Myth and Madness

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Possible trigger alert:  The following contains descriptions of my experiences with depression and suicidal ideations.

There has been a great deal of talk about depression and suicide lately because of the death of Robin Williams. There also seem to be many misconceptions about depression and the rationale (for lack of a better term) behind killing oneself. Clinical depression is hell. It’s not just feeling sad for a day or two and staying in bed and eating ice cream. It is debilitating. It is soul-crushing. It is never ending. It isn’t a battle because depression is the absence of everything; happiness, hope, coping, it’s all gone. You can’t fight what isn’t there.

Numerous times I’ve read “everyone gets depressed”. No they don’t. People become sad and upset and can recover. Major, recurrent depression affects 6.7% of the U.S. population. 2.6% of the population has been diagnosed as bipolar and almost 83% of those are classified as “severe”.

These numbers seem rather small when looked at as percentages, but the actual numbers represent millions of people. Bipolar actually has a higher suicide rate than depression: 20% (1 in 5) for bipolar patients and 15% for sufferers of depression.

Those are the numbers; here is the thought process I’ve experienced. Depression is crippling. I can’t sleep, I don’t eat, I can’t think rationally, I have no attention span, and I completely and utterly despise myself. I have hurt almost everyone around me, and those I haven’t I have pushed away. I cannot function and I want no part of the world around me. I mutter to myself. I repeat to myself out loud phrases such as “I want to go home”, “I can’t be here anymore” and, “I wish that heart attack had killed me.” When I say “I want to go home” I mean the home I grew up in, someplace warm and comforting where someone else was responsible for my well-being because I can’t take care of myself.

I try to hide myself from the world.  I bury myself under blankets, I hide my face under hoodies.  I stay awake all night and sleep all day because if I’m asleep while everyone else is going about their day and awake while they sleep they can’t reach me.  The world can’t hurt me in the middle of the night like it can in the middle of the day.

I have internal conversations with my brain. I’m not schizophrenic, I don’t hear voices, I hear my own voice telling me I am worthless, useless, and toxic to those around me. This is when the suicidal thoughts creep in.

I cannot describe my anger and rage at some fucking asshole playing armchair psychiatrist and saying that suicide is selfish and cowardly, or even more ludicrous is the idea that it is somehow related to political beliefs. My suicidal thoughts are not selfish. I’m not looking for a way out or to end my pain. I want to prevent myself from causing others pain. I’ve done enough damage and I am hated by those who were closest to me. I can’t continue to cause them any more suffering by being in their lives. My son needs a better, more positive role model and I can’t provide that. He deserves better.

This is depression. I’m not upset or sad. I’m fucking helpless and hopeless. The only way this can end is with me dead and out of the way, unable to disappoint anyone ever again. I won’t be free but everyone else will be.

Depression is harsh and cruel and I truly hope people never experience it. There is nothing worse than being afraid of yourself. I wanted to be left alone, but I wanted someone there so I couldn’t be alone. Depression is desperation. It’s the need for help, but the inability to seek it.

If you know someone who suffers from depression, how can you help? There are no magic words to take it away, but you can help them know that they are not alone.

Let them know you’re there for them.
Tell them they are loved and that they matter.
Tell them you are not frightened of them.
Ask if they’ve seen their doctor or therapist.
Tell them they do not have to be ashamed or apologize for their illness and emotions.

I would not wish the dark thoughts of depression on anyone. I try every day through therapy, medication, and just normal everyday contact to keep myself feeling average. It’s exhausting, but I know I’m worth more than what I think I am. Keeping that in mind when I am in the throes of depression, however, is a different matter.

If you feel you are depressed, or need help, or generally overwhelmed, please, PLEASE, reach out to someone. If no one is immediately available, call one of the suicide hotlines. There are many and they specialize in various areas. Here is a fairly expansive list of phone numbers. Help is always available.

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Pants on Fire

liar

 

“Everybody lies.” – Dr. Gregory House

 

I recently read an article on myths about bipolar disorder. Number one on the list was bipolar people are liars. This is a myth because lying is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. Sometimes, however, bipolar people do indeed lie. For example, I lied. A lot. Intricately,  with a great level of complexity, and I was good at it. I lied to cover my hypomania. I had to come up with reasons why I was out all night, doing drugs, and spending every cent we had. I often dragged my friends’ names into it in order to make the stories believable. I got away with it for a long time until finally the money  ran out and there were no lies I could conjure up to save my own ass.  This led to an abrupt, ugly, devastating end.  These lies, for all their complex deception, were not a symptom of bipolar disorder, I was just trying not to get caught.  It didn’t work out particularly well.  Really.

I still lie fairly regularly, but not at the same level or for any devious reasons.  Instead, they are white lies that prevent me from getting involved discussing my mood swings. Ask me how I am in the midst of depression and the answer is “Fine”. You’ll get the same answer when my mind is racing and I’m bouncing off the walls with hypomania. Ask me what’s bothering me, “Nothing”. It’s terse and simple.  I dislike having to explain my moods, that I can’t just get over them,  like people tend to suggest, and be like everyone else, so I lie.  That’s the truth.

Another reason I tell these white lies is because not only do I not want to explain my moods, people don’t want to hear it. Who, aside from my therapist, wants to hear about how worthless or self-aggrandizing I feel, depending on my mood? I’m not going to discuss my thoughts of suicide or self-medicating, or any of the other nasty little secrets my brain likes to run through and torture me with. It follows then, that I lie in social settings.  I hate crowds and I strongly dislike people.  Well, most people, specifically strangers.  I can be, however, a particularly social person when necessary.  I know how to play nice.  I put up this facade to avoid any preconceived notions about what others may consider bipolar behavior.  I can indeed carry on an intelligent conversation when I have to.  Honestly.

There are some people I am completely honest with, people in whom I place complete trust. It’s a very small group consisting of a couple of friends and my therapist. Even then, with the exception of my therapist, no one believes me all the time. I have torn my credibility and reputation to shreds by lying for so long. Many people will no longer believe most of what I say, or they will assume I am lying all the time. Trust is nearly impossible to regain, and I understand why I’m in that position.

Obviously, there are things in past I’ve lied about that I haven’t mentioned here. I limited it to events relating to being bipolar and, of course, this is just my side of what happened and why. I’m sure those to whom I lied will have different versions of what happened, although I have tried to be as truthful as possible.  As a final reminder, just because I’ve lied doesn’t mean all bipolar people lie.  It’s not a symptom, it’s just how I’ve tried to cover up my symptoms.

Honest.

I wouldn’t lie to you.