When You Have Intrusive Suicidal Thoughts

I was going through my Facebook memories yesterday morning and saw that two years ago I was having unwanted passive suicidal thoughts. I remember that day quite vividly. I was happy with my life but battling to maintain stability. I was fighting off a bipolar mixed episode and adjusting to a new dosage of my medication, Seroquel. My dosage was lowered and I was struggling. Every time my medications get a dosage tweak, my bipolar goes haywire. I can recognize the signs of mania and depression, and I can feel when an episode is starting but I don’t know how to stop them. It’s like the roller coaster in my head has gone out of control and I’m strapped in, going along for the ride. My borderline acts up too but it’s not as disruptive as my bipolar. I’m straying off topic here, sorry about that…

At the time, I was up and down multiple times in a day. I was hyper and feeling on top of the world one minute, then losing my cool over miniscule things like spilling sink water on myself. I was trying to maintain a level headedness, I was using my DBT skills. Everything I said or did was to the extreme though and it was frustrating. I had been struggling for a while with intrusive suicidal thoughts, and as my Seroquel dosage lowered the thoughts became more frequent. It was like my brain was trying to kill me. I didn’t want to have these thoughts, I didn’t want to die, I wanted to live. I was happy with my life and my family. But this little voice in my head kept whispering horrible thoughts to me and I couldn’t shut it up. I beat myself up a lot in my head for even having the thoughts cross my mind. Why would I want to kill myself when I was happy?

On that day a few years ago, I was being plagued by that damned little voice in my head which was telling me to slit my wrists. I was cutting a bagel for my son to have for breakfast and I hear in my head, “Do it. Cut your wrist and watch the blood flow.” I started crying, continuing to cut the bagel and proceeding to toast it for my son. At the time, I was over a year clean from cutting and quite proud of that. I didn’t want to hurt myself, especially not when my children were present! I became angry with myself for having that thought, and grew quiet. My children noticed and asked me what was wrong. I insisted it was nothing for them to worry about, and served them breakfast. I tried to distract myself with housework but everywhere I went, that stupid little voice whispered a different way for me to die. Determined to stay positive and maintain composure, I began cleaning my kitchen. I had left a bottle of tylenol on the counter from taking some earlier that morning for my fibro pain, and as I picked up the bottle and went to return it to the medicine cabinet that same little voice in my head said to me “Down them. Just take them all and go to sleep.” AHHHH WTF BRAIN?! I reacted by dropping the bottle on the floor, recoiling in horror as if the bottle was a spider. I phoned my husband at work, scared and crying, looking for advice. He suggested I have a self care day, and do things that made me feel good. So I went to the store to buy some snacks, and came home. I ran myself a bubble bath and even though the little voice told me to drown myself, I forced myself to relax.

All that day, I focused on doing things that made me happy. I stayed close to my kids and played games with them, I played World of Warcraft while they had quiet time, I ate sushi, melon salad, drank hot chocolate, and listened to upbeat music. I was determined to outsmart my own brain. I was determined to survive. I phoned my psychiatrist’s office and spoke to a nurse about my unwanted suicidal thoughts, she was very nice and supportive. I managed to get a telehealth appointment (it’s like Skype but for medical appointments) for the next day. My psychiatrist bumped my Seroquel to a higher dosage and almost immediately after starting the new dosage, my intrusive suicidal thoughts disappeared.

I stayed at that dosage for over a year, and during that time I didn’t have anymore intrusive suicidal thoughts. I’m on different medications now, I had to make some changes to treat my postpartum depression and anxiety. I still haven’t had any suicidal thoughts, and I am extremely grateful for that. There was a time in my life where I was actively suicidal; I am a survivor of two attempts. That was in my teens. My children and husband give me a reason to wake up each and every day, I want to live.

