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Surviving Suicide

 

March is always a hard month for me and my family because of the anniversary of my brother’s death. This year on March 16th, it is the 10th year since he took his life. He suffered from bipolar disorder and passed away when he was only 25 years old. He died within 3 months of being diagnosed and as with any suicide, the ones left behind try to piece together the whys and the what ifs. 

Every year, when March rolls around, I feel a dip in my mood. The sadness and grief I feel year round when I think about my brother is amplified in March. Every 16thof March I feel like it’s impossible to even fake a smile. I never get through the day without many bouts of crying, so most years I take a vacation day from work so that I don’t have to put on the “everything is ok” face. This year, coming up to March I have already started to feel the grief intensify. I find myself thinking about the what ifs again, and fantasizing about what it would be like if he had lived. Would he look different 10 years later? Wouldn’t he have gotten well had he given the medication some time to stabilize his mood and could he be thriving now? Would he be in a relationship with someone special? Wouldn’t he love being alive today if he had the chance?

I also think about how my life would be different. I truly believe I always had bipolar disorder but mania didn’t kick in until the trauma of his death triggered it. Would I have had that first manic episode without his death? Chances are my illness would have intensified at some point in my life. I wonder how much easier it would have been to get through the first few excruciatingly hard years of getting the symptoms of bipolar under control if I had my big brother to lean on, to ask for advice. How much easier could it have been on both of us if we had gone through learning to cope with bipolar disorder together?

And I then have an angry phase. This phase doesn’t last long, sometimes a day, sometimes only an hour. I let it take its course. I think about how angry I am that I wasn’t able to prevent his death. I think about how angry I am that the doctors who cared for him when he was admitted to a psychiatric facility didn’t keep him long enough for him to get well. I am angry with my brother for not giving the medication more time to help him. He died within three months of starting medication that might have helped if he had given it more time and taken it consistently.

The angry phase passes when I remember that his suicide didn’t happen because anyone did or didn’t do something. It’s not my fault, it’s not the doctor’s fault, and it’s not my brother’s fault. The bipolar disorder is what killed my brother. No one blames the patient for dying from cancer just like no one should blame the patient who dies from mental illness. Remembering this seems to help.

I also know just how it feels to be suicidal. I had severe depression following my first and second manic episodes where I obsessed over death and constantly thought of suicide as my only option. Nothing anyone did or said changed how I felt. I believe that I survived because I told myself every day that my brother might have lived if he had let the medication take effect and that if I could just get through one more day I might feel better tomorrow. For me, having faith that the medication would work eventually seemed to prevent me from giving up on life. And it did.

So what have I learned from ten years of grieving for my brother? Don’t judge someone who attempts or dies by suicide. This person’s mental illness is the true cause of death. If someone you love dies from a mental illness, don’t judge yourself or your actions leading up to their death. It’s not their fault, and it’s not your fault. 

What have I learned from surviving my own depression and suicidal thoughts and actions? If you are feeling suicidal – please get help, and when you do, please, give the treatment time to work. Sometimes it takes more than one medication, sometimes it takes more than a few months before you feel better but if you have faith in the treatment and don’t give up, you will get better one day. And you might look back on your life as I have and be so grateful that you waited that one more day. At the time all I wanted to do was to stop existing. Looking back at that person nine years ago, and thinking of all the joy in my life now, I am so glad I made it.

The month of March is a tough month for many people, especially after a long and cold winter. But when it’s done, winter ends. Spring comes. Don’t give up on the better life that could be just ahead. As much as it hurts now, wait just a bit longer, and then wait some more if you have to. Winter always turns to spring eventually. You will feel better one day. Have faith in that. 

Comments

Great! Congratulations for your success of overcoming your bipolar disorder. Your experience and advices will be useful for others.

Thank you for sharing. I wish you well. I'm 55 and suffered with Bipolar all my life. Several suicide attempts and many long stays in psychiatric facilities as well as years of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as the correct meds and dosages (which took years to establish and adjustments ftom time to time). I am very strict with myself and my medication taking!
Using my manic episodes to achieve amazing and positive goals. I sincerely wish you the same. I've made friends with my bipolar and accept the good and bad.
Best wishes

Wonderfully written. Very moving. My cousin who was also my best friend committed suicide 13 years ago on March 17. So I know the feeling your talking about with the month of March. I am bipolar and think of suicide all the time and the one thing that stops me is thinking about my son. Right now I'm going thru a very hard time so I've been thinking of it a lot. Its just so hard sometimes.

