Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Bryan

"What lies ahead and what lies behind are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for our family, and the family and friends of my daughter's boyfriend. He passed away on Monday, April 17th of causes related to mental illness and addiction. He was 29.

This is really my daughter's journey and pain so I won't write much about him. What I did want to write about though is depression and suicidal thinking.

I have found that amongst people like me who struggle with constant suicidal thinking that even with all the sadness, anger and pain that happens when someone dies like this, there is the thought, at least for a moment, sometimes longer, that they were the lucky ones.  They made it out.  I don't get to say that out loud often.

I have been working for many months now on not feeding these thoughts.  When they happen I acknowledge them but I don't invest any energy in them.  I don't let my mind play out the possible scenarios.  I started doing this because someone in my life started expressing their own thoughts about suicide.  This was someone who was never suicidal before they started hanging around me and I thought, hmmm, I think I might be a bad influence.

I have always made it a point to share when I'm feeling suicidal because I thought if I was talking about it, it was taking the power away from the thoughts.  That wasn't actually what happened.  What happened was that by doing this I was creating a safe environment to fantasize about killing myself or dying, and although prior to this person's ideation I would have defended my need for this myself, when I saw it being there for someone else it seemed very dangerous.

It was because of the way this person talked about it with no Affect.  It was how I talk about it and think about it. For me I am apathetic about it because I know I'll never have the courage to do it but I also am relatively certain the thoughts will always be there, so I speak about it with apathy.  It bores me and at the same time comfortable and familiar.  But this person was talking about it, not with apathy, but no affect.  It is alarming when someone starts ideating out of the blue. I thought they really ought to be alarmed but they weren't and I thought they weren't because they were modeling their experience after mine.

Upon examination I decided that as an 'Old Timer' in the suicidal ideation realm that I have an ethical responsibility to keep working on my own challenges with people who won't be triggered by my behavior or discussions.  I need to be processing with people who are healthy enough to listen but not absorb what is going on with me.  They don't have to be professional, necessarily, but they do need to be healthy and detached or at least neutral.  I still will be there to support this person, and anyone else in my life with this struggle - I just won't be creating a safe, comfortable place for them to habitually fantasize about death.

So...that is when I started to step back from investing in my own thoughts and what happened was surprising.  As I intervened on the usual process I noticed that thinking like that had become a habit for me.  It was my go to place when I was stressed, sick, lonely, fearful, hungry, tired, and on and on ad nauseum.

When I noticed I was feeling suicidal because I was 30 minutes late eating I realized that it was a habit - a ridiculous one at that, and what I was now doing was changing the habit.  Of course, when I'm faced with something a little more challenging than being hungry, like mind boggling, never ending pain or endless, untreatable fatigue or days upon days of not being able to sleep or worse, a couple or all of these happening at the same time - well we'll see how far I've truly come with breaking the habit.
I developed a serious condition called Tardive Dyskenesia as a result of taking psychotropic drugs for many years.  If any of you watch the TV show "Good Wife", the opposing attorney played by Michael J. Fox has TD.  It causes involuntary movement in one or more parts of the body.  For me it causes my tongue to move about my mouth nonstop making it difficult to sleep and creating painful sores in my mouth.  It also causes restless leg and arm movements on my left side while I'm trying to sleep.  Because of this condition I have been off all of the medications to treat my Bipolar I except for a very mild anxiety medication that doesn't trigger it if I take it in the morning.

I am learning how to live life without medication and the cosmic timing of this decision to change the way I invest in my suicidal ideation has made it so that I feel like I can make it.  It is scary to think there are no medications to rescue me now.  I have to have a strong spiritual base.  I have to make sure I have healthy, strong, people in my relationships.

I have a lot of experience about how to live life with a serious mental illness.  I don't live the traditional life of being fully invested in the career and social express lane but I am fully invested in each interpersonal interaction that comes my way.  Our life out here on the road is complicated and yet I feel like I'm on vacation every day because there is no rut to get stuck in out here. 

Last night Walt was sharing with our neighbor some very specific information about our struggles with mental illness and suicidal thinking.  The neighbor seemed to absorb it without judgement which was comforting but I did come inside feeling vulnerable, and that feeling stayed with me for about twelve hours.

Now here I am writing this and putting that vulnerability in writing and on the internet.  I haven't shared much about my struggles with mental illness but Bryan's death has made me realize that something has to change.  I don't know what needs to happen to get things to change but I know transparency from me might just help some person who feels completely alone who is dealing with this or something similar.

I am open to having a dialogue with anyone who wants to know anything about this subject.  I relate from so many angles:  as the person with the mental illness and suicidal thinking; as the mother of a daughter dealing with the suicide of her boyfriend; as a parent who has had to deal with destructive behavior by adult children, and I have experience in addiction recovery.

I think the people that I least relate to are the ones that just can't imagine being suicidal.  Are they for real?  I am suspicious.  I hope they truly do not ever feel suicidal but what I find is that these people struggle the most in supporting someone who is suicidal - they tend to be judgemental and very critical.  I just know it is a lot easier to judge from the outside looking in than it is from the inside looking out.

Here is a link that speaks about the different kinds of loneliness that we, as humans, encounter.  Being suicidal is the worst kind of loneliness.  It can feel impenetrable looking out or observing.  Perhaps this article might help someone who is trying to name what they are feeling.  It is titled - "Will I Go Crazy?"

I am posting another link here for a resource related to suicide.  If it is pertinent in your life at all, I hope you'll take a few minutes to peruse it.  This particular link will take you to a video about someone who failed in their attempt, which is a valuable conversation to engage in.  The key reason I am posting it though is that below the video there are several discussion topics where people are exploring the various challenges and dilemmas that accompany this issue.

Today I live in gratitude that I am alive and that I am here to support my daughter.  The thought of her going through this alone makes my heart ache.  I am so grateful to Bryan's family too, for including her in the family activities and service.  It wasn't something she was expecting but I am certain it makes all the difference in how she heals from this.  This has created a lifetime of questions that will never be answered and the challenge of how to find the silver lining from this tragedy = these are the things she will be working on.  And if the universe is willing I will be around for a long while to walk beside her as she does.

I send out healing energy to anyone who's soul is hurting.  I have had a lot of different kinds of pain and that kind is the hardest to deal with.  Remember to hug the people in your life, notice when you get the gift of joy and take nothing and noone for granted.

Copyright (c) - 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  You may not publish or reprint this article except for educational purposes without the permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank you.

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