I guess I didn’t know that some mechanism in my brain could make me want to die so bad.
And I haven’t written anything about it because I can’t describe the fear of being almost dead but not having taken any action to that end. I didn’t buy the toxic gas, but I wanted to. I didn’t try to get a gun. Didn’t even slit my wrists like my boyfriend did in high school but I could have because we have very fancy, sharp knives a friend gave us in the kitchen. I have enough medication to seriously injure myself if I took it all at once, but I didn’t. I don’t know why.
It wasn’t until the doctors increased my medication that I realized how low I was. I wasn’t “entertaining” thoughts of suicide, I was celebrating them, wishing death upon myself. Afraid to do it – yes – afraid to sink myself into the cool, unforgiving, rushing water of a river with stones in my pants or just walk around the city late at night and pick a fight with a dangerous looking person. But I wished it. Beckoned it to me from the universe. I’m ready, I told cars on the highway, semi trucks that got too close, the water on the side of the bridge that – it would have been easy, goddammit, if someone just side swiped me gently on a rainy day.
I don’t know what I imagined death would be like. I don’t know that I cared. I didn’t second guess these inclinations, I just knew that life was not worth it. Life is not worth it? Says who?
Bipolar. That’s who. Bipolar.
A disorder they think maybe perhaps but we’re not really sure my biological parents had.
Not because of all the trauma? I asked.
Not because of the sexual abuse? The PTSD? The burden of it all? Not because of exhaustion?
I don’t think so. Not anymore.
So it’s this disorder, I think, this thing I never knew was brewing inside of me, pushing through my neurons and veins a thick black lie, a story: Life Isn’t Worth It.
Not anyone’s fault. Not something I should have known. A chemical imbalance. The luck of the draw.
But death, death seemed like the answer. It wasn’t until I was on Suicide Watch at an ER and wasn’t allowed close the fucking curtains – please, God, nurse, give me some privacy – that I realized I needed help.
Sure, I didn’t do anything. Thank God I didn’t do anything. But that was the closest I have ever come, and the blindest I have ever been.
When I was discharged from the psychiatric hospital, when the lithium had blissfully kicked in and suddenly I felt like I could take on whatever came by – not in a manic way and not without pain and suffering but with the desire to survive at least – that’s when I knew how much I had wanted to die.
I had not been thinking about anything or anyone else. There was no future, there was only the past and what I had done and who the tar had convinced me I was and what I was worth. Like a horse with blinders on. I don’t think anyone could have saved me. Not Jesus, not the warmth of a small child, not a favorite song or a cry from a friend, “How could you be so selfish?!”
How did they not see – how to we not see – that it isn’t about selfishness. It’s about escaping from a prison. You can’t tell me to hold on when absolutely nothing within me believes there is anything worth holding on for. Not blind faith, I’m sorry: it doesn’t exist in that state of mind. I am not capable of producing it. Your posture to life and hope is not mine and I don’t know if you have ever felt this way. But I tell you – please hear me – there is a space within the human mind where all hope can be lost. I promise you. It is a flatland without life, and the sky there is so white you cannot see the cracked dust you’re crawling on. There is no water, no balm for your wounds, no manna from Heaven. So you can read me your Psalms and you can lay your hands on me and you can ask me what about my cat my writing my siblings my parents and I swear on the Bible I can honestly tell you none of it matters. The tar. That’s how I found my way there. Bipolar.
When I was eleven I felt it. The first time. Not even an A cup, no sanitary pads yet, and I already wanted to die. Does that help you understand? No one has a future quite like a child, and it wasn’t enough to make me want to live.
It was because I didn’t fit in. Or that’s what I could put my finger on at the time. Really, I am sure, it was the substantial amount of abuse I had suffered at that point and could not for the life of me attempt to connect to my pain or behavior. An eleven year old should not be expected to.
So I didn’t go to school. I smushed up fruit loops in my mouth and spit them messily into a toilet hoping I could convince my biological mother it was puke. I thanked God when I had to get my tonsils removed, because it meant I wouldn’t have to coerce her into believing I couldn’t go to school. Wouldn’t have to explain any feelings to her. And she never asked, anyway. Not once. Eleven year old has panic attack when asked to go to school. Eleven year old writes pointed Current Event article for class about the girl at another local school who tried to poison her class with flea repellent on cookies because the other kids were so mean to her and – of course she did if anyone, anyone paid any attention at all to her or if the kids for god sake were merely cordial she wouldn’t have done it who could blame her but instead of anyone saying hey what’s going on with you, Lyric? a police officer comes to tell me how murder isn’t the answer in the principal’s office.
