Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide and bipolar episodes
To honor Blahpolar (Ulla) who recently passed away, and today being World Suicide Prevention Day, I have decided it is time to tell a part of my story that, while it might not be easy to read, may hopefully help others.
I am hoping it might help the general population understand better the complexity of mental illness and that there are a lot of gray areas.
I also hope that it may help people dealing with bipolar, depression or any mental issue realize that they are not alone.
I have tried to keep it as light as possible and I will give you a spoiler – it all has a very happy ending!
On the surface, I had what seemed to be a normal childhood; however, it was filled with a lot of heartaches which helped to mold me and feed on what would later be diagnosed as mental illness. Having been horrifically bullied in my childhood and teens I was diagnosed in my late 20’s with clinical depression and in my early 30’s with bipolar disorder; still being bullied by family members. During this time I was in and out of hospitals for medication changes and suicide attempts.
My first attempt, if you could call it that was when I was eight. I found a razor blade and tried to cut my wrist. I was doing it “wrong” and my sister came home before I got more than a small hole. I covered it quickly with a Band-Aid. No one seemed concerned or even asked me about it. I forgot this and told no one until that appointment where I was first diagnosed with clinical depression. Other attempts as an adult were usually to do with taking pills and/or trying to drown in the bathtub.
In July 1992, I started on a massive high and ended up at the psychiatric hospital. I was not suicidal, but I felt like I was losing control of my mind. My doctor prescribed a new medication along with my lithium and requested a mild watch because I felt unsafe, but then something happened. The new medication caused me to climb above mania into a state of euphoria, where I was hearing voices. They were telling me not to trust the staff, family, or anyone, just go jump off a bridge. I didn’t want to take my own life but I felt powerless against these voices telling me I was no good.
I shouldn’t have been allowed my purse when I asked to go outside for air, but because I did not seem suicidal they gave it to me. I caught a bus to the nearest bridge, walked across to the middle and leap-frogged over the side. I saw white as I went over and my next recollection was again hearing voices – my parents and the staff in the ICU one week later. They put me in a sedated coma because of three fractures in my lumbar region and bruising to my heart. They wanted my body to heal without me moving. I had a 50% chance of not walking to which I just said “no”. My mind was clear and I was very glad to be alive.
Six months before I jumped, I gave my heart to Christ and felt renewed. It didn’t seem at the time that my life changed much after the jump or my coming to faith, but God was there, in all of it. I thank Him every morning for allowing me another day no matter how I am feeling. I have contracted several conditions over the last 20 years since the jump which cause me chronic pain.
It took me roughly 10 years after the jump to start becoming stronger than my mental illness. I will always have it, I still have episodes, and I always will. But I live a more “normal life” despite the pain and depression.I have also started seeing God’s leading in many ways.
Thirteen years after, I met the paramedic who pulled me out of the water. We were both volunteering at a church youth camp (Hubby and I were in the kitchen and he was doing First Aid). He told me that he rarely remembered the people he picked up because there were so many over the years, but I stuck out in his mind. Why? Because he had a fight with his partner on taking the call because jumpers were usually “gone” or in pretty rough shape. When he pulled me out I was actually talking (though I don’t remember it at all) and he thought of me over the years wondering if I was still alive and how I was doing. We developed a friendship with him and his partner and they use my story to help people on bridges or in other situations.
I have also been able to help a family who lost their daughter to bipolar, by telling my story and answering questions from my perspective, not pretending in any way that it was the same, but it seemed to give them some closure.
I have talked with spouses who haven’t been able to understand certain behaviours, like why their loved one stopped taking medication or why they keep saying they aren’t good enough.
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have any. God does, and for some reason, He has chosen me to speak them for Him. I am grateful and humbled by this. Because if He hadn’t chose me, I may be dead, or on the streets, who knows.
I have had thoughts that I can’t take it anymore and would like to die, but I know that is not an option anymore. God has shown me that He decides when my life on earth comes to an end. But this has come only from hard work with my therapist, with Hubby and staying on medication.
Oh, that happy ending I promised?
In the 24 years since that day on the bridge, I have not only learned to walk again, I have learned how to live. I have been happily married to a wonderful man for 15 years, was able to not only graduate from culinary school but cook for so many wonderful people through weddings, camps, etc., and I have found my gift of writing once again.
But really, it’s not the end, just the start of a whole new chapter!
The video to this song by Mandisa is mainly about cancer survivors. However, it can be about anything we need to overcome, even if it is ourselves. I hope you enjoy it.