It’s utterly terrifying to experience passive suicidal ideation in the form of intrusive thoughts. The feeling when you can’t trust your own brain, which controls your whole body, is a feeling I don’t wish on anyone. When you’re having thoughts of suicide and you don’t want them, don’t listen to them. Fight for your life. I’m extremely thankful that I ignored that little voice. I’m grateful that I have a supportive husband. I love the life and family I have, and consider myself very lucky. I get to wake up next to the love of my life every morning, we have three wonderful children together. The fact that I was passively suicidal at a time in my life when I was happy is downright scary. I didn’t want to die yet my brain kept telling me to kill myself.

I’m speaking out about my experience with this for suicide awareness and prevention. I am not in danger, I am relatively stable, and of sound mind. I am in the throes of a depressive episode but I’m aware of it and managing it to the best of my ability. I understand that speaking out about being suicidal may cause people to judge me, and for those that know me to look at me differently, and I am alright with that. I am not doing this for attention, I am doing this because it may help someone else. Please, if you have thoughts of suicide, TELL SOMEONE. Don’t bottle it up inside, don’t be ashamed, and don’t face it alone. Your mind is playing tricks on you. You matter. Your life matters. You are loved and you are important. Don’t make permanent decisions based on fleeting thoughts and temporary feelings. Please. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. Your existence on this planet makes a difference whether you see it or not.

Living With Multiple Illnesses

Life is hard. It’s difficult to navigate without directions and instructions, you have to figure it out on your own. You can’t follow other’s paths, for their journey is their own. You have your own path to follow, carved by the decisions you make every day. What happens when you’re living with a mental illness? It makes life that much harder. What if you’re living with multiple illnesses? Then things really get interesting. You have to learn to distinguish the differences between your illnesses, and manage them appropriately on top of just existing. Many times, mental illnesses and physical illnesses overlap, exacerbating everyday life.

I live with many physical and psychiatric illnesses. Bipolar disorder 2 rapid cycling with mixed features, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, ADHD, high functioning autism, generalized anxiety, fibromyalgia, early onset psoriatic arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. That’s to name a few. They make my life hell sometimes. Other times, some of them are like a blessing. It’s a double edged sword to handle, really. Over the years, I’ve noticed and recognized when my illnesses are working together against me. My bipolar and borderline are besties, as are my fibromyalgia and IBS. They hang out a lot, and when they stick around my other conditions come out to play. My ADHD runs rampant when I’m manic, and it makes an appearance during my depressive episodes. It’s always there, it just becomes prominent during episodes. My PTSD is a trickster, it likes to surprise me when I least expect it. My autism is always there, it’s my operating system. I like to say that autism is just a different operating system for the brain, I’m just like everyone else only my wavelength of thought is on a different frequency.

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Two illnesses that are commonly diagnosed together and also commonly mistaken for each other. I was diagnosed with both on January 9th, 2012. I knew quite a bit about bipolar disorder but the BPD diagnosis threw me through a loop. I researched my illnesses and read as much as I could about them. Research is one of my obsessions, it’s an autism thing. I felt such relief when I received my diagnoses, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. For so many years I asked myself “What is wrong with me?”, I had mental illnesses that were unchecked and didn’t know it. No wonder I felt like I was off all the time. I have been on and off medications for over 20 years now (I’m 34 years old), and I feel most like myself when I am on medications. Without meds I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. I can’t control myself, at all. I don’t like how I am without medications and when I saw how it was affecting my marriage and my family, I made the decision to stick with meds. It has taken me a few years to learn the differences between my bipolar and borderline, some days I am left mystified as to which one is causing chaos in my life. It really sucks when both are actively messing with me. At times I can be extremely impulsive, which can be caused by both disorders. Something will set me off, and my moods will flip on me causing me to split on myself, then I become terrified that my husband will leave me because I’m unstable (thanks a lot BPD). The hypomania, I have to admit I love being manic for the most part. I love feeling hyper and happy, and productive. I feel grateful for not being depressed. There is a downside to mania, though and it isn’t pretty. The impulsive out of character behaviour, the rapid mood swings and irritability, the racing thoughts and discombobulation. Not to mention the manic spending sprees, I’m so bad for that. Also there is the inevitable crash into depression that brings anxiety. I never know when the crash will happen so I get anxiety over waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m not a big fan of mixed episodes, which is too bad because I get them on the regular. Mixed episodes are where you get symptoms of both depression and mania at the same time or as part of a single episode. My episodes vary, where I will have mental symptoms of mania and physical symptoms of depression, and vice versa. My depressive episodes are influenced by my fibromyalgia, which is a whole other basket of not so goodies.

