Ultimately it comes down to this.
Ultimately you'll be left to fight this alone. The drug pushers can't help you, all they know how to do is make random stabs in the dark and write prescriptions. I know that it appears to "help" some people and this re-enforces this practice but for many it does not work and they end up unable to function and on long term disability (Robert Whitaker cites the numbers, taken from US government sources, in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic) or commit suicide (estimates are that one in five people who are truly bipolar (as opposed to the misdiagnosed kind or minor hypomania) will commit suicide). No empirical or long term study data exists to support true efficacy of psychiatric drugs while data does exist pointing to the brain damage it causes. Psychiatric drugs such as SSRI antidepressants are strongly linked to suicide (as are other psychiatric drugs) so it is possible that long term drug use is a factor in that high suicide number. I myself became much more suicidal when on psychiatric drugs. At any rate, psychiatry is not a help to my situation and by extension the mental health care system because their entire model is based on psychiatry and drug therapy.
Ultimately family will abandon you. After a while they can no longer handle the intense mood swings between maniacal highs to suicidal lows. People are wired to distance themselves from unstable people. This is nobody's fault, it's just their own instincts of self preservation functioning normally. Fuck, even unstable people don't want to hang around unstable people (all the friends I made while "on the inside" eventually stopped contact. Which you can't blame them for. They just want to get on with their lives, not be reminded of the time they were in the loony bin.)
It takes great courage and uncommon levels of empathy to step outside one's self preservation mode and my family could not do that. They tried, I think, but ultimately they listened to their instinct to back away. That's what my daughter had to do. She was daily witness to the swings between the highs of love of life enthusiasm and runaway optimism and suicidal depression and hospitalizations. She just simply could not handle or watch it any more. She's highly sensitive herself and HAD TO distance herself to protect herself. It's either self protection mode or they simply deny what is happening and pretend everything is fine and that there's nothing wrong, something that I found unacceptable. There's intense inner pain but worse pain is when people who "love" you deny that pain. They will see you and be social as long as they can live in their own fantasy world that everything is OK. If that is "love" then yes indeed, love hurts. I can do without that kind of "love". Others will flat out tell you that they can no longer handle your situation and that they “have their own things to deal with”. Others will tell you that you are just drama making and attention seeking. Which, whatever, that's just the way people are. The end result is abandonment though. What makes it hard is the comparison to stories of psychiatric survivors and the roles undying family support played. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder why I didn't get that support. Some very valuable financial support I got, and was very grateful for, but not the vital emotional support.
One thing that will affect how you're impacted by a mental illness is how emotionally sensitive you are. I am, I have to admit, extremely sensitive. I've talked to other bipolar peeps who've told me the same thing, that extreme sensitivity is a big part of their issues. This is where the psychic pain comes from. I'm not always like this but when I am, I'm extreme. (true bipolar is a world of extremes) And it seems the more the illness runs its course the more sensitive you are to psychic damage. This is also a hallmark of borderline personality disorder (extreme sensitivity to facial expressions and tones of voice causing violent mood swings) which is often, according to Psychology Today's Taming Bipolar (which, by the way, was the genesis for this blog title), "comorbid" with bipolar. Psychic pain is beyond explanation. There's no "data" or "research" to back it up or any way to look at it or measure it in a lab. It just is. David Foster Wallace and other writers describe it best. Foster described it as a sheet of flame at one's back while standing at an open window. Psychic pain eats at me like battery acid. And it can come from anyone, anywhere and any time. I can't tell you how much work I've put into controlling this but I just can't. Whatever it is, it hard wired now. It's why I battle agoraphobia. Any contact with any human can add to the pain and thus contribute to a complete suicidal melt down. All it needs is that one flick of a match to trigger it. It's beyond bizarre and incomprehensible to virtually all people but there ya go. It's daily hell to deal with it. I can go for days thinking I'm "dealing with it" well (doing all my little CBT stuff) but then it'll all come searing back and erupt without warning. Then the next thing I know I'm handcuffed in the back of a police car and off to the psychiatric ward again. Ultimately, I can't live like this - walking on the eggshells of my own mind not knowing when or why I'll melt down again. This alone is madness making.
Ultimately I can't live on welfare. I am a proud working man. My entire sense of self is built around earning an honest living exchanging my value with someone for their money. That, deeply in my view, is the right and honest way to live. On welfare I have no value. I am not one of those who can "manufacture" value out of this situation and make it seem acceptable. Oh, I tried, I tried to put all kinds of positive spin on it but ultimately I can't. I am a man who always paid his own way. A man who was proud to have owned a home. I am a middle class man with a middle class background who lived a middle class life. The pain and shame of subsisting on welfare is unbearable to me. It is not what I was born to live. I was born to chase dreams, build a modest amount of wealth to take care of myself in old age. Losing that and falling to this is unquestionably the worst psychic pain I feel. I know I am supposed to practice "acceptance" and "letting go" but I just cannot. I can for a spell but then it too will come searing back out of the blue and the pain of the flames on my soul will be great.
