Month: February 2014

Disappearances

Disappearances are a part of life.  The misplacement of car keys and reading glasses or the runaway of a beloved pet.  Possibly one of the greatest disappearances in life is death and transcendence to the world beyond.  Mental illness is tragically responsible for many of these disappearances.  Several sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health, cite the suicide rate for bipolar disorder as anywhere from 15% to 20%, and close to 50% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once.  Suicide is not the only force causing the disappearance of those with bipolar disorder and mental illness.  People afflicted with mental illnesses often times experience multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, mysteriously leaving school, work places, social circles.  Hospitalizations are debilitating, preventing individuals from pursuing their previous endeavors and forcing them instead to succumb to the world that is the mental health treatment system.  It involves the revolving door of inpatient and outpatient treatment, psychotherapy, and medication therapy, abounding with numerous side effects further limiting quality of life.

Recently, Ned Vizzini, the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and several other books, committed suicide at the age of 32.  His novels reflect his experience with mental illness, including hospitalization in his early twenties, forming the basis for his novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story.  I profoundly identify with Ned Vizzini, and I am not entirely sure why.  Perhaps it is because we have similar stories.  I started to experience psychiatric hospitalizations at the age of fourteen, and it has been a revolving door since, with the total of hospitalizations now teetering at ten.  We also share a similar diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

However I believe that these are the superficial aspects of my identification with Ned Vizzini.  He spent much of his mid to later life battling suicidal ideation and the desire to end his life, which he finally acted upon.  Since my early to mid teens, I have, too, battled this impulse with such intensity, my desires rolling in and out like the tides of the ocean.  It is something that never completely disappears, sitting quietly in the back of my mind until it has a conniption fit and comes screaming forward.  I know that deep within I am not ready to transcend this existence to the next world, but at times the possibility to be without suffering is enticing.  Though I connect with Ned Vizzini’s death, I use it as an impetus to live.  I can honor his memory by surviving and thriving where he could not and finding the inherent beauty in life that inspires the will to live.

The disappearances I have made in this life – numerous hospitalizations, disappearing from all high school social circles and leaving the institution early, struggling to stay abreast in college while fighting a debilitating illness and its ravaging effects – have greatly challenged my ability to live and thrive in this life, but what is of utmost importance, in my opinion, is that I am still here.  I am sure that I will have numerous disappearances in my life to come, but I will return, as I have thus far.  I will be the car keys, the reading glasses, eventually found and put to use as if they had never disappeared.

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Searching for Silence

Starting in second grade, early signs of my illness began to manifest – obsessiveness, anger, extreme agitation and irritability, inappropriate responses to events.  By third grade, I was engaging in psychotherapy weekly.  As the years passed, my symptoms became more extreme, building and building, not seeming to reach a peak and abate.  With the growing intensity and instability of my disorder, my mind began to awaken from slumber.  It began with a hello and slight whisper.  It talked to me with both joviality and malice.  Simultaneously it was both my friend and my enemy, my torturer with the sole key to the prison in which I perpetually resided.  Construction workers began to build superhighways with no exits and a perilous absence of enforced speed.  My mind developed and grew rapidly, with such rapidity that I landed myself in the psychiatric hospital for the first time at the age of fourteen.  I was depressed beyond measure and nearly catatonic, yet my mind was there.  I talked.  It willingly talked back, offering macabre and disturbing dialogues.  Though my affect was flat and indicative of a major depressive episode, those superhighways were still running, cars speeding with disregard.  I was never alone.  Never.

As I recovered and shifted into several episodes of mania, those superhighways began to speed up.  We continued to chat, nearly incessantly.  I no longer existed in the physical world, and my connection to it was severed.  People, places, and conversations could not break the barrier.  My awareness of what existed around me vanished.  Everything entered one ear and quickly passed through the other.  My mind was solely my domain.  No one had the ability nor privilege to know the inner workings of it.

My mind has never quieted.  It still drowns out most of my environment and outer world, and it shrouds the names and faces of those around me.  I struggle to retain information.  Although, I am never without a companion, friend or fiend.  I remember much of my life as trying to slow the superhighways in order to find silence and solace.  I have pumped dozens of antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers into my body in attempt to stabilize the misfiring neurons and disordered chemicals and neurotransmitters, though little of these drugs have worked.  My unstable mind has yet to find silence, and surprisingly that is acceptable to me.  In fact, I see it as a blessing.  You may ask, why am I comfortable and embracing of the lack of silence and the incessant noise that exists within my head?  It is because I am never without conversation and entertainment, and I do not know who or what I would be if silence ensued.  I have come to love my chatter and my unquietness.  While the opportunity to experience silence for a moment would be warmly welcomed, I would quickly sweep it away and draw my longtime companion back home.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

Why such hesitancy?

It has been a dream and an ambition of mine to begin a blog.  I have finally done so in the past few weeks.  Signing up on WordPress ignited an elation and sense of accomplishment within me, and I reveled in the joy of finally realizing a longterm goal of mine.  Such joy and elation should have been quite the impetus to begin posting right away, sharing my thoughts and emotions with a sense of urgency and determination, right?  No.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Within me brewed such hesitancy, and my newfound bravery wavered.  How could such determination dissipate with rapidity to be replaced by fear?

Perhaps what comes into play in my hesitancy is the rampant stigma surrounding mental illness in our society.  Yes, it certainly exists, and with such a ferocity that deeply ravages and makes difficult the lives of those suffering from mental illness.  I have been open about my diagnosis – Bipolar 1 Mixed – with some people and institutions in my life while desperately shielding and hiding it from others.  How do I decide with whom I will share my diagnosis?  The answer rests in two factors – necessity and deep trust.  I must share my diagnosis with schools in order to survive academic life while fighting to not succumb to a tragic and life-threatening illness.  And then there are those I trust with such depth that I am comfortable in sharing such a private component of my life.  Disclosing suffering from a mental illness is a difficult, important, and necessary action to contemplate for all of those afflicted by mental illness.  I have suffered on many occasions the effects of stigma, and it certainly is an unpleasant and dehumanizing experience.

Opening myself to this blog, sharing my experiences of madness and a lifetime of instability, is another step of disclosure in my life.  I am sharing my diagnosis and experiences with my friends, my community, and the world.  The contemplation of with whom and whom I will not disclose my mental illness to is no longer relevant.  This is, in fact, quite a terrifying thought.  I am relinquishing my control and decision to disclose my illness to the tangled world that is the Internet.  So you can see my hesitancy in beginning this blog.  I realize that this can be an important tool in raising awareness of mental illness and issues affecting society, an important tool in reaching out and providing support to others experiencing mental illness, and also an opportunity for growth and catharsis for myself.  Hopefully I can once again muster my initial excitation and bravery and continue to post in this blog.  Such is my ardent intent.