Don’t Suffer in Silence. You’re worth Life – TW

I’m exhausted from the mental battle of the last few days but specifically fatigued over learning of the loss of a friend.

Just days ago I shared my experience when my dad completed suicide on this blog and on social media. September is suicide prevention month and today especially.

In a cruel twist of 2020, the year I actively reduced my time on Facebook in response to increasing division and hate, I visited Facebook today and saw in horror 6 days ago a friend posted her goodbye. Which had prompted a flurry of activity on that Facebook post, culminating with the obituary posted just today.

I am stunned. She was a beautiful soul. We went to high school together and recently physically reconnected through a mutual therapy experience, though we’d always maintained contact via Facebook sharing the love of ballet.

We were born only hours apart. She was my birthday sister. Now she’s gone. As one does I am replaying our last exchange and wishing I’d done more, tried harder.

My beautiful, empathic son, himself planning to study psychology in college next year stated: “Suicide doesn’t really end the pain though does it? It just transfers it.”

Yes. I will never say suicide is selfish because I know the pain of living in mental agony, but it absolutely leaves wreckage in its wake. Wreckage that never heals, only scars.

If you are suffering, reach out to loved ones, get help. You can present at your nearest emergency room and just sit there if you don’t want to talk. Sit and be safe. Or admit you’re worried about your own safety. Or call 1800-273-8255. text 741741 in US and Canada. 85258 in UK. 50808 in Ireland. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You are not alone.

Honest Grief – Trigger warning

I lost my dad to suicide. Oh just jump right on in – that’s a hook. “It’s not a hook, be quiet.”

The thing is I understood. I never got angry with him for choosing to end his life. I have been angry with him while he was alive, but the very reasons I was angry during his life are the reasons I understood his suicide.

Oh you’re a saint – it was easy for you to move on then, huh? “To the contrary. I developed post traumatic grief. But I never questioned his motives.”

He was close to receiving a terminal diagnosis for his alcoholism. The death certificate cited Bipolar Disorder as secondary cause to the suicide. This was before I was a therapist (indeed it would be the catalyst to my becoming a therapist) and knew anything about the disorder. But I knew he was a troubled man. And I knew the relentless cycle of promises and failures that is addiction because I, too had been far too friendly with the bottle.

The most agonizing part of losing my father in that way is knowing he died alone, feeling unloved and hopeless.

I think I cried for three years straight. I couldn’t go to funerals, couldn’t hear the word suicide, couldn’t go to recovery meetings, couldn’t be around men with similar features, couldn’t smell alcohol of any kind, couldn’t hear certain songs, had flashbacks for 8 years (yes they just ended – I think).

Complicated by other trauma . “Yes, shh. That’s another blog.”

Dance proved to be my saving grace, and I was a fairly new dancer then (side note you don’t have to start dancing at age 3 to be a performer). Improvisation and composition helped me express what I couldn’t put language to. Because with grief, language doesn’t make sense. Grief is a deep, guttural emotion – it isn’t logical and can’t be healed using the prefrontal cortex. We must feel it.

So I went to therapy. I think losing him in that manner gave me some sort of permission to go and face my demons. Of course I had no idea I was opening Pandora’s baggage.

Good job, I see what you did there. “Now you’re complimenting me? Hush.”

I would then go on to learn my empathy for his pain came from a real place of understanding as I learned about Bipolar Disorder. If you’ve followed any of my blog you’ll know the apple didn’t fall far for me.

You need to wrap this up, kid. “I’m aware. My story doesn’t end there, so how does one…”

My journey begins there, really. 27 years to find a path out of self destruction. I miss my dad so much it still aches everyday but him dying may have saved my life. And pushed me toward helping others. I hope he is smiling down on me. I sure hope I’ve made him proud.

I love you Daddy. Always be your girl. I know you’re at peace.

Curious

Today I’m keenly aware of the conversations bringing awareness of mental health to social media. I see my fellow therapists on Tik Tok noting their ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, eating disorder recovery. Many of them doing an amazing job talking about management of said conditions.

I’ve only seen one other therapist talk about Bipolar Disorder. And none talking about addiction. Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and she was so brave to write her book An Unquiet Mind about her journey. I have reread it many times – she inspires me.

I don’t know if it’s that I haven’t seen therapists with more chronic mental illness or if they’re just not talking about it. And if they’re not talking about it, is it because they have fear of transparency as well?