One day at a time. God bless you

its so hard. It's exhausting

I am immensely touched by this, being a psychiatry resident. I know to a good extent how it feels to be depressed or manic. And my heart truly goes out for you. I sincerely hope that your brother is in a better place and he's still watching over you. Take care of yourself too, and please take your meds regularly. People like you make the world a better place. Awareness is the need of the hour for psychiatry and mental illnesses. You can reach me on fb for any help. Search for Sriram Ragha. Good luck!

I am truly moved by this and makes me wanna keep working as a psychiatrist, I do believe there's always something we can do to help. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Reading it, it hit me kinda hard because recently my stints with suicide became more severe. They went from being passive thoughts that I would feel when my depression was at a low to this overbearing thoughts I couldn't escape that began to interfere with my life. Often times, I felt and feel the sadness of knowing you will always need medication of some sort but it helps a ton to read of your courage and strength in dealing with it and it gives me hope that perhaps I will be able to do t he same. Thanks again and I hope you continue to grow stronger and stronger!

My dear friend who was bipolar just ended her life last Friday and reading this is helping me to cope. Thank you for writing this.

This could only be written by those of us within the circle of survivors deserted by the consequences of untreated or improperly treated mental illness. My anniversary day is in March, too. March 15th, the Ides, noted in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar when the fortuneteller said "beware the Ides of March" in reference to Caesar’s assassination. My 35-year-old brother's decomposing body was found in the woods two weeks after he disappeared. The medical examiner ruled his death suicide. My Baptist family members were certain he went to hell for killing himself. God doesn't send a cancer patient to hell nor a stroke victim, so why not a mentally ill person? What's so special in the design of the Universe that the Almighty makes an exception about who and where one spends Eternity? Our brothers were already in Hell living with bipolar disorder just as we do, but now can control it with medication and support. May both of our brothers, yours the elder and mine the younger, rest in peace.

Thank You for sharing your very difficult experience. Working in mental health, I often encounter survivors and you are exactly right, it is no one's fault.

Jessi I can very well understand, what you go through each time you think about your brother as I too saw my mom go through similar helplessness, although she came out with the help of medications. So yes completing your course of medications is really important. Also, people avoid the issue due to the stigmas around mental illnesses which needs to be eliminated. Even I am sharing my experiences to create more awareness about the illness, hope to spread a word and make it a free and better environment for those struggling.

Thank you Jessy
I lost my husband to suicide, and I have bipolar. I can totally relate.
X

Yes, this is so painful but it is nobody's fault. My husband who had bipolar disorder but had only finally received insight into his condition and started meds in February took his life on March 26th, 2017. March will always be an especially difficult month for me and my four children.

Ive read these stories and know what all of you are going thru.I lost two brothers to suicide within six months one another. One in April and one in October 1991.Two year's later my childhood friend shot himself. We were all a lot younger when this happened. I have been diagnosed as bipolar and they apparently were to.I've been told bipolar people that commit suicide go straight to heaven because we have already been in hell.It's been very tough to deal with even all these year's later.I finally got treatment and feel better, but i still struggle with suicidal thoughts and ideation.I tryed ending my own life two years ago. I nearly pulled it off this time. I was on a respirator but i lived and im sober and back on my meds.Being bipolar and a survivor of multiple suicides along with anxiety and ocd is a constant struggle.No one should have to be left behind from suicide to grieve indefinitely, but we are.If anyone ever even hints about suicide take them very seriously. I sure wonder quite often about how thigh could have been. Suicide is not the answer.

I lost a friend six weeks ago. I just never knew he suffered so badly. You're right about the cause of death being the mental illness -- ultimately it's not a moral issue it's about brain chemistry.

I also have lost my brother to suicide this March...he was diagnosed bipolar 4 years ago, but he was taking pills and the mood swings were stabilized. We all thought he is OK now, he had good work and 3 months ago found a girlfriend, they were very much in love and had so many plans for the future that we do not understand what happened :| He really seemed so happy the last months, at least we all thought so...

Hi,
I'm so sorry for what you've been through and continue to struggle with. I started with anxiety and depression 3 years ago, then had my first bout of mania lasting several months last year (when I finally thought I'd got better). I've now dipped back into depression and have been haunted by suicidal thoughts for the past 9 months. Sometimes the thoughts are so overwhelming I find it impossible to move forward with my life.
I have had half-hearted attempts in the past but I don't even know how to live with this amount of mental pain. I really don't want this to be something I have to live with for the rest of my life. Does it ever get better? :(

Hi Sal, we can imagine how tough this must be for you. We are deeply concerned about you and we want you to know that help is available to get you through this. If you are in a crisis, please call this number which is a crisis line with listeners trained to help you: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), as we are not a crisis center. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page:http://iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

If you are not in a crisis and would like someone to talk to online, we recommend the websitewww.7cups.com It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener.

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