Friday, November 30, 2012
A few days ago, me and a friend got to talking about our blogs, and he requested the link to mine so he could read it. I gave it to him without thinking, and then promptly had a panicy “holy SHIT what the hell did I just DO?!” fit. I felt terribly afraid, terribly exposed, like someone just revealed my deepest, darkest secrets to the world. I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve had issues with revealing personal things on here to strangers, but there really is no reason for that instinctive reaction- I am a rather open person, I’ll answer any question and it’ll probably be honest. But, then I realized the entire reason I was worried was I thought he might actually read the archives and read this post (in which I talk about depression and being suicidal). I’ve been paranoid about people finding out that I’m suicidal forever, but it hasn’t been until this incident that I’ve really been prompted to figure out WHY. Well…
My first memory of dealing with this issue was when I was 8-ish (as in, anywhere from 6-ish to 8-ish; my chronological memory is rather fuzzy like that). My father bought me this cute little multi-tool (bright pink with rhinestones spelling “princess”… he’s sentimental like that), which included a little knife. I don’t remember exactly how this went down, but I ended up telling my mother that I wanted to kill myself using this little knife. She promptly flipped out, yelled and screamed and cried, threatened to ground me, threatened to send me to live with her mother (whom I never liked very much), send me to therapy (which I thought would have been the most horrible thing in the world, and also convinced me how scared she was, since by then I’ve listened to enough flavors of mother’s rants to know she absolutely hates therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists/the whole breed), destroy what little privacy I was allowed… I was a quick-thinking little bastard even then, managed to convince her that I wasn’t really serious, that it was nothing. I never saw the knife again, which made me rather sad (I loved my dad and the little presents he would give me, and I was upset about having that escape route cut off), and I learned that letting people learn I was suicidal made them freak out and threaten me with unpleasant things. And the things that you learn when you’re little enough really stick with ya.
This got further reinforced later down the road, during Basic. My flightmates put me on suicide watch early on, although I didn’t find out about it until about the middle of the whole ordeal. I had my MTI, his supervisor, and a counselor all asking if I was feeling suicidal. During Basic training, when every moment of time is filled up with important things you need to know/do, when the LAST thing you want is any attention on yourself, that’s the LAST thing you want. I was able to talk my way out of it, figure out the correct level of “well yeah Basic sucks but I’m getting through fine” bullshit to spin for everybody, but it made me even more skittish about ever letting anyone know about this. The awful thing is of course I was suicidal during Basic, but I don’t really know how I got put on suicide watch. I have a couple of guesses; I had a conversation with a flightmate about how I didn’t know why leadership was so concerned about suicide risk, since they had effectively removed any and all means for suicide, someone might have looked into the little journal I kept about , someone might have taken the fact I cried about my first letter way too far, or someone might have just been feeling mean and decided to put me under everyone’s eye. I’m more pissed about not knowing why they put me on suicide watch than anything else, really, since I really am careful about trying to make sure people don’t know...