Ultimately, I can't live without my mind. I've lost everything I've ever worked for and then some (I owe tens of thousands of dollars). I lost my ability to work. All I have left is my mind. Then I lose that. There are days when my mind just will not respond. I can't read or do any writing, let alone the tougher research that has been my purpose. Days of utter waste go by. I can deal with a few hours. But when it becomes days I get incredibly distressed and frantic. Insanity is like that. It is, I'm sure of it now, the accumulative brain damage from years of manic depressive cycling and the years of constant stress. I've lived below the poverty line for more than five and a half years which research now shows produces brain altering stress. Mental instability produces its own kind of stress. There was years at a high stress job (not just high pressure, that I can handle, but stress about getting paid or not, unreasonable demands and many other things a person with extremely low tolerance for stress is badly affected by). Constant and rapid cycling changes of state appear to cause brain damage (as autopsies on deceased bipolar people reveal) and other research shows that stress can break down the brain at the neuronal and axon level. Plus, in bipolar depression the brain can just literally shut down. The stories of people in the throws of bipolar depression being completely non-functional are legion. Kay Jamison's An Unquiet Mind describes this very well (though I found her depictions of her "mania" a bit specious). There's just no doubt in my mind that the brain shut down I experience is part of the long term outcome of bipolar disorder. I tried and tried and tried to fight against this and deny that it was happening and I've improved over the worst that I experienced in previous years but it still just hammers me. And though I can rationally understand all of this I just utterly can't stand feeling so non-functional. The one dream I have remaining is to research and write about this disorder and when I can't even do that I get extremely distressed and dark feeling. My writing and research was the one way I felt I could contribute to society and "earn" the government cheque I receive. When I can't even do that I feel even more worthless.
Ultimately, this is not a life. Lying around, confined to my room and non-functional so often. I was always a man of adventure, passion, exploration and full of life. My life almost always had meaning. I've always had lovers and love and travel and romance and chased my dreams. Now I have nothing and am scared shitless to even dream about anything more. I look at this today and it's not life. Not in my books. Rising each morning and merely drawing in breathe is not life. And being totally and utterly helpless to pursue what I feel life is is literally maddening. Or sometimes I just can't stand being a useless sack of shit welfare bum (my former working class values speaking).
I cannot even begin to tell you how hard I've worked at this. I work on my positive difference making fundamentals all the time. I am not a negative person. I smile most of the time and say kind things to people. I work like hell to have a positive attitude about everything. I read positive materials. I've retrenched probably a hundred or more times in the last five years. This doesn't work out? Retrench. That doesn't work out? Retrench. Retrench and retrench and retrench. I've retrenched all the way down to being a welfare bum. I can retrench no further. I've done everything they told me to do. I've been in the hospital four times and each time I was the hardest working person on the ward doing everything possible to get better. I've done things that I had to develop myself (based on latest neuroscience). I work almost every hour of every day at dealing with the frustration of living below the poverty line while dealing with a major mental health disorder and calming myself not to feel that frustration. And this hurts like fucking hell too. No one can see how hard I work. No one knows how hard this is. NO ONE. (in my life, not in the world. I am of course aware that many others have gone through this) One could look in my room and see me lying on the bed with my eyes closed. What's going on is that I am working like hell to avert a full catastrophic melt down. Or trying to build up my mind. It's incredibly hard work. But what do they see? A welfare bum lying around on his ass doing nothing. People will see me melt down and think that I'm just weak and not trying. What they don't see is the dozens of other times I worked through a melt down to avert it. What they don't see is the hundreds of hours I've put into research and the work I do to build up my mind. When one is seeing a person re-habbing from physical injury or illness or fighting cancer, everyone can see how hard they work. Not with mental illness. It is truly the silent illness. And you'll suffer it alone. Which leads to the final blow.
