Here’s the thing about suicide


I just read an article in the Washington Post about a young woman named Natalie Fuller, her suicide (see below.) That’s what brought on this discussion, on this sad and awful subject. But as long as I am writing about it, I may as well do a sincere and truthful job, difficult to read and write, but truthful. Here’s the thing about suicide, mentally ill people, who commit suicide are not well. They do it because of the illness. If they were their well selves, they would never do it. Either they are totally out of touch with reality and are having auditory, or visual, or some sort of hallucinations, so the voices tell them to do something and they listen. Or they are in so much pain, as happens in a depression, that they just want to stop the pain. Again, it is mental illness that makes them do it. I have been in a depression so severe that I seriously thought about and even planned my suicide. I couldn’t stand the pain and I couldn’t stand to live without myself, because the depression had swallowed me up whole and I was gone. My personality was gone, I was gone. This blank, hopeless, scared, shadow of a person, this was not the real me. It was not the Me who is typing this post. It was my mental illness, it was my illness, it was illness. If I had died by my own hands, it wouldn’t really have been so. Just like someone dies of cancer, I would have died of a possibly terminal illness named bipolar d/o.

It takes a lot, a lot, a lot of strength to live with mental illness. For me, I have to do it because I have a son, a niece, a nephew, a brother and a sister. I won’t put them through the trauma we went through after my brother. I will absolutely not! I so wish Natalie Fuller could have been saved.

Here’s the The Washington Post article, it’s called “My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know” (link below.) It’s about a young woman, who shortly before her 29th birthday, stepped in front of a train in Baltimore. Her mother wrote the article. Natalie Fuller, this bright young woman went into a psychotic phase at age 22, in her sophomore year in college. As is typical, her mental illness symptoms had been developing, probably at least a year before she was diagnosed. She went into a psychotic phase (out of touch with reality), she started hearing voices that told her to do things, like trespass on her neighbors’ property. She was arrested for this, which is also pretty typical. Finally, she was diagnosed with severe bipolar d/o, in a severe manic phase. She was hospitalized for 2 months, given medication until she was symptom free, and then released. She came home just like her normal, effervescent, energetic, bright self, stayed with her mother, cooked, made art work. She went back to college, to start her senior year. And then… she abruptly stopped taking her medication and fell ill again. She again had to be hospitalized, this time for 8 months! Again she was put on medication, and came home in a normal state, although, according to her mother, more subdued, less like herself. The illness had taken its toll on her. (This is usually not the case with bipolar d/o, recovery is pretty complete, no lasting effects as long as you stay on the meds. Of course, there are medication side effects that can cause fatigue and weakness.) She went through this cycle many times. Even if she missed her meds for a few days, the voices would come back, and the voices invariably told her to stop the meds totally. The final time she went into this cycle, she was convinced that she was 1/4 people for whom drugs did not work. She made the decision to stop taking the meds altogether. And a few months later, she stepped in front of a train.

This is all so familiar. My brother. My brother. He had been showing symptoms for, most likely, a year and a half before he had his psychotic break (break with reality.) He heard voices. We had to call the police to get him hospitalized. They gave him meds in the hospital that returned him to his normal state of being, as right as rain. He was convinced he didn’t need the meds, although he did, desperately need them, he was convinced that he could control his own brain. No one could convince him otherwise. He would throw all his meds in the trash dumpster outside the hospital the day he was released. This cycle repeated itself five or six times. Each time, he would be hospitalized, put on lithium and other meds, each time he became absolutely normal, each time, upon release, he would throw out his meds. Until finally, his wife left him, taking the children, I know the last morning he was alive, he called his wife at 7 am and asked to speak to the kids, she told him he could not, they were asleep. At 8 am he left… and he was gone. We never saw him again. My sweet, movie star handsome, very intelligent, kind, loving, sensitive, adorable and adored brother. I don’t know if the voices told him to stop taking his meds, but he lost his battle with this infernal disease. I wish I’d never heard of bipolar d/o, I wish I didn’t know anything about it, I wish my brother was still here, I wish I hadn’t spent half my life battling this illness. No one really wins against it. You cope, you fight, you live. The more severe the form, the more severe the loss. It is not a blessing in any way, as some deluded people seem to think so. It is loss. Sorry, it’s very hard not be negative and sad after talking about my baby brother. Mostly, I am fine though. And as long as people stay on their meds, they will be, more or less, fine as well.

