Future Forward

Today feels good. I’m thinking about the future. That’s a really good sign. Instead of ruminating about issues that I’m experiencing today, I’m dreaming about good things I hope are coming. This is a change of perception for me.

I’m not fixated on any present problem. I have hope.

I don’t think this happened overnight. I think this is the result of many years of practicing some simple ways of making each day a little better.

Those things I practice are seeing my doctor regularly and taking the medicine he prescribes, meditating on a daily basis, talking openly about all areas of my life to a therapist, eating food that is good for me, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly.

To put it simply:

Medicine.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Diet.

Sleep.

Exercise.

I’ve paid attention to these things for many years, and the result is that I have fewer days when I don’t feel good due to mental health. I had a bad day Wednesday, but in the middle of it, I concentrated on the tools, because it’s become a habit. That habit saw me through, and Thursday I felt completely better. Today I’m back to dreaming about good things in the future.

My habits started with a desire to feel better. Years ago, I was depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. I searched for ways to rise from that malaise, and that led to habits that help me feel good about myself and my life. At the time I didn’t know I was forming good habits. It just happened on its own.

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A Miracle

I’m recovering from a break up that is causing me a lot of anguish. Admittedly, the grief is fading. Of course, I would like it to fade faster.

Yesterday, I had a sudden realization. Through it all, through all the turmoil, I have not once had a suicidal thought. I have had an unfortunate return of negative self-talk, but I have never once thought I would be better off dead.

The absence of this type of thought is honestly remarkable. Just a few years ago, I thought of death multiple times throughout every day. I’m in the midst of pain, but I’m not thinking about wanting the ultimate escape.

I can personally attest that recovery is real. Recovery works.

There’s More To It

I am glad there’s a lot of attention being paid to suicide right now. It’s a topic I understand intimately.

Here’s what I know.

Getting to a place where suicide seems like a reasonable option is a complex process. It’s not simple like breathing in a virus and catching a cold. It takes time and a series of events that overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope. The individual struggles through somehow. He/She manages to just make it from one day to the next.

Then one day, something happens that seems insurmountable to the individual. It just seems like too much. The pain is too great.

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds the resources for coping with pain.

I did not write those words, but I understand them. In 2003, I was in great pain. Life hurt. Each day brought new pain. I struggled through, until an event added that extra pain that made the whole pile of pain too much to bear. I was in a black pit. The pit’s walls were made of slick mud. There was nothing to grasp to pull myself up and out. All was blackness. There was no light. I made a plan, and I was on the verge of carrying it out when the phone rang.

Miraculously, I answered the phone, and I sobbed to the person on the other end of the line what was going on. Like the majority of suicidal people, I did not want to die. I wanted help. I wanted the pain to end. My sobbing words to the other person opened the possibility of getting help. I called my sister who came and took me to the hospital. I got help there.

Slowly, over a period of years, I healed. That bears repeating: I healed. Today, I do not have suicidal thoughts. Today, I live in recovery from mental illness. I practice a regimen to maintain my stability. I take medicine, I talk to a therapist regularly, I exercise, I eat healthy food, and I try to get good sleep. It takes discipline. I am not perfect, but I’m damn good at making sure I do what’s necessary to stay stable.

I’ll continue to take the necessary steps to be well. I like being well. That’s a good indicator of recovery: I like being well.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, I want you to know that I understand.

Here are some resources for getting help with suicidal thoughts.

Here are more resources for mental illness.

I wish you well.

Celebrities and Suicide

This morning, it was reported that Anthony Bourdain died by suicide. Earlier this week, Kate Spade also died by suicide. Yesterday, there was a new report that suicide rates in the US have risen more than 30%. It’s a national health crisis.

All this weighs on me.

I came very close to attempting suicide many years ago. I am so grateful the phone rang at the right moment, and I chose to answer it. I told the caller what was happening, and I got help.

I have been in the pit where no light shines. I know the interminable blackness. I am not going to sit here in my chair and preach to you.

I am going to tell you the truth.

It got better for me. It was sheer hell at times on the journey, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept walking. Some days, I took one single solitary step, but I took that step. Some days, that step was simply breathing. I could not accomplish more.