My fibromyalgia affects me on a daily basis. I never know how I will feel when I wake up, much like my BPD and bipolar. Some days are worse than others. I can go to sleep feeling happy and fine, and wake up with strong pains radiating throughout my body. The weather seems to influence my fibromyalgia, severe and sudden temperature fluctuations in particular. Flare ups are no walk in the park, they can last for days if not weeks. I noticed over the years that a fibro flare up will almost always cause a bipolar depressive episode. It’s depressing when the weather is nice and you want to go out and enjoy it but your body has other plans. The worst days are when I’m bedridden. During a flare up I’ll have great difficulty walking, getting dressed, and feeding myself. Forget about regular housework. It’s a huge blow to my productivity when a flare up occurs. I’m a housewife and stay at home mom; I keep the household running and when I can’t do it that falls onto my husband’s shoulders, and he already works full time. I feel useless and worthless during flare ups, like I’m a burden to my family and friends. I don’t want my husband to have to come home and do all of my work too, that isn’t fair to him. Then the depression creeps in, and boom. Depressive episode. Some days it gets so bad that my husband has to come home from work and take care of me, which means taking care of our three kids as well since I’m bedridden. It breaks my heart when I am physically unable to pick up my baby and hold him because the arthritis and fibromyalgia in my hands and arms render them useless.

My ADHD is always around, but during episodes it likes to mess with me. It puts a kibosh on my hyperproductivity during manic episodes, it makes me wander around my house aimlessly. I daydream when I should be working, my thoughts race so fast in my head it’s dizzying. As much as I try to stay organized, I horribly fail. It stresses me out when my forgetfulness takes its toll on my household. I’ll get caught up in housework and forget to start dinner. I’ll make shopping lists and forget them at home. I try to multitask and get distracted by something and then forget what I was doing. I get confused between my ADHD and my mania at times, the symptoms are very much alike and it’s hard to differentiate between the two. I’m still learning to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, my PTSD is a trickster. It always catches me off guard, which sucks because I am hyper vigilant. I’ve learned most of my triggers but maybe not all of them. Rape is a big trigger for me, the word itself I find triggering. Rape jokes cause me to dissociate, and give me flashbacks. Domestic violence is another big trigger. It could be brought up in conversation, or I might have come across it on social media, it doesn’t matter. It will trigger flashbacks and nightmares, and panic attacks. It sends me right back to where I was during the sexual abuse in my teens and abusive relationship in my twenties. Usually my PTSD will trigger a bipolar episode, mainly depressive. I never knew how to deal with my trauma, I always just shoved it back to the recesses of my brain and pretend it never happened. But that only worked for so many years, then I started having flashbacks and recurring nightmares. It wasn’t until I told my psychiatrist about them that I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that was just over three years ago. I’ve come a long way since then, I did a lot of research and bought some self help books. I like to think I’m in recovery, and I’m doing well. I have PTSD episodes once in a while but only when I’m triggered.

I fight through my episodes and flare ups, I have to in order to keep my sanity. I can’t give in to the intrusive negative thoughts, it’s too easy to fall into that trap. I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass; I won’t feel this way forever. I will feel better soon. Better days are coming. I remind myself of everything I am grateful for, I keep a gratefulness journal and read through it often for motivation and strength. I distract myself with various activities, depending on my fibro and arthritis and how they affect me. If my hands aren’t hurting I crochet, paint, colour, bake, play World of Warcraft, and type on my laptop. If my hands are useless, I tend to read and watch TV. My children and husband help cheer me up, just by being themselves. My husband is my main support, I would be totally lost without him. He is extremely understanding and sympathetic, and compassionate. He’s there for me through it all whether it’s to hold me through my panic attacks and flashbacks, dress me and feed me when I can’t do it myself, or keep me in check when I’m spending too much. He’s been there for the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still loves me for who I am. He is my hero. My husband is an amazing partner and father to our children. My two oldest children know and understand that sometimes Momma has bad pain days and bad brain days. They will help with the housework (on top of the chores they already do daily) during bad pain/brain days, without argument. They know that I have medical conditions that are debilitating at times, they know what bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia are, as well as ADHD and autism. They also have ADHD and autism, both of them. We’re all high functioning. They are aware that they have those conditions as well. I think it’s important for them to be aware of medical conditions and how they affect people. I believe that their knowledge about my conditions and their own has helped them, in matters of empathy and compassion. My family is close knit, and when one of us is hurting it affects all of us. We all work together, as a unit. My family gives me strength to keep going every day.

