The Bipolar Burble welcomes guest post writer Kerry Martin who has started multiple non-profits (links at the bottom), lives with bipolar disorder and is a three-time suicide attempt survivor. She bravely shares her story.
I’m gay. I’m bipolar. And, I’m a three-time suicide survivor. Today, I’m out. I’m proud. And, I’m still alive and kicking. But I used to be closeted, ashamed and suicidal. While I wasn’t diagnosed as bipolar until my early 40s, I have always struggled with depression and have tried to take my life not once, not twice but three times.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the first step to suicide prevention is removing the stigma by starting the conversation.
I’ve noticed something about when I’m suicidal: I’m more accident-prone when I’m suicidal. I know that the word “accident” suggests that nothing would be causing it as it is unintentional – this is true, sort of – but I still find that suicidality affects the presence of accidents.
I believe that being suicidal is not the same thing as simply wanting to die. Of course, if you’re suicidal, you do want to die (or, more specifically, to end your pain through death) but, if you simply want to die, you may not be actively suicidal. Please understand that wanting to die and being suicidal are both serious and dangerous, but I would suggest they are not the same.
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.
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?
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?
I’ve written about suicide a lot and on those threads I hear it all the time: “I’m too much of a coward to kill myself,” or, “I wish I were braver so I could commit suicide.”
I understand these thoughts and I think they’re very common and normal. When you’re in unbearable pain, it feels like suicide is necessary. And if you’re not achieving a necessary thing, you feel like a failure. And because of the nature of suicide – because it is scary – people feel like the reason they are “failing” is because they are a coward.
This is not true, however. Cowardice has nothing to do with killing yourself or living. You are not a coward for not killing yourself.
Last year, I wrote an article on psychomotor agitation at HealthyPlace. Psychomotor agitation (or retardation) is a symptom of bipolar (and unipolar) depression as well as hypomania/mania and very little information about it is available (in spite of the fact that it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5)).
Most definitions for psychomotor agitation include the words, “inner restlessness.” I don’t know about you, but “inner restlessness” reminds me of a 22-year-old who can’t find himself and so is backpacking across the country. It really doesn’t sound like a mental illness symptom – let alone like a serious one.
I was having breakfast with a friend of mine the other day and the topic of her suicide attempt came up. She attempted suicide years ago at a very low point in her bipolar disorder. And what she said was, she found herself very upset about it presently, even though it was years ago. She said she never dealt with her suicide attempt and now that was hurting her.
I understand. I think many of us don’t deal with the realities of a suicide attempt. I think many of us what to put our suicide attempts behind us so badly, that we just push them away without ever considering how deeply something like that scars us.
For my own part, I know what I’ve done with my suicide attempt. I’ve rationalized it. I’ve intellectualized my suicide attempt as “passive” and “not a real attempt” (since my chances of truly dying were low) and this has allowed me to, well, pretty much ignore it. But will that technique come to haunt me one day?
I have attempted suicide. This is not a fact that I wish to wear on my sleeve. This is not a fact a want on my resume. This is a fact that I wish was shoved in a trunk, thrown in a closet and locked away for all eternity.
And I think that most people who have attempted suicide feel the same way. There are many reasons you might want to forget but one of them is the shame associated with a suicide attempt. Many people around you and you, yourself, might consider attempting suicide shameful.
We get the notion of shame from those around us. Imagine looks of scorn if someone happens to belong to a religious community that considers suicide a sin and has no compassion for those who have attempted it. Imagine embarrassed parents forbidding their children to wear short sleeves so that the scars on their wrists are never seen. Imagine the person arriving home from the hospital, after a suicide attempt, not to a welcome home party but to pained silences and looks of pity and contempt. These are the realities that people who have attempted suicide face. And do we feel shame about what we’ve done? Many of us do.