Author: Angela McCrimmon
Someone stated something that startled me recently. It also left me in a state of reflection and eventually led me to a feeling of encouragement so it might surprise you when I share what their words of wisdom were to brighten up my day. They said, “Oh, you have Bipolar? Do you know that it increases a person’s risk of suicide up to 20 times” Not sure how they expected me to respond but all I could reply was “where did you read that??” They had found the information on a very reputable and popular site in the UK called Bipolar UK and I usually trusted their information, so I made a mental note to check it out for myself. I parted company with this person who had both woken me up and shaken me up and began to reflect on how that fact influenced my own life, if at all. Was I in danger of becoming a statistic one day?
I’ve lived with this illness for 25 years now and hang on a minute, I’m still here.🙂 I began to reflect on even just the last 15 years and have I been a suicide risk? The answer is yes. Had I taken an overdose at some point in my life?……a few. Not many, but large enough attempts that I probably should be a statistic. However, I’m not……I survived and I believe I survived for a reason. This is where the encouragement comes in because as much as the lows of bipolar are debilitating and your world can collapse around you………just keep holding on! Your mood will start to come up again….because that’s the way Bipolar works! It’s cyclical. You might need the intervention of an antidepressant to help lift your mood but while I’ve heard myself plead with my Psychiatrist at times to prescribe one, we both know that in a few months she’ll have to take me off it because it will have made my mood too high (cringe).
The middle part….on the way up is amazing….but my goodness when I reach the peak of even just a hypomanic spell it’s like being on a ride at the fairground screaming “Stop the world, I wanna get off!!!” There’s a comical side to me being too high too which my long suffering friends and family often remind me of. So the last time I thought my mood was low and felt terrified Bipolar Depression was paying me a visit I asked my Psychiatrist if she would consider an antidepressant. After being admitted to the ward on this occasion, I had complete rest and respite for a few days and I realised very quickly I wasn’t depressed. I certainly didn’t need an antidepressant and had to sheepishly tell the reviewing psychiatrist “I don’t think I’m ill at all. I was just utterly sleep deprived and overwhelmed and I feel safe to continue recovery at home now.” Turns out my own psychiatrist had no intention of prescribing an antidepressant because she could see the bigger picture and that I was just utterly overwhelmed and had recently been through a very traumatising situation.
However, if I am in a depressive phase of the illness and it’s deep and enduring then antidepressant intervention has been used and because we’ve even managed to specify it’s the MAOI kind of antidepressant that’s effective for me, they usually work well and within the 3-4 week mark I can feel my mood coming up. Sometimes though, I just have to ride it out and the fact that I haven’t managed to wash for 6 weeks, I’m wading my way through take-away food boxes because pouring some cereal would be too much effort, I’m tearful and can’t interact with the world……..look, I’m still here!
So as I reflect on that concerning statement that I may be 20 x more likely to end my life I can’t help but smile because experience has taught me that even though I will have my bad times, if I just hang in long enough they WILL pass and my brain chemicals will somehow cycle round and rebalance themselves again. I also felt a deep gratitude knowing that I finally have a care team that would believe me and act immediately if they sensed I was a serious suicide risk. Therefore, I can say I feel quite confident that I won’t become a statistic.
When you’re struggling remember that real courage is being able to reach out and ask for help but if that just seems too hard, please realise that for all those difficult periods you’ve been through up until now, you’ve made it. We’ve both made it. If we can remember these 2 key things – either reach for help or hold strong to the belief that experience has taught us that our moods will eventually change back again on their own. Let’s try and bring DOWN these statistics and let’s hope that the Professionals will listen if any one of us needs their support.
I’m not sure why that person wanted to share such a statement with me as it wasn’t even someone I know particularly well. However, he gave me food for thought and upon reflection I feel an inner peace that there may well have been a time when I could have been a statistic, I’m a survivor now. I’ve lived it long enough to know how to live WITH it. Self-Awareness is the biggest key. Never forget that you are the expert in yourself as Bipolar presents itself differently in different people. Communicate with your health care team. Being “well” is certainly a teamwork event and so long as you don’t allow yourself to suffer alone, you won’t become part of that 20% of people who sadly don’t make it. Good luck my friend. Bipolar is NOT A death sentence. It makes life more challenging than those who don’t have to live with it but it kinda makes life more fun sometimes too. 🙂