Living with multiple illnesses is rough but manageable. I don’t sit and dwell on why I have all of these conditions, I don’t much see a point in doing so. The fact is I have them, and they aren’t going anywhere. There are no cures for my illnesses, I have them for life. I might as well make the best of things and live positively. I can sit and ride on the pity train, stopping at the “Woe Is Me” station, but I would much rather buckle up and enjoy the ride on this roller coaster I call my life. It has its ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes there is a fire, but somehow I always manage to stay on track. If I ever derail, I will pick up the pieces and get myself back on track. I only have one life to live, and this is it.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Licks

Grief is a strange thing to experience. It comes in waves, it ebbs and flows. I was riding out my grief and just when I thought I was doing a good job of managing it and getting better, I got hit with a tsunami of grief. It’s a thing.

I lost my mother just over eight months ago. I am still reeling from her death. Just recently, I lost my beloved Chug (Chihuahua Pug) dog, Captain Malcolm. He crossed the rainbow bridge on May 24th. His death was very unexpected, our whole family was caught off guard. I was in Toronto with my three children to attend my sister’s wedding, my husband was traveling due to volunteer firefighter training. My poor puppy, we weren’t there for him when he needed us the most. My best friend and close family friend was there, thank the Gods. She was there for me when Momma died; she was with me when I got the message about Momma and she drove me down that day to see her. She took such good care of Mal, she rushed him to the vet which is roughly a 300km drive down a horrid gravel road. The vets did all they could for Malcolm, but it wasn’t enough. He was paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal rupture. The vet said there was nothing we could have done to prevent or anticipate this, it is a genetic abnormality found in both Chihuahuas and Pugs and is not uncommon in Chugs. A decision was made to have him euthanized, and he went to sleep.

Captain Malcolm’s death hit us all hard, even the fur babies are out of sorts. We all feel so lost without Mal. He was my furever baby. My hubby adopted him for me, as at the time I was told by my specialist that I could not carry another baby to term. I was severely depressed about that, I always wanted three or four kids. Malcolm was the baby that I couldn’t have, that would never get bigger than me. My children will grow up and eventually be taller than me. That won’t take much, I’m only 5’0 tall. But Mal, he would stay puppy sized. My furever baby.

Mal was named after the main character on the TV show Firefly, Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He aimed to misbehave. He was always there, following us around the house. He was a stealthy thief, whether it was stealing someone’s spot on the couch, stealing someone’s leftovers off the plate in the dining room, or stealing socks and left shoes to hide under the bed. He snorted and shnarfed, sort of like a pig. We called him “Piggly” sometimes. He loved to snuggle. I have a king sized bed, my hubby and I snuggle and take up less than half of the bed. The rest of the bed was Mal’s, and he insisted on sleeping up against me. He was a gentle puppy, as much as he tore around the house yipping and growling, he was ever so careful. He adored my children, he loved to play fetch and snuggle them. He loved giving kisses, I used to call him cat-like because he’d lick my whole arm just like my cats do. You could walk into my living room and find Mal perched on top of the couch, much like a cat.