But here are some statistics that may help if you or your loved one is newly diagnosed:

  • Typically people have symptoms for 70 weeks before they are diagnosed with a psychotic mental illness.
  • Often people are arrested and put in jail in psychotic phases.
  • Often people start exhibiting symptoms ( in their late teens or early twenties.
  • Many newly mentally ill people maintain that they “are fine, everybody else is crazy.”
  • Mentally ill people also come off their meds, and of course they get sick again. Perhaps it’s because they miss the high of mania… (my manias are not high, but very anxious, in a way this is lucky, because I don’t miss the anxiety when I am not manic.)
  • And if they stop their meds, if we stop our meds, the outcome can be devastating.

My last post, definitely PTSD


Ok, my last post, definitely PTSD. I react just as wildly as my son does to his problems. I react with the unbridled fear of losing him. There I said it, that is truly what I am terrified of, losing my beautiful, super intelligent, loving, compassionate son. I am terrified of the unknown. And the PTSD comes from the past, from the known, from losing my brother to bipolar 1. From the biggest tragedy in mine and my family’s life. Is it going to happen again? Unknown. And the unknown, mixed with a terrible, fearsome known, the past, is not easy to live with.

But although my son has an initially extreme reaction, he calms down and takes care of the troubling issue perfectly. And he has NOT been diagnosed with any illness 🙂 But that’s the thing with PTSD, it is not based on the present, it is based on the past and the fearful phantoms that memories and past thoughts conjure up. How do you get over this? Talking to my ecounselor about this pronto, no prontissimo! Life is really short, half or more of mine is over. I want to live it in peace and enjoying all the positive, fun things it has to offer, not in the black dungeon of fear.


My mood may also be kicking up. From the season, the increase in Synthroid, not enough Lithium, don’t know, but knowing that my mood IS getting too elevated is half the battle already won and I’ll take care of it. Do i have this? Yes, I think I really do. Breathe…

Wide Arc Mood Swings

Emotions are a double edged sword for people with bipolar d/o. Our intense emotions allow us to feel deeply, be empathetic, be creative. But these intense emotions can also break us. Things like Empty Nest Syndrome are very difficult to deal with, as our emotions get get very intense and painful and difficult to handle for ourselves. Any kind of emotional upheaval is more difficult when you have a mood disorder. We people who have bipolar 1, 11, or major depressive or anxiety disorders have a more difficult time coping with it. We feel so much more deeply, we really do, I’m not making that up. Whether we are happy or sad, we feel off the charts. Our mood swings are more extreme and have a wider arc than someone who doesn’t have a mood disorder.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.06.16 PM

Here’s a figure I made. It’s not exact, just illustrative, the normal mood range is a little past the lines labelled “Normal Depression” and “Normal Euphoria.” The Bipolar mood swings however can go beyond even the “Out of Touch with Reality Depression” and “Out of Touch with Reality Mania“!!! That is some depth and intensity of emotion, that is why when people are in a severe depression, they kill themselves, because the depth, the intensity, the very quantity of their sadness is too painful, too intense to bear.

Just something I wanted to share with people who don’t know what it feels like to have a mood disorder.

Mood stabilizers like Lithium Carbonate, Depakote, Abilify keep us in mostly the normal mood range. They are literally heaven sent for us, people with mood d/o’s. I don’t know if I’d be here without my Lithium Carbonate, I don’t think I would actually. Even with it, I still have been going through some extreme mood situations, but they are somewhat attenuated and more easily reversed than if i wasn’t on Lithium. So even though I have Bipolar Disorder Type 1 (the official name) I feel lucky that I also have Lithium Carbonate. Also, my mood lability was also due, in large part, to Zoloft, which I haven’t taken in 3.5 months, and this will also help stabilize my mood. Yaay! Coming off Zoloft has been anything but easy. But that’s a subject for another post.

Best wishes and hugs to you my dear friends.

Exceptional year!


