*That* Behaviour

Warning:  This will very likely trigger anyone who is sensitive to the topic of self injury.

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My depression has not improved, my suicidal thoughts have not lessened, and I find myself returning to the behaviour that has seen me through for over twenty years.  I find solace in the touch of a razor on my skin.  I find comfort in the blood.  It is a sick and twisted little dance I do with my mind, yet it keeps me from going through with the suicidal intentions when things get this bad.  Proof of my life saves me somehow.

If you are an adult who self injures, please know you are not alone.  Emphasis is always placed on teenagers, especially teen girls, but there are many people who continue with SI or even start it long after the teen years.  It’s not talked about, because most of us are so ashamed of what we do.  I couldn’t talk about it without the anonymity of this blog.  If you want to talk about the issue, please leave a comment or email me.  I will not discuss pro-self injury topics, and I’m not at all qualified to give mental health advice.  If what you need is someone to share your suffering, though, I can be there for that.

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Low

The suicidal feelings have come.  Like a dark wave, hot and cold at once, they surround me and pull me under.  I’m fighting against them.  I know what it’s like to be the surviving one.  But they’re still there, eating at me.  It feels miserable.

I hold on for my cats.  The people in my life would eventually understand.  You can’t explain suicide to the cats who would miss their ‘mum.’  The thought of hurting them like that makes me sad beyond belief.  It’s not that I don’t love the people in my life.  It’s just that my suicidal brain tells me they will just leave me in the end, anyway.  That I will be alone once they move on to more stable people.  I’m tired of being the one who’s always a second from going over the edge.

So here we are, three days in to the new year, and I’m fighting for my life once again.  Sometimes I wonder how many times I can face this fight and win.

Happy Bloody New Year

It’s January.  The start of a new year, full of promise and hope.  So where does this leave me?  Mildly suicidal and horrendously depressed.  It started yesterday and has just continued to get worse over time.

It occurred to me that, whilst I am perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life at the side of my best friend, he might well wish to spend the rest of his life at the side of an actual romantic partner.  My head spun as  I realised that things could change in a major way.  My entire lifestyle could be smashed.  It would be a good thing for my best friend, and I would never begrudge him of that.  I would just miss being centre stage in his life as opposed to an understudy.  I like us as us.  Not a couple, but definitely a unit.

So I recognise that part of this is situational; my big realisation isn’t helping my low mood.  I realise, as well, though, that this is a bipolar depression.  The sun is dimmer.  That’s a sure sign to me that I am falling in to an episode.  The sun looks noticeably dimmer even high in the sky.  In short, I am depressed.

Fortunately, I see my therapist later this week.  We will talk through my realisation, talk through the suicidal feelings, and make a plan for coping with it all.  She’s patient but firm, and I know I can hold on long enough to make this happen.

Numb

I’m starting to feel the numbness creep in that I thought I would avoid this holiday season.  It’s Chanukah, and, even though I’m not Jewish, I keep that holiday.  The burning candles comfort me and bring peace in to my life.  That’s worth celebrating.  Tonight is  the last night.  The entire row will be lit.  I’m hoping the warmth of the candles will take away some of this numbness.  It’s a feeling that you can’t feel anything.  Does that even make sense?

This year, I have done festive things.  I have participated in a Chanukah Shabbat service, attended a gift swap, and even have two Christmas parties on my weekend agenda.  These are better efforts than I’ve made in years past.  But the numbness is taking over now.

I have to be very careful with this numbness, as it tends to lead toward self-injury.   There’s a need to see blood for proof that I’m alive.  The warmth of the blood against my cold skin awakens me.  It’s a sick process founded by a sick mind.  I have to be diligent and aware.

As the numbness creeps in, the happiness and feelings of family and love begin to fade.  I am in a fight against my mind, once again, and I don’t know which of us will win.

Current Mood: Unknown

This week has been great.  I have worked many hours, completed student loan repayment applications, kept up with household chores, and generally felt well mentally.  This has all happened for the first time in months, and it leaves me wondering where my mood has been.  I feel good right now.  I can concentrate again, and life doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  I’m grateful for whatever shift has happened.

The one dark spot in this is that I have obviously been having mood issues without being aware of them.  I’m usually good at picking up on mood symptoms and dealing with them before things get bad.  The recent manic episode must have split what has been a months-long depressive episode.  That’s all I can think of.  Depression causes that soul-sucking overwhelm and inability to concentrate.  I didn’t particularly feel depressed, but apparently, my mind was acting in depressed mode.

Whatever it was, I’m just happy it has passed.  Does anyone else out there have mood episodes that you only see in hindsight?

Talking of Bipolar Disorder

Into A Pearl by the esteemed Justin Currie reminds me of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.  It’s not likely the inspiration for his song, but it really struck me.  The aspect of a ‘stranger in your world’ that ‘only you can smother’ speaks to me.  Justin is by far my favourite singer.  The front man of Del Amitri (my favourite band), he has a flawless solo career.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert and would follow him all over the world if I could.  I never tire of hearing him.  Anyway, give the song a listen.  You might just relate to it, as well.