Guidance counselor draws a blue expo marker line in the middle of a whiteboard, places a sad face on the top left and a happy one on the top right, writes murder under the sad face and talk to a safe adult on the left side.
Way back then I knew mental health was not being taken seriously.
It’s powerful, this disorder. These disorders. Depression. Amazing that suicidal ideation can be considered a symptom when it feels like the whole problem.
Today, I don’t want to die. And I am terrified of it coming back because when I consider it – and yes, of course I do – I realize other people have it worse off. I can tell myself that, thank you very much, but you do not need to. I am not an idiot and those words are bereft of meaning when depression is running the ship.
Today I don’t want to die because when the most important gift from medicine I have ever received finally started flooding my blood with salty healing, I came out of it. I shook off the blinders, scales fell from my eyes and I lifted my head from this dark black velvet blanket wrapped around me and I saw the earth for what it was: Good.
Good. I know. Despite the rape, the abuse, the affliction, the terror. Good.
Good because trees are here and they don’t want to hurt me. Because friendly Uber drivers will pick you up from the psych ward, drive you home and make you laugh even though they have no idea how scared you are. Good because you come home to an apartment you never thought you’d have, near a beach you’ve been dreaming of living next to since the sixth graders told you how ugly you were. Good because when you turn on your phone and see that picture of your sixteen year old sister who you completely, somehow, totally forgot about, all your love, all the love you have ever had for her comes flooding back and holy fuck how, how did I forget how much I loved her? How could I conceive of leaving her, them, my family, permanently? How?
Good because your cat has been under your bed for the last six days that you’ve been in the loony bin – which the pamphlets said not to call it – and remember as a child when you dreamed of being such an adult you’d own your very own cat? Who you wouldn’t blow marijuana smoke into the ears of like your parents did with Snoopy, who you would feed and love and pick up her shit and puke when she goes where she shouldn’t because you are an adult and happy to do it. Good because the poor thing had been trying to help so much before the hospital and diagnosis: laying everywhere you were, unfettered by your total neglect, loving you through all that and yes, I know animals don’t have souls but that fucking cat knows I am bipolar.
Good because you see everyone in your life in a new light. Because gratitude is so overwhelming you cannot stop crying even three weeks after discharge at the stupidest things: I get to pay my bills, I get to hug my friends, I get to go to work, I get to see that one cashier at 7-11 who always hits on me. Get to because you’re – I’m – not dead. I’m not dead. I’m not dead. I was close. As close as a coward can be.
There are people – even those who love me passionately – who won’t, can’t or don’t get it.
Coworkers who say, “Oh, you’re only part time right now? I wish I could pull that off.” As if it was by choice.
People who say, “But hey, you’re not on as much medication as my friend. Not to compare or anything.” As if that is a viable indication of the severity of my illnesses.
Doctors who respond to your increased anxiety (thanks, manic episode) with a polite, “Your therapist can teach you coping skills.” As if I haven’t just been in a psych ward or therapy for two years.
Massage therapists who inform you, “Yeah, you know, it can take a long time to figure out the right medication. I’m not bipolar but once in another state ten years ago I knew someone who thought they maybe had it.” As if all of my doctors might have missed that note in explaining the diagnosis.
My body thinks it might still be depressed so it says things like I Can’t Do This and I Don’t Have Any Energy and This Is Too Much. I have to raise my voice like they taught me in support group and say, Hey, Yes We Can.
I can because I have a history of Can. That’s one of the things the therapist in the hospital ingrained in me. I Can.
There’s still the fear of bipolar, the little part of me that’s like yeah doctors and psychiatrists but I think that even if I do eat healthy, take meds, sleep better, and reduce environmental stress it could come back just as bad or maybe worse I’ll probably start seeing shit I read in an article that I have a 70% increased chance of that because it’s Bipolar 1 and also someone somewhere sometime said it might even be more likely because I also have PTSD so sure I am doing all the right things but nothing really ever goes well for long in my life so I assume this will kick me right in the ass here in a short while.
But there is this new, grown up part of me. Maybe she was already here and simply drowned out by my untreated symptoms. You don’t have to be psychotic to have a hard time distinguishing reality.
The reality is, I’ve always Can. Always. Sometimes better than others, sometimes a bit more healthy, but the Can remains and there is proof of it because look: I am still breathing. We are. We are still breathing.