It hurts me to the core how I couldn’t be there for him in the end. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to my sister’s wedding. I would have stayed home to be with him. But that’s the thing, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” There was no way to know this was going to happen. But it happened, and we have to deal with it. There is no point in blaming myself, that is a waste of time and energy. Finding blame won’t bring back Captain Malcolm, and it’s no way to honour his memory. I choose to remember him fondly, and think happy memories of him. Mal never liked me being sad, he loved when I was happy. So I’m going to be happy for him. Just like Momma, she wouldn’t want me to grieve and be sad, she would want me to be happy and remember the good times. I do my best to honour their memories every day, it helps keep me going. My children and I will tell each other stories about Momma and Mal, it brings us comfort. Sure, the tears flow and we all bear hug, but it makes us feel better.

My hubby, one of our best friends, and his father built a coffin for Captain Malcolm. I bawled when I saw it. It’s beautiful, very fitting for the Captain’s final resting quarters.

Some days are harder than others. I’m still struggling with losing my mother, and now I lost my furever baby. Grief compounding grief. It’s heavy to carry around, literally. Most days I feel so exhausted, despite having a good night’s sleep. Coffee sometimes helps. I tend to stare off into space, getting caught up in my memories. My mind is all over the place, as is my focus. I’m usually scatterbrained but this is just ridiculous.

I have to fight this. I have to combat the grief and keep going. How do I fight this? How do I keep going? I remind myself of all the good things in my life. I keep a gratefulness journal. I use my DBT and CBT skills daily, and try to meditate at least once a day. I take my meds faithfully, I listen to my alarms and follow my routines. I use various methods of self care every day, lately it’s been hot baths and putting on makeup. I find my motivation to get up every morning and give’r. My husband, my children, my family. They are my motivation. I snuggle and play with my baby throughout the day, I try to read to him but he’s more interested in eating the book than reading it. I spend time with my kids and play with them. I have my daily alone time with my hubby, he’s my best friend and my favourite person. I crave my daily time with him. I have a good life, I’m happy with my life. I have so many reasons to smile. I can’t focus on the reasons to cry and frown. I focus on the positives. It keeps me going.

Earlier, I said that grief comes in waves. I should elaborate on that. Let’s say I’m washing bottles in the kitchen and dancing to music. I’ll look behind me to make sure I’m not going to step on Malcolm (he was always underfoot), and then it hits me. Mal’s not here anymore. I start crying, and it’s like I lost him all over again. Another example, when I remind my children to do their chores. They each take turns feeding the fur babies. I’ve been so used to saying “Feed the puppies” that I still catch myself saying it, which leads me to correcting myself. My children will reminisce about Mal, then we’ll all start crying and hugging.

Grief hits me even when there is nothing to trigger it. I could be in a great mood, listening to music and putting on makeup, and the tears will start flowing. I can’t stop them. It will happen spontaneously. While I’m doing laundry, or playing World of Warcraft. I just cry, uncontrollably. I don’t know if this is a common physical symptom of grief, but it’s something I experience. When it does happen, I try my best to stop crying. I’ll mindfully keep doing whatever task, or I’ll think of happy things like seeing my Hubby, or if my baby is awake I will hug him and play with him. I think and do things that bring me joy. Sometimes I just let it out, and have a good cry. It feels good to let it out. It’s ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry. Everyone handles grief differently, and that’s ok. Depending on my mood, I handle it differently.

I’m currently in the midst of a depressive episode, but I am coping and managing it well. I’ve made some changes to my daily routine to help me through this episode, time will tell if it works or not. For the most part, I’m ok. I don’t have intrusive thoughts, I’m not suicidal, or having thoughts of harming myself or others. I’m pretty stable, I’m just depressed. I am still functioning, maybe not at 100% but hey I’m not giving up. I will get better, I won’t feel this way forever.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.– – Dr. Seuss

I miss my fur baby, every day. As much as I carry guilt for not being home when tragedy struck, I can’t focus on that. It doesn’t help. What I can do, is take solace in knowing that my beloved dog is not suffering. He’s with my Momma now. I like to think that he’s in dog heaven, chasing all the bunnies and eating all the bacon and table scraps. It brings me comfort. I’m grateful for the time I had with Mal, and will cherish the memories I have of him. Rest easy, Captain. May you aim to misbehave beyond the rainbow bridge.