As I felt my irritation level rise, it dawned on me why I was sitting in traffic frustrated and angry. It was the friday before a holiday weekend. Everyone and their brother was headed north to take in the fall foliage, and the last of the decent weather. I really hate traffic. There is no better way to get me into a pissy mood. Thankfully I got back up here before the worst of it. I figured a run might settle my head, which it did. The traffic and the run did give me some time to think. These are my thoughts about today and the past few weeks.
As I sat in session today, I thought about how far I have come. I knew the split second I saw Virgil it would be a tough session to connect. I was so taken aback in the first 10 minutes or so by how workmanlike it was. I found myself wanting to say something, but figured that might make matters worse. Instead of getting angry and frustrated, I just settled and observed it, without reacting. That isn’t a common reaction for me. I would normally have done the opposite. As the minutes ticked off I slowly felt the session shift. It was slight, but it was enough. There is so much shit going on right now. It is so enormous. Each time I sit in session and talk about it, it strikes me as how hard it is. I fight the judgements, and the little voice in my head that says I’m not strong enough , or I’m not doing enough. But it is enough. I’m here, and I am trying. I don’t think I can expect miracles. I want to be able to have confidence in myself. I don’t know that I can answer Virgil’s question. All I can do is keep trying. To do anything I can to ward of the overwhelm and all the destructive thoughts that come with it. I know it seems a lot like denial, my just putting my head down and not taking it in. It may well be, but it is protective. To look around, is to invite trouble.
I find myself wavering. Some days I can push-off the thoughts and convince myself it is ridiculous to even contemplate ending my life. Those days I just let them go, not thinking much about them. They come into my consciousness, and leave just as quickly. But there are other days, normally days when something has gone wrong, or I am just buried under feelings of hopelessness, that the thoughts are different. They are more direct, more driven. Far more rapid fire in nature. On the heels of these thoughts are impulses. It is so hard to explain an impulse like this. Especially if someone has not experienced one. Very rarely in life do we feel an impulse that strong. It just doesn’t happen. Least for me. I’m not impulsive in other aspects of my life. I once was, but not now. I think the closest way to relate it would be picture an argument, a very heated one. When you are infuriated. Every once in a while you’ll be struck by this intense desire to throw something, or hit something. It is an impulse that comes from such a primal place. An impulse so intense that often times people find themselves reacting before they ever realize they are. Have you even thrown something? kicked something? or worst case hit something? There is such a disconnect from our logical self. I know I don’t throw things often. It takes a very strong impulse to drive that behavior. I have to be infuriated. I have to be pushed well beyond my limits. So now think for a second if you take all that away. The argument, the other person, whatever is pushing all your buttons. Now imagine that impulse to act in absence of it. That is what it feels like when that wave crashes over me. It is a reaction, don’t get me wrong. There are stressors that fire off that type of impulse. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The challenge becomes figuring out what might get that started. And once it manifests itself, how to put the brakes on it. When I was young I would react. There was no pause, no stopping. If it was driving, that pedal hit the floor before I ever realized. If it was spending, that card was maxed before I even gave it a second thought. It was a given.
I am have learned so much about myself in the last two weeks. I came face to face with these impulses. As strong as they have ever been, but instead of being a given, there was a pause. There was reason. Is that a product of skills taught and gained in treatment? Is is because I’m just not that sick yet? Is it because I haven’t found the bottom? I’d like to have myself believe it is all the skills I have learned. God I hope so. If it is the latter two, that makes my hands shake. I know that no suicidal impulse will last forever. I know that. Just as I know, no emotional state stays the same. As intense and awful as it can get, it will shift. It may not be by much, but it may be enough to refocus. I don’t understand the rapid shift that occurred over the past weeks. Nor do I understand the return of impulses that have laid dormant for years. As I have written about in this blog, my descent into depression and suicidality tends to be gradual and soul sucking. Why the change?
What has happened? Is it just another normal “abnormal” progression or shift in my bipolar? For me no ten year period is like the one before it. Is this how this next phase will be? I sure as fuck hope not. I thought this was well in the past. The impulsivity the product of a miserable, poorly medication managed 20 year old. It went along with what everyone said I was. I was out of control in so many ways. That is not the case now. I am not out of control. In fact, I am actually far more “controlled” than I have ever been. I just don’t understand. I wish someone could explain it. If I had an answer, maybe I might be able to create a plan to work thru it. Virgil asked about a breaking point. I honestly don’t know. I am terrified of the next stressor to land in my life. I am coping with what is here. Barely, but I am coping. The suicidal thoughts are there, but I am dealing with them. Terror doesn’t even begin to explain the feeling I have when I think about the coming months. I am waiting for something else to come, something I can’t cope with. On their own, each of the stressors in my life are bad. Together they are enormous. Even the most normal person, with no problems or issues would be buried. When faced with the loss of your home, your career, your passion, your vision, it isn’t very far to look before the mind grasps loss of life. My mind already lives there often, this is like having it served up on a silver platter. As I have said before, suicide isn’t about dying. It is about ending suffering. It is about trying to breathe when the world if suffocating you. As everything closes in and there isn’t any way to see out of the blur of it.
So, how does one keep their vision in the midst of that horror? It is the most difficult question. But the most straightforward answer is communication. Along with communication comes avoiding isolation. Those two are some of the most critical. I have looked at my life over the past few years. I have pulled back from everyone. From my parents, to my partner to friends. I live a life of isolation here behind a gate. I can’t even remember the last time I left this place for dinner, unless it was a seder. I don’t have much contact with friends. The phone rings and I can’t even bring myself to answer it. I am making a choice, in that moment, I am chosing isolation. With that isolation comes space. Space for the mind to wander into the darkest of recesses. Suicide becomes more palatable when less faces come to mind. As the weeks blend into months, when you have no contact with people, it becomes so much harder to make the effort. I know this goes both ways. To engage and interact comes from both sides. I can’t help but feel people sense the disconnect and move away. If I am lost, disconnected and miserable, who wants to spend time with me? I don’t want to spend time with me. Even the most understanding of people have to get frustrated. So, how do we reverse the trend? Do I even want to? Do I care? I’m not even sure. I find comfort in my world of isolation. I love nothing more than being lost in my thoughts with nobody to hear me, or to question me. But that is the problem. It is a double-edged sword. To be alone may be comfortable, but it is dangerous. The farther I am from everyone, the easier it is to act. People are a buffer. Especially supportive loving people. The help, in those moments when everything disconnects from reality and life becomes only about a single irrational decision. It is the only thing that may give the mind pause. Because nothing else exists, sometimes not even them.
I have spent the last week reading “History of a Suicide”. It is a searing memoir written by a woman who lost her younger sister to suicide. This memoir is an intimate look at what is left behind. I did not intend to buy a book, and happened to walk past it in the store. There it sat, in the non fiction notable books. I picked it up because of its title. This was the day after I had skated so far out on the edge. It seemed fateful. I brought it home and settled in to read it. It is not a book I want to read. It is a book I have forced myself to read. I can only hope that it reaches whatever corners of my brain that spawn these impulses. Maybe it will be a deterrent. I can pray it does. Sadly my mind likes to make me think everyone will be okay without me. That they will all recover. Talk about delusional thinking. How could anyone possibly be okay? I hope reading this book will help. I don’t know any other way to prevent that. It is the single most horrifying aspect of being suicidal. It isn’t the pain, or the strength or number of impulses. It is the fact that you somehow convince yourself that you are worth so little, are so insignificant that the world is better off without you. It is there that suicide becomes a reality. With no self worth and hopelessness coupled with severe emotional pain it becomes plausible. That is how skewed the reality is in the suicidal mind. It doesn’t matter what you have accomplished, or how smart you are, or how unique. It doesn’t matter. None of those exist in the suicidal mind. The only thing that exists is self loathing, pain, rage and hopelessness. Not rage at the world, not for me at least (though I think some people do act in anger at others), but rage at myself. For not being strong enough to be like everyone else. For not being able to cope. For being weak. The farther the slide the greater the rage and hate and loathing. For each and every time I cannot get something done, or screw something up, or fail, it builds just a little more. It isn’t difficult to harm oneself when you can’t stand yourself. Those are the critical pieces to a suicide. Without all of them in place, it is hard for it to happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t, I’m just saying that is what I think has to exist in my mind.