This year has been exceptional in that the spike of mania that comes in the Fall/Winter for me has not come! I’ve been having minor ups and downs, mostly downs, but the major spike that I have experienced every Fall/Winter since 1986 did not happen. This involved severe mood upheaval, including anger, depression, off the charts anxiety, major weight loss (that one I miss haha) sleeplessness, total dysfunction, not being able to go to work, school, outside the house for at least a month. This year it didn’t happen! My 900 mg of Lithium Carbonate, and (now) 100 mg of Seroquel saved me this year. Yes I have side effects, tremor in my right hand, weight gain due to water retention because of Lithium, muscle weakness and tendonitis due to Seroquel. But I can live with these. The most bothersome to me is the 4 lb weight gain. I do live in our weight obsessed culture don’t I? But I am so lucky that these side effects are nothing compared to some other drugs called antipsychotics, used for schizophrenia. In fact over Thanksgiving weekend, in NYC, my sister and I went to visit a friend I’d made in 2009, in Columbia Presbyterian, when we were both hospitalized there. He has schizophrenia, he is in his twenties and smart as a whip. Last week, we visited him in his home, it was difficult for me to sit with him because of the uncontrolled movements due to tardive dyskinesia (a side effect of antipsychotics) he had. God I am so incredibly thankful I am not on Risperdal! I could not tolerate it! My friend is having his doctor wean him off the Risperdal and put him on Clozaril, which apparently, at least in his case, doesn’t cause tardive dyskinesia.that is so severe.

Anyway, I digress.. I wish my friend the best in his life and with his treatment of course. But this post is about how amazing it is that I stayed pretty much normal throughout the Fall and Winter this year. How the evil beasts called mania and psychosis (being out of touch with reality) did not visit me. And believe me, I didn’t miss them, not one iota! I am thrilled beyond belief, and if 900 mg of Lithium is what it takes to stay pretty much in the normal mood range, then 900 mg it is.

Hello NORMAL, productive, happy life!

Maybe, maybe not…


Don’t really have anything to say. Tired. Very low energy. Low mood. Beginning of a depressed phase? Don’t know. It’ll become apparent soon enough. If It’s hard to wake up in the morning, if it’s hard to get anything done, if I don’t even want to get anything done, if I have lost interest in activities that were pleasurable, such as taking pictures, or singing, then yes it looks like the beginning of a depressed phase. These things have been happening to me in the past few days, but only the past few days so it’s still too early to tell. It may just be a blah period and not the beginning of a real depression. At least Zumba is still FUN! If that stops being fun, then I am in serious trouble…

Also if I do go into a depression, there is one big problem this time: No Zoloft. My psychiatrist will not let me take Zoloft or any SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), because he says that they make people with bipolar disorder cycle more, and apparently research supports his claim. But this is pretty scary for me, because until now, whenever I felt a depression coming on, I would start taking Zoloft and it abated. This time I don’t have that option, that safety net. If I truly do go into a depression, I don’t know what I am going to do. And just this fact is causing me a lot of anxiety and stress.

The drugs he has recommended I go on all have given me very bad side effects in the past. For example Abilify literally gave me Parkinson’s like symptoms, with very stiff muscles, a shuffling gait and muscle tremors. When I took Welbutryn in the past, I thought i was going to burst because of an insane level of anxiety. Latuda gave me blinding headaches and Saphris also gave me a lot of anxiety and severe headaches. Provigil, which is a stimulant is also one that he has suggested, but I will not take it as it can push people with bipolar d/o into full blown mania. I don’t understand how he even suggested that, given the fact that this is a side effect! So there we have it. The one medication I can take without side effects is now forbidden to me and all the ones I am allowed to take are ones I cannot take because of awful side effects. The fear, anxiety and stress of what’s going to happen if I do go into a depression are quite enough to send me into a depression 😦

Going to NYC for Thanksgiving. A lot of close and extended family will be there. Hoping I will be fine. I was so looking forward to this trip to NYC with my husband, my son, my stepdad, my brother, my sister, my cousin, her children and many, many others. And now I don’t know. Oh well, all I can do is hope for the best.

Also wondering if it is time to find another psychiatrist. But what if what this one says is true… then it would be unwise to find someone new… going around in circles and have no idea what to do. Even deleted a whole post I’d written because I thought it was garbage… simply going around in circles. Not so bad that it is definitely a depression, but definitely some symptoms, and maybe on my way to a depression.

Oh yes, bipolar strikes again, as usual with its impeccable timing, and all it does is make my life a living hell. Tired, so tired of this. Of fighting depression, of fighting mania, wtf bipolar d/o, leave me the hell alone.