bipolar parent

Bipolar and Suicidal? You’re Not Alone

Trigger Warning: Suicide

Suicidal thoughts–also called suicidal ideation–are a not uncommon part of everyday life. Traumatic events like divorce, witnessing violence, or the death of a loved one can all rattle even the strongest of foundations.

Depressed in Paris by Toni Birrer
Image credit to flickr user Toni Birrer. Used with permission.

In my case, it was having a baby. His arrival kicked off a psychotic break and subsequent postpartum depression, which rocked me to my core. I actively planned to die for three years, and didn’t start living until I was medicated properly.

Due to mood swings, panic attacks, and deep depressions, people with mental illnesses are predisposed to consider self-harm as a viable alternative. According to Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry (2007), one out of three people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and many complete it. The annual average suicide rate is nearly 20 times that of the neurotypical population (0.4%).

In a highly dangerous mixed state, the blend of self-loathing from depression and high energy from mania means that sufferers are far more likely to successfully carry plans of self-harm. However, due to its stabilizing effect, lithium carbonate successfully reduces incidences of suicide, which sharply decreases the mortality rate of the disorder.

Typical warning signs of suicide include impulsiveness, hopelessness, withdrawal, weight changes, alcohol use, rage, and sleep issues. Depression tends to be a better marker than mania, though not all depressed people are suicidal. In persons with bipolar disorder, anxiety and agitation are at the forefront.

People with fleeting thoughts–what would happen if I stepped out in front of that bus?–are considered “not at immediate risk”. If you’re at this stage, please talk to a counselor regardless. If you’ve been role-playing or fantasizing about a plan, run–don’t walk–to the nearest phone. Call a crisis line. Set up an appointment with a counselor. Low cost help is out there. And you are worth pursuing help.

Then, let other people know.  When you’re alone, it’s easy to let dark thoughts dominate your mind and kick off a spiral of rationalizing. Call a crisis line.  Make a post–anonymous or otherwise–on an online community you frequent, and ask for stories and support.

If you’re not in an immediate crisis, call up a trusted friend on Team You. You can also call a national warmline. These are call centers run by people who are recovering from issues like depression. They can commiserate with you anonymously about topics like loneliness and isolation.

You’re not alone. Our lives are stressful. We have depressions, and with that, suicidal thoughts. It’s okay that you feel like crap right now. These feelings are not uncommon. But they’re not normal, either.

Your life can and will be so much better than this.

Not meant to take the place of a medical professional.