I love books. I didn’t when I was was a teen or young adult. However, as I matured in age I came to realize they were a convenient escape from the harsh reality of this world which often had no just conclusion. In our world, karmic justice is fantasy. Mine enemy is despair, and my hero is hope.
Friends, I’m really hurting.
Give or take a day or two, it is exactly 13 years since my last suicide attempt. However, that’s not why I’m hurting.
Several years ago a psychiatrist that I trust diagnosed me with manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder). I made a half-hearted attempt at medical treatment, but the side effects were so bad that I quickly lost interest. Fast forward to 2008. My personal life had started to crumble once again and I found another psychiatrist. She agreed with the original diagnosis and I made a serious attempt at pharmaceutical treatment and counseling.
With bipolar disorder, most, if not all drug treatments are with anti-seizure and anti-psychotic medications. It’s believed that excessive electrical activity in the brain causes the mania and this can be regulated with these medications. However, generally, people with bipolar are not treated with anti-depressants because that actually induces mania. It is my experience these anti-seizure and anti-psychotic medications really do work. Unfortunately, finding the one that is most effective for the patient with the least harmful side effects is the key. Keep in mind, side effects aren’t necessarily the same for everyone.
Having tried Depakote years before and knowing it caused rapid weight gain and rapid hair loss, I wouldn’t use it again. We moved to trusty lithium. Lithium is dirt cheap. Lithium works GREAT! However, lithium is only effective at the threshold of a lethal dose. Because of this it is imperative that you not miss a dose and you get regular and frequent lab tests monitoring your lithium levels. Unfortunately, lithium caused cogwheeling and loss of motor functions in me at therapeutic levels. So while I was mentally in the best state I had ever been in my life, I was literally drooling, unable to speak clearly, I couldn’t walk unassisted at times, and I moved as if I had Parkinson’s Disease.
Next, we moved to Trileptal (Oxcarbazepine). It did not require the same blood monitoring. It was just as effective on my mental state. However, instead of $4 per month, like the lithium, it was $380 per month. Insurance (at least mine) does not cover drugs for the treatment of bipolar disorder. In addition, it should be noted, no insurance company in the United States of America, will insure a person that has been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder – unless you lie or “Obama Care” (The Affordable Care Act) goes into full effect. After a few weeks on trileptal we noticed an even more troubling side effect. Every 90 minutes or so, my heart would stop for about 2 seconds and I would black out. This would happen while talking, walking, or even driving. Fortunately, I would immediately recover.
Before trying another drug, research was warranted. It was discovered that all current bipolar medications operated on the same underlying principle. At their most basic functionality, they displace sodium ions in the brain which normally act as conductors for electrical signals. They provide, instead, themselves as a poor substitute conductor thereby retarding the electrical signals. The conclusion was reached that it was not safe for me to take ANY sodium depressors.
So, over the last 5 years, because I could not take medication, with steady feedback and tolerance from Jaime, I’ve learned to cope with my depression and she has learned to cope with my mania. Finally, I knew that when I wanted to die and longed to put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger that it was an irrational thought. I knew that I had no real mental pain. I knew that my finances were okay. I knew that my job had always sucked and I’d never liked it so that couldn’t have been the problem. I knew that Jaime loved me and I loved her so that’s wasn’t making me want to take another shit ton of sleeping pills. I was able to rationalize myself back to a safe space. This deep depression may have lasted several days, but each day I knew I was one day closer to it going away. I knew it was fleeting.
Because Jaime was willing to stand with me and help me learn to maintain my focus, I was able to see that my pain wasn’t real. It was a hallucination.
Ever since my car accident six and a half months ago, I can no longer maintain that focus that keeps me on this side of sanity and lucidity. I know that I’m not rational, and yet, I no longer care. I’ve had worse pain in my life, but I’ve never had physical pain this bad that lasted this long. I can ignore physical pain. I can ignore mental pain. However, I cannot ignore both at the same time. I’m finding that I’m destroying all my personal relationships in favor of quelling this physical pain and to be honest, I don’t see any relief in sight.
I talk to Jaime like she is a piece of garbage. My fuse is shorter that George Bush’s IQ in millimeters. I’ve abandon everything that has previously brought me joy.
I cannot take antidepressants because that will most certainly push me into mania which will effectively cause grandiose behavior and/or hallucinations. I can’t take mood stabilizers because there’s a very good chance they will kill me. I also have to question the value of counseling when I know exactly what is going on and have adopted methods to overcome my bipolar disorder. I don’t see how someone can coach me into accepting physical pain and mental pain at the same time.
