Almost the weekend

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.


The Thing about Bridges….

One of the people on my FB friends list just posted “Thanks to the bridge jumper for ruining my dinner”. Well, that got my attention. The fact that someone would post that, in that way just bothered me to no end. All I can think about is that poor soul that climbed up the side of that bridge. The pain and suffering that drives a human being to such lengths. Have you ever stopped and looked at those bridges? Nothing more than foot wide at the top, surrounded by gusting winds and swaying metal. That is a desperate awful place. No one in their right mind would go up there.

I know a bit about not being in my right mind. I have crossed the Rubicon into that no mans land, before you act to take your own life. In those hours when everything snaps into sharp focus. Like a lens finally adjusted just right. The clarity is blinding. It all becomes so “right”, so sure and so concise. The months of thinking, longing, hoping and ruminating finally come to a head. It makes perfect sense. The suffering and pain will finally be a thing of the past. No longer will you need to tread water in that murky abyss. Oh it is so very wonderous. It is finally being sure everything is going to be ok. Everything will be fine now. How sure it all becomes is quite scary. Now looking back, oh it is terrifyingly deadly. When that final disconnect occurs. Granted it normally takes a long time to get to that place. It takes suffering of the bone crushing variety. At least for me, suicide isn’t a split second decision made over a latte. No it is far more insidious and slow than that. It starts as just a mere blip on the radar. An intrusive thought amidst a plain jane depressed day. Completely uninvited. and so it begins, the path from a flicker of a thought to a demon of a plan. Those tiny little thoughts come out more often, they linger in the periphery. I don’t bat them away, quite so quickly. Sometimes, I grasp them, and find solace in their existence. Comfort knowing that I can get out, get away, get anywhere but here. But the question is where? I find myself hoping there is something after, that it just doesn’t end. Maybe a better place? Chances are there is nothing, but one can hope.

You are probably thinking what does hope have to do with suicide? Suicide is about the hope for pain to end. The hope that suffering doesn’t need to continue. Yes, suicide is about hope. Hope for a better place. I know when I get to that awful place, all I can think of is a way out. Anywhere but here. It is then that the intellect takes over, the planning, and orchestration of this end to come. I have always liked that stage. It brings me great relief and comfort. The careful repetitious thoughts, the secrecy, and the very private world in last days before an attempt. The rest all just slips away. People appear as far away, and of not much importance, unless they pose a threat to the plan. The only thing that has meaning then is this all important decision. I don’t know why even the best support system is cast aside, I don’t know why I have walked away from arms outstretched to help me. That is a piece for future work, and it is something that I know I need to understand better. Over these past few years I have gotten better about being very honest with my therapists. I choose that path of treatment and attempts at wellness over my planning of death. I won’t say I don’t still find comfort in thoughts of suicide. Because I do. I think it is forever a part of me. I just make different choices. I grasp that outstretched hand.

So I think back about this person that managed to climb to the top of that bridge. There was a plan, they had made their decision. I don’t know what happened to that jumper. I only wish them a place without pain. And to that person that posted that comment on the news feed, I hope you never have to experience a world without being able to see a future. A world where pain is so great that suicide becomes about hope.

In Here, Out There

I know this is a long one, but I wanted to post it.

You ever feel like you are stuck in an unending loop. Around and around, like some bizarre merry-go-round. Except this isn’t some child’s play fun afternoon, this is your life. Instead of gleaming brass poles and hand carved ponies, you have emotional upheaval and extreme emotions. The gay music playing in the background is instead all negative self talk and brutal judgments. There is nothing wonderful about this, and in some respects it is entirely created by external stressors and individuals.

For me it is family. A family ripe with shortcomings, failings and unpredictability. When faced with the “right” thing to do, they always end up missing the boat. To the point where I am normally left adrift in the emotional response that always seems to come calling. The emotions are so raw and powerful, at times crippling. Often I find myself completely numb in an effort to avoid the sensation that someone has pulled back my emotional skin. This defense is so primitive and powerful. It comes without asking, without warning. It stays without invite or welcome. Usually settling in and unpacking. Why can’t I just sit with that pain and explore it? But it is never that way. I don’t know how to get around this most unpleasant visitor. I know you are probably wondering why I say unpleasant. You are probably thinking numb is better then pain. Don’t get me wrong, for years it has been preferable. But remember I want to get off this Merry-go-round. To get off I must be able to access these emotions that are so carefully guarded. I mean armed guards, razor wire and bars kinda guarded. It will be no easy feat to find a way in past this security. The dual meaning isn’t lost on me. For years this was my security, my safety net. That net is now just a net, another obstacle until I find those emotions.

You’re probably wondering why it is so important to get there. I have spent years being ok, until I’m not. It is then when I am dangerous and lethal, and completely out of control. There is no safety net there. The defenses fail, and turn back on me. Rather than guarding the emotions, they invite me in to play amongst the razor wire and land mines. In the blink of an eye it all changes. I feel nothing but a raw edgy driving energy. A compulsion to do harm, to destroy all that is good. Whatever is left in my life that is worth saving gets thrown out with the bath water. Suddenly I am inside that outer perimeter that guards my soul, and inside it is roiling with destruction and decay. It is years of unimaginable pain left to fester and rot untouched by love, kindness and care. There is no access to it, so it slowly builds until it is no longer containable. Some stressor comes along, that so called straw that breaks the camel’s back. Once inside that perimeter and faced with the horror of it all, only one thing becomes real. Only one goal becomes visible, one answer trumps all reason and logic. No logic exists there in the face of that rotting putrid mess. The end. To be no more. To never again have to look at that and feel my very bones shake in fear. The overwhelming panic to run and hide, but there is nowhere to run and hide. All my logical thought is gone. The carefully constructed safety net of people just evaporates. They fall outside that perimeter and soon are not even visible. Those that love me and care for me are no match for this place.

At this point you’re probably thinking, why on earth would you want to go there and explore? I don’t want to hop the fence and settle in. I’d like to take a look from nearby. Maybe scope it all out first. Pay a visit without letting it all suck me in. Somehow come to terms with all that is there, but a piece at a time. Sadly I’m not sure I can do that. Just the thought of it makes my heart race and my hands shake. This isn’t a place for a casual visit, maybe not a place to be anywhere near in 40 minutes or less. Because I don’t know how to be close without being out of control. The times I have been ended horribly. But I know that it will never be ok, unless I try. I have to find a way to trust my guides and stop running away. Though there is always that inkling at the back of my mind, “ they can’t help you there”, don’t even let them try. I have always carefully avoided it, in the ebb and flow of treatment. Always finding a reason not to even come close. If it happened to come into a session, suddenly I’d be adrift. Fast departing onto that numb vacant stretch. Sometimes so severely that I would need to bit my lip just to feel present at all. The sensation of leaving your body and going adrift into nowhere is scary in and of itself. The room and walls seem to become smaller, as if looking in a doll house window. The prints and furniture miniatures of themselves. The only tether to the here and now, a voice from across the room. Now a million miles away. In that vacant place there is nothing, not even sure I exist at all. Arriving back home from a drive I don’t recall, the feeling persists, sometimes for days. Going thru the motions of a normal life. Eating food that tastes like cardboard, and breathing air that has no smell, laying on sheets that have no texture. That is not a place I like to visit either, so you can see the choices are not so great. I’m not even sure how to stop that reaction as it happens. How am I supposed to explore and work on the painful stuff, if I quickly set sail at first approach. It all feels like some sick twisted catch 22. To muddle along until everything comes undone, or to attempt to work at this and lose myself in the process. It seems like a bad choice either way. Though they tell me I have to work it thru, and I know they aren’t lying.

My life may never bear any semblance of order, and normalcy without the work. I will continue on the merry-go-round, until the music quits and the horses stop dancing. In that silence I will be gone forever. So, here I go, setting off on a journey of discovery. Buffing my armor, but knowing to do the work I need to lay the sword and shield aside for now. They have no place in my treatment now. My guides are no threat, just another brave soul to walk beside me into this fire. Wish me luck…..

Intermittent Reinforcement

The idea of intermittent reinforcement came up in session today. I have pondered it some more these past couple hours, and it is true. It does describe how I was parented. Had both my parents just been completely absent I might have fared better, but instead I had inconsistent parenting. Thinking back on what I learned in college about Skinner and his study of conditioning, I remember that intermittent reinforcement worked as well in animals as those that were consistently reinforced.

