No silver linings

Six weeks on, I am trying to put the crisis I experienced in Spain into some kind of context. I’ve talked about it with various people, and a certain theme seems to be emerging. People want to reassure me that, despite the awfulness of those two weeks, it’s not all bad. The thing that they tend to fixate on is that although I was preoccupied with the idea of killing myself, I didn’t  This fact is put forward as something to cling onto, a tiny glimmer of good in a sea of bad. It reminds me of the enterprising young men on BBC2’s Welcome to India this week, guys who slip down into storm drains and collect bulging sacks of the silt and shit of the jewelry-making district, confident that the night soil will contain flecks of gold they can sell on to those with the means to extract it.

Only when it comes to my crisis, what others claim as gold is, to me, nothing but more shit. I can find no solace at all in the best thing about my expensive family holiday, an event to which we had all looked forward for so many months, being that I just about managed not to take my own life. Really? This is what people see as gold? I can assure you the reason I didn’t act was not that I suddenly wanted to live. I certainly didn’t have some revelation that my life had meaning and purpose after all. In fact, in addition to feeling trapped by being abroad, trapped in the villa, trapped in my bedroom, I felt even more caged by the knowledge that in killing myself (especially on a family holiday) I would be passing my mental distress on to my children. In addition to the burden of guilt about my kids, the other driver staying my hand was fear, fear of failure and its consequences. It is bad enough coming to in a UK medical ward or being treated against your will in a British psychiatric unit. The idea of ending up admitted to a ward where I didn’t even speak the language was terrifying.

So that’s it? My nugget of gold is supposed to be that I was so consumed with guilt and terror that I failed to kill myself? If you see gold in that, you’re deluded. All I see is different grades and colours of shit, and I’m struggling to see reasons to go on sifting through it.


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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15 Responses to No silver linings

  1. Crabby Kath says:

    I stole your little nugget of gold. I felt desperately sad for you while you were away. My gold is that I am glad you came home, no matter what reason stayed your hand. There is still hope for the future.

    • I am glad that I had friends like you to come back to, and to help me through it. I feel like the whole experience badly shook me up in terms of thinking about away again. Every time I think about my time away, I cry. Holidays used to be one of the major delights of my relationship with Mr P, the fact that we both liked to travel and explore. I think it will take me a while to get over it, so please hang onto that nugget for me xxx

  2. Henry Dunn says:

    Think my first comment lost in the ether, anyway, hard to know what to say that won’t sound trite. Only you know how truly, soul crushingly awful your time was then. I hat having cliches thrown at me at times like that, the worst being something along the lines of “every tapestry needs some black thread to highlight the rest” Complete crap! All I can say is how grateful I am that you are alive and are a friend to me, giving such supportive and empathic advice and that I wish with all my heart that your pain would go away, that you would find a treatment that works for you, and you can get back to a modicum at least of enjoyment of life. I hope that you will be given something better to sift soon. Hugs, Henry

  3. Fi says:

    Please give yourself credit for getting through that time. You made it. You’ve made it before and you need to tell yourself you will make it again the next time you feel like that. These feelings come regularly to me and as the years have passed I don’t feel as guilty as I used to for wanting to remove myself from it all. I used to feel so guilty about what I would be doing to my family and how it would affect them. That in itself would make me feel worse. I have reached the stage now that I have to think about only me and I am not responsible for how someone else might react. This actually makes things easier for me to keep going. Keep wading through the shit, you know by now that it’s not all year round. There are times when it clears magically like the red sea and everything smells better. It will come crashing back down but the clear times keep the hope alive.

  4. The gold is there, it’s just not what you might expect and it isn’t easy to see it from the inside, if you have to be an outsider looking in. You made it through the holiday even if you weren’t able to enjoy it and others likely benefited from that time away too. Besides, isn’t this blog something of the gold too? 🙂

  5. Bazalkryn says:

    I get so tired of people who try to make you see the bright side when you know there is no bright side to see. You are suffering torment and the little twerps want to get in your face and tell you to smile and convince you that everything is roses. Don’t they understand how trite and aggravating they sound? I guess the answer to that would be “No.”