I can recite all the symptoms of a person going through depression and of a person thinking about suicide. I try to get my hands on every piece of suicide, depression, and homicidal literature I can get my hands on, so I can study it and learn what not to do (in the case of homicide and death literature, it’s to figure out what methods of killing oneself are inefficient). When I get into a depressive swing, or sad about something, I immediately hide from the rest of the world, making whatever excuse I have to, so people can’t see. And usually, when I do this, I bounce off of other people (I tell person X I’m with person Y, tell person Y I’m with person A, and person A I’m with person X), so people don’t realize I’m withdrawing. When I do random cleaning sprees, I end up needing to get rid of a bunch of stuff, but I never give more than a couple pieces away- the rest I sneak off to Goodwill, just in case someone else actually pays attention and makes the connection from what they remember of suicide briefings. When I become friendly with the type of people who tend to inquire about people, I literally calculate how often I need to show a problem (including distributing the appropriate ratio of minor things, such as going to bed late, to major, such as friend being stressed over not being able to find a job) so people don’t suspect I’m hiding. I usually use the legit things that crop up, but sometimes I hide when a bunch of things happen at once, and during a long smooth phase I’ll start inventing stuff. When I’m in a depressive swing and have to go to some sort of public place (say, work), I’ve learned to fake smiles and cheery reassurances about something I’m happy and excited about. Half the time, when I’m wandering around, I’m looking up- I’m looking for places high enough that I can get to so I can jump off or tie a noose. I deliberately make myself a bit hard to get ahold of, enough so people think nothing of it if I don’t answer, just to buy myself time before people start looking for the body, so I don’t get rescued. I tend to ask people alot what they think of me, so I can measure whether I'm acting correctly or not. And of course, I lie on every form that comes by that asks if I’ve thought of suicide, and lie when people ask if I’ve been depressed. A lot of this has become subconscious, and I don’t even realize I do it anymore. And it works- the only people that think I’m suicidal are the people I have actually told (and of course my flightmates at Basic).
One of my most vivid memories dealing with this occurred when I was 13. I had just moved to a new place, into a new school, and I hadn’t really made friends. My parents grounded me for not doing my homework- and grounding didn’t consist of letting me sit in my room all day (since that was basically what I did anyways). I had to actually work outside in the cold, cleaning the outbuildings, raking walnuts, etc. Wasn’t allowed to get on my computer at all, wasn’t allowed to read, wasn’t allowed to anything except eat (quickly) and sleep and go to school. In short, I was absolutely miserable. One evening, I had gotten a lecture from pretty much everybody consisting of “why don’t you apply yourself? Why don’t you make something of yourself? Be better, dammit!”, which lead to me thinking “they don’t understand, I can’t be awesome... might as well die, save them the trouble”. The ironic thing is my parents have always been very big on being honest and keeping your words, and have always thought less of me because I saw no problem breaking the promises they made me say, but the only thing that kept me from running off into the woods and cutting myself right then and there was a promise I made to an aquaintance to show up the next day for scholar’s bowl practice.
Depression is funny… simply speaking, there’s two types of depression: one type involves a person’s situation (a person in absolutely miserable circumstances is very likely to be depressed), and one type involves the chemicals in a person’s brain (thus you get the people who are depressed even when there’s nothing wrong with their life). The first type is treated by therapy, the second with medication. Either one by themselves is miserable and deadly, but combining the two gets ya a real piece of the shit pie. That’s what I described above, and what happened during Basic. For me, the brain-chemical type occurs a lot. It’s part of me being bi-polar; I’ll be high on life, being awesome and creative and full of energy and shit for a couple weeks, then either it’ll die down to “normal” or I’ll have a depressive spell. These depressive spells aren’t actually that deadly; the self-loathing that makes me want to kill myself is accompanied with extreme apathy. I can manage to get to work, do what people tell me to, manage to hide it from the rest of the world, but only because I have to. I literally don’t have the energy to do much more than think about suicide. It’s when situational depression gets thrown into the equation, and combining both factors is when I’m at most risk. I can handle it when life sucks and turn it around into something positive, or just accept it, when I’m feeling normal or hypomaniac; I can’t deal when I’m depressed. The fact that people around me generally keep a really close eye on me is probably the only reason I’m alive, to this point.
Don’t worry, imaginaries, I’m not allowed to actually kill myself. Like I said, people keep a close eye on me (especially here- I have friends in my dorms who are always hanging around, and the people in my shop are extra careful since they lost one of their own to suicide last year, over the holiday). I have four people I can trust to talk me out of being suicidal, because they’ve had to do it before. I have had to talk my sister out of suicide, and I know how terrifying that can be, especially when it’s over the phone and you can’t actually sit on the person and make them hold still or run them to see a chaplain, and I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if I had failed, if she had died… and I’m determined not to do that to my kith and kin. I might unconsciously look up to find a good spot to hang myself, but I have carefully kept myself from actually acquiring rope, knives, ways to tie weights to myself so I don’t have to worry about reflexes kicking in to keep myself from drowning, pills, chemicals, a gun, etc. I’ve put off making my will, simply because I know that’ll make impulsive suicide a lot easier (of course, it’ll get done eventually, and I already have my life insurance all up-to-date, but still).