My recovery took a long time. I don’t know what your recovery is going to be like. Yours might be quicker. There is no right way or wrong way to do this thing called recovery.

For today, I’m walking. These days, I can walk a lot. I recovered.

Please, stay with me on the walk.

Here are some resources for help.

Suicide Prevention Help

In the wake of actor Robin Williams’ suicide, I have added more important suicide prevention help numbers and sites to my page marked “Resources.” Please, feel free to take a look.

Through the statistics page of this blog’s host, I can see the broad categories people use to find me. Since yesterday, many people have searched for suicide prevention. To you, I say I understand. I have been there. I really have. I know that black pit very well.

I do not want to take your decision from you. I would like to say, however, that before you make a final decision you talk to someone anonymously. There are numbers you can call, sites you can use to chat, and other ways to reach out for help.

You are worth it.

I know you may not feel like it at this moment, but it’s true.

You are important.

A Notable Suicide

Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning actor and comedian, died of suicide today. It is a very sad event. In a very brief statement, his grieving wife said he had been battling depression.

I am very sad, because he had a great talent that was wide ranging. He was a brilliant comedian, but his prowess as an actor won him an Oscar in 1998 for a dramatic role in the movie Good Will Hunting. I was a teenager when he made a hit on television in the show Mork and Mindy. He was indeed very funny, and he will be greatly missed.

Whenever I hear about anyone killing themselves, I remember my own story. It’s been a very long time now, but I understand the black pit of depression so deep and dark that no light shines. There is not even the slightest hint that light is shining anywhere. No light. Not an inkling. Not a tiny dot. All oozes blackness.

I was saved from my suicide attempt miraculously by the phone. It rang at just the right moment, and the person on the other end heard my cry for help. I was whisked away to the hospital and received help.

Over the years of living with bipolar disorder, I spent much time contemplating death, wishing for it sometimes and fearing it at others. I no longer think about death. Recovery has taught me many things about living with mental illness. I live with hope today.

I am reminded also of the simple words on the website Metanoia.org. They say

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

Those words are true. People with mental illness like depression think a lot about suicide, and they do not contemplate it from selfish motives. Suicide results from pain that is so great it outweighs a person’s ability to deal with it.

I meditate daily, and in my meditation, I call down light. I believe that light brings hope, and hope brings life.

Funerals, Memorials, Death, on and on

Clouds

I’m thinking about my dead friend and past lover. His memorial service was yesterday. It was lovely, being held in a small theater space where he had performed and helped out backstage.

Another friend provided pictures. They were very large and easily seen from every seat. There were lit candles, and flowers strewn about the tables and floor.

My heart is quite heavy writing these words.

A friend spoke eloquently about the kind man who chose to leave us so soon. Colleagues from his work shared their grief, and a regular of the theater spoke graciously of his last role. The director of that show brought a prop used by the departed man. He told us how he and my former lover drove the streets of our town singing with each other, and then he sang a hymn.

The father of the deceased spoke about the boy he had been and read a letter from a life-long friend.

I sat.

We all sang a group song, which I joined.

I returned home and distracted myself with mindless browsing on the Internet. I wrote an entry on this blog. I read other blogs. I chatted online with a distant friend.

This morning, I have been harassed by a fly. No amount of hand waving chases it away, and my mind – my easily amused mind – assumes it is the ghost come back.

Yet, I need no ghosts. I have text messages we sent one another to pour over. There’s even a picture of him. Our flirtations are right there in little bubbles. They are short bursts of yearning with a mixture of silly faces made from punctuation marks.

And there’s a long message from me telling him our sexual relationship was over, imploring him to seek care for his bipolar disorder. Quickly following that one were his questions, followed by my silence.

Today, I hear birdsong outside my cottage. Music plays over my computer. Cars rumble by on the street. A dog barks. There is no silence.

I sit.

I play no what-if games. I am simply sad. My heart aches.

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” My friend hid great pain. His questioning eyes and smile masked a soul full of angst.

Now, I’m left with pain, but it will pass. Time heals.

My friend is dead. I am here.

Water