Ultimately, I cannot do this alone. Can NOT. Personally, I think I've displayed superhuman strength to get this far (and my psychologist, who was more familiar with my struggles than anyone on earth, agrees). But I'm like the fucking rat in the water stress test. The water stress test is when they put a rat in a tank of water it can't escape from. It has to keep swimming to stay alive. They'll leave the rat in until it dies. At some point it'll just give up and stop swimming. Then they'll examine it. They'll find that all kinds of things in the brain and nervous system just simply break down. The non-stop stress of struggling for survival will just start to break things down. I've been swimming non stop in the water stress test trying to stay alive for more than five years. Things are breaking down. Things HAVE broken down. I need help. I really, really, REALLY need help. I think my own program is good and would work but I cannot do it alone. I need feedback. I need support during the rough times. I need someone to hear me. So it was that for four months I looked forward to the free therapy program offered by the local university. It saved my life last year. And it is the ONLY resource that I have found that that worked for me (and trust me, I've hunted down every resource available and NONE worked out). This was ALL I had. So I literally counted down the days waiting for the new session to begin (they run with the school term from September until early May). They told me I was welcome to come back in the new session. In my darkest times I told myself to just hang in until therapy could start again. So the time finally arrives. They tell me that they have to reject me. My case is "too tough" for them (apparently handling my case was extremely stressful on my previous psychologist). What little wind I had in my sails was instantly gone. I cannot even begin to describe how devastating this was. This is what I mean about ultimately facing this alone. When your situation is bad enough and you've been in the system long enough, you WILL end up facing it alone (simpleton pill pushing psychiatrists don't count. Their toxins made me a hundred times worse and I've never met a professional group more dimly uncomprehending of human suffering). Family can't help; they're simply not equipped. No friend could handle something like this. This therapy - this free therapy - was the only hope I had for help, the only hope I had for not fighting this so fucking alone. And now that hope is crushed. Just like every other hope I've had since this began. This is not "depression talking", this is literally no hope left. There are no other options. This was IT and now it's gone.
I feel like the character of Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar from the scene Gethsemane (I only want to say) when he cries "tried for three years, seems like thirty". It truly is like that. This suicidal madness started three summers ago and I've fought it for three years. But it seems like thirty. Seems like ninety. I can fight no more.
The brain has some remarkable survival tools for getting through dark times. That's how it evolved. We wouldn't be here as a species if it didn't. But this is what happens in brains with this kind and degree of mental illness - all that stuff breaks down. That's part of the illness, you see? With other illnesses other things are broken but the human mind is intact. The "indomitable human spirit" is merely a survival tool in the brain. A person will get down and go through extreme darkness but their essential survival tool remains intact to pull them through. But with mental illness the very thing that's needed to fight is the very part that is broken. This is why people commit suicide - that survival tool is either broken or was overwhelmed. This is what 99.9% of the population - and the medical field itself - don't understand. The essential survival tool in the brain breaks and simply cannot go on.
Ultimately I don't know what the big deal about death is, I really don't. I don't consider this suicide, I consider it self administered euthanasia. I want to end this and to end it on my own terms. In a stretch between July of 2010 and late last year I suffered through many mania driven states of suicidal madness (during the dreaded mixed states when it's thought that most bipolar suicides occur) or horrific states of suicidal psychosis (hallucinations of great violence to myself and demands to carry it out). These always involved violent deaths. I have no idea when these may return nor does anyone. There's no "book" on this. When they do, I just know that I'll have no control over them. The brain shuts off any kind of concious cognisance. The madness is in full control then. Most people have no idea what this is like because quite frankly, few people survive this (and my suicide expert psychologist agreed. She utterly could not believe what I survived). I don't want to go violently. I want to go peaceably. So I want to choose my own terms and place and time. That's all I ask for in life now - to go on my own terms. I feel I don't have to justify this or explain it to anyone. ANYONE. I don't care for anyone's Biblical morals about this that say that "only God can take a life". Fuck that. I believe ownership of one's life is the ultimate divine right. I'll do with my life what I feel is right. You'll argue that this is "selfish". And I'll argue that your wanting me to continue to suffer is selfish and a worse kind of selfishness. I was not put on earth to suffer, that I know. I have nothing to say to people that believe that to suffer is to be noble. I see no nobility in suffering. I will accept no judgement from those who cannot feel or know my pain. Pain is relative and this is too much pain for me to bear. All I want is to be respected for my views.
I have a plan. And a place (roughly. the spirit of the place is what's important, not the exact location). I want to go peaceably overlooking a peaceful scene. My grandfather died in his sleep in his favourite recliner. I always thought that was the perfect way to go. I want to go like that. I just need to acquire the right material.
I have things to tie up first. I want to e-publish my book first and finish a series of stories for my daughter. Then it will be time.
[PS - I have been in a very dark state for a week now (well this bout of bipolar depression and darkness started in late May but I mean this particular stretch of particularly bad darkness) and was very dark when I first conceived this post. This post isn't nearly as dark as when I first conceived it. I had to considerably calm myself down before I wrote it. Also about the formatting issues. I have no idea what's up with this. I copy and paste from my word program sometimes. It all looks the same font and size in my composition box but then when I post it there are different sizes and fonts. A mystery.]