The lines you amend 

*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?

Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said  partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself. 

Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card. 

Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance? 

Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness? 

We can’t

So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend. 

If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a  symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours. 

The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of  course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours. 

Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are

So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives. 

Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence. 

 However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death. 

Affairs of the Mind 

With suicide prevention in the news, I thought given my somewhat intimate knowledge of the subject, I would throw my two cents in. While I believe in talking openly about suicide, I do not, necessarily, believe that it can be prevented. In my  experience, if a person is in the mindset that they need to take their own life, they will make that attempt regardless of how many people try to intervene. For those who have attempted to die, many will say that they needed that experience, for many different reasons. 

I will speak only on my own behalf; each person’s experience is as intricate and unique as a snowflake. For me, my attempts on my own life came at various stages. After the murder of a  friend, after attempting to seek help for mental illness was rebuffed as ‘in my head’, after a quiet but tumultuous battle with PTSD, all very different situations that resulted in the same self-loathing, shame, disgust, rage, and confusion. Each attempt I made was in earnest; I didn’t want to survive and receive treatment, I wanted to throw in the towel. Tired of fighting, battle worn, I needed sleep. I needed to sleep. 

No one could’ve prevented what my body was telling me to do. So how, as bystanders, care givers, do we help those afflicted by suicides disease?

Here are my suggestions, based on what I did and didn’t receive during the aftermath of my attempts. 

The person who wakes up from a failed suicide attempt is not the same person who made the attempt. It is naive to think that your loved one will emerge with a new zest for life, ready to take on the world with a new appreciation for all of the sights and sounds that the world has to offer. Shame, anger, regret, frustration, more anger: that is what is felt when you realise that after your best efforts to end the terrors in your life were not successful. The hate that consumes you cannot be abated with get well cards, flowers, or whispered conversations between family and medical staff. You don’t need to understand, but a little bit of empathy can go a long way. 

Make freezer meals. 

Bring books. 

Make horribly inappropriate jokes. 

Stand up against anyone who plans to lecture or belittle the fragile psyche of your almost departed loved one. 

In a shitty situation, Nibs always help make things better. 

In short, be who you’ve always been. No one is made of porcelain (except perhaps Tilda Swinton). Being handled with kid gloves only accentuates the above mentioned feelings of shame, guilt, anger, etc. Yes, things are different, your loved one has changed, but by offering a steady hand you are providing an incredible feeling of unity and support. As survivors we know that nothing about our situation is easy for anyone. We know the fear, the anger, the burning desire to grab us by the shoulders and shake us; we feel these things too – amplified exponentially by the demons inside of us that got us to the point of suicide in the first place. 

I’ve said it before, and I will say it until I’m blue in the face, suicide is a disease. The only cure is death. No matter how many good days we have, suicide is always lurking, waiting for a vulnerable moment to hit us from behind. Remember this:

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Find the balance between constant vigilance and being over bearing. That’s where we need you. Always be on the lookout for ‘signs’, but don’t make us feel guilty. The bomb is ticking, but no one knows when the clock will stop. Remember this:

We love you. 

We aren’t punishing anyone. 

You can’t prevent something that has been preordained. 

Your patience means more than you know. 

We will work on prevention, we need you to work on acceptance. 

Suicide is disease. It cannot always be prevented. Like a cancer it can be aggressive, all consuming. Some strains have cures, some are fatal. In the end, making those afflicted feel normal, valued, unashamed, wanted, needed, those are the things that will make the periods of remission better for all parties involved.