My last close call with suicide happened back in tech school. It was my 19th birthday, I had gotten a tattoo, I was all sorts of happy about feeling like a real adult, with a private life, when I did what I wanted when I wanted, pretty much, etc. However, late that night I ended up at a hotel party, with everyone else drinking besides me (I wasn’t actually interested in alcohol, and was terrified of a hangover), and felt terribly lonely, and realized that although I had a ton of aquaintences who ate up all my time, I didn’t really have anybody I deeply connected to. So I went and wandered off for a walk… the hotel was near the edge of a suburb, so I ended up wandering through residential area with a bunch of trees, and then followed an empty highway for a while. After an hour’s worth of walking, I came to a point where that highway became a bridge over another section of highway- and the lanes beneath me were super busy, with a healthy dose of semis passing by underneath me. I was in an open state of mind, really thinking deeply, and I was talking to some of the things I passed (trees, buildings, and then the moon). The moon was full, and she basically told me to make a decision already, to either be fully in this life or fully out and die already. Spent a good bit thinking about it, and then I finally came to the conclusion that dammit, I actually wanted to die. I didn’t see what good I could do for anybody, and I was tired of feeling like I could never repay this debt I incurred just by existing, because other people had to take care of me, presumably expecting something in return and never getting it. I was so close to just hopping over the railing… but one of the trees I talked to earlier on that walk reached out and grabbed me, anchored me to life, did the psychic equivalent of sitting on me so I couldn’t leap. Boy, was I pissed… I yelled and raved and screamed at the poor tree, but to this day zie still hasn’t let go (and tears form and surprise me now, thinking about how much zie cares for me). So really, at this point I literally can’t die… which scares and disappoints me like nothing else, but I’ll live.
So, why have I never once wanted to get treatment? Obviously, I’m instinctively paranoid about letting people know this (and I have no idea what’s driving me to write this post, and worse publish it). Also, my mother had no problem ranting about every single opinion she has, and I’ve always been a rather gullible child. One of her opinions is her detest of the mental health community; “either they insist on telling you what you already know, because you just told them, and therefore are of no help, or they want to fill you with drugs, without actually knowing what they’re going to do to you”. I no longer believe the anti-therapy portion of that rant, but I also know it won’t be able to help me much, certainly at this point: A lot of the self-loathing has been fixed thanks to the miracle of getting out of the rents house and actually making a life for myself, and I don’t have (and don’t expect to encounter) situational depression again. Hell, my last depressive episode, I managed to be depressed (apathy, failing to find enjoyment in hobbies (wasn’t able to focus on creative work), avoiding social situations) without actually thinking of suicide, so progress! As for the chemical bit… I have more faith in the medical community than my mother does, but I’m also terrified of what drugs would do to my brain. Even if there aren’t any side-effects (which I am leery of assuming), it’s still fundamentally changing my brain. Even though it’s designed to make the depression go away, it’s also designed to make the mania go away, and I LIKE my mania! I’m one of those people who always needs an escape route, and I’ve always lived a regimented life (first my parents home, and now the Air Force), where I don’t really have a way out except death. I have no fear of death, and don’t believe it to be a moral sin to suicide, and I always want that option open to myself (which is why I’m still angry at the tree for saving me, since zie has effectively trapped me here). Being bi-polar is a significant part of my identity, and since it doesn’t actually seem to interfere with my life, just with how I react to things…. I don’t want to mess with my brain. Yes, this is probably denial, but I don’t care.
Later I’ll figure out why I felt the need to post this monster self-analysis that none of you dear imaginaries probably care about… but right now I’m gonna go sleep. TGIF!