Depression and Suicide

This post is on a difficult subject that many people don’t want to think about or talk about, and that is suicide. Suicide is not easy to talk about, but it affects us all. Maybe someone you know has taken their own life, or maybe you admired someone famous who chose to end their life. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it happens because people are in so much pain that they think ending their lives is the only solution. Depression is a lying bastard! When people are at that place where they are in so much pain that suicide seems like the answer, their own minds give them a very distorted view of reality. Depression is an illness, and it causes people’s own minds to lie to them about their worth as a human being, their value to their family and friends, and their value to this world. People who are depressed often feel worthless and like their family and friends would be better off if they were dead. They feel like the world would be a better place without them. But none of this is true! If you are depressed and you are reading this, please know that you have infinite value as a human being, and you have family and friends who love you. Suicide is such a tragedy! It devastates those left behind, and it leaves family and friends wishing that they could have done something to make a difference.

My friend Donny committed suicide in 1985. I was 19 years old at the time, and I really didn’t understand depression. I just knew that my friend was gone. Donny worked as a machinist, and I was great friends with him and his girlfriend Lisa. We did a lot of fun things together, and I loved hanging out with both of them. After Donny’s suicide, Lisa disappeared from our lives. It’s been 31 years, but I still think of them sometimes. I wonder how Lisa is doing, and I wonder what Donny might have accomplished with his life had he survived.

I am a survivor of several suicide attempts. In 1998, shortly after my bipolar diagnosis, I tried to kill myself twice by overdosing on my medication. I was taking Depakote at the time, which in large doses is very toxic to the liver. I almost died both times. In 2001, I tried to commit suicide by running the car in the closed garage. In 2011, I again tried to kill myself by running the car in the closed garage. I tried it again in 2013. Fortunately, all of those times, I realized that I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the horrendous pain to STOP. I drove myself to the hospital and got the help I needed, and I am so glad that I am still alive and well! If I had ended my life in 1998, I would never have had the awesome life I have enjoyed in Alaska since 2004. I would have never met the friends I’ve made here or the awesome doctors I know here. I would never have hiked in the Alaskan wilderness. I would have never had so many awesome experiences that have occurred since 1998. Or 2001. Or 2011. Or 2013. I have bipolar disorder and I still struggle with depression. Sometimes when I’m depressed I get TIRED and I don’t feel like fighting it anymore. But I know from experience that if I just hang on, I will feel better again and life can and will be good again.

One of my favorite Rock bands is Boston. Brad Delp was their lead singer for many years, but in 2007, he was suffering from deep depression and he chose to take his own life. When I listen to Boston’s music and hear Brad sing, I think of how terribly sad it is that he didn’t get the help he needed, and I think about how tragic his death was. Brad left his family, his friends, and his band mates and fans devastated and wishing that they could have done something to help him and to make a difference. That’s what the survivors of suicide are left with — shock, deep sadness, guilt, and a desperate wish that they could have helped their loved one.

If you are reading this and you are depressed, and you are in so much pain that you are considering suicide, PLEASE reach out and get some help! I know you feel like there is no hope and that you can never feel good again, but please believe me, you CAN recover and you CAN feel good again! Life can and will get better and it can and will feel like it is worth living again if you get help! PLEASE pick up the phone and call 1 (800) 273-8255. That is the national suicide hotline, and it is available 24/7 in America. If you are in another country, look up the hotline number where you live. Or go to your nearest emergency room and ask for help. Picking up that phone might feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but PLEASE reach out and talk to a trained professional who understands where you are and what you are feeling and get the help you need. You CAN recover and life CAN be good again.

As a tribute to Brad Delp, I’ll end this post with some of his music.

Bipolar Depression

bipolar depressionBipolar depression is not just a case of the blues caused by some bad circumstances. Bipolar depression is mind-numbing, spirit-crushing misery that can be severe enough to make you want to end your life so the pain will stop.

I have survived several suicide attempts over the years. In 1998, shortly after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I overdosed on Depakote twice. Both times I almost died. One of those times I asked the ER doctor if I was going to die, and said it was a distinct possibility because I had overdosed on a drug that was very hard on my liver. In 2001, I ran the car in the garage and tried to kill myself that way. I realized that I didn’t really want to die, so I drove myself to the hospital and got help. In 2011, I got hit with the worst bout of bipolar depression I had endured in years, and I again ran the car in the garage and again I found enough of a will to live to get myself to the hospital. While I was in the hospital, I wrote this:

suicide1

suicide2

suicide3

suicide4

As you can see, I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain.

In 2014, I again had a serious depressive episode that required hospitalization.

I’ve had several really bad bouts of depression over the years, but I also frequently have to deal with less severe episodes of depression that make it difficult for me to function and enjoy life. Sometimes I will go days without shaving or showering. It can be hard just to get out of bed. On depressed days, I usually do my best to fight through it and find something fun to do that will help lift me out of the depression. I might go to the mall or to one of the antique shops in town. Or I might watch a funny movie. Anything to help me feel better.

I made this video today while I was hiking in the wilderness near Eagle River, Alaska. I hope you enjoy it and I hope that what I have to say brings some understanding to the issue of bipolar depression.