For me growing up I was loved and cared for. I was held and hugged and was the object of attention. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t last. My mother was more often than not absent. Sometimes by physical distance, other times through psychological defenses. When I was about 9 she left me, she was off and running. She didn’t stop till she hit Ohio. I didn’t know why, or what was wrong. What had I done to make her disappear? I would sit and stare out my window, wishing she would reappear. I dragged around a red and white blanket she had made for me, years before. God the tears that were shed on that nappy old blanket, makes my heart hurt just thinking about it.

Occasionally she would call. I remember asking her when she was coming back. I never got an answer. As the weeks turned to months, I found refuge in my closet. I no longer looked out my window. It was too painful hoping.

Out of the blue care packages would arrive. It was my only connection left to her. I would unpack the boxes and drag the stuff to my closet, carefully hiding the stuff behind the clothes. I couldn’t bear to see the reminders of her. But eventually my wishing and hoping would get the best of me, and I’d climb in the closet surrounded by what I had left of my mom. A single faded picture of her petting my favorite horse. I would hold that picture and dream of her walking back in the door. Sweeping me into her arms and holding me against her. But the months past and a year past. My thoughts grew darker, and my hope was gone.

Then I got to go visit her. I saw her picture perfect brick Victorian house, and played in her pale yellow tub. I was happy. I wanted more than anything to stay there with her, but instead I was returned to NY. To my closet, and my dashed dreams. I think it would have been better to have never seen her life out there in Ohio. I think my hope was almost extinguished, but instead that intermittent reinforcement came instead. I went back to the hoping. My little heart just wouldn’t quit. Maybe she would come for me, or maybe she would take me there to her perfect house and her big perfect tub.

No, that didn’t happen. I felt crushed, I felt unloved. Somehow it was my fault she had run away. I disconnected from life and withdrew. A somewhat normal kid had been transformed into something else. Something wild and desperate, something lonely and scared. My school work faltered, my life came undone. I would walk home from school down the railroad tracks, praying a train would come along. I was just a kid. I didn’t know what suicide was. I just knew I had had enough. My heart could not go on beating. That train never came.

I wonder now what my life might have been. I know that the bipolar probably would have reared its head anyway, but would I have had a better chance? Had my heart not been so thoroughly demolished back then.

Hello world!

Well here I am, this has been a long time coming. To blog or not to blog. You’d never imagine it would be quite so hard to figure out. I feel like I have spent my life pondering that question of whether to share or not. Be it in a group, amongst friends or in therapy. Yep, therapy. Been in and out since I was a kid. You’d think someone who has had their head so thoroughly shrunk could make a simple decision like deciding to blog. Nope, not me. But, here I am, so clearly the decision was a go.

When faced with the daily grind that is living with bipolar, I thought maybe an extra outlet might be good. Heck, maybe it will be “therapeutic”. Guess only time will tell. My goal here is to share my journey, good, bad and indifferent. I will share my past as I step tentatively into the future. Maybe along the way I’ll find an audience. If not, I don’t mind. This is more for me right now, than anyone else. Though if my experiences can help even a single soul, it has made this worthwhile. Nobody should have to suffer with Bipolar or Depression alone. You are never alone.

A short bit about me (I’ll also post this to the About page, but figured I’d save some people a mouse click- you know how tedious those become in this era of links -I’m a 38 year old female living with Bipolar. I have had a plethora of various labels along the way. Think I have changed as the DSM did, lovely, I know. But currently it is Bipolar. And yes, it has been a heck of a ride. In the past 20 years I have been in and out of hospitals, tried almost every psych drug known to man, and had ECT two years back. (please excuse me if I repeat myself). That being said, I continue in treatment. I live on a farm surrounded by the creatures that I love. On occasion I will share a picture, and stories about them.

I have learned much along the way, about myself, my family and why I sometimes behave the way I do. I hope that my experiences can help others that are walking this same bumpy road. I am forever grateful to my guides Virgil and Beatrice, that have brought me so far, and have saved my life on numerous occasions. I hope you stop in on occasion and find this interesting, I welcome comments.