    • Maybe it’s not, to them. That’s the only explanation I can think, because two of the friends who upset me by saying this have bipolar themselves. I think maybe they use the idea to help them through depressions, and perhaps that’s where there was an understanding gap – I wan’t depressed. I was actively, agitatedly, miserable because my major problem is dysphoric mania. I feel so out of control and desperate that there is none of the ability to seek meaning in suffering that even I might attempt when considering depression. Writing this, I wonder if there might have been a BPI / BPII understanding issue, I don’t know.

  6. *hugs* Sometimes an experience is just shit and it sounds as though your holiday was pretty horrendous. I’m very glad you’re still with us, and I know people have good intentions when they try to get you to see the positive, but it can feel so invalidating. It is horrible to be in a place where the best that can be said it that you didn’t kill yourself. Maybe for you, putting this into context will not be about finding some gold in what happened, but finding some other way of coming to terms with it?

    Are you feeling any better now? I do believe things will get better for you, but depression can be a truly awful experience that feels as though it will last forever. I’m thinking of you.

    • Thanks for your comment, really appreciated. You are right, perhaps I will only see some value in the whole thing much later… I feel I should point out though, that I was I was’t – and haven’t been for many moons – depressed. I was suffering from dysphoric mania, which I find much worse to deal with. When I am depressed, I lack the energy to move; when I am anxious, miserable and suicidal when I’m manic it’s actually more dangerous because I have all the energy of a high. I was very agitated, and it’s easy to transform that energy into action.

      • I’m so sorry for the mistaken reference to depression. I remembered you being miserable and agitated on holiday, and for some reason I was thinking of it as an agitated kind of depression. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between agitated depression, mixed state and dysphoric mania is, as I haven’t experienced any of those things, but I appreciate it wasn’t the right word to describe your experience.

  7. Please don’t think I was offended! I just mention dysphoric mania/mixed mood where I can because it’s important to help people understand that a “high” in bipolar doesn’t necessarily mean being happy/elated. A lot of people fail to consider they might have bipolar because they don’t get happy highs, so don’t recognise they could be having highs at all. Basically it’s about the energy level. If you have bipolar and your mind is whirring, you are physically agitated (pacing, tapping, hand wringing, on the go) and your sleep is disturbed (sleeping less, waking more frequently, dreams affecting you more), you are high. Now you could be elated (happy); you could just as easily be anxious, angry/irritable, panicky or miserable, but you’re still high. Hence dysphoric (unpleasant) mania. Some people call this mixed mood, but mixed mood can also refer to moods changing very rapidly within the acute phase. Depression is kind of the opposite, less energy, fewer and slower thoughts, and sleeping more (I have read that hypersomnia during depression is a possible indicator that bipolar, not unipolar, depression is at play).
    For me, looking at the energy levels is much, much more useful than just looking at mood. So over the past few days, I’ve felt low, but I’ve been constantly tweeting or writing, tweeting WHILE watching TV, hands twisting together, snatches of music playing again and again in my head, hands twiddling my hair…. I would never have to say to my hands, ssh, quiet, if I were truly depressed.
    Does that make sense? C x

  8. Long Ben Avery says:

    Your Blog is giving me some perspective on my problems. The feelings you describe sound absolutely excruciating. I’ve always had a bit of envy of people who have mania, but from reading this articulate description of what you personally feel, I do not envy you at all.
    Finding yourself in a psyche ward in a foreign country sounds like hell. I’m sorry that your holiday didn’t turn out as you so obviously wished. Remember it won’t necessarily turn out the same next time. Please take care of yourself.

    • Hi Ben, you would be right to envy elated hypomania – which can be dangerous pleasant and alluring – but I think even people whose mania is euphoric would say that once in true mania, there is nothing pleasant about the experience. It is dreadful to feel pushed and driven within to constantly move, think, speak, sleeping very little or sometimes in my case not at all, to never be able to get any rest and instead feel that you are compelled to go faster and faster. My self-management plan is all about never getting into that state again!

  9. Great article, I am a pharmacist with a PharmD and I think more people need to be aware of hypomania versus full mania. Try to stay positive if you need any help or someone to talk to please feel free you message me!

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