Trigger warning: suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, railway suicide
Tom is a great fan of air crash investigation programmes. He takes pride in knowing exactly which seats to choose to maximise our chances in the unlikely event of a crash. (I don’t have a fear of flying, but if I did I’m not sure whether this would make things better or worse.)
Leaving terrorism or war aside there are actually relatively few reasons a plane might crash. Most obviously, there’s failure within the plane itself. It’s remarkable how a tiny thing – a defective screw or a missed electrical test – can cause such catastrophic failure.
Then of course there’s human error. A failure to engage or disengage some system can be fatal, as can misinterpretation of data from the instruments. I put it to Tom that freak weather might be another cause, but he was firmly of the opinion that the job of the pilot and co-pilot was to manage the weather situation, so that would be another kind of human error. That’s me told, then.
Why do I suddenly care about aeroplanes? Well, I’ve had a crash of my own recently, albeit bipolar not Boeing.
Until a couple of weeks ago I was doing well. During October and November I’d built myself a firm, strong framework of 5-6 yoga classes a week. I was going at the same day and time every week, so it added a lot of structure to my life. It’s far from being an experiment or a luxury now – it’s become essential. And of course there’s always the meds, chemical messengers if not electrical ones, taken exactly as directed, day in, day out. I never mess with the programme (not intentionally anyway, but everyone misses a dose now and again).
I’d even begun to bolt on useful extra safety features, things like daily meditation, mindfulness days, and eating more healthily. The whole thing was holding together well and I felt calm and happy. I was starting to believe that I could do things, things a “normal” person might do. I dared to consider whether I could forge an actual career in research.
Then THIS happened:
Reading that status makes me cringe. It’s pretty much the equivalent of a pilot saying, “Hey, I see there’s a freak ice storm ahead! It’ll probably get into the engines and freeze them but I’m going in anyway! Hope we all survive, LOL!” Part of my brain was flashing DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! but I overrode it.
There was no way my self-management plan was going to hold up under that strain, and for everything I did, I missed a yoga class. The end result is that I’m not very well. Within 24 hours of posting I was in free fall, not even able to tell whether I was in mixed mood or ultra rapid cycling or whether there was even a distinction. I’ve had nights when I’ve only slept a few hours despite, perky and bouncy in the day despite 700mg quetiapine, and nights when I’ve slept 14 hours. On one particularly sedated night I was so drugged I wet the bed and could only manage to drag a small towel between my body and the mattress, spending the rest of the night mostly sleeping my own pee. In the morning I stripped the bed, humiliated.
Sometimes I’ve been clearly hypomanic and it has served me well. This week I part facilitated a workshop, where being an enthusiastic people person is exactly what’s needed. Being energetic has also been extremely helpful in getting the Christmas shopping done and I’ve only slightly overspent. But this good humour can turn in a second. I’ve been irritable in vicious way. Awful words have bubbled up from deep within and before I can stop myself I have been horrible to strangers (usually because of some queuing incident because I am that British). At the time I feel smug and self-righteous but later those words leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I’ve been struggling with suicidality too. First came the cold, hard, sneaky side, encouraging me to manipulate Tom and my consultant and my pharmacist to give me more meds, using my months-long wellness to minimise any thoughts that I could be at risk. I knew that if I kept quiet the sneakiness would grow and I would be in a lot of danger; I had already started researching minimum lethal doses again. In the end I told both Tom and my consultant some of these thoughts, but I did not do it gracefully. The drugs have been taken away and my loopholes closed down.
Now I am obsessing about suicide by rail. Sometimes in the combined high energy and low mood of a mixed affective state my agitated body tries to pull me into physical danger even before my conscious mind has spotted that there’s an opportunity. Even when feeling a bit better I keep fantasising – not intentionally at all. I feel a huge urge to jump down onto the tracks even when no train’s coming. I try to stay as close to the platform wall as possible but I have at times been close to having to ask station staff to take me somewhere safe. But what would they do? Call an ambulance probably, so no.
My lamotrigine’s been put up to max. There’s nothing to do while I wait but to try and rebuild my plane. In the past 24 hours I’ve been wondering what the point is, building the plane then crashing it then rebuilding and crashing it over and over. Is it worth owning a plane at all if this is how it’s going to be in perpetuity? I just want to hide in the hanger and never, ever come out.