I came home tonight with the very real intention of making a suicide bag or hanging myself. After researching some very good technical plans on drop hang length vs body weight ratio and inert gas mixes, I read a letter I had written about my last suicide attempt. While doing so, I remember how much heartache I was going through at the time and how much physical pain I went through as I was dying. I remember my body thrashing about as I had seizure after seizure with dried caked vomit on the side of my face. I still remember how much it hurt each time my skull cracked as it hit a piece of furniture on the way to the floor. I still remember how painful and scary it was as my limp lifeless body tumbled down the stairs. I remember the horror of dragging myself through the house for hours to reach the phone on the kitchen wall to call 911 only to not be able to stand to reach it. Then later realize it was all a hallucination and that I was still lying in a twisted heap at the bottom of the stairs while my kidneys and liver shut down.
After writing all of that, re-hashing all of those memories, and crying a river once again, I actually feel pretty good. The only problem is I know that when the sun comes up, the cycle will start over once again. At least I made it through another day.
In closing, let me leave you with a trip back to (I think) June 14, 1999:
“I wanted to go to the 10 year reunion. I was very excited. I had accommodations arranged and was looking forward to the upcoming road trip. It was so strange that the Sunday before the reunion I was sitting in church with my family and thought to myself that my life was perfect and couldn’t get any better. I had a big house with a pool, a great job as a software engineer, money was okay, and the kids were both doing great in school. Unfortunately (and fortunately), that very week , a slew of things happened that changed my life forever: my daily commute car caught on fire and I found out my wife had been cheating on me with someone she had met online. The Wednesday before the reunion, the engine block cracked in my project car, and I had to walk home from where the car was sitting. I arrived to a house with a note on the door, “We’re gone and you’ll never see us again.” My dog was gone, my kids and their clothes were gone, and my wife and her belongings were gone.”
“I knew that her threat was real.”
“I’ve always known that I was transgender, I just felt the appropriate response was to conform – especially for my family’s sake. My honesty required me to tell my bride-to-be about my feelings when were dating. She accepted my shortcomings, but my part of the bargain was to be a husband and father. I thought I did very well. Just prior to her surprise departure, she had hinted that if we ever got divorced that she would use my gender identity issues against me and she would take everything. In the judicial climate of that day, I knew she would have her way. Again, what a crappy week.”
“I was at the lowest I had ever been. I dissolved 240 sleeping pills into a glass of KoolAde and drank it. You would think it would be a fairly painless and gentle way to leave this world. As I remember, I barely made it to the bedroom before I collapsed. At some point I awoke laying in my own vomit while having a seizure and horrible hallucinations. The pain was more than I could describe. I’m guessing that when your internal organs shut down, your body doesn’t like it very much.”
“In that moment, I begged God to let me live. I didn’t want to die. I tried to make it to a phone in my bedroom, but I could not stand. Each attempt brought on another seizure, all of which ended with an additional concussion from my head hitting a piece of furniture. There was no rationality in my head at that point. Something lead me to try the phone in the kitchen downstairs. I crawled to the stairs but ended up falling down them. When I did reach the kitchen, I couldn’t stand to reach the phone. I thought I would crawl out my front door onto the lawn for help, but I couldn’t reach the door knob. Laying, in the foyer, I gave up.”
“I had a great relationship with my immediate co-workers and at Philips Electronics. My boss, Chet, was concerned that I hadn’t shown up for work since I left at lunch on Wednesday. Friday afternoon, I’m told, he broke down my front door and found me lifeless. I was taken to the local hospital in Morristown via ambulance and then flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. I awoke four days later on a dialysis machine and my right leg flayed open on both sides. The sleeping pills took their toll on my kidneys and liver, the fall down the stairs caused a large hematoma in my leg and I apparently laid in such a was that no circulation could get to the leg. Necrosis had set in. I’m lucky I still have it.”
“As if it weren’t enough, one of my first visitors (outside of my parents and siblings) was a sheriff’s deputy. I thought I was in for it because of an attempted suicide. No. He just wanted to let me know that while I had been in the hospital, my home had been burglarized and everything I had of any value was gone.”
“After completing dialysis, the surgeries on my leg, and learning to walk again, I left to hospital with my only possessions: the vomit-stained t-shirt and jeans I was wearing when I was brought in. They didn’t even fit. While in the hospital I lost 65 lbs. (it wasn’t all bad I guess, but the food was horrible). I started my life completely over from scratch. I just threw that t-shirt away last weekend.”
“True to her word, I wasn’t allowed to see or speak with my children for five years. For this concession, my family was allowed to keep in contact with and visit the kids. I was fortunate enough to have them leave their Mom, who had moved to Oklahoma, to come live with me and Jaime when they entered high school. Oh, it was a transition for all of us, but I’m glad I got to finish what I started.”
“It is a testimony to my current antipathy for organized religion, that only one person from Manley Baptist Church of Morristown, TN where I had been a member for some time came to visit me in the hospital. It was only to tell me that it was a good thing I survived, otherwise I would be burning in hell. Such is the source of my cynicism.”