Saying Goodbye to One of Our Own: A Bipolar Suicide

I am hurting from a very recent death of a friend. A fellow bipolar sufferer. He committed suicide over the weekend. The details do not matter. What matters is that he was a wonderful human being who was plagued with something he could not control.

Going Up In Smoke by Ashley Mackenzie

Some time ago my friend came to me, asking about bipolar disorder. He opened up to me that he was recently diagnosed, and part of him had always known there was something wrong. I gave some insight and told him about my own experiences. He also told me about his issue with rage, something many of us have to endure. He told me about how amazing his wife was with everything, and how she was his rock. He also had two young children. I suggested Julie Fast’s book Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder, which he was looking forward to purchasing for his wife. I am unsure if he ever went on medication. I know he expressed interest in the option.

Out of respect for my friend, I will only say that apparently there was a domestic issue between he and his wife. I can only imagine that he was fueled up and didn’t know how to deescalate. I did a year of anger management and I absolutely cherish the coping skills that became engrained in me, that taught me to bring it down ten notches and be able to produce clear thoughts. From my understanding, he felt so guilty about this incident, that he resolved to using a firearm in order to take his own life.

Friends were, and still are, shocked. Everyone is overcome with sadness. We all feel so much for his wife and children. My friend was a smart, funny, all around good guy. He was just in a state of mind where many of us have been before. Who’s to say if he was actually suicidal prior to the incident. Only he would know for sure. Just like only his wife would know for sure what really happened. All I do know is that many of us miss him and will be grieving this tremendous loss.

On another note, I know I’ve mentioned my triggers several times. One of my biggest triggers is when someone my age (25-35) loses their life at their own free will. I struggle with suicidal ideation and suicidal plans, and even a few suicide attempts throughout the years. Being around suicide or overdoses that result in death, tends to plant these thoughts back into my head. At this point I am uncertain if I will be attending his funeral service this upcoming weekend. I feel guilty about this. However I am currently in what I call remission from my suicidal mindset. I am at a pretty stable point right now and I’m afraid to compromise my mental health, especially for the sake of my own family.

Thank you all for listening.

Photo: ‘Going Up In Smoke’ by Ashley Mackenzie

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2014

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Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. And every 13.3 minutes in the U.S. Don’t become a statistic. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK

For information on suicide, grieving, warning signs, coping, and how you can help spread awareness, visit the following links:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
To Write Love on Her Arms
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

(Gif image via Tumblr)

 

The Breaking Point of a Legend

Like many, the death of Robin Williams surprised and saddened me. His means of death- suicide- interested me even more.

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To some of you, this will sound completely morbidly fucked up. To others, it will be hitting the nail on the head. But whenever I hear of someone dying as a result of self infliction, it triggers my own suicidal ideations and obsessions. Am I saying Mr. Williams is a role model for committing suicide? Absolutely not. But I am saying that I get it. I understand that point of hopeless desperation. Of despising yourself so greatly. Of thinking that your absence will only make things better for those around you.

Depression Doesn’t Discriminate

It has been confirmed that Robin Williams battled drug and alcohol abuse throughout the years, and sought help for it on a few occasions. It is also reported that he had a long battle with depression. I’ve read a handful of articles claiming he had bipolar disorder, but nothing was solidly confirmed on that, so I won’t make claims on it either. Nonetheless, depression can be absolutely crippling. It is the job of folks in the entertainment industry to wear a face for their audience. To act. To become someone else. I remind myself that these entertainers are part of the same human race that I’m a part of. And I could not imagine wearing a new face all the time, hiding a harrowing illness. Not to mention living their life in the spotlight, under a microscope. I know when depression grabs a hold, there are days I don’t leave my bed. There are days I am not mindful on what clothes I wear in public or whether my hair is washed or not. Sometimes I can’t make it to work. Now I look at someone like Robin Williams, who has been in the spotlight for decades, that he no doubt has people watching him in public, judging his every move. Of course that’s the life of a celebrity, and some might argue that celebrities choose this lifestyle, etc., but when it comes down to it- celebrity or not- nobody chooses mental illness. It doesn’t matter if you’ve won numerous awards for your comedic and dramatic acting skills. Mental illness can still sink it’s teeth in. And sometimes it can get so bad, that -celebrity or not- you lose sight of hope.

Let’s Take a Minute to Talk

Okay as many of you know by now, I swim in the pools of suicidal thoughts, ideations, fantasies, and even a few well thought out plans. It is an ongoing nagging battle that I fight. These notions entertain a spectrum of how obsessive they are, and how desperate I feel. It’s not unusual for those with bipolar to have this. So, it may seem a little odd for me to post this next segment about suicide. Truth is, I don’t love that I have this part of the illness. It’s a horrible way to think, and education on suicide and suicide prevention is imperative to living a mentally healthy life. Plus, it could help save the lives of people you know.

