BY HUNTER BLEU
“Suicidal thoughts are not normal.”
I heard this at a suicide prevention meeting on a day where I no longer desired to exist. Anger, defeat and sadness entered my heart. I sat there and fought tears. I tried to remember, that from an outsider’s perspective- yes, suicidal thoughts are not normal. At the same time, my mind wandered; thoughts of abusing another, viewing pornography, being judgmental among other behaviors are not normal.
This is my normal?
I didn’t choose it.
Nearly every day there are moments I feel there is no need for me. But in the last year I have come to understand when those thoughts change to actions and now know how to stop them. This is freeing.
Nearly four years ago I was training for a half marathon. I would go run out in the rural parts of the town I live in, and during each run all I wanted to do was stop, lay down, and fall asleep on the side of the road. I knew that wasn’t a healthy response to exercise, so I went to the doctor.
After some testing so see if my thyroid and vitamin D levels were okay, my doctor concluded that I simply just needed to go on antidepressants. I shut down, I didn’t know what to think. I went home, sat on my bed, and cried. I didn’t want this to be the answer.
I stayed on antidepressants for 6 months, I had switched after a short time because the initial one they had me on made me fall asleep, and I ended up failing my midterms. I felt dead, disconnected, just like I was alive but not living. I went off them thinking that they weren’t necessary, that I was “normal”.
One year later I started to shut down again. I could hardly talk or respond to others, often I would stare and nothing went on inside my head. From the suggestion of a friend, I went to the doctor again. I felt uneasy and uncomfortable, but all I wanted was to be enough for those around me, and if that meant I needed medicine then I was okay with that.
He put me on prozac and two weeks later I had my first manic episode. The best way to describe it was that I felt manically overwhelmed. I kept saying I was not worthwhile. Again, most of those feelings stemmed from not feeling like I was enough. Those feelings stem from experiences and the way my heart feels at times. I overdosed, not consciously really, but my thought process was that if I took more than I normally do and then took a nap, perhaps I would wake up with the energy I needed to finally be enough.
That night is a rather long story. Still, I remember being the hospital and thought it was odd that everyone around me was sad. I just wanted to take a nap, not kill myself, and yet that was what it looked like.
The weeks and months following doctors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc decided that I was Bipolar II. There were two things I felt- relief in having a reason for functioning the way I do, and anger that I was going to have to fight this my whole life.
I was put on a few medications and again they made me worse, so I naturally went off them six months later. I thought I was okay, I thought I could handle life, I thought that I could be “normal”.
And yet, what is normal? Six months later, December 2014, I fell into a deep depression which progressed over months into the worst one I have experienced. I year ago I had no desire to treat myself well. I did about everything to hurt myself besides a suicide attempt, I didn’t care if I lived, so I didn’t care how others treated me. Abuse tends to be something those with mental illness feel they deserve.
After fleeing the state I was living in to another, I ended up moving again. I live this nomadic life, which is full of adventure, and people often say they wish they could live as I do – but I don’t think they ever consider how lonely it is. However, the place I ended up in was exactly where I needed to be.
Last May, to explain it simply, I checked myself into a hospital, kind of. I wasn’t really happy about it, but it ended up being the best thing I could do for myself at that time. Some say being in the hospital isn’t like the movies. They’re lying. For me, it was exactly like a movie. I learned how to play poker, did a little art, and went to a few group sessions. Besides leaving with the resources I needed, I also left with two birdhouses I painted.
Since May I have again been on a few medications but have finally found two that truly help me. I never thought that could happen. I’ve been on 10, but it was worth it. I still hate that I have to be on medication, but I know I need it. And though some people in this world make me feel like crap for being on mental illness medication, I just don’t care. That took a long time for me to overcome.
A few months ago, I was re-diagnosed Bipolar I. It was a rough day. Sitting in that psychiatrist’s office and hearing yet again how difficult it would be for me to finish school, keep a job, have healthy relationships, simply function, hurt my heart. I felt defeated. I finally felt I had accepted my diagnosis, and hearing a psychiatrist saying my case was much more severe than initially thought knocked the hope out of me. But I am not my diagnosis, and I regained that hope as soon as I remembered that.
