoria is a grandiose union with all things natural and supernatural and accompanied by increased energy. It’s disorienting. And the delusion is also grandiose – I personally am bringing and will bring salvation to the world’s problems.
My therapist says euphoria is ok and bearable as long as I don’t make decisions while experiencing it, and that a pattern doesn’t make it inevitable. A saving grace is that for both I’m usually aware of them, which keeps me safe even through the mania. If I was unaware of them, I would need others to be aware of them to keep me from making decisions in the grandiose state – like spending lots of money that I can’t repay. I made end-of-the-year donations yesterday and I’m second guessing that I was overspending. I think I’m ok, though, despite the amount. But that’s exactly what the grandiosity would say. So I should probably check this out with someone.
One behavior I have needed to keep in check since the beginning of November is over-anticipating this euphoria. Last year I had the euphoria for almost the whole month. It was horrible, and I ended up in the hospital. What a surprise (she said, deadpan). So, I’ve made it to the 19th of December and been ok. I’m heading into the week when the 2 usually start, and I’m trying to stop thinking that they are inevitable. But I think dying by suicide is inevitable too. So, inevitable is part of my disordered thinking. That’s something to work out with my therapist. Stopping the feeling of inevitability of something that’s a pattern and the inevitability of a gut feeling.
Over the last couple weeks I’ve had to call a suicide prevention crisis line (1800-273-TALK – call them!), written a will and ruminated to no end on what possibly I could do to kill myself. My other plans will just land me in the ER, not what I’m searching for. I’m looking for an end. And I’m miserable waiting for one to show up – tortured by thoughts of wanting to hurt myself and tortured by the feelings behind those thoughts (sadness, anger, desperation, frustration).
But a part of me still asks for help and uses skills to make it through difficult moments. I do things that are healthy and seem to make a meaningful life.
My therapist surmises that I really want to live, and we need to wade into the painful waters of the feelings behind the suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It won’t be easy, will likely be very painful, but it will end the suicidal spiral I’ve been in for so long.
I decided after the time with my therapist that I didn’t need the safety of the hospital and could go home. I could be miserable at home or miserable in the hospital. Only difference is safety. And since I don’t have a viable suicide plan, I’m just miserable, which isn’t a real reason to go into the hospital.
All the way home, I questioned my decision as I wallowed in suicide visions and tried to think of a way and was miserable. I’m completely packed up and ready to go in the hospital today. Sometimes I don’t pack up all the things, and just carry the clothes in the trunk. But after the last couple days of misery, I was worried that my psychiatrist or my therapist would send me to the hospital. I was very, completely, gruesomely honest about my plans and actions. Both of them leave the decision to me to decide if I am safe or if I need the hospital. Why, O Why, don’t they help with the decision???
So, I’m heading to a NAMI support group meeting (National Alliance for Mental Illness) where I’ll have a chance to share this and get some support, I hope. But I think I should bring all my packed items in case it’s too much and the misery makes me unsafe. Or I come up with a plan that would work. Because I’m pretty sure I would follow through if I could be sure it would work.