Understanding Suicide: Myth vs. Fact

To understand why people die by suicide, and why so many others attempt to take their own lives, it is important to know the facts. Please read the facts about suicide below and share them with others.

Myth: Suicide can’t be prevented. If someone is set on taking their own life, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

Fact: Suicide is preventable. The vast majority of people contemplating suicide don’t really want to die. They are seeking an end to intense mental and/or physical pain. Most have a mental illness. Interventions can save lives.

Myth: People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for “attention.”

Fact: More than 90% of people who take their own life have at least one and often more than one treatable mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and/or alcohol and substance abuse. With better recognition and treatment many suicides can be prevented.

Myth: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will put the idea in their head and cause them to act on it.

Fact: When you fear someone you know is in crisis or depressed, asking them if they are thinking about suicide can actually help. By giving a person an opportunity to open up and share their troubles you can help alleviate their pain and find solutions.

Myth: Teenagers and college students are the most at risk for suicide.

Fact: The suicide rate for this age group is below the national average. Suicide risk increases with age. Currently, the age group with the highest suicide rate in the U.S. is middle-aged men and women between the ages of 45 and 64. The suicide rate is still highest among white men over the age of 65.

Read more from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention…

Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Risk factors for suicide are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take her or his life. Suicide risk tends to be highest when someone has several risk factors at the same time.

The most frequently cited risk factors for suicide are:

  • Mental disorders, in particular:
    • Depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
    • Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence
    • Schizophrenia
    • Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
    • Conduct disorder (in youth)
    • Psychotic disorders; psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Impulsivity and aggression, especially in the context of the above mental disorders
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of attempted or completed suicide
  • Serious medical condition and/or pain

It is important to bear in mind that the large majority of people with mental disorders or other suicide risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior.

Environmental Factors That Increase Suicide Risk

Some people who have one or more of the major risk factors above can become suicidal in the face of factors in their environment, such as:

  • A highly stressful life event such as losing someone close, financial loss, or trouble with the law
  • Prolonged stress due to adversities such as unemployment, serious relationship conflict, harassment or bullying
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide (contagion)
  • Access to lethal methods of suicide during a time of increased risk

Again, though, it is important to remember that these factors do not usually increase suicide risk for people who are not already vulnerable because of a preexisting mental disorder or other major risk factors. Exposure to extreme or prolonged environmental stress, however, can lead to depression, anxiety, and other disorders that in turn, can increase risk for suicide.

Read more from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention…

 

My final words to you on this topic is to please talk to someone if you feel you are a danger to yourself. If you are feeling hopeless, allow someone to show you hope. If you think there is nobody to talk to, call a hotline number. There is always someone available and willing to hear what you have to say. On that note, we say farewell to a legendary performer, a legendary person, Mr. Robin Williams. May he finally be at peace. And may we remember him for what he loved to do- make people smile.

 

Suicide Prevention Resources:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

Is Instagram the New Port for Mentally Unhealthy Behavior?

TRIGGER WARNING. I advise you to take caution before reading this. There are photos and material containing heavy content.

It takes a lot to shock me. So when I decided to innocently search for ‘bipolar’ on Instagram, I was shocked at how shocked I became. Photos of girls consisting of skin and bones in their underwear, pictures of sliced and bloody arms and legs, declarations of suicidal desires, the list goes on.

The only way to really express what I’m referring to is to show you. (These images were taken directly and anonymously from Instagram. I do not have ownership rights.)

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These images are just a few of many that I saw. All I typed in was ‘bipolar’ with the intention of finding something valuable for this blog, perhaps a quote or whatever. Instead I discovered an entire underground network.

I began to click on various profiles with names similar to ‘anas_helper’, ‘selfharmerr’, and ‘lifeish0peless’. As I read the comment feeds, I saw a true camaraderie between young sufferers. For those battling eating disorders, the support is unbelievable. By support you may be thinking encouragment for recovery. While I’m sure there is positive support on Instagram, that’s not the kind I’m talking about here. On more than one account, I saw users post what seems to be a crest of the eating disorder community.

photoThe picture encourages followers to like it, in exchange for an hour of fasting. It’s sobering to see how many people liked the picture because these people really want this girl to accomplish her goal of not feeding her body. One can only assume that they are just as ill as she is. Other things I noticed were Instagram users giving each other tips on how to hide food so their parents would think they are eating, how to hide a scale in their room, tricks to boost metabolism, and more. These self proclaimed anorexics and bulimics even have weigh ins.