We, the many who deal with mental illness, attempt to help others understand. But they can’t. Just as I cannot understand the pain of the loss of a child, fighting a terminal disease or being an orphan. We can have compassion because we know what it is like to have our hearts hurt over something we do not have control over, but we cannot understand.
I live by the phrase: “Everyone has their story”. I don’t know what your story is and you do not know what mine is. Is that not beautiful? There is no normal. There is just you and then there is me. You are beautiful and I am too. Your beauty is not made up of your disease, the way you look, your level of education or family dynamic. Your beauty is what fills your heart. Hope, confidence, joy and courage now fill my heart. I still fight tears. I still have dark days and days where my mind cannot be still. But on days where I remember my story, remember my beauty, remember my heart- I radiate. On days I forget- I radiate. I just do not see it. But I know you do, just as I see what beauty radiates from you when you forget.
Do you appreciate your story? Do you love yourself more because of it? Or do you feel as I did; angry, defeated, sad and perhaps defective? What are you based on this ‘normal’ spoken of by others’? Do you live by that definition or do you “live the life you’ve imagined” (Thoreau).
I am bipolar or I have bipolar? I am normal or I am not normal?
Most days I can’t look in the mirror. Most days, because of this world, I do not know how to connect to the person I see. It is hard to see that beauty and find myself in the mirror.
However, some days I see myself. I see myself more clearly than I ever have. I see my big brown eyes and often unwashed brown hair. I see my uneven skin and wiggly arms. I see my scars, ones that can be viewed by others and ones that only I know. There is pain in that loneliness, that no one can see all of me, but strength in knowing I can.
I want to teach self love by living it. I want to help others embrace themselves by first embracing who I am. I want to love others as I love myself.
Normal is just a word.
And you are just a person. A person with flaws. A person with beauty.A person of valor. This is my fight. This is your fight. I am strong. You are strong. I am okay with me. I like me.
So, after months of therapy and other things, I know how to love myself a little bit better. I went through some EMDR work – oh, the most healing experience, though it definitely brought many tears as well. Memories have a way of taking control of my mind, EMDR therapy helped me overcome many of them. Though before you can heal from them, you have to address them, which hurts so much I want to cry as I write about it, but the release of that pain is worth it. I promise.
However, during this time I did have a suicide attempt. I was in a mixed state, both manic and depressed, with little control of myself. Outside events triggered a reaction so severe I had no desire to live. Most of it was from past experiences I can’t really say because they still hurt a little bit. People can be mean, they can really hurt you – forgive them anyway. You don’t have to trust them, but forgiving them frees you from the pain that is attached to the memories of them.
A therapist once told me that I am lovely.
She encouraged and inspired me to begin my journey from what I am to who I am.
Normal, bipolar, depressed, manic, angry, suicidal — no.
Beautiful, strong, brave, lovely, kind, hopeful — yes.
So, while I did fall into a depression so deep feeling as if my life wasn’t needed- I am still here. I fought it, even though I still don’t quite understand how or why. I do know that my therapist, my dear friend, created a safe place for me and when she told me that I was lovely my mind shifted. While I still have moments where I feel there is no need for me, I take myself back to that room with my therapist, hearing her genuinely describing me as lovely, resilient, strong, and I have hope to dismiss those thoughts and move on.
When you struggle with your mood, when you find it hard to function and even when you feel your mind wandering to hopeless thoughts remember to look in that mirror, that normal object we are all familiar with and see the unique, courageous, lovely and kind person radiating with a kind of enduring strength most do not know.
Embrace that person.
I have turned something normal into an experience that will shape my life into one I find worth living.
Hunter has lived a very nomadic lifestyle the past four years. She values the many individuals that have come into her life as well as the experiences she has shared with them and within herself. She is pursuing her degree in order to work with youth and young adults, preferably in outdoor therapy. She wants to help others see their raw, beautiful identity and not suppress it because of the definitions and judgements of this world.