In just 2-3 short days we lost 2 very well known, iconic celebs to Mental Health Issues and Suicides.
Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain
Over the past couple days, I've been reeling in the reality of their deaths. Their tragic life-altering deaths. Not for us, as their admirers, but their families. This made me really start thinking even more about mental health and suicides, and how we need to help more. Sure we're going to miss watching them on TV or using their products, however, those are just “things”. Their families are going to miss them as their spouse, parent, sister/brother, child, best friend, etc.
The thing about mental health issues that so many people don't understand, there are too many variables.
Take Bi-polar Disorder for example (because that's just one of the mental illnesses that I suffer from daily). Just because I have a BiPolar disorder, doesn't mean that's all I have and also doesn't meant that my diagnosis is exactly the same as the next 10 thousand people's diagnosis.
You see, some mental illnesses are worse for some people than others. Other's have learned to “hide” their illness extremely well because they were taught that it's a weakness to let it show.
Growing up, I hid A LOT of my issues because it wasn't the “family” thing to have a mental illness. It wasn't until I was out of the house, suffering constantly, making HORRIBLE decisions (sexual partners, drugs, financial problems). Many people in my family never acknowledged mental health issues. You were told to “suck it up” and get on with life. Because “what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger!” However, my mental illness doesn't make me stronger, it makes me weaker, and now, I am okay with being weak, because that's who I am.
I was approached by a friend saying “Hey, by any chance, have you been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder? I've been watching and paying attention and you kinda have the same problems I do.”
According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)
Bipolar Disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
- Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
- Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypo-manic symptoms as well as numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypo-manic episode and a depressive episode.
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.
As someone who has suffered for years from Bipolar l Disorder, I can tell you getting through everyday life can be hell. Add in my anxiety and OCD and I'm living a hellish nightmare. Since I've been on my medication, my episodes are much rarer than they were years ago. However, I still have episodes.
I've thought many times of committing suicide – at least 15 times in my life.
What stopped me was someone walked in & interrupted, or I heard my kids crying
One episode when I was really bad, I packed my stuff, the kids stuff and dropped both of my boys off at my mom's and told her “Here is documentation to take care of the kids. If you don't see or hear from me, it's because I'm no longer alive.” I started driving.
I stopped at a pier, thinking to myself “I could just jump off this, let the undertow pull me under the pier and I'd die. No one will miss me except my kids, but they will remember the good memories, the happy memories of me!” I was dangling my feet off, writing letters to both of my kids, crying & shaking. A voice in the back of my head told me to go to the hospital & get help. I did. I drove myself to the hospital and admitted myself into the psych ward.
Most people who have committed suicide, have thought about it several times prior to actually doing it. When they actually commit suicide, they have hit their final breaking point when they feel their life is over because their pain is just too severe.
Here's the thing, despite what many people say or feel, suicide is VERY much NOT selfish. People don't do it because they want to give up on life. They do it because they feel they are a burden to their family and friends. Having our mental illnesses is straining to family, relationships, friendships, careers, etc. So when someone does end their life, it's not because they just want to end it, it's because they want to give their family relief from having us as a burden.
Now, before you say “They aren't a burden” think really hard about that. If you know that your spouse has BiPolar, Anxiety, OCD, ODD, Schizophrenia, or any other of the hundreds of mental health issues out there, you know that you have to be their strength when they are having episodes. Your strength is what helps us, and we know you're our strength. We KNOW that your strength is what gives us strength, but we also know that your strength that gives us strength is also making you tired.
We don't want you to be tired… We don't want you to stress over us.
We want you to love life, live life, and be happy. We feel that our ailments are what is keeping you from being happy, keeping you from your fullest potential. We feel that we're holding you back. Trust that we're happy that you love us, care for us, and want to be around us, but we also feel that you stay around because you're scared of what will happen to us if you left us.
Here are some triggers we need you to watch out for when it comes to Mental Health Issues and Suicides
- Impulsive – There are people out who do things on a whim. If one has a gun in hand, he might shoot himself out of an impulse.
- Traumatic life events – A death of a loved one, financial rut or other adversity might compel a person to kill him or herself.
- History of suicide in the family – There is such a thing as “suicide contagion” in which a person is exposed to suicides and suicidal attempts often. This can become a risk factor for killing oneself.
- Family violence – If one is physically or sexually abused, he or she might turn to suicide to end the ordeal.
- Suicide attempt before – If we have attempted it before, why not do it again in hopes of succeeding this time
- Alcohol and drug abuse – An alcoholic or drug addict will reach a point when he will have no qualms about killing himself
If you have someone who is suffering from a mental illness, help them, talk to them, and please do not ever tell them to “snap out of it”… They can't. Even if they want to.
If you're someone in need of support for managing your mental health, please “get help now“.
A personal friend of mine wrote a book about being a daughter of a suicide victim.
You can check it out here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline