Last night, I interviewed my husband about his bipolar disorder and suicide attempt. While he got a little rambly because I didn’t give him questions before hand, I love everything he had to say because it truly feels from the heart. Comment on what he had to say – nothing negative please – and if you have any more questions for him, please ask. I’ll pass them on.
Julie Ann: How old were you when you first started realizing that something was off or wrong? Was it your entire life or can you think of a specific time?
David: I can’t think of an exact one, but I think it was in elementary school that I knew it was a little off. Cause I was a loner there and even when I wanted to fit in I never fit in anywhere. It was quite annoying actually. I kind of became obsessed with trying to be able to fit in. All the people site their high school as being the hell. Mine was the elementary school years. I don’t want to go through that again. I didn’t have a good self-esteem on me and I just, I’m weird. So in order to handle that you have to be pretty confident in your weirdness. I was not confident in my weirdness and on top of that I was untreated and a lot of times they thought it was ADHD stuff. Found out later it wasn’t. It was something else.
Julie Ann: Yeah, you told me that you were actually misdiagnosed. Were you on the wrong medication too?
David: Yeah. The meds for that do something slightly different. They thought it was ADHD. The doctors said it went into remission, but I don’t think it was remission, it seemed to be taken care of when I got the right kind of medication that took care of all the problems. So when the bipolar was treated, suddenly we had less problems. Some of the issue before was me trying to focus. Not only would I get distracted easily, but on top of that when I tried to focus on making sure that I was not letting emotional issues come out and be aggression and cause problems and stuff it would take a lot of focus to keep myself from acting out and causing the problems that came out.
Julie Ann: And how many years did it take for you to figure out and get on the actual right med?
David: I don’t remember the exact amount of years. Let’s see. I do remember that it was sometime in Junior high when I finally did get on a med that finally worked. So my guinea pig stage probably lasted around 5-6 years. Not the worst that’s out there.
Julie Ann: Ok. Now, you’ve told me about your suicide attempt. Did you finally get on the right medication before or after that?
David: That was after.
Julie Ann: Can you tell us about your suicide attempt a little bit? Whatever you feel comfortable with.
David: Yeah. Well, I know you already have a transcript of the main event. But a lot of it had to do with believing the people around me. Mostly peers, cause parents will tell you all sorts of great things about you, but it’s hard to believe them at that point cause they’re your parents their “supposed” to. Even though that’s a bunch of hogwash. That their “supposed” to. Just, they do. But a lot of it had to do with not only having a low self-esteem and feeling odd, but then kids are among the meanest and most bluntly brutal in those arenas. I knew from the vast majority of the people around me and my peers that I was stupid and useless. And so it was only logical that I try to rid the world of that problem.
Julie Ann: How long did it take you to figure out that you weren’t stupid and useless?
David: Half the problem was trying to believe someone that there could be another way. Dragging it on while holding onto the plans I had already created. Even though I was stopped in mid attempt, it took me a while. I kind of held onto it. Test out their way and I think it was at least 6 months of jumping back and forth between “this is useless I’m just dragging it on. I’m going to kill myself” and “Well, you promised that you’d give it a chance”. Even that was a huge upswing in logic compared to what it was before. In order to truly distill that that was completely and utterly wrong, it literally took years. 6 months is where it got me through some therapy sessions that convinced me that at a minimum I was not actually stupid. That there was no, that by definition I was not stupid. As to my own value to the rest of the world, that took a little longer, but I decided that if I wasn’t stupid maybe there was something that could work out. And then there’s a few people in my life, a few of the popular people that, unlike the cliché, actually had a heart and one of them helped me start getting out of my shell and putting myself out there and that kind of solidified some more and pulled me out of my shell and giving me some more confidence. And once you start having more confidence, I mean, that’s really the big thing. It seems that people don’t care about the rest of it. They really don’t care about how weird or whatever you like, it’s really if you’re confident. And if you’re confident they have a tendency to leave you alone. That kind of built me up and then I have found that still to this day in the back of my mind I’m often thinking, it’ll just pop up out of nowhere “take that [insert random name of person who was a complete jerk to me back then]” and it almost feel like I’m in a competition against people that I may never see again. And I know that that’s illogical and wrong, but it’s kind of a mindset that I’m capable of doing things and once I realized it, I kind of had to internalize this idea that they are irrelevant. Which is one thing to say, it’s another thing to actually internalize it. When you really internalize it, and I don’t know if I have, I think I’ve internalized it, but when you really internalize it, it no longer bothers you. The reason I say I’m not fully sure I’ve internalized it is simply because of those random thoughts here and there that say “take that so-and-so”. I’ve never quite been able to get rid of that. Now those are rare but they pop up here and there, once or twice a year. And so I know that’s still there in the background somewhere, but overall, I’m not so worried about people now. I have to say though, it took me probably another ten years before I could effectively talk about the time I was committing suicide. When I went through that. It took me trying to force myself to write things out, breaking down to where I could barely function, multiple times over, and I still have trouble with it, but I can at least maintain enough cool to continue functioning. Like, even right now it’s hard.
Julie Ann: It’s a hard topic.
David: It is, but I wouldn’t say that it’s stopping me cold and making it so I can’t think of anything else. But I think that’s also helped because now, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with other people who were affected by suicide, whether it was them considering it or family and since I can now be open with it, without breaking down, I’ve had many opportunities to help others and that honestly really helps me just because I know that it actually came to some sort of value for someone else. In kind of a twisted way.
Julie Ann: Now I know you’re on an interesting medication. Tell us about that and how that came to be.
David: I guess I’ll give a very shortened history of med stuff. So, first it was ADHD stuff and that seemed to help a lot in certain ways simply because of focus. If you can focus better, you can work through a lot of stuff. Just mentally it’s easier to work through. They tried all sorts of those everything from Adderall, I don’t remember all the names but I do remember Ritalin was one of them. They actually gave me too high a dose on that and it ended up being somewhat of a chemical lobotomy. I’ll tell you right now, going through school with that, actually getting studying done. Mmmm. So easy. People ask about getting rid of the procrastination issue. When you literally aren’t distracted by anything and you have no emotional issue where “I want to get to do this”, or “I’m excited for this”, or frustrated by this, if you’re not frustrated or stressed by it, it’s so easy to do work, but you don’t enjoy anything. It’s so empty that you would literally rather, that would be the first time I could understand someone wanting to cut themselves in hate. More than that. Not feeling anything is worse than being angry. Which is a weird thing cause that’s a horrible feeling in and of itself. So we did those and then of course, the standard fare. They had like, Wellbutrin and Prozac and other things. None of them ever quite worked or they caused other problematic side effects and made me sick or they’d appear to work and then I’d have really bad lapses out of nowhere cause, you know, it looks great because randomly it happens alongside a stable period in your life and then suddenly out of the blue when you’re working hard it just falls apart and everything crashes and you go “oh great, I thought this was fixed”. Years of that can drain and destroy people. And the big stage is just, it’s not fair.
Julie Ann: It’s not.
David: It really isn’t. It’s a horrible experience, but at the same time, it’s well worth it. But then it kind of came down to ‘we’ve run out of all the main stream medications’ and kept looking, kept trying other stuff, but none of it was working. We kind of just stuck to what was half working. It was kind of making me sick, but it was enough that it was worth it but it was still a pain in the butt. I don’t even remember which drug it was. We had to go to tons of different doctors cause none of them knew any new ideas for different meds. We ended up starting to go to specialists and I just remember we went to one neurologist who looked at all the history of everything and was like, “dang. Tried just about everything. You know, there’s this weird one that they just tried out. It’s not one typically done, but they found out that there’s this side effect of mood stabilization in this heart/seizure type medicine”. That one on the opposite side has kind of ended up working perfectly. I’ve heard plenty of other horror stories of that stuff lasting for a few years and then disappearing and not working. I’ve been lucky in that phase. I technically still have the mood swings. They affect me and they’re problematic, but they’re very weak compared to what they would be before and so with mental focus and meditation training that I’ve put myself through over the years are basically able to handle that. And so it leaves me with a very solid mood stabilizer with minimal side effects. And very much feeling human with emotions that actually make sense instead of appearing out of nowhere or even contradicting stuff where you should be happy and your angry or you win a prize and you want to choke somebody. It makes no sense. But now it’s just pretty solid and I just have to keep track of my emotions. I suppose I’ll never be able to get rid of that ‘til I die.
Julie Ann: Well, I think everyone has to keep track of their emotions occasionally.
David: It does. But it’s weird when you have to track not only what it is or what your emotions are at, but whether they have any logical sense. Whether their just some weird hormonal thing and they’re affecting how you work with other people without you even noticing. Not that it’s a huge big deal, cause you train yourself to work that way either way, but now that it’s so minimal it’s something that I can function very well with. Most people don’t know that I have bipolar until they have me in some sort of psych class or we get on a weird topic and I mention it. Still lots of stigmatization there though.
Julie Ann: There is.