Note: This is a repost from my old blog. It was one of the ones I wanted to copy over eventually, however with recent events/discussions, it seemed appropriate to bring over here sooner rather than later.
I have not read any of Mr. Vizzini’s work, however hearing a man just a year older than me has lost his life to suicide is quite sad. Especially reading his words here which will ring true to anyone who has dealt with depression or other mental illnesses/mood disorders. And there’s been some chatter, again, about snap judgments and douchebaggy comments surrounding self-harm.
It is worth mentioning, again, that suicide is not selfish. It is not selfish to want the pain to stop. It does not make you a bad person. It is morally neutral. It is hard enough to seek help without people making you feel like shit for thoughts that are totally out of your control because your brain chemistry is fubar.
The holidays are a rough time and often triggering for people with mood disorders. The pressure of family or the reminder of being alone, remembering loved ones we’ve lost, being broke around a time you’re “supposed to” be spending money–all of these things can nudge us into depressive episodes. So I’m reposting this entry again here because whoever you are out there, I want you to remember you are not alone. You are not a bad person for having these thoughts. And I want you to know I got through it–I still have held on despite all the bumps in the road lately–and you can too.
I manually copied over the comments from the old entry as well because there were a lot of them, all those voices are valuable, and I think it’s worth seeing, again, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Countless people have been there and survived.
The battle is never over but you are worth fighting for.
August 8, 2013
Warning: This is long, and this is personal, and I will be very protective over the comments section so don’t be a douche. This speaks to my experience, which might be different from yours. Both are valid. It also might be triggering. I’ll try not to get blood on the carpet.
You ever see that movie Sliding Doors? One slight change and there are two diverging paths, taking the same woman on two very different journeys. I actually see, crystal clear, several such paths and swear I could feel the precise moment when I felt the tug of another path I didn’t take.
Relatively recently, in one of those timelines…I’m not here.
To back up a little…why am I blogging about this? I struggled for several days with even considering writing this. As open as I try to be, I also feel most things aren’t anyone’s business. If I am truly having an episode, I will disappear from online because I don’t like whining and have no desire to solicit pity. I’m an adult and my disorder/problems are not an excuse to act like a douchebag in public. I try to wear my big girl panties, else The Gothic Goddess will stab me with knitting needles.
But taking time to deal with an episode is different from looking back at one and gaining insight. I’m more removed from this situation now and hope it will be of some value to others. There is too much stigma, too much misinformation, and too much willingness to not talk about these things. Inspired lately by a few writers who have come out about their struggles, I thought I might have something to add.
The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m bipolar. Looking back at my childhood, I was often irritable, occasionally volatile, and had episodes of blackout rage. Though initially I passed a lot of this off as a result of witnessing the violence I did in when I was little, it was likely genetic and early onset bipolar (granted, the violence and trauma could’ve been a trigger). I had a breakdown when I was in middle school, saw a counselor, and it was as I was going through puberty that those earlier behaviors manifested into the common bipolar symptoms you see in teens and adults. Along with it came anxiety around a whole host of things.
I was thirteen when suicidal thoughts became part of my day-to-day life.
This has never seemed particularly traumatizing or scary to me. The thoughts were just…there. Like you would ponder what to have for dinner, when I was in an episode—not realizing, as a barely-formed teen, that it was an episode and not “normal”—the thought of stopping the constant soul-deep ache was just common occurrence. “I’m hungry; I should get a pizza” wasn’t all that different from “I can’t stop crying; I should die.”
Mine is a disorder with an 85% survival rate; that means a good chunk of people will kill themselves from it. So none of this should be surprising. My version of normal is a little off-kilter.
I’m now nearly thirty-one. Over the years, I’ve gone from the general thoughts to points where I have actively made plans, and on a couple of occasions procured means, and even set times. I can’t particularly explain what ever actually stopped me. Once, this saved my life, and if you suffer from depression, it is worth bookmarking or printing out.
Last year, however, I very specifically felt that tug of two diverging paths. A handful of people know I hit a really rough patch last summer. I was mentally and emotionally a wreck, I had someone in my life who was not healthy for me to be around, and the pressure sent me right to my breaking point. I was at a lake, out in the water by myself, and it was my last day of a very brief vacation—I had to go home in a few hours.
And the most seemingly logical thought came to me: why didn’t I just try to swim to the middle of the lake?
Because I couldn’t do it, you see. I’m not that strong of a swimmer. I knew that if I tried to swim out there, I’d drown. Even if I turned back, I wouldn’t make it in time.
I treaded water, contemplating this for twenty to thirty minutes, little by little creeping farther in the water, my gaze locked on the shoreline well across the lake, which I knew I’d never reach.
