I just made my 200th post so I thought maybe it was time to share some personal information. Maybe it sounds a bit grand (and there is a lot of grand standing about mental health) but maybe my ideas, thoughts, experiences can help someone else to live a little longer.
So my name is J. I am 38 years old and live in an undisclosed location in the U.K. I have bipolar affective disorder (can never remember if it’s type 1 or 2) but I take a cocktail of medication everyday to keep me on an even keel. Really it does more than keep me on an even keel. Without the pills I would be a raging mess, delusional, seeing visions and rampaging around. Hmmm.
Roughly 5 years ago I started to get severe paranoia. It’s basically like intense fear. Around the time of the 2016 election my fears ramped up considerably. Every news story seemed to be bad. Migrants flooding across the Mediterranean. Jihadis and nazis.
I guess I am an artist. I feel quite an affinity with anarchism. I once joined an anarchist group but I didn’t gel with the people. I guess I am an individual.
I feel like we live in kind of a tortured world. Maybe it’s perspective. My favourite author Ursula Le Guin used to say “the world is in its usual parlous state”. I feel like things are getting worse and maybe that’s what feeds the paranoia.
Anyhow the medication has been doubled from 3 to 6 milligrammes. I sleep a lot now.
Twice in 2018 I tried to take my own life. I overdosed on Lithium. A really toxic drug that can poison your kidneys, cause coma and death. I was hospitalised, in a physical health ward on both occasions. I liked being in hospital not only because I felt safe but because of the camaraderie with the nurses and other patients. I’m even weird in that I really like hospital food.
Really the feelings that cause my suicidality have not really gone away I have just learned to co-exist with them. I still get intensely suicidal but thankfully I have not got to the point of utter desperation I was in before.
Here is a list of top 5 things to do to stay alive (I won’t include the obvious ones like ring 999/911 or call a warmline although those can be good things to do).
1. Read 101 alternatives to suicide by Kate Bornstein
It’s a really good book. It’s written in kind of a ‘punk’ ethos. DIY and all that Schtick. Bornstein was at one point a Scientologist. She injects the 101 ideas with fun and humour. There are the obvious ones like ‘call a warmline’ and the not so obvious ‘take drugs – yes really take drugs’. She follows it up with caveats but basically her approach is one of harm reduction so in that worldview taking a drug would be preferable to ending your life.
To be perfectly honest I found some of the advice in here didn’t help but it cheered me up to read it. Bornstein wants to give the conventional world a huge kick up the ass. She is full of fireworks, bombast and creative flurries. It’s worth a read even if it forestalls anyone from hurting themselves.
Humour is a great healer. Even if nothing else being able to laugh is pleasurable. I prefer quite outrageous comedy like Larry David and Joan rivers. In the recent Curb Your Enthusiasm I watched Larry gets handed a fatwa.
I think in real life sometimes we can only laugh at things after the event or when things have calmed down. As new age salesman Wayne Dyer said “in the midst of the storms of life is the peace you seek”.
Stoicism is a vintage philosophy for living in tumultuous times. Devised by Greek and Roman philosophers and statesmen (yes it was mostly men). Stoicism offers a way to navigate the visciscitudes of life. Modern writer Ryan Holliday writes well about stoicism. Check him out.
Honestly medication is the best thing (I’m talking about the kind prescribed by a doctor). It can just wipe you out. Although maybe not exactly ideal. When you are going through life’s ordeals being whacked out for 14 hours a day can actually help. In the words of Sinead O’Connor “give me the medication”.
5. Reach out
It may sound weak but reaching out can help. It can also be counter productive like when you confide in someone and they break your confidence. Generally letting people know how you feel can be a smart move. I talk to my partner, my mum, my brother, my partners mum (until she died recently), my psychiatric nurse, my neighbour, my friends, the Samaritans, the nhs crisis line. It may well be that for some reasons you don’t want to speak to a particular person. You can always write things down in a diary. Also as a warning even services that claim to be confidential are not truly confidential today. With so many checks and balances even Samaritans could report you (even though they deny it). Unfortunately we live in a knee jerk society that doesn’t recognise people need space to talk about things.