Note: I am Bipolar.
I wrote an original version of this at my lowest point.
I saved it and edited while I was in the midst of an upswing.
Suicide is an option.
It’s not the best option. It’s not even a good option, but it persists as an option and for some of us, that immutable fact colors all of our experiences, past, present and future.
There exist in this world humans who have never considered taking their own lives. They’ve lost a parent or had their hearts brutally broken or lost every worldly possession on a bad investment and the worst decision they could imagine was losing themselves in a bottle for a night or cheating on their carb-free diet. Better places, fish in the sea, rainbows after the storm.
These people are so foreign to the existence I, and those like me, know that we would be unable to communicate, two aliens speaking in different languages.
I don’t recall the first time it occurred to me to take my own life. It wasn’t my first option. As a child I fantasized about running away (a family trait) and even left cryptic notes on my pillow meant to only be found after I was long gone. I never followed through.
Those escape fantasies eventually morphed into darker desires. Perhaps it occurred to me that running away wasn’t a practical solution, or maybe I simply accepted that only death could bring the sort of permanent personal release I sought while simultaneously inflicting the sort of deep, corrosive pain I felt. Outside of dull knives rubbed over veins, I never attempted.
Depression in its deepest wells is as painful as anything that can be inflicted physically. And like a wounded animal, there is an instinct in us to strike out at others, both to protect ourselves and to spread our pain.
On my fifteenth birthday, I learned that my school mate Nick had hung himself. Despite having grown apart as friends – or because of it – I spent the formative years of my life blaming myself. I didn’t truly celebrate a birthday for a decade and I obsessively dwelt on it every year as the anniversary approached. It’s not that I don’t still think about him, but my acute awareness of the tragedy has lessened with time.
In its place has resurged my latent suicidal tendencies.
As a disease, depression must be more deadly than cancer and AIDS combined. Suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, and thrill seeking behavior can all be direct or indirect byproducts of depression. Taking solace in anonymous sexual partners or even smoking cigarettes are also ways of seeking release from despair.
While depression is prevalent in a substantial portion of the population, it remains the least understood and most maligned medical condition by people who do not suffer from it. People with depression have almost no hope of finding a sympathetic (let alone empathetic) audience among those outside its grasp. We are weak, pathetic, whiny and, most importantly, downers to be around.
Yet, depression is as much a product of biology and a reflection of one’s true self as sexual orientation. A straight person is far more likely to support a gay friend than a non-depressed person is to support (or even tolerate) a depressive. Homosexuality is not a disease, nor is depression a choice.
The amount of pat advice and ineffectual platitudes that have been launched at me over the years is staggering. Most of it is the equivalent to someone telling a gay teenager, “Just try being straight.”
I will have depression until the day I die, which quite possibly could be by my own hands (either through active or passive means). Medication and therapy could conceivably help me forge on, but they are not a cure. And while financial success, finding love and achieving artistic renown would make my life better and more bearable, this depression would not magically dissipate.
Depression is not logical, it’s chemical. While the depressed mind creates its own twisted logic to explain why one should be depressed (ad hoc arguments), there need not be a reason (and usually there isn’t).
My specific form of depression is particularly cruel because I am Bipolar II. Any time I experience any amount of euphoria or pure bliss (rare peaks), I will experience a subsequent and likely far more severe crash to follow (the valleys). My every happiness is prepackaged with its equal share of despair.
I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by those with one form of depression or another. Perhaps we are drawn to each other. I’ve seen friends at the edge. I’ve experienced what I believed was the last conversation I would ever have with them, and felt the odd mix of utter desolation and blessed relief. Despair for myself, for losing a friend, and relief for them, for escaping their pain.
The truth is, every day we are alive is both a victory and a defeat. I have not succumbed, and yet knowing that I will live every day with this disease inside me weighs heavily on me. What harm might I cause to others because of my disease?
The thought that I might pass it on to potential offspring is heartbreaking.
This is the reality I have resigned myself to inhabiting. Religion, medication, companionship are all temporary salves. And mostly ineffectual.
I don’t want to die. I want to live and accomplish and create and find true love with someone who understands, forgives and protects me. I want all the things that every person wants.
The difference is that, for me, for others, and maybe for someone very close to you, suicide is an option.