Full Disclosure

I intend to write a memoir one day. Blogging is a way of dipping my toes into public authenticity. One post at a time, the depths of my life will come to light for all the world to see. All the world connotes.. well, everyone. Can we stop a minute and appreciate how terrifying it is to put oneself out there? (Insert grimaced emoji here). I’ve put off writing my memoir in fear of revealing myself to the public as a professional. Yes I am aware simply putting it on the internet will not ensure every person will read it. Honestly, I’m cool with strangers reading it. It’s the people I’ve known or could know (potential clients) that is terrifying to me. Once it is published, it is out there forever. I ask myself every time I make a blog post or a Tik Tok am I comfortable with my clients knowing this about me?

The struggle that ultimately led to my becoming a therapist is precisely the reason I want to be public. To be an example of a person with significant mental health difficulties still successful as an adult and a professional. There’s a fear my credibility will be diminished. I’m keenly aware of my position as a professional, however, to combat stigma and instill hope in those who are still struggling. It is less a matter of “I want to be public” and more “I have to be public.”

We are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have.

Today I dye my hair purple

Yes indeed the last few days’ posts have been a reflection of my mental state. We call this a mixed state here in Bipolar land and it seems to have eased. It’s more than a little exhausting. I was reflecting yesterday how before therapy and medication this last week might have ended quite differently. This time, I dyed my hair purple. Big deal. Some years ago, however…

Any number of things might have punctuated the week. All unhealthy and destructive. Some perhaps devastating. I have wandered the wreckage before without knowledge or support, descending into the blackness of depression, the irritability and anxiousness of mixed states and the euphoria of hypomania. How in the world did I survive? I’ve mentioned previously it is likely due to intellect. (This is what my therapist says at any rate). Even locked in the savagery of my mind, I was able to grasp some semblance of insight. Not enough to look for therapy, mind you. But enough to have some healthy conversations in my head as well as a deep commitment to personal growth.

I did not know these things, I followed (some) of my instincts. I couldn’t have told you I was working on personal development, nothing so eloquent as that. Truthfully, it was more a result of assessing my surroundings and attempting to match the status quo (via harsh self criticism) than any conscious effort on my part to grow into a better person. This creative adjustment (as we call it in Gestalt therapy) began in childhood as a means to not break the rules (which were forever changing so you can see my childhood predicament – big job for a kiddo).

Enter adulthood and this survival technique became less useful in that I didn’t have a general whole sense of self (aside from striving toward perfection) and that brought its own difficulties. Cue hypomania when I sometimes believed I was awesome and made less than insightful decisions – ultimately leading me back to self hatred in the wake of embarrassment.

And thus the cycle continued. More on that another time. Today I dye my hair purple because I have attended to my self care in a very intentional way – an adaptive adjustment brought to you by the letter T. (For therapy – cheesy, I know).

Emerge

I am somehow bathed in light though my eyes cannot see it. I am not blind. I hear the raspy giggles around the corner, the frenetic chatter behind me.

My chest tightens further, threatening my oxygen. I find myself frustrated with the inability to discern forward from backward and up from down.

I am hampered by lack of direction; simultaneously I am imbued with divine knowledge that I will brush aside the tangled, pulsating shadows and emerge on my throne.

An incoherent sound erupts from my lips, a soft and feminine murmur. I feel a smile spread across my face as I stare in wonder at the polarity of the night.

Surely You Didn’t Forget

“Oh,” I say resignedly. “It’s you. Mmhmm come on in.”

Inwardly I roll my eyes at myself, surely you didn’t think she was actually gone did you? Tears cloud my vision.

“You know what the definition of insanity is?” She asks.

Like forgetting that at the end of every productive summer comes the insufferable pain of fall? “Yes,” I say quietly.

She smiles. “Well, come now help me set out my things.” She reaches into her absurdly Mary Poppins-like bag and pulls out the weighted vest, ankle shackles, an elephant, and… what was that?

I groan inwardly. “Oh you brought the funhouse mirror again. I was really doing so good at…” I trail off, close my eyes and allow the tears to begin their descent down my cheeks.

“Where are you going?” She asks as I turn to leave the room.

“I need to make a phone call. She’ll want to know you’re here. For planning purposes you know.”

She smiles knowingly. “Riiight.”