Another community with a heavy influence are those who self injure, specifically those who cut themselves. You find many photos of young folks who have hacked themselves up something awful. It appeared to really be a story of one cutter triggering another. photo 4 (1)

From the various accounts I saw a lot of the same names supporting one another, and thus posting their own bloody pictures. Some of them were suicidal, some were just content with the razor blade release.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the dynamics of self harm, or even eating disorders in this post. This is simply to expose a community of no doubt, thousands of suffering people. This is simply for awareness.

You may be wondering what role Instagram plays in this. I decided to test out a couple of different hashtags to see what came up and here’s what I got whe I typed in “cutting”:

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And here’s what popped up when I typed in “anorexia”:

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I was surprised and glad to see that some advisory is in place for potentially dangerous situations. I also know this is a CYA, otherwise known as ‘cover your ass’ for the company. But I guess it isn’t their responsibility to make sure everyone is safe on an open sharing network. I did not select the ‘learn more’ option, so I can’t say for sure what anyone would be learning, or if it gives help options or what. And it is very easy to just select the ‘show posts’ option anyway, which I did. For shits and giggles, I tested out a few other hashtags, ‘sex’, ‘nude’, and ‘fuck’. For each of these, IG clams there are ‘no tags found’.

I don’t know if any of you already knew of these underground support systems, but it is scary at how uncontrolled an environment this is. I know it is extremely difficult sometimes when dealing with a mental illness. I do. I just found this interesting and wanted to share it with you. Please leave a comment on your thoughts.

Updated March 26, 2014
I’ve received a lot of feedback on this article which has raised some questions.

Why did I write this article? Well, I simply wanted to raise awareness to something very serious that is occurring in social media, in this case, Instagram.

What do I hope to accomplish with this post? The awareness needs to spread to the people who can stop these underground communities. If enough of us are made aware, then real action can occur.

What help can I offer? While this was written as primarily informational, not necessarily clinical, I do want to address these topics of self harm and eating disorders. If you or someone you know is harming themselves, or is suicidal, or is starving, binging/purging, then you or your loved one need to get help right away. Here are some resources that may be useful to you:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Eating Disorder Association

I hope this helps to clear up any confusion. Thank you all for stopping by. I know this is a tough one to swallow. Take care.

Suicidal Ideation is A Manageable Symptom

Some of us experience it, some of us don’t. It takes over your mind and consumes you. Suicidal ideation doesn’t necessarily mean you will kill yourself. Or that you really want to. It means you are preoccupied with the thought. These thoughts drag you to a very dark place, focusing on, or even obsessing over the notion to end your own life. People with these ideations often lack the desire to fully commit suicide. In fact, many people in this position would rather not discuss it. Ideations include methods, plans, notes, the aftermath, etc. Is this morbid? Does this make someone a sick person? No. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of bipolar disorder. I am one of those people who are affected by this symptom. For me, it flares up at certain times, and goes away at other times. While some may take great comfort in their dark thoughts, it makes me more negative and depressed. I do a lot of work on myself if I start getting like that, and I practice therapeutic techniques to clear my mind.

What triggers my suicidal ideation? A key trigger is whenever someone I know dies intentionally, a.k.a. suicide, or from a preventable cause, such as an overdose. It triggers me even further when the deceased is around my age. I begin to take mental notes, as if I’m learning a lesson from these people who passed before me. What did he overdose on? How did he do it? Why her? Why not me? Now these thoughts manifest into full on imaginative scenarios, thus romanticizing the notion of death altogether. I find myself sitting at funerals, in complete awe of the entire procession. I philosophize every aspect of it. From the excessive sobber, to the take-charge family member, to the hugger, to those apprehensive to see the casket, to the hospitable funeral director, and all the awkward others who seem to follow suit along with everybody else.

Where am I going with any of this? Well I attended a funeral yesterday for a young family member of my wife, who indeed took his own life. By young, I mean a day younger than me. An unthinkable tragedy, the pain he was going through must have been indescribable. I watched as family members mourned, their hearts broken, questions unanswered. And of course while I was beyond saddened for my wife and my dear in-laws, I started to feel the sprouting little buds in my mind. I pushed it away, and have been doing my damnedest to prevent anything from growing. It’s important to know your triggers, and catch them early in development. Using positive self talk can help as well.

The focus is to celebrate life. We celebrate those who have passed before us, those who are here with us, and those who will be joining us soon. (Our baby is due next month! Yay!) I know this is a hard topic to chew, but I really felt it was important because surely there are others with this symptom as well.

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