Routine

Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving.  I have loads to be thankful for.  My FOC, my cats, my good health.  All of that.  For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous.  Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats).  Yes, I am thankful.

I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder.  It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week.  I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations.  My work schedule is different.  My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary).  And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.

If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance.  Your mood is stable.  Friends and family arrive.  Your anxiety rises.  Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in.  Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania.  This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.

Self care is so important during these times.  If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate.  Whatever it takes.  I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight.  Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference.  I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  That part of my routine remains intact.  I used to think of this sort of care as selfish.  Now, I see it as necessary.  Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.

So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself.  Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you.  Don’t let your disorder take your place.

Bittersweet

If I had to pick a single adjective to describe my life, ‘bittersweet’ would be the one.  There have been so many losses over my life that it seems every memory is tinged with sadness at times.  The happy memories of those I’ve lost are always there, but the sting of their absence is, as well.  And so it is with this holiday season.

My best friend’s brother died very suddenly in early August of this year.  Having been part of their family for almost seventeen years, I feel this loss acutely.  We’re all working through in our own way, sometimes even with each other.  When we’re together, though,  there is an absent presence.  We gathered a few weeks ago to spend time with each other, and it was clear someone was missing.  My best friend and I, along with his two surviving brothers, sister-in-law, parents and nephew all came together for games and a meal.  It was a wonderful afternoon full of love and laughter.  And unspoken loss.  Bittersweet.

Death has a way of bringing everyone together before splitting them in to separate groups when the public mourning is done.  Last year, my best friend’s grandmother died.  It’s been quite a time for his family.  This year, they won’t all be together for Christmas.  With the matriarch missing, the siblings have decided to gather with their own families of children and grandchildren.  No more big family Christmases to be had, now the centre point is gone.  Everyone will be with their separate families, and there will be love among all, still.  They just won’t be together as they have been in the past.  Again, bittersweet.

The thing we have to remember about the word ‘bittersweet,’ though, is that it is a compound word.  Separately, the words are opposites.  Brought together, they are two sides of the same coin.  You can’t have sweet without bitter, simply because the sweet of any relationship will end.  Whether by lack of compatibility or by the separation of death, the sweetness ends.  The trick is to enjoy the sweetness so much that, when the time of bitterness comes, its sting won’t be so bad.

The Beauty in It All

As I took a stroll on this beautiful Autumn morning, a peculiar thought occurred to me– the beauty of Autumn is in death.  What we see as beautiful colours is actually the death of the leaves.  Beauty in death.  Who would have thought that possible?

This got me thinking of my sister’s death, which is a thought that’s never far away.  My therapist tried to help me see a sense of hope in her death.  She chose her time to go out, and she went out on a high note.  Those were my therapist’s words.  They only served to make *me* suicidal, though.  If suicide is about going out on a high note, why don’t we all do it?  Why don’t we all just choose our time?  Those were my thoughts from the therapist’s perspective.

The answer I discovered took me by surprise.  Suicide isn’t the  answer, even though it seems so right sometimes, because we can’t actually guess when our high note occurs.  My sister died four days after her twelfth birthday, four days after a celebration that was all about her.  I can’t help but wonder what she had ahead of her, though.  I’d like to think there would have been many more high notes.  Enough to keep her here, at least.

There is a certain beauty in death.  The kind of death that is a long, slow and peaceful decline toward our next journey.  I saw this last year when my best friend’s grandmother died.  The family gathered together to take the last steps of this life with the matriarch who linked them all.  It was so sad to watch her pass, but it was beautiful to see her family come together to support each other and share this pain.

There is no beauty in suicide.  There is violence and endless questions and years of longing.  I say this both as a survivor and someone who has attempted herself.  I can’t promise I’ll never be suicidal again, but I can promise that I’ll always look to my family-of-choice and all the high notes they bring to pull myself back out again.  The beauty of life is that, no matter how dark it gets sometimes, you never know when a high note is just around the corner.

Work

Like most adult humans, I have a job.  I’ve  had this job for almost ten years.  And I am burnt out.  My therapist pointed this out to me when I went to her with the problem of actually *doing* my job.  Getting through each shift is torturous.  The problem here is the job is perfect for me as a person with bipolar disorder.  And as a person who rarely likes to leave her house.  I telecommute.

Bipolar disorder dictates alot of things about my life.  I keep a regular sleep/wake routine, I keep appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and I take my meds without fail.  My job allows me the flexibility of setting my own hours and taking days off as needed to cope with mania and depression.  It sounds like a dream job, and it really is a ‘sweet gig’ as they say here.

So why am I struggling with it?  Anybody care to answer that question?

Focus is a problem.  I’m not sure whether that’s a bipolar thing or just me having trouble forcing myself to do something that is causing me problems right now.  There’s a certain lack of confidence in myself in doing a job I’ve done for years now.  No idea where that is coming from.  This has left me financially in a mess, and even that doesn’t seem to be a motivator.  I have no idea what it’s going to take to set me right again.  I’m scaring myself, and that is saying something.  But my bipolar-addled, attention-deficient brain doesn’t care about my fear.  It just wants to stare in to space and think of other things.