I know how this sounds now, and if you’ve never had a depressive episode, consider yourself lucky. If you have had one, you probably understand why this seemed like a rational thought while I was IN the episode. All I can tell you is that it made the best possible SENSE. I’d stop hurting. I’d stop feeling hopeless. The pressure I was under would be gone. It would solve all my problems. BOOM. Solution!
I can tell you what saved me this time, and it was a tiny voice threading through my brain that said: “No. Stop.”
This voice exists because I planted it there, trained it, and cultivated it. I have spent years on cognitive therapy , training my brain to counter both depressive and manic thoughts; I can’t control when I get an episode, but I can affect how long I’m in one.
It was a war, of course, because depression lies. It distorts your thoughts, it blinds you, and it makes you not yourself.
But the voice kept repeating: “No. This is fucked up. You have been through this. It will pass. Get out of the water because you can’t trust yourself right now.”
It was that reminder that I knew these feelings, that I’d been there before, and that I’d gotten better—that got me out of the water. I gathered my things and stayed the hell away from the lake for the rest of my time there.
That was just over a year ago and this is my point today: I am FUCKING GLAD I am here.
I look at people I’ve met and gotten to know in the past year—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, doesn’t know those people. Because she’s dead.
I look at what I’ve written and the worlds I’ve gotten to create—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, didn’t get to write those things. Because she’s dead.
I look at my cats and my dog and even my rabbit, all healthy and happy—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, can’t care for them. Because she’s dead.
I look at the things I was able to do for charity so far this year, the money I was able to raise—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, didn’t get to do that. Because she’s dead.
I look at the bloodstain on the carpet downstairs where my neighbour fell, when I was the only one who didn’t panic and got him help—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, couldn’t help him. Because she’s dead.
I look at all of the plans I’ve been able to make, the way my life is moving toward important goals I have—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, has no excitement for the future. Because she’s dead.
I wake up feeling really good these days, fit and healthy, able to get out of bed—Other!Skyla, the one in the water, can’t feel relief or contentedness or joy.
Because she’s dead.
Those of you dealing with mood disorders and mental illness: you are not selfish for wanting the pain to be over and I will punch anyone who says otherwise to you. It’s not selfishness—if anything, it’s selfish of others to expect you to silently endure just for the sake of their feelings, for using your guilt when you’re already at a low point to stigmatize you. Further, YMMV but in my experience you cannot hang on for the sake of other people for long–you have to do it for you.
It’s also not weakness. Your pain exceeds your resources for coping with pain. There is nothing morally wrong with that. It is not a moral failing. Hey, yeah, you might have lots of other moral failings–I do–but these feelings and these thoughts are not among them.
The stigma other people place on depression and suicide is not a reason to forgo getting help. I don’t want to repeat the cliché of “it gets better” because when you’re in your black moment, that seems impossible. And for all I know, maybe it is. Maybe it won’t get better, maybe it will always suck. I don’t know you and I don’t know the future.
I know, however, the only chance of getting better lies in making it through.
It probably will get better, then it will get worse, then better again, because that’s how life goes. Being dead isn’t going to make it better: you’re dead, you can’t feel relief. You’re over. You will have no chance to meet new amazing people who will make you a better person; you will have no chance to make plans and eat ice cream and laugh and cuddle with your dog.
You will not have a chance to look back over your life and think, “Wow, I am so glad I’m still here and get to experience these things.” And I so, so sincerely want that for you.
And I’ll tell you something else: when you have been in pure darkness, coming out of it again the light is so fucking bright. If you can feel extreme pain, or hopelessness, or nothingness, coming out the other side of it can mean the most intense joy, palpable gratitude to be here and breathe and experience things.
I don’t care how you choose to help yourself; it’s none of my business. You need resources to cope with pain: find what works, stock your armory, and fight back. Therapy, meds, interpretative dance, diet, meditation, sacrificing virgins at midnight. Just remember, this doesn’t make you a bad person. Depression and suicidal thoughts are morally neutral things: it’s your body’s chemistry being all fucked up and messing up your thoughts and feelings. Is there still stigma? Yes.
And fuck that stigma. Fuck the judgment. Your life is more important than what other people think of you–your life is more important than what other people think of me; sharing this in case it helps someone is worth the risk, to me, of alienating others or making them uncomfortable. It’s one thing to hear that others get through it and survive–“other people” is vague, anonymous…which is why I’m telling you I got through it and survived.
Two roads diverged in a wood…
And I am really glad I’m on the path that’s still here.
(I opted for this song as it very much describes how I feel about my mood disorder–it’s uplifting to me, acknowledging one’s demons and living anyway. YMMV.)