The other day I was trying to think why do my Birthdays mean so much to me. It is not the presents, it is not parties that people throw for me, and it is not the attention you get from it. I finally figured out that it meant that I had made it another year surviving with bipolar disorder. Some people may not understand why living another year is such a big deal but to a person with a mental illness it can be a huge milestone. The statistics are not in our favor. They say about 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder will kill themselves. I can relate to this so much because I suffer more from severe depression more and I have to fight the suicidal thoughts too often. When I did a fundraiser walk-a-thon for The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention http://www.afsp.org/, I realized just how devastating a suicide can be on the family and friends left behind. They have so much guilt, they feel they should of done more, or that they should of seen more and figured it out. The number one comment I have ever heard is that they all wished they had one more day back with their loved ones to tell them how much they were loved and missed. I always keep these comments close to me when I get to feeling really down and remember how much more pain I would cause if I did end my life.
I always hear comments when people do commit suicide and people talk about how they were such cowards and selfish. They also say things like what were they thinking. That is just it, they are not thinking clearly and they are so deep in their depression they can't take another moment of the deep dark hole they have been living in and they just want the pain to stop. They don't want to hurt anyone and they often feel as if people would be better off without them in their lives. I know I myself have had that thought because at one time I thought I was a huge burden to my family. I have struggled most of my adult life with suicidal thoughts but I have only had one true attempt in my life. I was in the middle of a very bad abusive marriage and the the future just seemed so bleak. My medication was being adjusted and I was not sleeping well. It felt like I was all alone and that no one would miss me. So I grabbed up my cat's leash and found a sturdy place to hang it from the ceiling. Then I as I was standing on the stool underneath me I was making the collar tighter and taking deep breaths and trying to kick the stool out from underneath me. My two cats were very upset and standing underneath me meowing. Then the picture of my mom and dad flashed in my head. I could see them both so distraught and they would never be the same. They would blame themselves forever. My brother's first child had just been born and her face popped into my head and how she would never even get the chance to know me. I stood there for another 30 minutes crying but those images of the hurt I would leave behind was too great and I took off the leash and called my mom. They finally adjusted my medicine just right and I sought more therapy and I was out of my deep hole. Things may seem so dark at times but they do pass with the the right treatment. You just have to fight as best you can to get through it. I now have a rule that anytime I even have the slight hint of feeling that way I call a member of my support team and we get through it.
Bipolar Disorder is a treatable disease but it is a daily fight and not an easy one. You must stay on medications and go to therapy. You must also know your own body and when something is off and try to get it back in balance. I have found that the more time you live with it, recognizing problems becomes easier to tell when an episode is coming on and I try to do what I can to make it smaller or last as little as possible. You are constantly trying to balance out your chemicals and keep them in check. It can be deadly if left untreated or if the treatment is not being followed. I guess my other point is that I see tons of commercials on TV that talk about celebrating surviving with a disease for another year but people living with mental illness are not mentioned. I am not saying that we shouldn't celebrate all of the people that survive another year with a difficult disease but I believe people surviving with mental illness should be in the celebration as well. I still think people think mental illness is something that is all in our heads and has nothing to do with chemical imbalance. I dream of a world that stigma does not occur against us and we are treated just like all the rest of society with a difficult disease. It's a hard struggle and we are beating the odds and surviving. I myself have to fight the fight everyday. Sometimes just getting out of bed and doing simple chores is a huge victory. So I encourage anyone that has survived with a mental illness to celebrate each year and be proud of yourself. Let's start celebrating more Birthdays each year and do everything in our power to decrease the number of deaths due to mental illness.