mental illness issues
So I’m on Twitter today and someone says that Natasha Tracy stigmatizes the mentally ill (paraphrasing). Specifically, Bipolar Burble is “one of the most stigmatizing things I’ve ever seen.”
Now, in case you haven’t kept up with completely uncurrent events – Natasha Tracy also has a mental illness called bipolar disorder. And while I’m sure that some people don’t like the way I express that or my opinions on it, to say I’m stigmatizing to those with a mental illness is, well, redonkulous.
I am not a religious person nor a prayer person and I believe that prayer does not cure mental illness and those that tell you to “pray more” because “it works” are invalidating the experience that is having a mental illness. Generally, I’m not in the business of telling people what doesn’t work because everyone is different, but this is one area that drives me nutty. Prayer doesn’t cure mental illness.
I get quite a few messages from people who say I have saved their lives. (Of course, I get messages from people saying I’m killing people, too, but let’s not discuss those.) People say that if it weren’t for me, they would be dead. People say that, because of my work, I saved their lives. And, of course, in a few cases I’ve taken a somewhat more active role than that.
But today I want to tell everyone something: I didn’t save those lives, you did.
I have heard from many people who are suicidal and want to die by accident. I guess “wanting to die by accident” may sound weird to some people but I totally get it. I have been one of these people myself. I envisioned myself dying in service to another – doing something incredibly brave that would end my life so that another could live. At least then people would view my death in a positive light and didn’t other people deserve to live more than me anyway?
What it comes down to is that these suicidal people don’t want to take their own lives (for many reasons such as family and friends) but they do feel they want to die and they feel an accident is the way to do that.
I have been through lots of therapy and lots of therapists in my life and my contention is that therapy can’t be used to actually treat uncontrolled, serious mental illnesses. Now, don’t get me wrong, therapy can be supportive to a person with an uncontrolled, serious mental illness and therapy can be useful to a person with an uncontrolled, serious mental illness (such as in the case where the therapist tracks your bipolar symptoms and report changes to your doctor) but therapy cannot be used to actually treat a serious and uncontrolled mental illness.
I need a break from bipolar. Like, seriously. You know when people say they need a vacation? These people have no idea what it really is to need a vacation. When you have a chronic illness, you suddenly understand what real, daily pressure is and how much you need to get away from it – if only you could. I wish I could get a break from bipolar.
I call myself crazy. I do. I’ve written about it before. I also say, “I am bipolar,” so shoot me. It’s not that I say these things pejoratively, I don’t, I say them because they’re correct usages of the English language and they are accurate. Other people have a problem with this. But you know what, their problem is not my problem. If I want to call myself crazy, or bipolar, or a redhead that’s my business, not yours.
This piece carries a heavy trigger warning. Please be careful.
My suicide attempt story is like many other suicide attempt stories, I’d imagine. It beings with an unrelenting mental illness (bipolar disorder), goes on to include painful events outside of my control and ends in an attempt on my life. But I like to think of my suicide attempt story as a story of survival – even when my own brain was trying to kill me.
Have you ever attempted suicide because of a mental illness? Have you ever gone to the emergency room (ER) because of a suicide attempt related to a mental illness? If you have, then you probably know, the mentally ill who attempt suicide are second-class patients in the ER. Doctors seem to, distinctly, not like people who attempt suicide. The same goes with people who self-harm. These people are second-class patients as well. But why are the mentally ill who attempt suicide second-class patients?
If you search the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you will see that anger is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. If you search the International Classification of Diseases manual (maintained by the World Health Organization) you will see that anger is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. It doesn’t appear to be recognized, or even proposed, that a symptom of bipolar disorder is anger.
The trouble with this seems to be that many people do experience anger, irritation and aggression as symptoms of their bipolar disorder. I am one of those people.
One of the least helpful things you can say to someone who self-harms is, “well, just stop cutting.” Believe me, for most people who cut, if it were that easy, they would have done it already. People struggle with ending self-harm not because they don’t want to but because they use self-harm as a coping skill and you can’t just take away someone’s only or best coping skill. They won’t know what else to do without it. So saying, “just stop cutting” to a self-harmer is like saying, “just stop crying” or “just stop talking to your friends” or “just stop drinking” – if that’s the coping skill the person uses to deal with pain, telling them to “just stop it” doesn’t work.
Is there really a question as to when to give in and let someone commit suicide? According to some commenters and a recent email I received, there sure is.
This morning, I received an email saying that I was “promoting torture” by telling people not to commit suicide. According to the emailer:
I’m not clear on why this blog makes people feel that ending one’s suffering is not an option…and in fact is a wrong thing to do….?
Don’t we all have choices? If we’ve done all we can and life is absolute hell, then why convince people to continue to live such lives?!
So the question is, is there really a time when you should give in and just let someone commit suicide?